14th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. 6. J. Bell) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– Within recent years the financial stringency experienced in Australia rendered necessary the dismissal from the postal service of a number of men, including returned soldiers, who had completed more than five years’ service and had passed an examination entitling them to permanent appointment, so that officers who were surplus in one State might be transferred to another. The improved conditions now operating in the department present an opportunity for the re-appointment of a number of these men. Will the Minister representing the Postmaster-General state whether they will be given the positions that they formerly held, or some other suitable employment that will compensate them for that of which they were deprived owing to the depression?
– It is quite true, as the honorable member states, that ‘ on account of the depression and the short: age of work in the Postal Department, a number of men, particularly in the line repairing and line-construction branches, lost their positions. It also happened that a large number of permanent employees had to be transferred from one State to another because work could not be found for them where they were stationed. With the improvement of postal business these men, and others who held junior positions, are gradually being reabsorbed. As time goes on, employment will be found for others who have not already been engaged.
Motion (by Dr. Earle Page) agreed to -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn until Tuesday next at 3 p.m.
Mr. WHITE laid on the table reports and recommendations of the Tariff Board on the following subjects: -
Brasswork, bronzework and gunmetal work for general engineering and plumbing and other trades - Item 192. Brass articles and articles composed substantially of brass, covered by Tariff Item 208(a).
Electro-surgical units for cutting, coagulation and desiccation.
Felt capelines for girls’ and women’s hats; hats, berets, caps and bonnets.
Fishbolts, bolts, nuts, rivets and metal washers n.e.i.; screws with nuts or for use with nuts; engineers’ set screws; raildogs or brobs, spikes.
Iron and steel wire of No. 15 or finer gauge (imperial standard wire gauge).
Motor body panels.
Woven artificial silk piece goods in the grey and sized.
Ordered to be printed.
– Will the Minister for Trade and Customs inform the House why the subject of duties on motor body panels has revolved round only one firm, thus suggesting that it holds a monopoly of this trade? Is it a fact that, excluding Ford and General Motors-Holdens Limited, who build their own bodies, about 40 per cent, of the volume of that trade remains to be distributed among other importing distributors? Is the honorable gentleman aware that of this volume T. J. Richards and Sons’ Ruskin Motor Body Works obtain more than twothirds, leaving less than one-third to General Motors-Holdens Limited?
– I cannot answer the whole of the question. It is a fact that a monopoly of this trade is not held by one company, and that a portion of it is enjoyed by other firms, one of which has been mentioned by the honorable member. If honorable members will read the report of the Tariff Board which I tabled to-day, they will see how the industry is conducted in Australia.
Newcastle. and Maitland Districts
– Will the Minister representing the Postmaster-General state whether a portion of the recent appropriations for Commonwealth works will be allocated to the installation of automatic telephone exchanges in the Newcastle and Maitland districts ?
– If those officers whose function it is to look after the requirements of the. Newcastle district have recommended works in that area, such works will be carried out.
– Will the Acting Prime Minister state whether it is the intention of the Commonwealth to cooperate with the Government of Victoria in the establishment of a training farm similar to the Fairbridge Farm in Western Australia?
– It is the intention of the Commonwealth to co-operate with the Government of Victoria in that connexion.
– In view of the assurance given by the Prime Minister to a deputation from the Chamber of Manufactures in Melbourne before his departure for England, that the tariff would not be interfered with during his absence, will the Acting Prime Minister state whether the right honorable gentleman was consulted by cable before the alterations of the tariff tabled yesterday were decided upon by the Government? If not, does he regard the action of the Government as a breach of faith?
– There has been no breach of faith. The Prime Minister is fully aware of what the Government is doing.
– I wish to ask the Minister for Trade and Customs a question relating to the tabling of the tariff schedules yesterday, and, by way of explanation, I inform him that the Melbourne newspapers which arrived this morning enable us to see that the Age of yesterday gave to the public quite a lot of detailed information about the proposed new tariff schedule, in advance of its being laid on the table of the House. I ask the Minister whether this is merely an example of characteristic intelligent anticipation on the part of the Age, or whether information was given to a representative of that journal by the Minister as, from his point of view, a sop to Cerberus?
– In answer to that very funny question, I hold in my hand a typewritten copy of the information that appeared in this morning’s Age, and it is not in accordance with the statement of the honorable member.
– He referred to the Age which came to hand this morning, which was yesterday’s issue.
– The report that I hold is a copy of what appeared in this morning’s Age, and it was obtained by telephone.
– The honorable member for Batman referred to yesterday’s issue.
– What does the report in to-day’s issue say?
– I do not propose to read it. I promised yesterday, in response to an inquiry by the honorable member for Indi (Mr. Hutchinson), to have inquiry made as to whether any advance information had been given to the press, and I am now able to inform honorable members that no such information was available to any one but Cabinet and the trusted officers of the department.
– I ask the Acting Prime Minister whether the tariff schedule recently brought down, and involving reductions on British imports by an average of 50 per cent., is a form of bargaining with British interests in concurrence with the restriction imposed by the Imperial Government upon Australian beef, mutton and lamb, and further restrictions proposed to be placed by the Imperial Government on butter, cheese and other dairy products?
– The schedule referred to by the honorable member has been brought down in accordance with the policy of the Government.
– Has the attention of the Acting Prime Minister been drawn to a report which appeared in the Sydney Sun on the 27th inst., in which the following statement is attributed to the Prime Minister : -
I believe that we are within measurable distance of the time when large-scale Empire migration, under careful control, may be resumed with results satisfactory to Britain and the Dominions. … It will be a case of helping to establish numbers of small proprietors on 400-acre sheep farms, or on smaller properties for mixed farming.
In view of the fact that there are still over 400,000 unemployed men in Australia, will the Acting Prime Minister make to the House a statement covering the intentions of the Government in connexion with Empire migration? Further, will the Government see that any land or finance which is available for settlement in this country is used for the purpose of establishing the unemployed members of the Australian community?
– The honorable member omitted to read the concluding portion of the Prime Minister’s statement to the effect that there isa considerable number of unemployed in Australia at the present time whose conditions must be rectified before migration on a large scale is possible.
– Is the question of the honorable member for East Sydney, in relation to the unemployed, watered down in any way by the further statement of the Prime Minister, which reads : -
Big fortunes will not be made, but we can promise the type of settler who formerly came that, when wheat and wool prices improve a little, he will gain a comfortable competence and independance.
– I am not one who believes that the depression is going to be everlasting. I am of the opinion that Australia is about to enter an era of prosperity, in which there will be a greater volume of employment and more settlement than exist at the present time.
– In view of the fact that the Commonwealth Government is at present making arrangements to distribute £12,000,000 to necessitous farmers and settlers to enable them, in some cases, to avoid deserting their homesteads, and, in others, to stave off insolvency, does the Acting Prime Minister not think it the duty of the Government to warn British people who wish to settle in Australia of the conditions that prevail here?
– The facts relating to the temporary depression in this country are as well known in Great Britain as they are here.
Mr.WARD. - I ask the Acting Prime Minister when the Government expects to be in a position to reply to the communication from the British Government, received several months ago, requesting an expression of opinion from the Commonwealth Government upon the recommendation of the interdepartmental committee set up by the British Government to inquire into the subject of Empire migration? Will this House be given an opportunity to discuss this subject before the Easter recess?
– A reply will be sent to the British Government in due course.
– I ask the Acting Prime Minister whether consideration has been given to the request made to him during his recent visit to Queensland, that an expert in the wool industry he sent to China to assist in every possibleway the development of the textile industry in that country?
– Representations have been made to the Government to have sent to China a practical wool expert to advise the textile mills in that country with a view to promoting the use of Australian wool. Since those representations were made the Government has given consideration to the matter, and it is still in touch with the different graziers’ associations throughout Australia with a view to obtaining the result sought.
– Within recent years the Department of Defence has had surplus military clothing distributed among the unemployed. Will the Minister for Defence make inquiries in the department to ascertain the quantity of surplus military clothing and blankets available for distribution among the unemployed in Queensland, and have it handed over to the Queensland Government in ample time for distribution prior to the cold winter weather?
– As surplus clothing has become available, the department has had it distributed among the unemployed in the different States, through the agency of the State Governments. That practice will be continued. The distribution has been on a fairly generous scale, however, and I doubt whether any surplus is available for distribution at present ; but I shall make inquiries into the matter.
– Has the Minister for the Interior noted the serious allegations made in the New South Wales Legislative Assembly to the effect that the State electoral rolls have been flooded by the Lang Labour party to the extent of 16,000 votes, and the statement of the Premier, Mr. Stevens, that he had definite knowledge of attempts to defeat his Government by electoral malpractices? Will the honorable gentleman inform the House if the Commonwealth Electoral Office has been advised of such attempts, and is exercising necessary vigilance in its supervision of Commonwealth electoral rolls?
– I haveno doubt that the Commonwealth Electoral Office is fully informed on the matter raised by the honorable member, and is doing all that should be done.
– I ask the Minister for the Interior whether the officers connected with the electoral branch of his department have brought under his notice a report of a statement made by a man named Campbell, who was organizing the New Guard organization in Sydney, in which he claimed that 1,000 names had been added to each State electoral roll prior to the last State election, and that this had assisted to return the Stevens Government and defeat the Lang Government?
– No such report has been brought under my notice.
– Has the attention of the Minister for the Interior been drawn, either through the department or otherwise, to the fact that there are from 1,200 to 2,000 fictitious names on the roll for every Commonwealth electorate, and that there were appearing on supplementary rolls in use at the last election the names of people who had been dead for four years? Will the Minister take steps to see that these rolls are cleansed, and that this means of duplicating votes is eliminated?
– I am indebted to the honorable gentleman for what is entirely original information to me. I will look into the matter.
– In view of possible trade antagonism, and the very small percentage of goods involved, will the Minister for Trade and Customs reconsider the question of imposing a dumping duty on Swedish wood screws?
– I do not know whether the honorable member is aware of the reason for the imposition of a dumping duty on Swedish wood screws. The Customs Tariff (Industries Preservation) Act provides that when goods are landed in Australia to the detriment of an Australian industry, and are sold at a price lower than the domestic cost or selling price in the .country of origin, the provisions of the act may be invoked against them. Because certain Swedish exporters were applying a discount to their prices so as to bring them below British and Australian prices, the act was brought into operation against them to bridge the difference. When the exporters obtained knowledge, of that fact they discontinued portion of the discount, and the act does not now apply to Swedish wood screws.
– In view of the special importance which the Statute of Westminster is conceded to have in connexion with the so-called secessionist movement, I ask the Acting Prime Minister whether the Government will immediately take the too-long-delayed steps to have the ratifying legislation passed by this Parliament?
– The honorable member’s request will receive the consideration of the Government.
– I ask the Minister for the Interior when he proposes to extend to the people of Darwin, in the terms of the petition which he received some time ago, the opportunity to elect their own town council in place of a nominee council ?
– Very soon, but I do not know the exact date.
– When the Acting Prime Minister was in Queensland recently he was good enough to receive a deputation from the Graziers Association and the cattle-growers, which I had the honour to introduce. An application was made to him on that occasion for a bounty of £1,000,000, payable over a period of three years, to assist the cattle industry to overcome the present parlous condition in which it found itself. Has the right honorable gentleman yet had an opportunity to consider these representations, and, if so, has any decision been reached ?
– The Government is at present giving very serious consideration to the subject.
– Has the attention of the Acting Prime Minister been drawn to a resolution of the recent graziers’ conference, held in .Sydney, that if any regulation of the Australian beef trade to Great Britain is agreed to the majority of the graziers prefer a quota system to a levy? Will the right honorable gentleman take steps to have this information published overseas?
– I am informed that all the decisions of the graziers’ conference in regard to that matter were subject to the overriding resolution that the conference was totally opposed to all restrictions, quotas and levies.
– I ask the Acting Prime Minister if the Government will intimate, without delay, whether it proposes to renew for next season the superphosphates bounty? Is the right honorable gentleman aware of the anomalous position that arose last year under which certain farmers who planted their crops before the 1st July were excluded from participation in the bounty, whereas others who planted subsequent to that date, and were harvesting their crops at the same time as the farmers who planted earlier, obtained the bounty ?
– The subject referred to by the honorable member is receiving the consideration of the Government in connexion with the preparation of the next budget.
– I ask the
Minister for Commerce whetherhe is aware that the Government of New Zealand is negotiating a trade agreement with Jamaica, and is also considering the possibility of importing citrus fruits from British Honduras? In these circumstances will he take whatever action is possible to safeguard the interest of the Australian export trade in citrus fruits?
– I have already stated (hat immediately the House rises personal negotiations with the Government of New Zealand for a reciprocal trade arrangement will be resumed.
– “Will the Minister for Commerce inform me whether any request for immediate assistance has been made to the Government by those interested in the citrus fruit industry in view of the special need of the industry? If so, is it the intention of the Government to take action before the Easter recess to give relief to this industry; or will the matter be delayed, as the Acting Prime Minister has suggested, until after conversations with representatives of the New Zealand Government?
– Representations have been made to the Government on this matter, but, unfortunately, the various sections of the citrus fruit industry are in conflict as to the right thing to do. In the circumstances, the Government has requested representatives of the industry to meet as soon as possible with the object of formulating a considered plan for affording the required relief.
– In view of the claim of the Government that the property provisions of our pensions legislation are not now operating unfairly against pensioners, I bring under the notice of the Acting Treasurer a case of considerable hardship which is typical of many others. A male pensioner who may have lost his wife, or a female pensioner who may have lost her husband, and goes to live with another member of the family has the capital value of the home previously occupied assessed against the pension, irrespective of whether it is rented or not, with the result that, in some cases, the pension is cancelled. I have this morning received a letter from a pensioner 80 years of age whose pension has been cancelled because he has gone to live with a daughter. I ask if the regulation dealingwith this subject cannot be altered to ensure that only the revenue producing capacity of the property and not the capital value shall be assessed against pensions? “Mr. CASEY. - If the honorable member will provide me with the details of the case to which he refers I shall have inquiries made into it. This Government has not made any alteration of the regulations referred to. In the event of the temporary vacation of a house its value is not assessed against a pension.
– I have had repeated communications from Western Australia inquiring when the grant to assist the pearling industry willbe made available. Is the Acting Treasurer able to give me any information on the subject?
– The position now is the same as when the honorable member asked a similar question previously. Up to 24 hours ago the Commonwealth Government was still awaiting a communication from the Government of Western Australia on this subject. When it arrives action can be taken.
Price of Milk - Houses fob Public
Servants - Transfer of Departments
– A few days ago I asked the Minister for the Interior whether he would make an inquiry in respect of the exorbitant price being charged by the milk-sellers of Canberra for milk. The Minister said that he would do so. I wish to know whether the inquiry has been made and, if so, with what result ?
– Certain inquiries have been made. I have received a letter from the secretary of the Canberra Dairymen’s Association offering to allow me to inspect the income tax records of the various dairymen here over the last few years in order that I may be impressed with the fact that they have been making very small profits.
– Will the Minister mention the number of public servants
Stationed in Canberra who are unable to secure housing accommodation, and will he see that arrangements are made as soon as possible to overcome this difficulty?
– It is unfortunately true that there are some public servants stationed in Canberra who are on the waiting list for housing accommodation. The department, however, is pushing ahead as quickly as possible with the construction of new houses, and it is hoped that before long all of these public servants will be accommodated.
– Will the Minister for the Interior inform me whether the necessary housing, sewerage and water services now available in Canberra are sufficient to provide accommodation for the Commonwealth departments that will eventually be transferred here? If not, will the honorable gentleman take steps to have an amount placed on the Estimates for the coming year to cover the expenditure necessary in order to make adequate provision for accommodating these departments, and will he have prepared an estimate, and inform me of the probable cost, of accommodating all departments and officers ?
– I hope that it will be possible to place on next year’s Estimates a sum to enable the start to be made to provide additional water, and sewerage reticulation, in preparation for the transfer of the larger departments to Canberra. The services already available are sufficient to meet the needs of the smaller departments which it is proposed to transfer this year.
.- I desire to make a personal explanation. Having addressed a question to the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. White) which he saw fit to describe as funny, but to which he gave an extraordinarily dull and complicated answer -
– Order !
– The Minister held up something which he said was a certain paper - he did not make it available to honorable members - and I understood him to say, in the course of his remarks, so far as they were capable of comprehension, that I was misrepresenting the position, as he had in his hand an extract from this morning’s Melbourne Age. I point out that, owing to the distance we are removed from the principal capital, Melbourne, yesterday morning’s Age did not reach Canberra until to-day, and, in my question, I was at some pains to explain that I was referring to something which was apparently published in the Melbourne Age of yesterday morning concerning the placing of the tariff schedule on the table.
– Order !
– It should have been obvious, of course, to every intelligent honorable member, that I was referring to a report in yesterday’s Melbourne Age, and as I am not so disturbed as the Minister by what appears in the columns of the Age-
-Order! The honorable member is not making a personal explanation.
– I merely add that I was referring to yesterday’s Melbourne Age, which published a report prior to the issue of the tariff schedule and not to that paper’s disturbing comments upon the schedule referred to by the Minister this morning.
– I called the honorable member to order several times. He should be fully aware of the procedure of the House and the terms in which a. personal explanation should be made.
– I have received from the honorable member for Cook (Mr. Garden) an intimation that he desires to move the adjournment of the House this morning for the purpose of discussing a definite matter of urgent public importance, namely “ The parlous condition facing the workers in the woolscouring and fellmongering industry, making it necessary for the Government immediately to arrange some form of financial assistance “.
Five honorable members having risen in support of the motion,
.–I move -
That the House do now adjourn.
In the year 1933-34 the number of wool and basil workers engaged in the industry was 1103. That number did not account for engineers and other members of the staff engaged in this work. To-day the full number of wool and basil workers engaged in this industry is 450. This state of affairs has been occasioned by the fact that foreign buyers are having skins dried and exported to be treated by their own nationals. Last year the industry treated 5,666,902 skins, the greasy wool being 36,453,478 lb. to the value of £2,143,204, and the number of dry skins with wool exported was 11,462,273, valued at £2,623,931. Last week in Botany, the workers treated 38,000 skins, while last year they were treating over 200,000 skins a week. I have no quarrel with the action of the- foreign buyers in looking after their nationals, but I strongly maintain that it is the duty of the Commonwealth Government to look after the workers of this country with the same degree of interest.
It is reported that the British Government intends to impose a duty of 10 per cent, upon foreign-scoured wools; therefore it is clear that it is the intention of the British Government to look after the interests of the fellmongering industry in Great Britain. This significant move has been noted with interest by everybody engaged in the trade. From it we can assume that the industry in Britain is suffering from a lack of raw material. I recently had a report indicating that at the fifteen fellmongering works centred at Botany the average number of skins which could be treated ranged up to 40,000 a week according to the size and capacity of the plants. This would mean that at the fifteen establishments a total of 242,000 skins a week could be treated at Botany, entailing the employment of 1,400 men, apart from the increased employment in subsidiary industries resulting from the increased output of this industry. I refer to the great service rendered by those engaged in this trade during the period covered by the purchases by the British Government under the Bawra scheme. France is the principal buyer of Australian sheepkins. It has developed a big business in fellmongering. While it was buying our skins it would have none of our wheat on which it imposed prohibitive duties. The export of sheepskins involves very little labour, entailing the employment only of boys in drying and pressing, whereas fellmongering requires a large number of hands.
– Is the honorable member suggesting that the export of sheepskins entails only boy labour?
– I am dealing only with the drying of skins at Botany. On the other hand fellmongering and tanning are trades in which a large number of men arc employed, and in which a large quantity of material other than sheepskins is required. If this trade is to be saved to Australia and fostered, a bounty should be paid on skins processed here. I recognize the difficulty facing the Government. If an export duty is placed upon dry skins, it will first of all have its reaction on the foreign buyers, which would then, in turn have a very damaging repercussion on the graziers and small farmers of this country and in the long run would not benefit the wool and basil workers in Botany or any other part of the Commonwealth. However, I am fully convinced that unless something is done immediately all the wool-scouring factories in Botany and elsewhere in the Commonwealth will be practically closed down, and once this is done it will be very difficult for the factories ever again to reach their present stage of production. I do not intend to ask the Government to do anything that would interfere in any way with the free auction of skins as happened when an export duty was placed on skins. The effect of that action was to restrict freedom of sales, with the result that large quantities of skins were left on the bands of graziers and small farmers. However, I ask the Government, as a measure of immediate assistance, to consider the matter of granting a bounty approximating -Jd. per lb. on wool of all treated skins. In this matter the Commonwealth should co-operate with the various State Governments, asking them to assist in the payment of a bounty by allocating the average yearly payments they now contribute to each unemployed worker, namely, £60.
– The honorable member does, not suggest that all the unemployed could be absorbed in the fellmongering trade ?
– No, I am suggesting that employment in this industry could be provided for 650 men and that if the State Governments provided £60 for each of these men, that is the amount which they now disburse for each man per annum in unemployment relief, then an amount of £39,000 per annum would give considerable assistance to the industry. Furthermore, this proposal would also have the advantage of relieving the unemployment which exists in Botany to-day, and it would not entail any hardship on the farmers and graziers, because on an open market the sale of skins would be increased. The official figures for the districts covered by the wool and basil workers’ organization in New South Wales are as follows: -
This side of the House has assisted in the granting of bounties of millions of pounds to the wheat-farmers, dairyfarmers, citrus fruit-growers, and sugargrowers; surely no one will refuse the request for a bounty of at least £d. per lb. to assist the workers of Botany and surrounding districts. The granting of this bounty would in no- way interfere with international trade, or create antagonism among foreign buyers. There would still remain a free market for skins, and no restrictions would be placed upon those engaged in the industry. Finally, it would give a much needed fillip to an important secondary industry, upon which thousands of persons in Botany and elsewhere depend for a livelihood. The matter is urgent, and I plead with the Government to take immediate action. The request is supported, not only by members of the union, but also by the employers, who have recently been in conference. I spent the last two weekends in consultation with the employers, who favour the granting of a bounty, and they can see no likelihood of unfavorable reaction. The graziers also desire a bounty, so that all sections of the industry are united in preferring this request. I have also received a communication from the wool and basil workers of Victoria supporting the suggestion, and stating that, if the bounty were granted, employment could be found in Melbourne for a further 391 men.
– .Bearing in mind the fact that production would probably increase if a bounty were granted, what is the estimate of the cost of a bounty of -Id. per lb.,
– On last year’s figures the bounty would cost approximately £150,000 a year. I have just received from the department this year’s figures, which show that the scoured wool treated in New South Wales amounted to 34,000,000 lb. Last year the total amount of scoured and fellmongered wool treated for the whole Commonwealth was- 74,000,000 lb.
– I assure the honorable member for Cook (Mr. Garden) that the Government is sympathetic towards any scheme that has for its object the resuscitation of an important industry, and the providing of further employment. The wool-scouring and fellmongering industry is an important one, admittedly, and we must give careful consideration to proposals designed to bring about its revival. The difficulty lies in deciding the right course to pursue.- The honorable member referred to the unfortunate export duty scheme introduced by the Labour Government, which reacted detrimentally in that the French, buyers, whose operations were of great importance to the market, protested and retaliated. It is necessary to go carefully.
– Britain has put a duty of 10 per cent, on scoured wool.
– That is on foreign wool. It will not hurt us, and it might help us. The honorable member for Cook has asked for a bounty on scoured wool and skins, and the estimated annual cost would be about £150,000. This is not a new proposal. A request for assistance was referred to the Tariff Board two years ago, and in June, 1930, the board reported strongly against an export duty, but said that something might be done by way of a bounty. The then Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Forde) enlarged the scope of the inquiry, and referred it to the board again. In December of the same year, the board definitely recommended against a bounty. It would be very helpful to the honorable member for Cook to read the board’s’ report. It was never tabled, but I intend to table it now, as I believe it will be helpful to honorable members, and those engaged- in the industry, to know what the board had to say on that occasion. It is pointed out in the report that there is a great difference between New Zealand and Australia so far as this industry is concerned. New Zealand has a big export trade in scoured fellmongery, the climate being such that the skins cannot be dried so readily as in Australia. I cannot agree that the fellmongery industry in Australia is at present declining. Statistics show that, during the last few years, it has been steadily expanding. In 1930, the quantity of greasy wool scoured amounted to 82,000,000’ lb., while in 1932-33 the quantity had increased to 113,000,000 lb. In 1930, the quantity of skins fell- mongered was 4,644,000 lb., while in 1932-33 it had increased to 8,716,000 lb. Therefore, it is evident that the industry is not in the serious condition which the honorable member depicts, although we should all like to see greater activity in it. Some of the board’s comments on this industry I propose to read. Here is one -
On the occasion of the last inquiry, the board took particular steps to obtain evidence from proprietors of fellmongering plants, as it was considered that they alone could give the facts, including information as to the costs of production that are essential to a proper consideration of the matter. In spite of these endeavours, however, Mr. Hughes was the only representative of a fellmongering establishment actually in operation who attended the inquiry. This would appear to indicate that fellmongers were not interested in the proposals as a means for resuscitating the industry.
Regarding profits, the board states -
The industry has shown a very low earning capacity during recent years. This has been partially due to increased operating costs, but chiefly to the steady decline in the value of the scoured wool and the pelt. The fellmongering operation of necessity delays the marketing of the products, and hence a falling market tends to result in loss.
Dealing with the request for a bounty, the report states -
A peculiar circumstance as regards this industry is that, while a few” plants have managed to operate continuously, others have only operated spasmodically. Obviously, if the companies which continued in full operation were debarred equal participation in the bounty as compared with a company which operated spasmodically, a grave injustice would be done, because it is indisputable that operations have been unremunerative
– What bounty was asked for on that occasion?
– A bounty of fd. per lb. The board concludes that the proposal previously put forward for distribution of the bounty is not practicable, and recommends that it is not advisable to assist the fellmongery industry by the payment of a bounty.
Dealing with the subject of bounties and protection generally, Professor Hancock, in his book Australia, states -
There tends to be a drift towards a position in which nearly all industries enjoy protection; but, obviously, before this position has been reached, protection will have ceased to attract.
The people of Australia must soon face the question of how far this can go on. At present almost every unsheltered industry is demanding assistance to meet the cost of assisting other industries, and each alleges that its difficulties are duc to these costs. Reliance upon government aid is increased, and discontent also, through real or supposed differences in benefits received. Clearly, we might reach the stage when the Government would be promoting each industry by taxing all the others, and the end in effect would be ii perverted, expensive, and very unstable “Free Trade”.
That cannot be denied. If we start paying a bounty to one of our staple industries such as this, it is the beginning of the end. It will be like every member of a crowd standing on boxes to look over one another’s heads to see the procession.
– But it is a fact that governments are paying out money for the .’relief of unemployment, and this money could be devoted to stimulating industry.
– I admit that, and I admit that it is more profitable to get people back into employment than to go on paying them the dole. However, a bounty which would involve the payment of so large a sum must be the subject of careful inquiry before being granted. I suggest that, as this matter lias puzzled the Tariff Board on two occasions, it should receive careful thought from us before action is taken. I hope that I am not giving the impression that I am discouraging the suggestion. [Quorum formed.]
The whole matter has to be weighed very carefully. “ If the honorable member will give me a full statement and a prima facie case can be put up for the subject to be submitted to the Tariff Board, I shall obtain the opinion of the board upon it once more. Obviously, it is impossible on the floor of this House on any guess-work basis, to suggest a rate that is likely to resuscitate this industry. I remind the honorable member of what happened recently in the Irish Free State. Living there, as they were, on the hatreds of the past, the people of that country took action against Great Britain by refusing to pay their land annuities. Great Britain retaliated by means of certain tariff measures, and the Irish then brought down bounties to overcome the effects of the tariff. The position arose that on eggs there was a duty, say, of 5s. The Irish Free State Government paid a bounty of Ss. on eggs. These were sent to England, where they paid duty, and were then shipped back to Ireland, where bounty was again paid on them. A similar state of affairs arose in the bacon market. They paid such a high bounty on the export of their bacon that finally they had to import some from Great Britain. It ia obvious that these things cannot be decided by a discussion of this kind in Parliament. The Government will be interested in any proposal to help the industry, and will thank any honorable member who brings forward a helpful scheme.
.- I am pleased that the honorable member for Cook (Mr. Garden) has brought this matter forward, not only because it deals with an industry of great importance to Australia, but also because at a time like this, when there are so many unemployed throughout the country, and such large sums of money are being spent on relief and sustenance, everything possible should be done by both Commonwealth and State Governments to put people into useful employment. The honorable member has made out a good prima facie case for a bounty of ½d. per lb. on scoured wool. It is impossible for honorable members here this morning to determine the practicability of the scheme. I am sorry we have not before us the Tariff Board’s report to which the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. White”) refers. There are, of course, hundreds of reports, but it is a pity the Minister has not, since he took office, placed that report on the table.
– It is a pity the honorable member did not table it when he was in office.
– I received one report when I was Minister, dated the 18th June, 1930, and that was tabled in Parliament on the 3rd December, 1930.
– The honorable member did not table the next one.
– It should have been tabled. If it was not, it was an oversight. Hundreds of reports come to the department, many of which do not reach the Minister at all. He is much too busy to deal with all Tariff Board reports, but I can see no reason why that report was not tabled, or why the Minister should not table it forthwith and make it available to honorable members.
– I have already said that I shall do so.
– When I was Minister, a number of proposals came forward for assistance to this industry, including one for an export duty. This I strongly opposed, as I considered it was not practicable and should not be put into operation.
– But the honorable member did put it into operation.
– No,I did not. That was done by the then honorable member for Maribyrnong, Mr. Fenton, who placed ‘the schedule on the table. He did so honestly believing that it would assist the industry: and the present Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) was a member of the Cabinet at the time.
– It was done by the Government of which the honorable member was a member.
– I do not deny that, and I take my full share of the responsibility, but I was strongly opposed to the export duty, because I did not think it would be a success, and I was the Minister who took it off. However, that is no reason why we should not do something for the industry now. Unfortunately, at the time when I, as Minister, had to consider the claims of the industry, the Government was faced with a deficit of £10,000,000, and a prospective deficit of another £20,000,000. The difficulty of finding money for a bounty was obvious, but there has been a change in the finances, and at the end of the last financial year the Commonwealth Government had a surplus of £3,500,000 or £4,000,000. In the circumstances, I think, the whole matter should be revived. I should like the Minister to have it referred back to the Tariff Board for an up-to-date report, based on the latest information available. The great benefits which will accrue from scouring wool and treating skins in Australia should be apparent to everybody. Many hundreds of people will be put into employment thereby. If those engaged in the fellmongery industry do receive a bounty, they will not be the only people in that position in Australia. For the last four years the wheatgrowers have received bounties amounting to £12,000,000, the cotton-growers of Queensland have received bounties, and a number of other primary industries, such as the fruit industry, are receiving similar assistance. Those representing primary-producing constituencies should not overlook the claims of the workers in a big industrial centre, such as Botany, New South Wales, and in Melbourne, Brisbane and other capital cities. In the Tariff Board report that has been made available to honorable members, 1 notice that the board recommended a bounty. It said -
On the evidence tendered at the inquiry it is estimated that1,500 additional men would be employed in fellmongeries if the number of skins fellmongered in Australia could be doubled. At the same time, the reduction of the export quantity by approximately 5,000,000 skins would result in loss of employment to about 400 men at present employed in drying and packing skins for export. The net advantage would, therefore, be the employment of about 1,100 additional men and the distribution of approximately £275,000 extra per annum in wages.
Continuing, the board said -
In the meantime, the industry is languishing, and a large number of men is unemployed. The board is, therefore, of opinion that in the circumstances, and in order to give the industry a chance to reorganize, the payment of a bounty at the rate of one halfpenny per lb. on the number of skins treated in excess of the number now being treated, would be well worth while, considering the advantages of profitably employing 1,100 additional men at the present moment.
– The honorable member is an authority on the question of sheepskins, having imposed an export duty.
– I stated earlier that although the Government of which I was a member imposed an export, duty, I was personally opposed to it, and later tookit off. The action of the Governmentwas an honest attempt to create more employment in Australia. Mr. Scullin was at that time in England, and Messrs Lyons and Fenton were in charge. However, we do not want to do the industry harm because of what happened in the past; five years have elapsed since then. I take full responsibility for anything done by the Government of which I was a member, but personally, I was opposed to the export duty. The fact that that duty failed is no reason why the industry should not to-day be treated on its merits. The Tariff Board in its report in June, 1930, recommended -
– With further information in a later report it came to different conclusions, which I have read out.
– This was an investigation carried out in June, 1930. Evidently the board made a further investigation later in the same year, and submitted some contrary recommendations. Seeing that five years have elapsed since then, the Minister should refer the whole matter to the board for reinvestigation and further report. The industry affects every State in Australia, and can give employment to many workers in all the capital cities. The fellmongery industry in and around Brisbane has a capacity to treat 40,000 sheepskins a week, and thus give employment to 250 men. As it is, only about 3,600 skins a week are treated, and the number of men employed is less than 100. One important aspect of the industry is that 60 per cent, of the cost of fellmongering is represented by labour, It has been found by the local f ellmongers that they cannot compete in the purchase of skins against exporters whose sheepskins are shipped in the raw state and treated in countries where the cost of labour is much lower. The way to get. over that is not to impose an export duty, but, in my opinion, to give assistance by way of a bounty. In a normal year out of the total number of 14,000,000 sheepskins with wool available only 4,500,000 wore fellmongered in Australia. That should be looked into by the Government. The Tariff Board in its report in June, 1930, pointed out -
The position is made more difficult to understand when it is realized that New Zealand f ellmongers export 8,500,000 skins, and only export about 1,000,000 skins with wool per annum. Why should it be possible to successfully treat over 90 per cent, in New Zealand while Australia only does 30 per cent. ?
– They are a different type of skin.
– I am aware of it. They are crossbreds, which are much less sought after for wool than the Australian merinos. I also know that the climatic conditions in New Zealand are favorable for fellmongering, and not favorable for drying skins, and therefore, as the board points out, tend to favour local treatment. However, this is not a question that can be lightly settled. The problem is a difficult one, to which I gave a great deal of attention when I was Minister. I heard the views of both sides then. If money had been available at that time, and had the Government had a surplus instead of a deficit, I should have recommended a bounty probably along the lines suggested by the honorable member for Cook.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
. –I am glad the Minister has promised to give serious consideration to the proposals put forward by the honorable member for Cook (Mr. Garden), because the industry needs substantial assistance if it is to carry on and expand. On this point we should make a clear differentiation between the quantity of wool scoured and the quantity of skins fellmongered. There is a great difference between the two. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) referred to the Tariff Board’s report which, in each instance where it mentioned the product, referred to skins, that is, the fellmongered sheep skins. That is the portion of the trade that is very vitally affected, and, as the Deputy Leader said, the reason is that the conditions for fellmongering in other countries, particularly Mazamet. in France, where the big market exists, are very different from what prevail here. It is practically- impossible for the local fellmongers to compete with Mazamet so long as Mazamet has any buying power at all. That, of course, has been the position for many years. The suggested bounty would considerably help the local industry. If the figures were gone into, it would be found that by far the largest proportion of employment wouldbe given to those directly engaged in fellmongering. I regret that I was not aware that this motion was coming forward, because, as one engaged in the industry, I could have offered the House some information that would have been a useful contribution to the debate. I have not read the report of the Tariff Board on the question, and asthe Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. White) said, the information which is necessary is not available at the moment. [Quorum formed.) I do not know what effect the bounty on scoured wool exported would have, because the honorable member for Cook (Mr. Garden) has included in his motion both scoured and fellmongered wool. He has urged the desirability of paying a bounty of1/2d. on the scoured product, which, of course, includes sheepskins and wool. That might have very serious repercussions, because it might divert to other countries a certain amount of buying power for raw wool. We know, of course, that although Australia produces only 25 per cent, of the world’s output of wool, it is responsible for 80 per cent, of the best wool, which is the fine merino product. Therefore, although foreign buyers might desire to place their purchases in other countries, that would not bo possible to any great extent on account of the fact that the countries which are in competition with Australia are not able to supply the desired quality. At the present time all the wool used in Australia is scoured locally.
– Not all of it.
– A large proportion of it is. I believe the honorable member will find that very little, if any, scoured wool is imported.
– A little is imported from New Zealand.
– I do not see how any importer could compete on a profitable basis by importing scoured wool. The Minister has said that a little of it is imported from New Zealand. That would consist of a particular kind of crossbred wool that is not grown in Australia. I do not think that the Minister could have given any greater assurance to the honorable member for Cook without being fully informed of the effect of the imposition of the duty. However, I consider that the matter is well worth the consideration of this House. If an opportunity should arise at a later date for its more detailed consideration, much additional evidence that would be beneficial to the industry could be brought forward.
Motion (by Mr. White) agreed to -
That the question be now put.
Original question resolved in the negative.
The following papers were presented : -
The following bills were returned from the Senate without amendment: -
Loan Appropriation (Unemployment Belief) Bill 1935.
Dried Fruits Export Control Bill 1935.
Canned Fruits Export Control Bill 1935.
Dried Fruits Bill 1935.
Debate resumed from the 14th March (vide page 73), on motion by Mr. Hughes -
That the bill bc now read a second time.
. - It is unfortunate, if not unfair, that two entirely different matters should be embodied in this measure. One effects a much-needed improvement of the aot, and can be unanimously supported by honorable members of this House, but the other falls within an entirely different category.
The Navigation Act has stood the test of time, and has been regarded with appreciation by both employers and employees in the navigation service.For many years, it has been the envy of the majority of the maritime nations of the world.
– Its enactment was spread over a period of about seven years.
– Its passage was held up for many years, and it was brought into operation piecemeal. It became fully operative only when it was universally agreed that it would do an immense amount of good and no harm. To a nation like Australia, which is so greatly dependent upon the maritime services, the importance of such legislation is obvious ; it is recognized that Australia must have its own mercantile marine.
Honorable members on this side of the House desire to support the provisions of the measure which deal with the installation of wireless on small coastal vessels. This reform has been urged for a number of years. It is somewhat strange that the Minister in charge of the bill (Mr. Hughes) is one who was largely responsible for the original act. One would therefore expect him to be associated with any improvement of it. I am confident, however, that while he may derive pleasure from the inclusion of provisions relating to the installation of wireless on small coastal vessels, he cannot view with equanimity that portion which will have a tendency to undermine the original act. It is somewhat extraordinary that this attack should be made upon such a well-established piece of legislation as the Navigation Act at the very moment when substantial improvements are being effected in the shipping services that engage in interstate trade under the Australian flag. Within the last month, while the bill has lain on the table, four new modern steamers for the Australian trade have been completed. One has finished its maiden voyage, and has been placed on the run around the Australian coast. A few weeks ago a second did its maiden voyage between Tasmania and the mainland : while the remaining two are now on their way to Australia. All of them are of the type which tourists are clamouring to have attached to the interstate trade, and to have placed on the service between Tasmania and the mainland. I do not know whether it would be possible to have one of them engaged permanently on the run between Hobart, Sydney, and Melbourne, but it certainly will give relief to two or three other steamers, and cater for any excess tourist traffic offering, without breaking down the Navigation Act.
There is one small feature of the wireless provisions which I should like to emphasize. Because of constitutional barriers, the Commonwealth is not able to enforce the installation of this necessary equipment on vessels engaged in intra-state trade. I believe, however, that that difficulty could be overcome by agreement between the Commonwealth and the States, with the assistance of the officers of the Navigation Department. The matter has been brought to a head by the terrible disasters which, during the last year or two, have occurred on the Australian coast, in which vessels have been lost without any word being left behind that might have enabled lives to be saved in the future. One of these was the Casino which was wrecked off the coast of Victoria. It was engaged purely in intra-state trade. I hope that the Minister will not relinquish his endeavours to impress on the State authorities the necessity for the installation of these very necessary facilities for the safety of lives and property at sea on vessels that are beyond the jurisdiction of the Commonwealth. This portion of the bill is as nearly perfect as it could be made in the existing circumstances.
I am astonished and disappointed, however, at the attempt of the Government to make inroads upon the Navigation Act. The shipping companies that are engaged in the interstate trade, and are not associated with overseas operations, are absolutely opposed to any encroachment upon the provisions of the act. The members of the crews, from the captain to the cabin boy, also are opposed to such action. When the act first became fully operative, persons engaged in maritime pursuits, from the highest to the lowest, sought to obtain employment in the Australian service, because of the attractiveness of the conditions observed on ships flying the Australian flag and registered in Australia. The Australian Commonwealth Line of Steamers was manned with officers and men of the best type to be found in any maritime service in the world. A tribute to the efficiency of that line was paid by Mr. Larkin at a banquet given in London when its charter was being changed. That gentleman referred to the successful operation of the line, and pointed out that its vessels traded between England and Australia with their holds full of cargo and their passenger lists filled, while other vessels had only a half complement of both. In responding to the toast the representative of the company which bought the steamers made the remarkable statement that his firm wanted not only the ships, but also the staff, officers and men to man them, because they were the best in the world. They were the best in the world, of course, because the conditions which operated on our steamers after the Navigation Act came into full operation in 1922 wore also the best in the world. One result of this .improvement of Australian shipping standards was that the Governments of the United States of America and Canada followed our example, with the consequence that, at one period at any rate, the conditions on Canadian and American ships were even better than those on our ships. This makes a strong appeal to me. I am glad that our ship-owners succeeded in making their services pay under the improved conditions. I am anxious, also, that there should he no interference with these conditions. An aspect of the subject that is pleasing to the people of Australia, and even, to some extent, to those who are endeavouring to undermine our shipping conditions, is that since the uniform laws came into operation shipping freights and fares have been stabilized. Previously freights and fares were extremely variable. I can remember when the fares zig-zagged up and down according to the number of ships in port at a particular time. When I was a young man, and liked roaming around Australia, I often called at the shipping offices to ascertain the fare between Melbourne and Adelaide, Melbourne and Fremantle, Melbourne and Sydney, and so on. The rates were written up in chalk on blackboards outside the offices. At that time the second-class fare from Melbourne to Adelaide varied even from day to day from 10s. to as high as 17s. 6d., according to the number of vessels in port. Some freetrade advocates in this Parliament who, of course, are entitled to their own opinions, would like to see a return to that state of affairs, for they think that unrestricted cut-throat competition is best for the country; but persons with experience in the shipping industry, and unbiased and broad in their outlook, are satisfied that a reversion to the experiences of what are sometimes called “ the good old days “, prior to federation, arbitration and the operation of the Navigation Act, would be very harmful to the whole community.
– Extremes such as the honorable member indicates could easily be avoided.
– Extremes are not good. It is the duty of the Government to hold the balance evenly as between various sections of the community. The Navigation Act has operated advantageously to the country for many years, and I submit that no revolutionary amendments should be made to it.
Even if the provisions relating to overseas steamers, set out in this bill, were agreed to, the people of Tasmania would still ‘find themselves without the advantages that they properly desire and are entitled to as residents of Australia. Tasmania should enjoy permanent and satisfactory transport services, in regard to both cargo and passengers, to and from the mainland. I can well understand that the people of that State smart under the sense of injustice that the absence of these facilities has developed; but the amendments of the Navigation Act now proposed will certainly not remedy their troubles. The only people who would be satisfied if these amendments were agreed to would be a few aristocratic folk who wish to travel on the most modern steamers of more than 10,000 tons with a speed of not less than 14 knots an hour. But it would be unfortunate to satisfy the desires of a few globetrotters and leave unsatisfied the real needs of the great body of the people of Tasmania. I know something about this subject, for I was a member of the Public Works Committee which visited Tasmania years ago and made an inquiry into it. The people of Tasmania are undoubtedly labouring under a disability because of the geographical situation of that State which, though not a fault of the people on the mainland, should be their concern. Tasmania is undoubtedly entitled to proper passenger and freight services and adequate shipping facilities in every respect. These have not been provided in the past because of the heavy expenditure that would be involved, but the people of Tasmania are Australian citizens and the people of the mainland should help them to enjoy the full fruits of their citizenship. We know very well that those who live in the backblocks of this great country, where pioneering work is still being done, are often provided with services, the revenue from which does not meet even a third of the cost of them. When people go into the interior and, as it were, bore a hole in the forest to make a living, they are entitled to consideration. Similarly, people willing to undergo the disadvantages inseparable from residence in Tasmania should be afforded reasonable transport services, at least in some respects comparable with those enjoyed by people who live in the capital cities of the mainland ; and any additional expense incurred, over and above the revenues from such services, should be a charge on the whole population.
– How would the honorable member provide such services for Tasmania?
– The honorable member for Swan and I toured Tasmania together as members of the Public Works Committee to inquire into the transport disabilities of that State, and we know that considerable expense would be incurred in providing such shipping facilities as the people there think they should have. Such a service could not be justified on purely financial grounds for the revenue would not meet the overhead expenses. But the Commonwealth Government should come to the aid of Tasmania and subsidize the service. There never was a time in the history of the world when shipping services were so substantially subsidized in so many countries as they are to-day. We know very well that the Governments of Great Britain, Canada, the United States of America, France and Italy, to name only a few, are now subsidizing their mercantile marine services, and I can see no reason why the Commonwealth Government should not subsidize an adequate service to and from Tasmania. One of the main reasons why government subsidies to shipping are necessary to-day in so many countries is that some years ago, when almost every country of the world was passing through an era of remarkable prosperity, the shipping companies, in their desire to have the best possible ships and the most modern equipment, engaged in a keen competition with the result that to-day almost all of them are so over-capitalized that, with the existing depressed conditions of trade, they cannot, unaided, meet their overhead expenses. Governments have, therefore, come to their rescue, as they have come to the rescue of those engaged in primary producing and other industries. In these circumstances it seems to me that no logical reason can be advanced why the shipping industry should not be helped. The Commonwealth Government should confer with the Government of Tasmania and the representatives of Australian shipping firms with the object of formulating a policy for the establishment, of an adequate and satisfactory shipping service between Hobart and Melbourne and Hobart and Sydney. If a three-party arrangement of that description could be made there would be no reason whatever why the beneficial provisions of our navigation act should be impaired. It has not been shown that the act is deficient in provisions to meet the Tasmanian situation. Some years ago, it was provided that in extraordinary circumstances, where, for instance, it was shown that adequate shipping facilities were not being provided on the Australian coast, permits could be granted; and, as a matter of fact, numerous permits have been granted to overseas shipping companies to participate in the Tasmanian trade, subject, of course, to the officers of the Navigation Act being satisfied that the needs of the trade were not being adequately met. A safeguard of that description was necessary. I am informed that the permit system has met all the needs of the situation. It deals suitably with the seasonal tourist trade, and also with other aspects of the situation. Now, however, it is contended that the permit system should be abolished, and provision made for overseas shipping to participate permanently . and without restriction in the Australian coasting trade. I can see no reason whatever why we should break down a system that hitherto has proved to be satisfactory. It appears that certain people object to asking for permits; but that is surely not a justification for the making of such a vital change in our shipping practice. It is now proposed that overseas ships shall be permitted to participate, not only in the trade between Tasmania and the mainland, but also in the trade between any ports of the mainland which are not linked by a railway service. If such an amendment is made to the act .probably half the trade routes of Australia will be opened to overseas shipping. I understand that the proposal, for the present, is that such ships shall be permitted to engage only in the passenger trade, and that no provision is being made to allow cargo ‘ to be carried. If that extension were also proposed it would be a very serious outlook. Australian coastal ships are manned by white labour, but we know very well that many of the overseas ships provide employment for Asiatics. The Australian shipping companies need the whole of our trade, both passenger and cargo, to continue successful operations. I do not think that we ought to bend to the wishes of a comparatively few people who feel that they would like to travel on large modern ships and in luxury, and avoid using the ordinary Australian coastal steamers; but if the permit system is abolished, and the amendments of the act now proposed are made, that will be the result. A further consequence of any such amendment would undoubtedly be that freight rates on Australian coastal steamers would be increased. I am afraid that there might also he a revival of the cutthroat competition of other days with similar violent variations of freight rates, to meet the situation at various ports according to the number of vessels available at the moment. “We should not countenance in any way the participation in the shipping business of Australia of ships manned 4>y Asiatics or other coloured people. If we do so, our White Australia policy will undoubtedly be endangered.
The people of Tasmania want a permanent and adequate shipping service with cheaper freights and fares, and it is the duty of the Commonwealth Government to meet their wishes as far as possible; but this is not the way to do it. If the Commonwealth Government would., after conference with the Tasmanian Government and the Australian shipping interests, provide a reasonable subsidy for the maintenance of an adequate shipping service to and from Tasmania, that would meet the situation to the satisfaction of everybody. If, for any reason, such an arrangement could not be made, the Government should purchase a steamer and put it on the run to act as a kind of corrective to any illadvised practices by the privately-owned ships.
In the circumstances, while I wholeheartedly support those provisions of this bill which are designed to safeguard the lives of people who go to sea, whether as passengers or otherwise, by obliging all interstate vessels to instal wireless equipment, and would like the Minister to use his influence to compel intra-state vessels to carry such equipment, I am definitely opposed to permission being granted to overseas steamers, not, registered in Australia and not bound by Australian conditions as to the employment of white labour and otherwise, to participate without special permit in the Australian coasting trade. I believe that if this situation is allowed to arise, more harm than good will be done, for it will then be much more difficult for Australianowned vessels to maintain their operations even with the present financial results. We now give a subsidy to steamers plying between Melbourne and Launceston, and I contend that we should similarly subsidize steamers to run between Hobart, Sydney and Melbourne. If the shipping companies refuse to fall in with such a plan then let the Government buy its own steamers and run them in competition with the companies. I know of my own knowledge something of Tasmania’s difficulties. I have relatives in Tasmania who, if- they want to send an urgent message to a friend in Australia, are unable to do so by telephone. They must send a telegram. Such a state of affairs is wrong. People in Tasmania should he able to communicate with any part of the world by telephone, just as we who live in the mainland can.
But whilst I, in common with every other Australian citizen, am prepared to help in every possible way to overcome Tasmania’s difficulties arising out of its isolation I regard it as quite wrong for the Government to propose to achieve that end by methods which will take away something which we have worked hard to achieve. Instead of following the course the Government now proposes, we should overcome those difficulties in a decent way - by being prepared to pay something extra to compensate Tasmanian residents, who are citizens of the Commonwealth, for the difficulties which they now suffer owing to their isolation from this continent. I move the following amendment : -
That all the words after the word “That” be omitted with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following words: - “this House is of opinion that it is unnecessary and unjustified to interfere in the manner proposed in this bill, with the established national policy of maintaining and extending an Australian mercantile marine service subject to the legislative control of this Parliament and conforming to Australian industrial standards, and that no attempt to redress the grievances of Tasmania, in respect of its shipping disabilities, will satisfy this House or the people unless it proposes - (a.) To secure to that State immediately, by means of conditional subsidies, an equitable reduction of shipping freights and fares: and
to institute, as soon as practicable, a Commonwealth-owned service providing direct and frequent communication between Tasmanian ports and the ports of the mainland; and this House is further of opinion that the bill should bo withdrawn, and a new bill, embodying provisions as to wireless telegraphy apparatus and reduction of shipping freights and fares, be introduced at once.”
.- I support the bill. It is not completely satisfactory to me but as my dissatisfaction with it does not correspond to the disagreement voiced by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway) I cannot support his amendment. As he always does, the honorable member has put the case very clearly from his own view-point. He intimated that before the passing of the Navigation Act there was keen competition between the various shipping companies trading on the Australian coast, and he acknowledged that he took full advantage of that competition, going daily to the blackboards to compare the various freight charges and fares posted up. But I would remind honorable members that to-day there are still people who are as impecunious as the honorable member admitted himself to be in those days, and who desire to travel as cheaply as possible from port to port seeking opportunities for employment. Alas, they no longer have the ‘benefit of competitive coastal shipping rates today. The honorable member told us that the Australian Commonwealth Line of Steamers was successful. It was so successful that it lost £500,000 a year, and the majority of the crews that manned the vessels were not Australians. The honorable member went on to say that the Commonwealth steamers carried full cargoes from overseas, while competing ships had to come to this country half laden. I contend that a line which paid heavily for such excellent conditions as were enjoyed by those employed by it could not . be considered to be really in competition with other shipowners, and the fact that it suffered such a heavy annual loss proves this contention. Furthermore, its full holds actually had the result of increasing oversea freights to Australia. Full cargoes imply reduced freights. The full cargoes of the Commonwealth vessels had the tendency of forcing other shipowners to increase their freights in order to offset light shipments. While the Australian Commonwealth Line of Steamers was operating, New Zealand, which had no State-owned ships, was able to obtain easier freights to New Zealand producers than our own line could afford to offer to Australian producers. The Commonwealth line thus became a hindrance to primary production in Australia and to the profitable export of goods generally, and for that reason was properly disposed of.
When the legislation now sought to be amended was first introduced into this Parliament, the main claim made in its favour was that it would help to create an Australian mercantile marine. I contend, however, that before the passing of that act we had a shipping service more closely approaching an Australian mercantile marine than we have now. As the honorable member for Melbourne Ports pointed out, shipping interests opposed the introduction of the Navigation Bill tooth and nail, but the Commonwealth Parliament passed it. Outside shipping interests, including those controlled ‘by Lord Inchcape, immediately bought into and subsequently secured control of Australian shipping, and the result is that to-day the Australian mercantine marine is smaller than that which we had before the enactment of our navigation law. I have no doubt either that the Inchcape interests arc not sympathetic with the change proposed under this amending bill a?, obviously, they stand to lose by any change.
When all the States federated we were told that we were to be one people with one common destiny. My sympathies are with Tasmania with respect to the alteration proposed in the coasting trade provisions of the act. The island suffers distinct disadvantages under those provisions. Tasmania is isolated and cannot be provided with rail connexion with the mainland. But F claim that, from a commercial point of view, Western Australia lias become equally isolated as the result of the same provisions of the act. Freights from Adelaide to Fremantle are higher than those for the carriage of goods from New York or London to Fremantle, and freights on timber from Hobart to Adelaide are twice the rates from Vancouver to Adelaide. Such a condition of affairs is retarding business, industry, general development, and employment in a country with a coastline of 13,000 miles. Of course, Western Australia - onethird of the area of Australia - has railway connexion with the rest of the continent. It has a twice-weekly service over the East-West railway. Prior to the introduction of this act Albany was a flourishing port, but, as the result of this legislation, only about one-quarter of the total Western Australian shipping now calls there. When the Navigation Act came into force the shipping interests of Australia formed a combine so as to overcame certain difficulties imposed on them by that act. This combine has a common board of control on which a representative of each of the shipping companies sits. The companies’ representatives on this hoard arrange among themselves which ships will make certain trips. They arrange that one company will run one week and that it will be the turn of another company to run a vessel on the same course another week. They say to each other “ Charge these rates and tell the consignors to take them or leave them”. To-day it would not be of any avail for the honorable me]n. ber for Melbourne Ports to pass from blackboard to blackboard with the object of securing the cheapest possible freight, because now a combine is in control and standard combine freights prevail. Today, although allowance has to be made for a 25 per cent, increase of population in the interval, only one-fourth of the shipping calls at Albany, compared with the number of boats which called there before the Navigation Act came into operation. Storekeepers in that town are now forced to lay in supplies by the month, whereas prior to the operation of the act they could secure supplies weekly. This state of affairs is having a hampering effect upon the development of the southern portion of Western Australia. The advantages which it was said certain individuals would enjoy under this act are more than outweighed by the disadvantages it imposes. The honorable member for Melbourne Ports referred to State-owned ships, suggesting that under certain circumstances States should not hesitate to ‘acquire and run their own vessels. I remind him, however, that it was a Labour government in Tasmania that disposed of Tasmania’s State-owned ships because they proved too heavy n burden on the taxpayers. Other States also have found it necessary to sell Stateowned vessels. Although Tasmania has no rail connexion with Australia, that State has more effective communication with Australia than Western Australia has with the remainder of the Commonwealth. For instance, a resident of Albany has to travel nearly 300 miles by rail to catch a boat or a train for the eastern States. In the past the coastal boats used to call at Albany to pick up passengers at that port. It should give honorable members food for thought when they realize that a resident of Albany has to journey 300 miles to Fremantle in a direction opposite to that in which he wishes to travel to join either a boat or a train on the East- West line. It is no wonder that under the conditions I have described Western Australia wants to secede from the Commonwealth.
– Order ! The honorable member must confine his remarks to the question before the chair.
– I was dealing, Mr. Speaker, with an aspect of the proposal contained in clause 3 of the bill. I urge the Government to consider the disadvantages which are being suffered by Western Australia under the present Navigation Act. Under another policy certain goods were manufactured in this country and Western Australians who bought these goods had to pay the highest freights in the world, comparatively speaking, in order to secure them. It is a continuiug handicap on the development of that State. As with freights, so also is it with passenger traffic. The cast-iron nature of the present system may be understood from the following example : When, owing to floods some time ago, the transcontinental trains were not running, I received notice from Mr. Speaker that this Parliament was to sit at a certain date. I could not travel by train, so I telegraphed to the Commonwealth Shipping Agency for a permit to travel on an overseas vessel from Fremantle, and the permit was duly granted. There were at that time two overseas vessels in port at Fremantle, one of the Peninsular and Oriental Line and another of the Aberdeen Line. On the Peninsular and Oriental vessel there were 300 vacant berths, but, notwithstanding that I had a permit to travel, I was refused a passage.
– Evidently they did not want the honorable member.
– It was not that they did not want me, but that they had bought into the Australian mercantile marine, and did not want to interfere with the magnificent corner which had been established in the passenger traffic business on the Australian coast. Eventually, with evident, reluctance, I was allowed to obtain a passage on the Aber deen vessel. Is it any wonder, when such hampering conditions are imposed, that the development of the country is retarded, and the opportunity for providing employment limited ? We have given the coasting trade provisions of the Navigation Act a fair trial; they have proved an absolute failure, and have not given us the advantages we were told they’ would. I shall, probably in the committee stage of this bill, move an amendment in regard to this matter, for the purpose of testing the feeling of the House.
– This bill deals with two important aspects of the navigation law of Australia. I am pleased to observe that there is general agreement in regard to those provisions which require the installation of wireless equipment on ships trading along the coast of Australia. It is particularly gratifying that those provisions have met with the approval of the representatives -of the maritime unions themselves, a fact which reflects credit on those who handled the negotiations. It is to be regretted, however, that in regard to the coasting trade provisions of the act, the Government has seen fit to introduce amendments which will seriously affect employment in the maritime industry. I do not think that, the Government could have chosen a worse time, when unemployment is rife, to take action, the probable effect of which will bc to add to the long list of Australian seamen who are already unemployed. No doubt, the Minister in charge of the bill (Mr. Hughes) will beable to show by figures that the tourist trade has been stimulated by the granting of permits to overseas vessels to carry passengers, hut I suggest that any such improvement must be of a purely temporary character, and that in the long run, the granting of permits must detrimentally affect the development of the Australian mercantile marine.
– The attempt to establish an Australian mercantile marine has failed lamentably.
– The honorable member is able to look at these problems only from his own point of view. I might complain that many of the expensive attempts to foster certain rural industries in which he is interested have also been total or partial failures; but I do not, on that account, suggest that those industries should be left to their own devices. The honorable member takes a narrow view of these national problems - a view which ill accords with his position as a member of the Federal Parliament. It is true that policies which are designed to promote the good of the nation as a whole may not have the same beneficial effect upon a particular State or parts of a. State; but we must balance one thing against another, and do what is best for the greatest number.
– Only by an economic survey can we determine the ultimate balance of good in regard to any policy.
– I agree that there is something in what the honorable member says.
– Even the result of an economic survey would not convince the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley), if it conflicted with his preconceived opinion.
– I think it must be admitted that the members of my party have always discussed national questions in an impartial manner, and have refused to take a purely sectional view. Complaints have been made about the power of shipping combines, and the high cost of freight. ‘Some honorable members have mentioned the sale of the Australian Commonwealth Line of Steamers; but I think the least said about that subject the better for the Government and its supporters. The selling of that line has never yet been satisfactorily explained, and the subsequent history of the transaction merely confirms our opinion that the line was. to all intents and purposes, given away.
– The money has not been paid because the purchasers went broke.
– And furthermore, in the terms of the agreement, the company still enjoys preference in the carriage of Australian cargo.
– The ships have not been paid for because they were sold to what, was purely a speculating company.
– This bill will do nothing to reduce freight, or to curb the power of the shipping combine. Combines are the same the world over, and shipping combines are unscrupulous to the last degree. I have had some little experience in dealing with the shipping combine, and the Minister in charge of the bill has had a great deal more. If he cared to do so he could tell us that the shipping combine is out for its pound of flesh all the time. It has an utter- disregard for the workers, or the public, or any other section of the community.
The geographical situation of Australia is such that it is vital for us to have a mercantile marine of our own. The proper development of our primary industries is so bound up with overseas transport that, for their sake alone, it is necessary for us to own and control our own shipping. Anything which tends to hamper this is, therefore, to be deplored.
As for the granting of permits for passengers to travel on overseas ships, although I do not agree with the system, Ithink that the Government might well have retained this method if they desire to offer concessions to those particular shipping interests. The Minister said that if the concession were abused, or if it was found to be having a harmful effect, the Government would not hesitate to bring down amending legislation. If the Government envisages the possible need of retracing its steps in that way, why depart from the present flexible system of licences? The amending of legislation is a slow and cumbersome process. Parliament must be in session, legislation must be drafted, and it must be agreed to by both Houses of Parliament. Under the existing, system action can be taken at once, and without delay.
Sitting suspended from 1245 to 2.15 p.m.
– I now desire to turn to the favorable portion, of the bill, namely, those clauses which provide for the installation of wireless signalling apparatus on the smaller vessels trading around our coast. The need for such installations was brought home to the people of Australia when, following the toss of the Coramba, the Victorian seamen decided that they would not man coastal vessels of less than 1,600 tons unless they were properly equipped with wireless apparatus. Their action had the support of the majority of the people of Australia, because a number of vessels had foundered in Australian waters with a loss of life which might have been avoided had the vessels been equipped with proper wireless signalling apparatus. In 1927, the maritime unions began to agitate for these installations, but met strong opposition from the shipowners, who complained of the excessive costs which would be involved. It is to be regretted that so frequently a serious situation involving, perhaps, the loss of many lives, has to arise before necessary reforms of this character can be brought about. The opposition breaks down only in the face of some tragedy. The men whose lives have been lost unnecessarily through the failure of the ship-owners to equip their vessels with proper signalling apparatus, are naturally no longer concerned with this subject; but their wives and children still suffer because of the untimely death of the breadwinners. The need for some means of communication with other vessels, or with the mainland, was emphasized when the Christina Fraser was lost with all hands, notwithstanding that one of the Union Steamship Company’s steamers was only a few miles away and might have saved the crew had the Christina Fraser been equipped with wireless signalling apparatus. However, as I have said, the ultimatum of the Victorian seamen brought things to a head. I had the privilege of introducing to the Minister for Commerce a deputation of maritime union workers in Sydney on this subject. The Minister listened attentively to what the deputation had to say, and appeared to realize that the time had arrived for definite action to be taken. At that conference, Amalgamated Wireless Australasia Limited demonstrated one of its automatic sets, which it considered would be a sufficient installation for the smaller vessels trading in Australian waters. The system of automatic wireless signals as demonstrated on that occasion is a most ingenious invention. Three discs, something like phonograph discs, are set in motion. The first disc gives the call sign of the ship. As the machine revolves, the second disc, which gives the latitude and longitude of the vessel, is brought into operation, after which the third disc, containing the S.O.S. signal, sends out its message. The process is continued for sixteen minutes.
– Is human agency necessary to start the apparatus?
– In order to set it in motion, the controlling key must be opened. The need for full-time operators was stressed by the maritime unions in their objection to an entirely automatic system of signalling. They pointed out that, whereas automatic signalling might be quite satisfactory under normal conditions, it might not be reliable in the extraordinary conditions which would prevail when the apparatus was most needed. They indicated that if a ship had a severe list because of the shifting of the cargo, or from some other cause, and all hands were at their posts, the apparatus would be required to work in entirely different circumstances from those which would obtain at a demonstration under normal conditions. They made out a good case, as, I think, the Minister, who had some knowledge of seafaring conditions, realized. In support of the automatic installation as a part of the equipment, the Minister remarked that, once it had been set in motion, it would continue for sixteen minutes to send out distress signals, whereas a purely manual system might cease after a. minute or two because of the operator having been washed overboard or injured.
– Is it proposed to install this apparatus on the bridge of each vessel ?
– Its location was not discussed at the conference for the reason, I understand, that the existing regulations already govern that matter.
– Would it not be easier merely to turn the key than to operate a manual set?
– That is debatable, as I have already indicated. However, the result of the negotiations was that the Government decided to provide for both automatic and manual signalling.
– There is to be a normal and an emergency installation?
– All that is humanly possible to make the installation effective as a means of preventing the loss of life and property lias been done. It is claimed that when this legislation has become operative, the vessels trading around the Australian coast will have the most advanced system of wireless emergency signalling installed on vessels in any part of the world. Australia, therefore, is paving the way in the protection of life at sea. During the discussions at the conference the question of the power for working the apparatus arose - whether there should be a separate installation, or whether the power used generally throughout the ship should be used. Finally, it was explained that power for the apparatus should be obtained from storage batteries, and be distinct from the electrical installation of the ship generally. Should a vessel so equipped have its engine-room flooded, and its electrical generators under water, the wireless signalling apparatus will continue to function. Not until “the last portion of the vessel to be submerged sinks beneath the water will the signals cease. Provision will also be made for the maintenance of the apparatus by the company which instals it. When a ship returns to port the batteries will be removed for re-charging, and others substituted, and generally the installation will be overhauled. On reading proposed new subsection 1a of section 231, as contained in clause i of the bill, it might be thought, without looking at the regulations, that the installation on ships of under 750 tons would consist only of the automatic apparatus. 1 should like the Minister to state publicly that it will include not only the automatic apparatus, but also the manual apparatus by which the ordinary Morse code can be operated.
– Quite so; there is the automatic apparatus to which the honorable member has referred; there is the two-way Morse, and then there is the radio receiver on all ships whether under or over 750 tons.
– I thank the Minister. The maritime unions endeavoured to have a full time operator installed on these ships, because they feared that when every man was called to his post in a time of distress there might be no one specifically appointed to carry out wireless duties. A good deal of discussion took place, and the Minister will agree that long negotiations went on between the various parties on this point. The ship-owners raised many objections. One -was that the accommodation on small ships was limited; another was that, according to the manning scale, if an extra hand in the person of a wireless operator was taken on board, the appointment of other men in other positions would be necessitated. It will be remembered that the Minister made a personal investigation of many of the ships, and ascertained that in some isolated cases difficuty in regard to accommodation did arise. However, it was finally agreed that on ships under 750 tons provision should be made for the manual operation of wireless by allowing a member of the crew to qualify according to the regulations. To illustrate the difficulties that arise even among the unions themselves in regard to an appointment of this character, when it was suggested that the second mate should be made responsible for the wireless, the Merchant Service Guild pointed out that men advanced in years who had been successfully acting as second mates for long periods might find it difficult to pass an examination in transmitting code by wireless. It was feared that these older men might, on that account, lose their jobs to younger men who could more efficiently carry out the wireless duties. This was a point which more particularly concerned the Merchant Service Guild, but the Minister was able to overcome the difficulty by providing that any mem ber of the crew who could qualify would be sufficient under the amended regulations to undertake the duty .of operating the wireless by hand.
– And by reducing the examination test from 16 words to 10 words a minute.
– That is so. The wishes of the maritime unions were met by that arrangement, that one man on board should be qualified, and the regulations impose no restriction whatever. as to who that man should be. Whoever qualifies will be permitted to undertake the work. The question of the tonnage was an important factor. The original regulations provided that full wireless equipment should be compulsory only . on ships of 1,600 tons and over. The organizations fought for the reduction of that minimum to 500 tons, and finally 750 tons was agreed upon as a compromise. It was realized that there would be occasions when difficulties would arise with regard to accommodation and so on, and for a week or two we were concerned with overcoming that obstacle. It was felt that to place on the Minister the responsibility of deciding any differences that might arise after the law was passed might lead to accusations of- partiality against him, and it was decided to adopt, in this connexion, the expedient of the reference board which now prevails with regard to the manning of ships. It was decided, with the concurrence of the Minister, to create a reference board consisting of the Director or Deputy Director of Navigation of the particular State, a representative of the owners, and a representative of the maritime unions. “We feel confident that, as in the case of disputes about manning, the decisions of the referenceboard will be equally accepted by all parties.
If I may speak for the maritime unions, I feel that I should take this opportunity to refer to the wonderful assistance rendered to them by Mr. Crawford, the radio inspector in New South “Wales. The whole subject is one that calls for highly technical skilled advice. The representatives of the men may have a fairly good grasp of what they want, but it is very necessary that they should be given good advice as to the technical effectiveness or otherwise of their ideas, and in that regard I cannot speak too highly of the assistance Mr. Crawford rendered to the unions. “With the consent of the Minister he addressed the Maritime Council of Unions and advised them exactly how the scheme would work. He assured them beyond any doubt that the proposals which were then about to be agreed upon would be the most advanced yet adopted anywhere in the world. I must’ also pay a tribute to Captain “Williams, the Deputy Director of Navigation in New South Wales, who likewise extended the most sympathetic consideration to the views put forward by the representatives of the maritime organizations, and did all he could to bring the negotiations to a successful issue. Strange as it may seem, I cannot omit the Minister (Mr. Hughes) from my complimentary remarks in this regard. He, too, showed every desire to bring the matter to the advanced stage that it has now reached, and I can assure him here and now that the organizations which I represent are not unmindful of the assistance he gave them. They feel that a great service is now being done to the men who go down to the sea in ships, aud that, furthermore, those who are left on shore are given a much greater feeling of safety and security and confidence in the absence of their breadwinners. . We should bear in mind the problem of the construction of new vessels and the necessity for making them comply with the regulations. Something should also be said about the matter of accommodation on those vessels. It is a fact that the accommodation on many of the smaller ships is, to say the least of it, deplorable. In the future, provision should be made in the construction of all vessels for the installation of the necessary wireless apparatus and accommodation for those required to operate it. I am pleased to have been ‘ associated with the negotiations regarding wireless equipment which resulted in this particular amendment being brought down, and I am happy to have had an opportunity to express the appreciation of the maritime unions to the parties which took part in those negotiations.
.- The State of Tasmania is entitled to have made permanent a provision which, in the past, has been subject to permit, and therefore, liable to be withdrawn at any time. For many years, in more prosperous times, hold-ups have occurred in connexion with shipping between the mainland and Tasmania, resulting in the ruin of the tourist traffic of that State. Such hold-ups have been made possible only because of the provisions of the Navigation Act, which gave the Australian shipping combine a monopoly in respect of interstate shipping, and enabled its employees to cut off communication with Tasmania at a time when that State should receive normal tourist traffic. If the clause in the bill now before the House had been in operation, the tourist traffic of Tasmania would be on a much sounder footing than it is today.
This bill provides some small measure of relief from the disadvantages which Tasmania has always suffered under the Navigation Act. That fact was well recognized by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports, whose expressions of opinion in this House are always so fairly and clearly given that they commend themselves to all honorable members. But the honorable member showed very clearly that, in his opinion, Tasmania needed, not so much, the relief offered by this bill, but cheaper freights and a better service. If the honorable member were entirely free from affiliations associated with his electorate, he would have been prepared to support this measure and thus grant some further relief to the island State.
Owing to the fact that .people prefer to travel on mail steamers making the longer run than is taken by the inferior ships which cross from Melbourne to Launceston, the Australian shipping combine may lose some of its business by this provision, but it will be very little. In any case, it has only itself to blame, because of the poor services it has provided in the past. It has enjoyed a monopoly of the tourist traffic to Tasmania, but has abused its privileges by keeping poorly-equipped vessels on the run, and paying but indifferent attention to its passengers, while charging high freights and fares. It is not entitled to any sympathy if it loses some of the trade. The suggestion that the combine should be granted a subsidy in addition to the retention of its present monopoly is one of the most avaricious suggestions I have ever heard put forward in this House. It has exploited its position to the great disadvantage of people who have been compelled to utilize its services.
This bill will operate unfairly in respect of travellers from the States of South Australia and Western Australia. I do not know whether this has been observed by the draftsman of this bill; but as I understand it, a passenger may embark at any port in Australia where the mail steamers call, and may be. carried to Hobart and back to Melbourne,, where he must disembark and continue his journey by other means. Victorian passengers may make the round trip, and be carried back to Melbourne; but residents of Western Australia and South Australia must disembark at Melbourne, and return to their homes by other means. There is no reason why tourists wishing to travel to Tasmania from Western Australia and South Australia should not be given the same rights as residents of Victoria. Sydney and Brisbane tourists are not affected,- because they could not take advantage of the return journey to Sydney, no matter how these proposed new provisions are drafted; mail steamers, after arriving at Melbourne from Hobart, proceed west. Passengers from Brisbane and Sydney are thus compelled to break their journey at Melbourne.
The States of Western Australia and South Australia have suffered most from the operation of certain sections of .the Navigation Act. I have no desire to keep on repeating the grievances under which the people of those States suffer, but it appears that I must continue to do ‘so. The fact that those States are placed at this disadvantage is the strongest reason why they should be included whenever there is opportunity to extend concessions. I urge the Minister in charge of the bill to give consideration to that aspect of the matter. As the amendments are at present drafted they create obvious anomalies in respect of the people of Western Australia and South Australia. These anomalies could be overcome simply by striking out the second part of the proposed amendment of section 7.
All honorable members agree with the provisions that have been made with regard to the safety of seamen. Subject to the amendment which I suggest . should be made, the bill should . have an easy passage.
.-There is no need to dwell unduly on the provisions in the bill for the installation of wireless on shipping. That is a matter on which all honorable members entirely agree. The Minister in charge of ‘the bill (Mr. Hughes) dealt very fully with it in introducing the bill, and his remarks have been amplified by the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley). While I support that provision in the bill, there are other provisions which I should prefer to see amended. The Navigation Act, which provides for the protection of seamen, is a highly controversial piece of legislation which has always commanded a great deal of attention in Australia. Whatever disadvantage it imposes is more than outweighed by the benefit it confers in the protection afforded to Australian seamen, particularly through the operation of the coasting trade provisions. The suggestion that a subsidy should be paid has been ridiculed by one honorable member. I remind honorable members that last year the British combine was subsidized to an amount of £2,000.000. Even that was not unique, for in 1932-33 other subsidies paid were £5,000,000 by the United .States of America, £3,000,000 by Italy, and £1,000,000 by Japan. Therefore, we should not be embarking on experimental legislation if we provided for the payment of a subsidy for the provision of reasonable shipping facilities for the State of Tasmania. I agree entirely with the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse) that the ships which trade in Australian waters are part of a combine which, if not worldwide, is at least an offshoot of the British combine. I suggest that the advantage derived by Tasmania from the permits granted last year has been overstated. The tourist traffic to that State has increased, not only via Hobart, but also via Launceston and the north-west coast ports. The advantage accruing from the granting of permits to ships calling at Hobart is therefore problematical. It is well known that Tasmania’s troubles are due entirely to its insular position. It has no road or rail connexion with the mainland, and consequently, has to depend entirely on shipping services. Within the last year or two, I agree, there has been some communication by air, with advantageous results to the State. Long before I became a member of this House, I interested myself in the cost of transport between Tasmania and the mainland States, and the conclusion at which I have arrived is that that State has suffered more severely in consequence of inflated costs than from the operation of the Navigation Act. I have no wish to disguise the fact that some persons prefer to travel on deep-sea liners because of their greater steadiness in the sea, their more luxurious appointments, and the other attractions which they offer; but the question naturally arises, to what extent advantage can be taken of these facilities by tourists from the mainland, who, perhaps, are not in very fortunate circumstances financially, and by others who, for reasons of health, wish to avail themselves of the climatic and other attractions which Tasmania offers. If the fares were reasonable, Tas-, mania would obtain a greater measure of the tourist traffic from the mainland, and its position would thereby be greatly improved. So that I might inform my mind on this particular aspect of the matter, I have taken the trouble to obtain figures relating to the cost of transport to and from the mainland over a period of years. In 1915, the single fare from Melbourne to Launceston was £1 Ils. 6d. first class, and £1 ls. second class, while the return fares were £2 12s. 6d. and £1 lis. ‘6d. respectively. To-day the first class fare is £2 8s. and the second class fare £1 13s., in addition to a marine board tax of 2s. in each case, while the return fares are double those amounts. That is bad enough. But with the introduction of the *I1 aroona the cheapest first class fare became £2 8s., and the charge rose to as high as £5 5s. for a luxury cabin. It will thus be seen that the position was not improved from the point of view of passengers by the introduction of this modern steamer, which caters principally for. the limited few who are able to pay the higher amount for a luxury cabin.
Last season, the chief trouble was the lack of second-class accommodation, and the introduction of the new steamer has done very little to improve the position in that respect-. Visitors from the mainland, when they had completed their holidays, had the utmost ‘difficulty in obtaining berths for the return journey; and, in some instances, they were stranded in Tasmania. This was a very bad advertisement for the State. If uncertainty prevails as to the facilities for returning to the mainland, tourists will hesitate about making the sea trip. During the season which has just closed, numbers of passengers were unable to obtain the ordinary accommodation, and had to be content with “ shake-downs “. This intolerable position will not be relieved to any appreciable extent by the measure now before the House.
During recent years, the subsidy paid for the maintenance of reasonable communication, between Tasmania and the mainland has increased enormously. At the inception of federation, the amount paid was £6,000 a year. In 1902, a new contract was entered into, and the subsidy was fixed at £9,000 a year. The sum was increased to £13,000 a year, when the Loongana was put into service about 30 years ago. In 1921, when the Nairana was introduced, a further contract provided for the payment of £30,000 a year. To-day, with the Taroona running, the subsidy has reached the tremendous figure of approximately £50,000 a year. The vessels now in use are certainly of a higher standard than those used some years ago, but I do not consider that the
Service has been improved by the introduction of the Taroona. The accommodation provided for a limited number of passengers, no doubt, is equal to that found on any vessels operating on the Australian coast. This, however, has proved a mixed blessing to Tasmania, because the fact that the Taroona is an oil burner, has meant the loss of almost £100 a week to waterside workers who have been deprived of employment. The fact that the vessel does not require coal has also had a detrimental effect upon the coal-miners of New South Wales.
The latest increase of subsidy has been made at a time when costs generally have fallen. Seamen’s wages, waterside workers’ wages, and the cost of general commodities are down, yet freights and fares remain at the same level as during the peak period. In 1922, the rate paid to a fireman was £17 7s. a month, and to an able bodied seaman £15 5s. 7d. a month, whilst, this year, the rates are £15 2s. 6d. and £13 2s. 6d. respectively. The Oonah had a total crew of 42, the Loongana 72, and the Nairana 81, but the Taroona has only 70. The gross tonnage of these vessels is’ as follows : - Oonah, 1,758 tons; Loongana, 2,448 tons;
Nairana, 3,042 tons; Taroona, 4,286 tons; The gross tonnage of the Taroona is over 1,000 tons greater than that of the Nairana, yet its crew numbers eleven fewer. This is an indication that the mechanization of industry has reached the shipping services. Obviously, the Taroona must be less costly to operate than the other vessels.
– I submit that the honorable member is not in order. He is dealing with a section of the principal act which regulates the manning of ships, whereas this bill is confined to sections 7 and 231.
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. G. J. Bell).The whole scope of the act cannot be discussed in the consideration of this bill.
– I respectfully suggest that the amendment to which I am speaking deals specifically with freights and fares, and I think that the fares should be reduced by at least 25 per cent., on account of the facts which I have presented. The company operating the Bass Strait service is bleeding Australia white. Although it is paying Australian wages and observing Australian conditions, it is operating under a misnomer. Described as Tasmanian Steamers Proprietary Limited, it is actually an offshoot of the Union Steamship Company of Australia, and Huddart Parker Limited, of Australia and New Zealand. When the company was formed in 1921, two dummies were provided with shares,, and the remainder of the shares were allotted equally between the two com-, pani.es that I have mentioned. This was done to delude the people of Tasmania into thinking that a Tasmanian company was being formed. The company trades under Tasmanian colours and a Tasmanian name, hut its sole object is to eliminate competition and enable it to charge, without interference, high fares and freight rates. The two steamers operating this service prior to the forma-, ti on of this company were taken over under circumstances designed to deceive the people of Australia. I endeavoured some time ago, in this House, to obtain some information regarding the financial operations of the company, and particularly the subsidy it enjoys–
-Order ! The subject with which the honorable member is dealing is not revelant to the bill. The contract entered into between the Commonwealth Government and the company operating the Bass Strait service is not now under discussion.
– All I shall say, then, is that the Government should direct its attention to the provision of an adequate shipping service between Tasmania and the mainland operating under good conditions and with an adequate subsidy. I am not opposed to those provisions of the bill which deal with the installation of wireless equipment on vessels engaged in our coastal trade; but I am definitely opposed to the provisions of clause 3, and shall therefore support the amendment of the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway).
– I listened with great interest to the speech of the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway) on this bill, as, indeed, I. do to all the speeches that he delivers; but I regret that he saw fit to move an amendment to the motion for the second reading of the measure. Frequently, action of that kind, has the effect of causing a bill to slip mysteriously to the bottom of the business-paper. Those provisions of this measure which relate to the installation of wireless equipment of vessels engaged in our coastal trade, will, I am sure, be welcomed by the whole community. Early in 1926 a small steamer, the Dorrigo, was wrecked off the Queensland coast. It was not a case of a tornado or cyclone overwhelming the vessel; she became waterlogged and slowly sank and all on board except the captain and his son were lost. According to a press report published at the time, the Court of Marine Inquiry, which investigated the cause of the foundering of the vessel, stated that -
Under the existing law vessels of the Dorrigo class need not provide wireless unless carrying more than twelve passengers. The court felt ‘that had wireless been installed, many, or at least some, of the crew might have been saved. It respectfully invited the Minister’s consideration of the advisability of requiring all vessels trading between ports to be provided with wireless.
From that time onward, until my temporary retirement from political life, I asked various Ministers to introduce an amendment of the Navigation Act to provide that wireless should be carried on all vessels. Reference to Hansard, however, will show that I was not more monotonous in my requests than were the Ministers in their replies. I was told that successive governments were awaiting a conference of representatives of the State governments to be held, and, at last, I was informed that an international conference upon the saving of life at sea was being awaited. The last question that I addressed to a Minister on this subject was submitted to the then honorable member for Maribyrnong, Mr. Fenton, while he was Acting Prime Minister. I am very pleased that so early after my return to the political arena this bill should have been introduced. As the Minister in charge of the bill said when introducing it, Australia is leading the world in this regard, though we must give some credit to the sister dominion of New Zealand for having, quite a long while ago, passed legislation to compel ‘ proprietors of all vessels to carry some device for sending out S.O.S. signals in the case of danger. I understand that the Commonwealth Government intends to request the governments of the various States to introduce complementary legislation of this description to ensure that intrastate as well as interstate vessels shall be equipped with wireless. This reform is as urgent as that which we are now seeking to effect.
The honorable member for Melbourne Ports expressed strong opposition to the provisions of clause 3 of the bill, but I remind him that the Minister in charge of the bill stated when introducing it that the amendments sought to be made by clause 3 were designed to remedy disabilities suffered by Tasmania in regard to tourist traffic. He added that if any considerable abuse occurred of the concessions now being made, or if it was found that the interests of the shipping companies of Australia were being .injured, serious consideration would be given to the repeal of the new provisions with the object of dealing with the Tasmanian tourist traffic under section 286 of the principal act.
The honorable mem’ber for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway) and the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) expressed their appreciation of the services rendered by the right honorablemember for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) to the great maritime industries of this country, and also of the prominent, active part which he took in the passing of the Navigation Act. I therefore feel sure that they can rely upon him to see that no abuse of the provisions of the act takes place under this amending measure. The passage of the bill will be welcomed by all who travel on our coastal vessels whether as passengers or crew, and indeed by all who “go down to the sea in ships “. I sincerely trust, that the honorable mem’ber for Melbourne Ports will not press his amendment. We have been told that the loss recently of vessels in Austrlaian waters was responsible for the introduction of the bill. I have reminded honorable members of the tragic loss of an intrastate vessel with most of the members of its crew in 1926. There have been, since then, many similar unhappy records of wrecks in our coastal trade, with heavy loss of life. It will be a matter for very deep regret if this important legislation is not passed before the House adjourns.
.- We have been told that this wonderful piece of legislation .has been introduced in order to relieve the people of Tasmania from some of the many disabilities which they suffer under federation. I am entirely in accord with the remarks of the honorable member for Lilley (Sir Donald Cameron), with reference to the need for the installation of wireless on vessels engaged in interstate trade, and that portion of the bill will have my whole-hearted support. I congratulate the Minister (Mr. Hughes) for having included it in the measure. Its introduction is, however, due entirely to the united front shown by the organizations representing the officers and men employed on ships trading in Australian waters.
The amendment of the Navigation Act to enable overseas vessels to engage in the interstate passenger trade has for many years been a bone of contention in my electorate. I have always taken the keenest interest in this matter and, having studied the problem from all angles, have come to the conclusion that this bill will not remove the disabilities from which the people of Hobart, and Tasmania generally, suffer. In the first place the Navigation Act does not fix fares and freights ‘between Tasmania and the mainland. That ia important for the people of Tasmania.The coasting trade provisions of the act. merely determine the conditions underwhich vessels shall trade in Australian waters. It requires them to pay Australian rates of wages and to provide thenecessary accommodation for the officersand members of the crew. I understand that any overseas vessel can, without this proposed legislation, get a permit and engage in this trade if it undertakes to pay Australian rates of wages and observe the conditions as regards accommodation for its employees.
It has been urged that the granting of permits to overseas vessels to carry passengers between mainland ports and Hobart will greatly help the Tasmania tourist trade. I have examined the figures and submit that they do not support this view. In 1912 - many years before the Navigation Act was proclaimed - the number of tourists arriving in Tasmania was 46,669. That was the highest number recorded up to that time. The Navigation Act was proclaimed and ‘became operative in 1921, and the figures show that there was an immediate and substantial increase in interstate tourist traffic. The numbers increased from 41,763 in 3922 to over 50,446 in 1927- the highest in the history of Tasmania. The figures quoted by Mr. Black relate to the total number of passengers carried by overseas ships which call at the port of Hobart, but as some of the vessels remain there for only two or three hours, their passengers cannot be regarded as bona fide interstate tourists. Nevertheless, they are added to the number of people who travel in interstate vessels and bring the total for last year up to 52,000. The statement submitted by Mr. Black shows that, in 1933, overseas vessels carried 4,222 interstate passengers. In the following year the number decreased to 4,158, whereas the number of passengers carried by interstate ships from Tasmania was 37,000.
– Half the population of Tasmania!
– The Minister for Defence (Mr. Parkhill) is attempting to belittle Tasmania on account of the smallness of its population. Let me tell him that the people there are just as good citizens of the Commonwealth, and just as conscientious in the discharge of their obligations as are the people living in the constituency represented by the honorable gentleman.
The economic case for Tasmania was set-out recently in a statement presented to the Commonwealth Grants Commission by a committee of which Mr. Claude James wa3 chairman and Mr. L. Norman secretary. No one can successfully challenge the accuracy of the figures compiled by them.
As to the effect of this legislation on the tourist traffic of Tasmania, I think the difference will be the difference between tweedle-dum and tweedle-dee. Apparently, honorable members opposite have little interest in the matter if one may judge from the state of the House. If they do not think that Tasmania, is worthy of consideration, let us “ cut the painter.” Tasmania came into the federation in the full expectation that the rights of its people would be preserved to them, and that they would not be required to suffer disabilities. I have come here with a mandate from the people of Hobart to ask for a reduction of freights and fares on vessels trading between Tasmania and the mainland. Fares and freights are the main factors in the consideration of this problem from Tasmania’s point of view. It is at base a question of economics. “ How are we to get our goods to the mainland markets?” is the question which Tasmanians are asking themselves. We shall not be able to improve our tourist trade if overseas ships are permitted to charge 30s. in advance of the interstate fares from Sydney to Hobart. I am sure that the Minister in charge of the bill (Mr. Hughes) is sympathetic towards Tas mania’s desires in this matter. I recall that on one of his visits to Tasmania he said -
There is no cargo rotting on the wharf, no people .sleeping out, and no one left behind, so the Navigation Act is not working to the detriment of Tasmania.
Why is the right honorable gentleman’s opinion different to-day? Is he playing up to the young Nationalists of Hobart? They recently passed a resolution condemning the bill now before the House, and, I understand, Mr. Speaker wired to you protesting that the proposal is too limited in its scope. They demand an open port in Hobart for all vessels, whether they come from Japan, Germany, America, or any other country. They have protested against this bill, as they consider it is too limited in its scope to be of any real advantage to Tasmania. Apparently they desire to have carried out the policy of the Nationalists of Tasmania as expressed by the ex-member for Denison, Major Hutchin, who wanted free trade for Tasmania with an open port to all ships afloat. I oppose free trade because I believe in protecting, our Australian mercantile marine. I hold that it should be encouraged to carry on an essential service for this country, so that in the event of war, when overseas ships may be called away to other parts of the Empire, we shall have at least some ships left in the “trade, and not be open to the dangers arising from a depleted mercantile marine. I venture to say that this is a possibility. The late Sir Henry Jones, dealing with .this particular subject in a public statement made at Hobart in July, 1926, said -
A comparison of freights from Hobart to certain Australian ports with the cost of shipping the same classes of goods to England affords some food for reflection by the Commonwealth Government. The freight from Hobart to Melbourne on hops is 13s. 2d. a bale, and from Hobart to Fremantle 37s. yd. a bale, whereas the freight from Hobart to Liverpool is only 18s. Od. a bale.
I ask honorable members how we are to achieve a reduction in freights in view of the operations of the shipping combine, which has already been referred to by the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse). The Inchcape combine is interwoven with the local combine, and the statement of the honorable member for Forrest clearly shows that we cannot hope for any real competition between vessels running on the Australian coast.
– They pay twice as much.
– Yes. This condition of affairs is due to the fact that Tasmania’s interests have been absolutely ignored in all proposals which have been brought before this Parliament for the economic rehabilitation of Australia. Combines are a growth of the present economic system. It is immaterial to me whether a combine is big or little; in either case, it is an evil to be combated. The vital question to be considered in this debate is :What are the rights of Tasmania? If honorable members are sincere, and are really prepared to do something in the interests of Australia, then they should support the proposals I have submitted to them. In the case for Tasmania which was submitted to the Commonwealth Grants Commission, a request is made for a subsidy of £400,000. Of this sum, it is calculated that £220,000 is needed to compensate Tasmania for the loss of tourist traffic due to high fares, and about £200,000 for losses due to high freights.
– What does the honorable member suggest?
– I suggest that all honorable members should support the amendment. It is certainly desirable that a committee consisting of a representative of Tasmania, a representative of the ship-owners, and a representative of the
Commonwealth Government should be appointed to draft a scheme, and to calculate what subsidy would be required to enable a reduction of at least 30 per cent, in freights and fares to be made by shipping companies whose vessels trade between Tasmania and the mainland. It has been contended that one reason for the present high freights and fares is that the standard of wages and conditions of the seamen in the interstate trade are unnecessarily high. That suggestion I deny. The seamen are paid under the basic wage, and work 55 hours a week. If the shipping companies, having reduced fares and freights, could not secure a reasonable margin of profit, then it would be the duty of the Commonwealth Government to provide a subsidy to make good the loss resulting from those reductions. In the Case for Tasmania, Claude James says that he would not support any attack upon the conditions of seamen as a remedy for the present position.
– Who is that gentleman?
– He is a member of the Nationalist partyin Tasmania. Mr. James was chairman of the committee which presented The Case for Tasmania to the Commonwealth Grants Commission, which stated -
The committee emphasizes its statement on page 20 of its report on the effects of the Navigation Act that no attack whatever is made by the committee on the standard of living set up for the Australian seamen and other Australian maritime workers. It is concerned solely in the unequal burden this legislation imposes upon the people of this island State and which, in fact, creates a disability under federation so grave as to be ruinous to the entire Tasmanian community. It is for statesmen to find a solution to the problems presented which will remove this disability without injury or injustice.
I do not see any relevancy to the bill in the quotation.
– This legislation will have the effect of reducing the standard of living of Australian seamen.
– Order ! If the honorable gentleman examines the bill, he will see that it does not propose to amend any section of the act that affects the standard of living or conditions of the seamen.
– Would not the honorable gentleman bc in order, Mr. Speaker, in indicating that this legislation is likely to bring down the standard of living of seamen ?
– I am afraid the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin) was not following the quotation which the honorable member for Denison (Mr. Mahoney) was making when I intervened. He was quoting from a report of a certain commission dealing with the disabilities of Tasmania in which reference was made to the standard of living set up for seamen and marine workers. It appeared to me that such a quotation was not relevant to the subject before the Chair as the bil! under consideration does not seek to amend sections of the principle act which deal with conditions of seamen.
– I contend, Mr. Speaker, that this legislation will have the effect of bringing about unfair labour conditions because it will be possible for shipping companies to use in the Tasmanian trade vessels on which coolie labour is employed. Consequently, the interstate shipping companies which provide reasonable conditions for those whom they employ will be subjected to unfair competition, and, in some instances, their vessels will be rendered idle, thus displacing a large number of reputable Australian citizens. As a result of the passage of this legislation vessels engaged in the interstate trade will have to compete with ships manned by coloured crews. The Seamen’s. Union has protested strongly against the action which the Government proposes to take and the people of Tasmania are not in favour of anything being done to introduce unfair competition on the Australian coast, and thus bring about a reduction of the standard of living. Who is responsible for the introduction of this bill? Some ardent protectionists are now advocating a form of freetrade. For the transport of goods the Tasmanian people ave paying .130d. a ton a mile more than is being paid by the people of any other State in the Commonwealth.
– I do not think that that is so.
– That information is given in the Case for Tasmania, prepared for submission to the Commonwealth Grants Commission, which inquired into the disabilities of the less populous States. Although it may not meet with the approval of some representatives of Western Australia in this chamber, I am merely stating facts. I have some interesting documents and figures which, unfortunately, I have not time to read, but which should be incorporated in Barnard. Some honorable members opposite, and particularly those who at other times speak of the necessity for loyal co-operation between the States, will not accept authentic figures. This measure, which is merely camouflage and a piece of political window-dressing, has been introduced at. the instigation of the National Federation in Tasmania. The right honorable the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) knows that it will not have the desired effect, and that is why he did not introduce it. I again ask the Minister in charge of the bill, who made some unkind and insulting reference to me which I am prepared to forgive, to do the right thing for Tasmania, which is an important part of the Commonwealth. Justice Can be done only by appointing an impartial body to determine the amount of subsidy to be paid to the interstate shipping companies to enable them to make a substantial reduction in freights and fares. Consideration should also be given to the establishment of a deep-water port in the Tamar, to enable large vessels to trade between the mainland and- Launceston.
– What the honorable member is advocating cannot be discussed under this bill, or even under the amendment.
– If improvements were made in the Tamar, overseas vessels could call at Launceston, Where shipping facilities are at present limited. Every effort should be made to restore the tourist traffic to what it was in 1927, when over 50,000 tourists visited Tasmania. Travellers from the mainland usually stay from two to five weeks in Tasmania, and expend large sums of money at the points of interest visited. As the climatic conditions in Tasmania are equal, if not superior, to those in any part of the world, an effort should be made by the Government to see that the fares on interstate steamers are reduced, and thus enable the traffic to increase. With reduced fares thousands of persons who now visit the Blue Mountains and other tourist- resorts on the mainland would travel to Tasmania, and the money they circulated would assist in improving the conditions in that State to such an extent that substantial financial assistance from the Commonwealth would not be needed. The Minister in charge of the bill, who was a great champion of the interests of Australian seamen, is now sponsoring, a measure which will benefit only the overseas shipping interests. The interstate shipping companies provide better working conditions and pay higher wages than any other shipping companies in the world. They also have an insurance scheme for the benefit of their employees.
– Which is built up from the fares and freights charged.
– At any rate their vessels are not manned by Chinese, Japanese or long-eared Arabs who work for about 4:1. a day. The Australian standard of working conditions should be preserved. Many of the men who are being asked to submit to unfair competition from foreign seamen are returned sailors and soldiers. Surely those men, who are good citizens, supporting families in this country are entitled to consideration. I have no desire that Tasmania should suffer disabilities. In fact, I am here to do what I can to remove the disabilities under which she is at present suffering, but I do not want Tasmania to benefit at the expense of Australian seamen. The Minister for Defence (Mr. Parkhill) said that he could buy Tasmania for £25,000. Let me remind him that Tasmania feeds the people of the mainland when they are unable to feed themselves, and yet, in spite of that service, it suffers disabilities greater than those suffered by any other State.
– I remind the honorable member that it is not permissible at this stage to discuss the disabilities of Tasmania in general.
– The. Minister, when introducing the bill, stated that
Tasmania was suffering certain disabilities under the coasting trade provisions of the Navigation Act, and that it was proposed to amend the act with the idea of removing those disabilities. I am endeavouring to point out that this amending legislation will not remove Tasmania’s disabilities, but that I believe, as do the thousands of people who sent me here, that the Commonwealth should take over the shipping services between Tasmania and the mainland, so as to relieve trade and industry in Tasmania of the crushing burden of high freights. In this respect we are much worse off than Western Australia, which has railway communication with the Eastern States. If it were possible to build a railway from Tasmania to the mainland, we should have no grievance whatever in respect of communication. Those honorable members who claim to be big Australians should favour a proposal for the inauguration of a Commonwealth shipping service to Tasmania, so that the people of that State may place their products on the mainland market without having to pay exorbitant tribute to the shipping companies. I hope that I have succeeded in impressing honorable members on the other side of the House with the justice of my demands, and that they will vote for the amendment, thus rendering to Tasmania a measure of justice which is long overdue.
– We have in this bill an example of humanitarianism that has been a marked feature of Australian legislation for a good many years past. We have for a long time led the way in regard to legislation designed to improve the conditions of those who have to earn their living* in dangerous occupations, on land and sea. However, I do not think that the advisers of the right honorable gentleman who introduced the bill (Mr. Hughes) have placed before him all the relevant facts. The subject of wireless on coastal ships has been brought forward very prominently through the wrecking of the Coramba off the Australian coast a few months ago, and we have been stirred by the loss of seventeen lives which accompanied that disaster. Round the Australian coast for a good number of years past we have had a series of such disasters many of which might have been averted by the use of wireless telegraphy. Our wreck chart is not very much to the credit of Australia. By the introduction of wireless on the smaller vessels we give to those who have their living on the sea a chance of succour in the event of distress, but in the case of the Coramba wireless itself would not have been of use. There was a very heavy gale blowing at the time, and it was impossible for the master of a ship at sea to get his position accurately. The Coramba was making for Port Phillip and, either , for reasons of safety or as of a result of bad visibility, moved over to the eastward, and, apparently, tried to take shelter at Westernport. That, at any rate, is the opinion of those who have given consideration to the matter. However, the captain, because he was running by dead reckoning and could not fix his position definitely, overshot, Westernport and encountered some outlying danger at, a point where the wreck was subsequently discovered. I suggest that we are only doing half the job in demanding that, wireless be installed on coastal vessels. In conjunction with that we must have a direction-finding system installed on shore, so that, masters of ships may he able to determine their positions accurately in bad weather. We boast of our humanitarian legislation in this country; we are ahead of the rest of the world in some respects, but in regard to directionfinding wireless, we lag behind many of the quite minor countries of the world. I urge the Minister in charge of the bill to give an undertaking, when he is replying to the debate, that consideration will be given to the proposal for installing direction-finding wireless posts at selected points around the coast, thus making assurance doubly sure. If that is done, such tragedies as those of the Christina Fraser, the Coramba and the Dorrigo may not occur again. With that qualification, I commend the Government heartily for having taken one more step along the road of progress, and towards the safeguarding of lives in an industry that is full of perils.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Frost) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. Archdale Parkhill) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- I wish to bring under the notice of the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. White) a matter that requires immediate attention. There is in this complaint a suggestion of restraint of trade, and the person affected, Mr. R. McGrath, of Adelaide, a manufacturer of extract of malt with cod-liver oil, has been unable to obtain any satisfaction from the department. He supplies his product to government institutions and hospitals. It is of high quality, the percentage of malt and cod liver oil having been declared by a prominent analyst to be greater than in most other similar products. Firms which sell other brands of this product are making it impossible for Mr. McGrath of the Biogen Manufacturing Company to obtain direct from the local manufacturer supplies of the malt extract necessary for the preparation of this food. He has endeavoured to obtain supplies from the manufacturer, Mr. Cooper, of Tusmore, but two wholesale firms which are his com- peetitors - Bickfords and Fauldings - have, I am informed, secured a monopoly of Mr. Cooper’s output. Mr. McGrath can obtain supplies through those firms, but only at prices which make successful competition with them impossible. [Quorum formed.] Mr. McGrath considers that he should have the same access to the product of Mr. Cooper that his wholesale competitors have. The Department of Trade and Customs has suggested that Mr. McGrath should seek supplies elsewhere in Australia. He has done so, only to he informed that he should apply to Bickfords for his requirements. No question of his ability to pay for the goods arises. I maintain that one or two large firms should not corner the market for this material to the detriment of their competitors. It is strange that although Mr. Cooper has intimated that he cannot supply” more of his product than he disposes of to Bickfords and Fauldings, there is no limit to the quantity which Mr. McGrath can obtain from those firms.
– I should like the honorable member to indicate in what way this matter comes within the province of the Department of Trade and Customs.
– It is remarkable if trade matters affecting an industry to which protection is given do not concern that department. The Minister has actually communicated with Mr. McGrath.
– Wc have tried to help him, although his complaint has nothing to do with the department.
– The correspondence suggests that the matter is one for the Trade and Customs Department. I ask for an investigation of this complaint, so that Mr. McGrath may, at least, have a fair chance of obtaining supplies. If Mr. Cooper and others who manufacture extract of malt are given protection by this Parliament they should supply their product to persons who are engaged in a subsidiary industry.
– .The material required by Mr. McGrath is manufactured in Australia. It is not imported. This matter has nothing to do with the Trade and Customs Department.
– Surely the Minister does not hold with one or two firms monopolizing the trade by securing the full output of one manufacturer and making it impossible for their competitors to obtain supplies other than through them. I urge a thorough investigation.
.- I bring under the notice of the Government the complaint of a number of women that expectant mothers have pressure exerted upon them to authorize the payment of the maternity allowance to hospitals and doctors, on the ground that the allowance is intended as security for payment for their services. The act never intended that that should be done. If confirmation of this charge were wanted, it is contained in a letter written by the Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. Sheehan) to the Fitzroy branch of the Women’s Organizing Committee of the Australian Labour party -
There is no provision in the law conferring on hospitals any right to claim the maternity allowance from the mother as a contribution towards the cost of hospital treatment. The mother may, however, prior to the. birth, authorize any person in writing to claim and receive the allowance on her behalf and, in the absence of any revocation of this authority, payment is made to the person authorized . . The object of the maternity allowance is to enable the mother to provide herself with comforts during her illness. It was not at any time contemplated that the whole of tine allowance should be expended on medical and nursing fees, nor was it ever intended that the maternity allowance should be used by hospitals or other institutions as a form of security for payment of their fees.
That letter very properly and adequately sets out the intention of the act. I suggest to the Government that a copy of it should be forwarded to all the hospitals of Australia, so that the attention of the managing committees may be drawn to the fact that it is illegal to force mothers to surrender their maternity allowances.
– Is there any evidence of that having been done?
– Yes, it is contended that mothers are told when they enter hospitals that the payment of the maternity allowance was intended to meet the medical and nursing expenses, and that women, while they are expectant mothers - at a time when no pressure should be exerted on them - are coerced into signing orders which become the authority of the department to pay over the maternity allowance. Hospitals should be deterred from following that practice, and I suggest to the Acting Treasurer (Mr. Casey) that a copy of Mr. Sheehan’s letter should be sent to all hospitals for their information.
– I support the point raised by the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn) . In fact I raised it with the Treasurer some months ago, and the letter which the honorable member for Bourke has quoted was sent to me by Mr. Sheehan in response to my representations. .1 in turn forwarded it to the Fitzroy branch of the Australian Labour party. Numerous cases brought under my notice show that pressure is brought to ‘bear upon expectant mothers, when they enter a hospital, to sign an order for the paying over of the allowance. This brings the allowance down to a mere subsidy to the hospitals, and I do not think it was ever intended by the Commonwealth orState authorities that it should be used for that purpose. The practice has this bad effect,, that it is causing a number of expectant mothers to refuse to enter hospitals.
– Does this complaint refer particularly to public hospitals?
– Yes, public maternity hospitals. I do not think much argument could be raised in cases where the patients go to private hospitals. I am referring to the women’s wards of public hospitals. The cases of the wives of unemployed in the Fitzroy district in my electorate are particularly unfortunate. A number of them were cited tome and the names were given to me. The suggestion that a copy of Mr.’ Sheehan’s letter, which states the Commonwealth’s point of view very fairly, should be sent to all public hospitals, is a good one. These institutions should be reminded that the allowance was not given as a subsidy to them; but was intended as a help to mothers in a very trying period.
– I shall personally look into the subject raised by the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn), and the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin), and I can assure them that it will receive the sympathetic consideration of the Government.
– Regarding the matter brought forward by the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin), relating to the inability of a manufacturer of extract of malt and cod-liver oil to obtain supplies of malt extract, I interjected while the honorable member was speaking that it was not one for the Customs Department, and actually it is not. Nevertheless, in response to the complaints of this manufacturer, I did, by correspondence with the makers of malt extract; endeavour to obtain better conditions for him. The circumstances are practically as follows : - The manuf acturers of malt extract have their definite channels of distribution, by means of their agents in the different cities; this man is not one of their agents, and yet he wants to be allowed to buy at the same price as those agents do. That is a matter of trade arrangement between those people, and not one for the Customs Department. Nevertheless, I took it up with those companies, who told me that, as a matter of fact they can sell through their agents all that they are able to make, and cannot supply this man.
– Then it means that they have a monopoly.
– That may be so; but they are selling the full extent of their manufacture to other people, and the man who makes the complaint can, if he wishes, buy from those other people.
– And they are competitors with him on the market.
– That also may be true; but the facts are as I have given them, and the matter is not one which the Customs Department can be called upon in any way to set right.
– The makers are protected.
– There is a protective duty on malt extract; but it is all made in Australia, and it would not make the slightest difference if there was no duty on it. Similar complaints have been made in other directions, and on many occasions I have taken them up, although no responsibility rested on me, simply to try to smooth matters over. A similar case arose relating to dental supplies, certain makers of which will not supply at the same price from Sydney and Melbourne to certain distributors in Queensland. They have their own definite agent, who has offices and so on ; but others with fewer facilities, who perhaps more or less trade the article round from door to door, expect to be able to buy at the same price. I do not’ say that I support the procedure of the companies referred to by the honorable member; but they are entitled to do as they choose in the distribution of the goods they manufacture. The buyer of malt extract who has complained, if he knows of another source, can go to it and buy malt extract there, or make it for himself. If the other people say that they can get rid of all they make by means of their own distributors, I see no wayin which the department can help the gentleman for whom the honorable member speaks.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 4.11 p.m.
Thefollowing answers to questions were circulated: -
Foreign Subsidized Shipping : Empire Policy.
y.- On the 28th March, the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Clark) asked the Acting Treasurer the following question, upon notice: -
Will he consider making available, from money fur unemployed relief, sums for advances tooutbacksettlers, repayable over a periodof years, to erect party telephone lines?
I am now in a position to furnish the following reply : - -
The post office already makes telephone facilities available in rural areas on very liberal terms which involve the department in considerable loss.- It is recognized that some applications are received from remote areas where the department would not be justified in erecting facilities, but it is not considered that these cases warrant action on the lines suggested by the honorable member.
e. - On the 22nd March, the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Stacey) asked the following questions, upon notice: -
What quantities of other Australian materials are used in the industry?
Australian timber - 4,000,000 super, feet.
Australian leather - 1,250,000 square feet
Australian leathercloth and hood material - 400,000 yards
Australian duco - 70,000 gallons.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 29 March 1935, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1935/19350329_reps_14_146/>.