2nd Parliament · 2nd Session
The President took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
Senator PLAYFORD laid upon the table the following papers: -
Papers relating to preferential trade with Canada and South Africa.
– I wish to ask the Minister of Defence, without notice, if he is yet in a position to communicate to the Senate the result of the conference between the Attorney-General for the Commonwealth and the Attorney-General for New South Wales, relative to the question of the site for the Federal Capital?
asked the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
If the Minister has noticed the statements made in the South Australian press and Parliament - “ That the guns to be mounted at Fort Largs were obsolete,” and if such statements are true?
– The answer to the honorable senator’s question is as follows: -
The Minister has noticed the statements made in the South Australian press, and in Parliament, but the statements are not true.
asked the Minister representing the Minister of Trade andCustoms, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Minister representing the Minister of External Affairs, upon notice -
In view of the number of cases of failure of the prosecution of Asiatics under the Immigration Restriction Act as prohibited immigrants, due to defective action by- Customs officials in administering the educational test, will the Minister take action to insure that these officers are fully instructed as to their duties?
– The answer to the honorable senator’s question is as follows : -
The number of cases where convictions have been quashed on account of informalities in putting the test, is only four, and in each case the error was merely technical. Instructions have been given to prevent the recurrence of similar informalities. The Customs officials under the circumstances have been rarely foundof fault, and have, as a rule, discharged their duties with much success.
asked the Minister representing the Minister of External Affairs, upon notice -
In the case of. the Chinese, Ah Yick, whose conviction as a prohibited immigrant was quashed on appeal to the Supreme Court of Victoria on technical grounds-
Is it the intention of the Government to appeal to the High Court against the judgment ?
If not, what other action do they propose to take in Ah Yick’s case,?
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follow : -
Dissent from Ruling.
Debate resumed from11th October (vide page 3349),on motion by Senator C lemons-
That the Ruling of the President be. disagreed with so far as the principles laiddown apply to the Bill to amend the Law relating to Parliamentary Elections.
– The Senate will need to give a little attention to this question of instructions to Committees, because as you, sir, point out in your ruling, this is the first time on which it has been raised. It is very important that we should be thoroughly assured of the manner in which your ruling will operate in future cases. You lay down this rule, that-
There must be some degree of relevancy between the subject-matter of the Bill and the subjectmatter of instructions to the Committee on that Bill.
That is the first proposition which attracts my attention, and seems to govern the remainder of the ruling, practically expressing its substance. You went on to say that -
The question is, what degree of relevancy should exist?
So that, while you lay it down that an instruction may be relevant to the subjectmatter of the Bill, you admit that it is merely a question of degree - that it may be irrelevant to some extent, and yet sufficiently relevant to be allowed to be moved. I intend later on to argue that a proposed instruction need not be relevant to the subjectmatter or scope of a Bill, and I think I. shall be able to show very good reasons for submitting that proposition. I have not had as much time as I should have liked to look into the authorities on this question; but I find, sir, that a very high authority on parliamentary procedure lays down practically just the opposite doctrine to that which you adopt. So far as I can understand his work, he lays down that the right to move an instruction is given for the purpose of enabling the Committee to deal with a subject which is not strictly relevant to a Bill. The . object of an instruction is to give a Committee the power to deal with a subject which otherwise would not be strictly relevant to a Bill, and which possibly might not be dealt with unless that expressed power were given. 1 ask the Senate to bear with’ me while I quote what is said on this subject in the second edition of Bourinot’ s Parliamentary Procedure. On page 607 this statement is made -
An “ instruction,” empowering a Committee to make those changes in a Bill which otherwise it could not make, should be moved as soon as the order for the Committee has been read by the clerk, and before the question is put that the Speaker do leave the chair. An instruction, properly speaking, is not of the nature of an amendment, but of a substantive motion, which ought to have precedence of the question that the Speaker do leave the chair. If_an instruction is moved when the latter motion Is proposed, then it becomes an amendment, which, if agreed to, supersedes the motion for the Committee, and the Bill consequently cannot be proceeded with for the time being.
Considerable misapprehension appears to exist among some members of the Canadian Commons as to the meaning of an instruction - a misapprehension by no means confined to that body, since English Speakers have frequently found it necessary to give decisions and explanations on the subject. An instruction, according to these decisions, is given to a Committee to confer on it that power which, without such instruction, it would not have. If the subject-matter of an instruction is relevant to the subject-matter and within the scope and title of a Bill, then such instruction is irregular. .
That is to say, that if Senator Mulcahy’s notice of motion is relevant to the subjectmatter of the Bill, then it is irregular, because Bourinot goes on to say - since the Committee has the power to make the required amendment.
This becomes more formidable, because he bases his opinion on English precedents -
The following precedents will illustrate the correct practice with respect to this class of motions : -
In 1854 the English Commons had before them a “Bill to abolish in England and Wales the compulsory removal of the poor, on the ground of settlement,” and a member proposed to introduce clauses into the Bill to prevent the removal of Irish paupers in the different unions of the country. It was pointed out that the contemplated changes would entirely alter ‘the character of the Bill, and could only be made by an instruction. The Speaker being appealed to said “ that the rule had been clearly stated, and if the noble lord intended to propose the addition of the new provisions alluded to, it would be necessary to move them as an instruction to the Committee.” In 1865, the order for Committee on the Union Chargeability Bill having been read, Mr. Bentinck moved that “ it be an instruction to the Committee, with a view to render the working of the system of union chargeability more just and equal, that they have power to facilitate, in certain cases, the alteration of the limits of existing unions.” An objection was at once taken, that under the Poor Law Board Act there was power to alter the boundary of unions, and therefore an instruction was not necessary. The Speaker (Mr. Denison) decided : “ The question is not as to whether trie Poor Law Board has the power, but whether the Committee would have it without the instruction ; and, in my opinion, the Committee would not have that power, because the subjectmatter would not he relevant to the subject-matter of the Bill. Therefore, the motion is in order, and should have precedence, because an instruction is not of the nature of an amendment, but of a substantive motion.”
In 1878, the order for Committee on the Factories and Workshops Bill having been read, Mr. Fawcett rose to move an instruction extending the operation of the Bill to children employed in agriculture. Mr. Speaker Brand stated in reply to an objection to the proceeding : “ The motion of the honorable member is in the form of an instruction to the Committee. The Committee would not have power to deal with the question unless an instruction of this kind was passed.”
There are a number of other cases practically on the same lines, but on page 610 I find the following paragraph -
Decisions of English Speakers have also laid down the following rules with respect to instructions : -
That when a Bill is simply a continuance Bill of an Act now in force, it is not competent for the Committee to introduce a clause of a different nature to the simple scope of such Bill, but it may be an Instruction to the Committee to introduce such a clause.
If that, sir, is the ruling of the Speaker of the House of Commons, I contend that it exactly fits the case before the Senate, that if your contention is correct - and I shall endeavour to argue that it is not - that the proposed instruction is not relevant to the subject-matter of the Bill, then I submit that, according to these decisions, it is a proper one to give to the Committee on the Bill.
– If it is relevant to the Bill I can move it in Committee.
– If the proposed instruction is relevant to the Bill, the honorable senator can move in that direction in Committee, and an instruction to the Committee is not needed. In your ruling, sir, you rely “ on some cases which you quoted-
– -I rely on the proposition laid down in May.
– You relied on a proposition laid down in Mav, and quoted certain cases. but-I wish to draw the attention of the Senate to the fact that you introduced the following case: -
In the Tithe-Rent Charge Recovery Bill (Imperial Hansard, vol. 339, page 10S2, August 12th, 1889), Mr. Speaker Peel ruled that “An instruction cannot be moved which deals with a question which does not come within the scope of the Bill, and which would require to be dealt with in a separate Bill.”
The reference there is to a Bill of an entirely different character from an Electoral Bill - that is, to- a money Bill. And there is a very good reason why action should not be taken with regard to a money Bill, by means of an instruction to the Committee, inasmuch as it might have the effect of increasing a charge on the people. Such a matter could only be dealt with by means of a separate Bill. But the question could not arise in dealing with Bills which are not money Bills; therefore, I say that to take a ruling affecting ,a money Bill, and to attempt to lay it down as a rule for the Senate in dealing with measures that are not money Bills, is to introduce a question which is not analogous.
– Is the honorable senator quite sure that the Bill to recover tithe rent was a money Bill ?
– I think that that particular Bill was, and I will quote some cases from May later on, which will tend to show that what I have outlined has been the case - that in nearly all instances where instructions have been ruled out of order in the British House of Commons, it has been in connexion with Bills affecting finance or taxation.
-Col. Gould. - The Criminal Evidence Bill was not a money Bill.
– It might have affected a .financial question, though I am not prepared to say that it did. I wish now to refer honorable senators to May’s Parliamentary Practice, page .363, dealing with instructions -
A Committee can only consider those matters which have been committed to them by the House. If it be desirable that other matters should also be considered, an instruction is given by the House to empower the Committee to entertain them.
Surely that does away altogether with the contention that the subject-matter of an instruction must be relevant to the Bill. The passage which” I have quoted goes to show that where the question which it is desired to deal with is not relevant, an instruction is absolutely necessary, and that it is only in such cases that an instruction is necessary. Coming to cases which have been decided in the British House of Commons, I turn to page 839, and the succeeding pages of May. There are four classes of cases where instruction is necessary to be given to a Committee -
Class 1 cases where an instruction was necessary to empower a Committee on a Bill to consider the amendments proposed by the instruction. Class 2 cases when instructions were ruled out of order, because the Committee possessed the power which the instruction would confer. Class 3 cases where instructions were ruled out of order, because they were foreign to the subjectmatter of the Bill. Class 4 cases of instructions to extend the scope of a Bill throughout the United Kingdom.
In the first class of cases - where an instruction was necessary because the Committee had not the power without an instruction - we find scarcely any instances dealing with financial questions, although I notice amongst the Bills mentioned, a Tithe Rent Charge Recovery Bill. That would seem to be a justification for using that instance in the ruling which the President has given. But I notice that the ninth instance mentioned by May was that of the Local Government (Electors) Bill 1888, and the instruction was - to insert provisions in the Bill, with a view to assimilate the qualification of electors of guardians of the poor and the abolition of the plural vote, to the conditions prescribed in the Bill with regard to electors of county authorities.
I take it that ruling meant that it was competent to give an instruction to make such an alteration in the franchise when a Local Government Bill was being dealt with. The rulings mentioned in connexion with class 3, where instructions were ruled out of order because they were foreign to the subject-matter of Bills, related largely to financial measures. There is, for instance, an Arms Bill, which might appear not to be financial, though I notice that the proposed instruction affected the law relating to poor law guardians; and under the poor law the question of taxation arises. The second instance is the East India (Purchase and Construction of Railways) Bill - decidedly a financial measure. The Criminal Law Amendment Bill is the next instance. Upon that measure it was desired to move an instruction to insert provisions “ to prevent the exaction of unfair and excessive rents.” That would not be financial. Neither would the Criminal Law Evidence Bill. But instance No. 5, the Local Government (England and Wales) Bill; No. 6, the Land Law (Ireland) Bill ; No. 7, the Land Purchase (Ireland) Bill ; No. 8, the Local Government (Scotland) Bill; and No. 9, the Tithe Rent Charge Recovery Bill - upon which there were two rulings - affected finance. There is also mentioned a Private Bill Procedure (Scotland) -Bill. That would not come under the heading of a money Bill. But the great bulk of those are money Bills. Of course I do not know what the particular instructions moved in them were ; I have not had time to look them up. But it occurs to me that probably the instructions were ruled out of order, because, being money Bills, they increased the charges upon the people, and that the subject-matter of the proposed instructions could only be dealt with by means of separate Bills. So much for what appears to me to have been the practice in other Parliaments. Now I wish to direct attention to your ruling in a few words. My first point is that I think you have mis stated, or mistaken, the object of the Bill. You speak of it as follows: -
The Bill is a Bill to provide for electoral machinery for the conduct of elections.
The title of the Bill is -
A Bill for aD Act to amend the law relating to parliamentary elections.
There is nothing in the title of the Bill referring to machinery. The principal Act which this Bill ; amends deals with the manner of voting, with all questions affecting voting, with the enrolment of electors, the form of ballot- ; paper to be used, and the manner in which electors shall vote. You went on to say that the Bill did not deal with the franchise, but that the instruction proposed to be given to the Committee “did make a radical alteration in the franchise.” I point out to you that in the amending Bill now before the Senate there is in the schedule a ballot-paper indicating the manner in which me vote shall be given. The schedule is surely part of the Bill; and while there is1 no particular clause in the Bill which deals with the manner of voting, I take it that that schedule could be amended by the Committee, even so far as to provide for a ballot-paper which could only be used in the manner indicated in Senator Mulcah’y’s proposed instruction to the Committee. Then you, sir, went on to say that-
The instruction would authorize the Committee on the Bill to alter the method of counting votes, and practically make a radical alteration in the franchise.
I must join issue with you there, because it seems to me that that statement could only have arisen from an entire misapprehension of what was intended by Senator Mulcahy’s proposed instruction. The instruction, in my opinion, proposes no alteration in the franchise. It does not aim at destroying the power to vote. It relates merely to a more effective method of registering the true opinions of the people.
-Col. Gould. - That is a matter for argument.
– True, it is a matter for argument and individual opinion ; but there is no doubt about it that it has never yet been held by any opponent of the prin:ciple that it in any way -destroys the franchise or takes away the power given to the individual voter. I therefore object to that statement as not being a true description of the effect of the proposed instruction. Further, is it. wise that in a ruling,, which has to do with a debatable question, you should pass judgment, as it were, upon the principle involved in the proposal in question ?
– Does the honorable senator say that I did that?
– I think that your ruling does pass judgment for this reason - that you say that it makes “ a radical alteration in the franchise.” Senator Mulcahy, who is a believer in this principle, would deny that.
– Is it not a fact that persons could get representation under this principle who could not get it under anyother ?
– There is that consideration.
– Is not that “ a radical alteration in the franchise “ ?
– It is an alteration in the method of voting, but it is not an alteration in the franchise. However, the very fact that it is a debatable point seems to me to be a reason why it is inadvisable in a ruling practically to pass judgment on the proposal.
– The honorable senator is mistaken there. I did not pass any criticism on the effect of the proposed instruction.
– I admit that the ruling does not say whether the proposal contained in the instruction is advisable or inadvisable; but the very fact that the ruling says that it makes “ a radical alteration in the franchise,” in my opinion, passes judgment upon it.
– Suppose there are three men to be elected under the present method of voting; an elector has a vote for each of the three. But under Senator Mulcahy’s proposal, he would have only one vote. That shows that his’ proposal does make a radical alteration.
– I do not desire to debate that point now. Again, towards the close of your ruling, sir, you use the words that it is sought - to be embodied in a Bill to provide for amendments in the electoral machinery.
I object to that word “ machinery “ altogether. I think that the words of the title of the Bill are the words which should be used - that it is an amendment of the electoral law. And, surely, the manner of voting is a principle of the electoral law. We have made it so by the fact that we have embodied it in our principal Act dealing with this matter. My contention, to sum up, is that the instruction proposed to be given to the Committee is one that is relevant to the subject-matter of, the Bill, because the Bill is one to amend the law relating to parliamentary elections, and the instruction relates to a matter cognate to parliamentary elections. Further, I contend that, being relevant, the instruction is out of order, because the Committee has the power to deal with it without an instruction. But if we indorse your ruling we shall be laying it down as a rule that if we wish to give an instruction to the Committee to introduce into a Bill a subject or subjects which may not be strictly relevant, we shall ‘have given away the power, having agreed to the proposition that we can only give an instruction to the Committee to do what it can do without an instruction. Surely that would make the word “ instruction “ a farce. What is the use of having power to give an instruction to the Committee in regard to matters as to which it does not need instruction? It seems to me that the only logical reason that can be given for this power of instruction is that we may be able to use it in those instances when, unless an instruction were given, the Committee would only be able to deal with matters strictly within the subjectmatter of Bills committed to it. I ask the Committee to reject your ruling, because of the grounds on which it is based. At the same time, I quite admit that, as it seems to me, Senator Mulcahy’s motion need not be submitted, because we have all the power necessary to deal with the matter in Committee.
– I have to thank some honorable senators who, in my. absence, took measures to enable us to discuss this matter. As Senator Pearce has just pointed but, this is a most important question. You, sir, by your ruling are establishing a precedent which will be adopted in subsequent proceedings of the Senate, and which may be found at times really mischievous. My desire in the particular action I have taken was to avoid, overloading the notice-paper with a series of motions having for their object the definition of a principle which I desire to see embodied in the Electoral Act. The method I followed seemed to me the readiest; and I shall feel it my duty, whenever the electoral laws of the Commonwealth are being dealt with, to’ introduce what I deem to be most desirable, namely, an effective means of enabling the people to use the franchise.
Your ruling, sir, seems to indicate that I have not adopted the right procedure, and the quotations read by Senator Pearce seem to bear out that view, but for reasons opposite to yours. But you, Mr. President, also pointed out that I cannot introduce this principle without a separate Bill ; and there is my difficulty. It seems to me that what I have proposed is quite relevant to the Bill before us.
– Then why desire a direction ?
– What is the legislative object of the Bill ? It is to enable the people of the Commonwealth to use their franchise more effectively. Surely that is the real principle of the Bill, whether we carry it out by means of a block vote - bv means of an unscientific method of plumping - or by a scientific method, in which I thoroughly believe.
– The honorable member’s method is scientific, whereas the other is not, I suppose?
– The method I favour is not mine, but that of Mr. Hare. I believe honestly that every honorable senator, if he took the trouble - and it takes both time and trouble to master the details of Mr. Hare’s system - would be of the same opinion as myself. Whether that be so or not, I have given a great deal of time and study to the question, and I feel satisfied that the method I suggest is the right one to secure that the Parliament of Australia shall represent, not merely the majority, but the whole of the people of Australia.
– We are not arguing that question now.
– I do not wish to argue that question, but merely to contend that my amendment- - because that is what it amounts to - is relevant to the Bill. The legislative object of the Bill, as I said before, is to enable the electors of Australia to make the best and most effective use of the franchise.
– Then why not propose a series of amendments .in Committee ?
– I am quite ready to take that course. Senator Trenwith has evidently not read the President’s ruling, in which it is held that I must bring in a separate Bill.
– If it be correct that the honorable senator’s amendment is perfectly relevant, why not propose it in Committee ?
– I take it that the honorable senator is asking me why I did not take that course originally. ‘I may mention that I sought and followed the advice of a parliamentarian who is a recognised authority, not merely in this Parliament, but throughout Australia. The President, in the course of his ruling, said -
The object of an instruction is, therefore, to endow a Committee with power whereby the Committee can perfect and complete the legislation denned by the contents of the Bill.
That is exactly what I wish to do; I desire to give the electors enlarged and fuller opportunity to record their votes, and to record them effectively. Yet I am ruled out of order. I can see exactly the distinction raised by the authorities quoted by Senator Pearce. If we require an instruction to the Committee, it must be because there is reason for the Committee being instructed. It seems to me unanswerable that that should be the real reason, and, therefore, the ruling ought to be that my amendment is relevant to the Bill. There are two decisions in the ruling, one that the subject of my proposed amendment is not relevant, and the other that I must’ introduce a fresh Bill.
– I did not give any such ruling as the latter, but merely mentioned incidentally that there ought to be a separate Bill.
– There is another point in the ruling, namely, that the language of the motion is mandatory instead of permissive.
– The President used these words -
A separate Bill should be introduced to deal with the question raised by Senator Mulcahy.
Surely that is your ruling, sir ? I have now, it appears, no alternative but to introduce a separate Bill, if the ruling holds good. Although I now admit that it is not necessary for me to ask for an instruction to the Committee, I have no alternative but to support the proposed disagreementwith your ruling.
– If the President’s ruling stands the honorable senator will be prevented from dealing with the matter in Committee.
– Although I have been ruled out of order, I feel bound, for the reasons I have given, to record my vote in favour of the proposed disagreement with the ruling.
– Every honorable senator must recognise ,the importance of -.the question raised in connexion with your ruling, Mr. President. This is not a mere question as to whether or not we are in favour of the Hare system of voting; the question is whether the ruling unduly restricts the rights of this Chamber in dealing with Bills which come before us. The title of the Bill is very wide, being simply, “A Bill to amend the Law relating to Parliamentary Elections.” It will be conceded at once that any instruction to the Committee must come within the scope, or be relevant to the subject-matter, of the Bill.
– What amendment does the honorable senator mean? An amendment in Committee?
– I am now discussing whether an instruction to the Committee to consider the Hare scheme of voting is relevant to, and within the scope of, this Bill. As I have said, the title of the Bill is very wide, but honorable senators will find it clearly laid down in May, page 453-
Thus, as the subject-matter of a Bill, as disclosed by the contents thereof, when read a second time, has, since 1854, formed the order of reference which governs the proceedings of the Committee thereon, it follows that the objects sought by an instruction should be pertinent to the terms of that order.
I take that to mean that we have not simply to look at the title in order to ascertain what comes within the order of reference to the Committee, but that we are to consider the whole of the contents of the Bill, which, when read a second time, forms the order of reference which governs proceedings in Committee. If that be so, my contention is that we must have regard to the subject-matter of the Bill - to. the whole of the proposals contained in the Bill, and that those proposals, and those only, can come before the Committee. I hold that we cannot go beyond the subject-matter of the Bill in giving an instruction to the Committee. We may give instructions which will tend to amplify or more fully carry out the object’ of the Bill, but in attempting to do that; we have no right to go entirely beyond what the Bill contemplates. Let us suppose, for the sake of argument, that the Government had included in the Bill such a proposal as that which Senator Mulcahy desires to submit. Had that been the case, the proposal would have formed a very important subject for the consideration of honorable senators, when deciding whether they would vote for the second reading. If, after a Bill has been read a second time, it is to be possible to engraft on it some proposal entirely different from any submitted by the Government when it was introduced, we shall never be safe in voting for the second reading of an amending Bill.
– Was not that exactly what we did when dealing with the first Electoral Bill, which contained a proposal to adopt the Hare system? That proposal was then struck out.
– But that proposal was put before us for our consideration. As I have said, if the Government had included such a proposal in the present Bill, it would have been an important matter for consideration, before voting for the second reading. If, notwithstanding our opposition to the proposed system, we had thought that the Bill contained so many other good points that we could support it, it would have been open to us to vote for the second reading, but the possibility, and probability, is that certain senators, who are entirely opposed to the system, would have opposed the second reading. We have no right, bv means of an instruction now, to give the Committee the right to deal with a matter which might have proved fatal to the Bill on the second reading. The. words I have quoted from May show clearly that we cannot proceed in such an extensive way as Senator Mulcahy proposes. There is a certain system of voting laid down in the Electoral Act, and that system is not now brought up for review in any way whatever. The Bill proposes only to alter the machinery, in order to make it more effective, and carry out the system of voting which is at present the law of the land.
– That is exactly what I wish to do - to make the voting’ more effective.
– Cannot the honorable senator see that if he were successful, not merely in having this instruction given, but in inducing the Committee to insert such a clause as he favours, he would be absolutely revolutionizing the whole principle laid down with regard to Senate elections? Senator Mulcahy contends that the Hare system is much the more effective. That is a matter of opinion in which I differ from the honorable senator. Mv argument is that the proposal is not relevant to the subject-matter which we were invited to discuss when the Bill was introduced. Senator Mulcahy has taken some exception to what he terms one of the rulings of the President, namely, that a separate Bill should toe introduced. After all, the President’s ruling simply was, that the desired order of reference would not be in order under the present circumstances,” and he pointed out that it could be more properly dealt with in a new Bill. That was rather an expression of opinion on the part of the President, as to the way in which the proposal should be made, in view of his decision as to the order of leave, which Senator Mulcahy desired. In May, at pages 843-4, there is the following: -
When a Bill has been read a second time, the House has assented to the principle of the Bill. In the last few years a Standing Order has been passed, stating that when the House is prepared to go into Committee, the Speaker is to leave the chair without question put ; but there is a reservation made with regard to instructions to the Committee. It would be obvious to the House that if an instruction moved on that occasion were to traverse the principle of the Bill, or go
S3 far outside the limits and scope and framework of the Bill as to set up an alternative scheme or a counter proposition to the Bill, that would virtually be a second-reading debate over again. It would be an amendment to the principle of the Bill, and would therefore reduce to a minimum and would nullify altogether the provision which the House has passed in the Standing Order, which states that when the House is prepared to go into Committee, I should leave the chair at once without any question put. There is nothing in the precedents, I believe, which goes beyond an instruction of this nature - ran instruction to amplify the machinery of the Bill to carry out the general purpose and scope of the Bill within the general framework and idea of the Bill.
Is it not abundantly evident that the question desired to be dealt with by Senator Mulcahy would really involve another second-reading debate with regard to the principle of the Bill. There has been no opportunity whatever to deal with the proposed new principle at the second-reading stage. Honorable senators gave their assent to the principles embodied in the Bill at that time, and not to principles which might be engrafted upon it. possibly by instructions to the Committee, and which would absolutely neutralize the system accepted. I, therefore, say that with these authorities before us, it is quite impossible that we can accept this proposal without stultifving ourselves, and without rendering second reading debates on measures uncertain and indefinite. We affirmed certain principles on the second reading, and we should not at this stage be called upon to do something else which has never been under our consideration.
– What principle do we affirm when we pass the second reading of an Electoral Bill.
-Col. GOULD. - When an Electoral Bill .is introduced, it submits certain provisions of the law with which we are asked to deal. When the Commonwealth Electoral Bill was before us, we dealt with the whole of these questions. The Government say now, “ We wish to amend the law, but we do not propose to touch the principle governing the manner in which elections shall take place.”
– That is what the Government say, but what does the Senate say ?
.-r-The Government give notice of a particular measure, and that measure is all that we are invited to discuss. If we do not like it, we can reject it, and if an honorable senator desires some other provision to be made involving a new principle, he is at liberty ro introduce a Bill himself.
– If that’ argument were followed to its logical conclusion, it would mean that we could not amend a Bill.
.- Not at all. We can amend a Bill drastically. We are called upon to deal with certain subjects and principles in a Bill, and we are asked to vote for the second reading of the measure with those principles in view. We may reject or accept the principles of the Bill, but we cannot in this case, and at this stage, bring forward a proposal which wilt absolutely revolutionize the whole of the system set out) for recording votes, by simply giving an instruction to the Committee to consider such a proposal. With every desire to preserve to the Senate the fullest liberty of discussion. I shall always oppose the submission in this way of any radical and drastic proposal which honorable senators have not been invited to consider on the second reading of a Bill. I hope it will be remembered that in this1 matter we are not dealing only with the Bill immediately before us, but with a question of practice, and the adoption of a certain course for the guidance of the Senate in future. I ask honorable senators not to open the door to undue discussion. They will find that parliamentary rules, practice, and laws of procedure will be vain and useless unless they are very carefully safeguarded. They must be considered as of as much importance as are the rights of individual members of the Senate, because they represent the rights, not of individual members alone, but of the whole of the Senate. It is a very dangerous practice to introduce anything which cannot be absolutely justified by precedent, and by the balance of reasons as applied to the various measures which may come up for consideration.
– I earnestly hope that the President’s ruling in this matter will be maintained. To depart from it would be extremely dangerous. I do not propose to deal with the question in the light of Speakers’ rulings for one reason, because I have not had time to look the matter up from that point of view. But it strikes me that by confirming Senator Mulcahy’s contention that this proposal might be taken as an instruction from the Senate to the Committee, we should be abrogating safeguards in connexion with legislative procedure that have grown up through centuries, and have been proved to be essential. We take the precaution to demand in connexion with the introduction of legislative measures that notice shall be given that a certain principle is to be dealt with. We ask for a first reading, which is formal, and for a second reading on which the whole of the principles of a measure and not its machinery are discussed. Then having secured the people the protection that no legislative measures shall be passed through Parliament the principles of which have not met with the entire approval of the majority of the representatives, members of Parliament may, and often do say, “ The machinery of the Bill suits me very well,” and they cease to give the consideration of the measure particular attention. They feel that the principle is one of which they can heartily approve, that the machinery, so far as they can see, is adequate to give effect to it, and they become less alert. At this stage, when they feel that, in pursuance of their duties to their constituents, they have taken every precaution, and done all they could to prevent the adoption of a wrong principle, an instruction of this character, if it were accepted, might have the result that, in spite of the precautions of the Constitution and of the Standing Orders, a simple resolution carried in a thin House, and without very much notice, might involve the affirmation of a principle of which the majority of honorable senators knew nothing. That is a practice which, it seems to me, would be extremely dangerous, contrary to the experience of Parliament, and contrary to the precautions which Parliament has taken to provide for perfect knowledge on the part of all its members. On this ground, if on no other, it is extremely undesirable that the President’s ruling in this instance should be disagreed with. ‘If honorable senators talk of establishing precedents, I think that to disagree with the President’s ruling on this point would be tantamount to creating a new standing order, under which we might be opening the door to endless danger in the introduction of entirely new principles sprung on the Parliament without its members having the notice which they should have, and consequently the time to look into them. I shall, therefore, vote for the maintenance of the President’s ruling.
– I think, with Senator Gould, that in this case, it is well that we should realize the great importance of the ruling under discussion. It is a ruling which deals with the procedure of the Senate, and which might or might not have the effect of restricting within too narrow a limit the freedom of honorable senators in respect to amendments which they might desire to make in any particular Bill. The question is whether it will or will not have that effect, whether it will keep our- procedure within proper limits, or reduce these limits within too narrow bounds. Senator Pearce has very properly drawn ‘ attention, first of all, to the general procedure, as laid down in Bourinot’s very excellent work, and also in May, in, respect to instructions. The honorable senator contends that the conclusion of the President’s ruling is sound, but that the reasons given for it are unsound. Then he takes exception to some expressions in the ruling which are perhaps a little unfortunate. I agree with Senator Pearce that there is nothing in the proposed amendment which affects the franchise in any way whatever, radically or otherwise. I think, also, it is perhaps restricting our consideration of these matters a little too much to give the full effect of a ruling to the expression of- opinion by the President that Senator Mulcahy should submit his proposal by means of a fresh Bill. Perhaps there would have been less room for discussion if this and some other expressions had been differently phrased. But, after giving the conclusion of the ruling all the consideration I have been able, it is one with which I am disposed personally to agree, that is, as applicable to this particular case, only and without in any way being bound by the reasons given for it. I am inclined to think that Senator Mulcahy’s proposed instruction is not one which is necessary or which ought to be put. If the view taken by Senator Pearce is correct, that what is proposed is relevant to the Bill, it is quite clear that no instruction is necessary. I do not myself take the view that relevance in relation to an instruction is a very rigid and narrow term. I am inclined, with Senator Pearce, to believe that in relation to instructions to a Committee relevance is a somewhat wide expression. It is not the same as relevance applied to an amendment moved in Committee. If an instruction must be strictly relevant to a Bill in the sense that an amendment proposed to a clause in Committee must be relevant, as Senator Pearce has pointed out, it would be superfluous. If Senator Mulcahy’s amendment is strictly relevant to the purpose of the Bill, an instruction to the Committee to consider it is unnecessary. As a result of the examination of authorities and the text of Mav, quite apart from Bourinot, an amendment which it is necessary to submit by way of instruction to a Committee need not be strictly relevant, and, in fact, it ought not to be strictly relevant, to the subject - matter of the Bill. An examination of both May and Bourinot will reconcile the apparent differences in the language used in their text books. Substantially they are the same, and you want an instruction when you seek to empower the Committee to deal with an amendment which is not strictly relevant, but which is cognate to the subject-matter of a Bill. In fact, you may require to alter the title in order to bring it strictly within the scope of a Bill, or you may want to do a number of other things. Therefore we should be exceedingly careful not to limit the powers of the Senate to give instructions to a Committee of the whole within the narrow limits of something which may be relevant to the subject-matter of a Bill, and which would therefore be admissible as an amendment in Committee without an instruction. I think, sir, that the reasons for your ruling go beyond the necessities of the case, and might, if adopted, greatly hamper us in future cases. The view put by Senator Gould is the strongest which can be advanced in relation to the proposition of
Senator Mulcahy. He has gone to the root of the matter. He has said - and I agree with him - that you ought not to introduce by way of amendment, in Committee or under the guise or authority of an instruction, a provision which, if it was to be inserted, should have been in the Billas presented. That is a very sound rule, and the question we may ask ourselves in this particular instance’ is whether the subject-matter of proportional representation is one which ought to be introduced by means of an amendment into a Bill which is intended to deal with machinery in order to secure, not the carrying out of proportional representation, but the carrying out of the system of voting prescribed in the existing Act. I recollect very well that the Hare-Spence system of proportional representation was embodied in the Electoral Bill of 1902 when it was introduced. It was the subject of the greater part of the debate at the second-reading stage. I. took a very active part in opposing the principle, and when we got into Committee it was a mere matter of formality as to whether or not it should remain. When the clauses on the subject were struck out, then it became, as it now is on the statute-book, a measure to affirm the old system of voting, and to give effect thereto by means of an adequate and efficient machinery. What are we doing now ? We are dealing with a Bill to amend an Act which rests upon what may be described as the old theory of voting. If we were to introduce the amendment of Senator Mulcahy, either under an instruction or in Committee, we should practically be subverting the existing system in the Electoral Act, and it would become necessary for us to re-adjust the machinery, and to some extent re-cast the Bill. Having regard to the history of this matter, the reason put by Senator Gould seems to me to be unanswerable; and it is upon that ground, I think, that the instruction would be irregular. When we get into Committee, Senator Mulcahy will not be precluded, by your ruling on this point, from submitting his proposition, and taking a ruling thereon, and, if he adopts that course, we shall be able to deal with the question more readily then than we can now. If it is not relevant to the subject-matter of the Bill, so as to prevent an instruction being moved, it will clearly be not relevant to the subject-matter of the Bill, so as to be moved as an amendment without an instruction. I call attention to the farreaching effect of what we are doing, and ask honorable senators to consider how far Senator O’Keefe’s amendment may come within the scope of this ruling, which applies for the present to Senator Mulcahy’s proposition. I wish to guard myself against being supposed to assent to the reasons which are given in the ruling, but I do assent to the conclusion which was arrived at, that, so far as this particular instruction is concerned, either on the ground that it is unnecessary! as was put by Senator Pearce, or on the stronger ground - to which I assent - as put by Senator Gould, that it is irregular, and ought not to be moved.
– I am very anxious to see the subject-matter of the proposed instruction discussed; but, sir, I am not prepared at this moment to vote that your ruling te disagreed with. In the first place, I am not at all sure that it is not right, and in accordance with the practice of the House of Commons ; and in the second place, if it were disagreed with, I do not think that any one of us could foretell what the consequences might be. A state of confusion has arisen because the very relevant quotations made by Senator Pearce from Bourinot seem to be absolutelycontradictory to the propositions laid down in May. I understand, .sir, that the decisions upon which Bourinot rests his text have been superseded by the cases which )ou quoted, and by many decisions on this subject which are given in May. I was impressed by the” quotation from Bourinot. I never quite grasped before why it was necessary to give an instruction to a Committee, and I never quite understood under what circumstances an instruction should be given to a Committee. But Bourinot points out very plainly that, when a proposed amendment is not relevant to the subject-matter’ of a Bill, the Committee thereon must have an instruction on the subject. In- your ruling, sir, you say that the Senate can not give to a Committee an instruction which is not relevant to the subject-matter of a Bill, as disclosed upon its face. I should like the debate to be adjourned, in order that every one might have an opportunity to look more thoroughly into this important point, and, as a result of the discussion, I should like to see the Senate adopt some standing orders, under which we could all understand what is the meaning of instructions to a Committee; Let me put one or two cases which might arise if we were to disagree with your ruling. Suppose that more revenue were wanted, and that the Minister of Trade and Customs introduced a very short Bill elsewhere to impose duties upon tea and kerosene, without any regard to policy. When the Bill came here, we might begin to alter its principle and character. Could that be done simply by the Senate giving an instruction to the Committee to turn a revenue into a protectionist Bill, altering almost every line of the Tariff? Again, we might have a Land Tax Act in force, and a Bill might be submitted to alter its machinery. When the Bill reached us, could we set to work to instruct the Committee to say that it wished a uniform land tax of one-halfpenny in the £1 turned into a progressive land tax-, ranging from Jd. to ijd.. in the £1 ? Again1, a Bill might be introduced to amend the Customs’ Act in regard to penalties or machinery. When the Bill reached the Senate, could we set to work to alter the whole framework of the Act - to take away power from the Minister and repeal or alter vital principles?
– We should require only one Bill for a session then-
– Yes. Another point which struck me is: How far, if we disagreed with this ruling, should we be taking business out of the hands of the Government, and helping them to get rid of their responsibility? I take it that if the Ministry decided to alter the machinery of an Act, it ought hardly be open to the Senate, by an instruction to the Committee, to introduce large principles, ,’and thus create an entirely new Bill.
– If the ruling emphasizes anything, I think it is the desirableness of having explicit standing orders on the subject of instructions. From the quotations given by Senator Pearce, it would seem to be a very reasonable proposition to advance that, where a proposed amendment is relevant to the scope of a Bill, there is no need for an instruction to the Committee. But from your ruling, sir, it would appear that where the proposed amendment is not relevant to the scope of the Bill, an instruction will not lie. It seems to me, after considering the conflicting authorities, that there is something more than the question of relevancy to be considered in determining whether an instruction does or does not properly lie; and that is the question of the quality or the importance of a subject-matter which it is proposed to refer to the Committee. I think that Senator Gould has struck the key-note to the whole situation. We have an ordinary method of dealing with Bills. At the second-reading stage, it is competent for every honorable senator to address himself to the principles of the Bill, and either to support or oppose the motion ; and if the second reading is carried, it is then referred to a Committee for consideration in detail. Nothing further than that is committed to the Committee. If we once tolerate the principle that any honorable senator may put upon the paper a notice of motion to the effect that it be an instruction to a Committee, when considering a certain Bill, to give effect to principles which are not merely irrelevant to the Bill, but which are distinctly of such great importance that they would possibly have been the subject of the greater part of the discussion on the motion for the second reading, I think we shall be departing from the fundamental principles of our parliamentary procedure. I take it that in the particular instance under review - and I do not wish anything that I may say on this subject to be construed either as hostile to or in support of the principles contained in Senator Mulcahy ‘s instructions - if there had been clauses in the Bill dealing with electoral matters, and giving effect, to the system that Senator Mulcahy favours, the debate on the second reading would have been lengthened by three times. If, then, we were to obviate debate upon matters of such great importance, and by instruction ask the Committee to consider them, I say we should be departing from the very principles upon which our procedure is based. For these reasons I support your ruling, sir. I wish it to be understood that though I may feel just as strongly as Senator Mulcahy does, that the system which he advocates is the best to secure what we all desire - theproper representation of the people - I think he has not taken the right course to. give effect legislatively to those principles. What I have said with regard to the method he proposes I may have to say again. But still I hold that the Bill before us is one that deals peculiarly with the administrative machinery of the Electoral Act. As such it was submitted to the Senate; as such it was debated; and as such it passed its second reading, and was sent to the Committee. It is not fair that the Committee should now be asked to consider, upon an instruction, matters which are a radical departure ‘from the main scope and purposes of the Bill.
Question resolved in the negative.
– I move -
That the Senate accepts the agreement, made and entered into on the 25th day of April, 1905, between the Postmaster-General, in and for the Commonwealth, of the first part; the Orient Steam Navigation Company Limited, of the second part; and the Law, Guarantee, and Trust Society, of the third part, for the carriage of mails between Naples and Adelaide, and other ports ; but is of the opinion that, without varying the original contract with the Commonwealth Government, arrangements should be made by which, during the continuance of its present contract with the Queensland Government, the company, in consideration of the payment of a sum of 3s. 8d. per mile by the Commonwealth, shall agree to carry postal matter between the ports of Sydney and Brisbane, and shall reduce the payment made by the Queensland Government by a corresponding amount, and also that arrangements shall be made for making a similar provision in the case of Tasmania.
Honorable senators will know that for some years past the mails between Australia and Europe have been carried by the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation and the Orient Steam Navigation Companies. Various agreements have been entered into in the past, with either or both of those companies. In some cases, the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company was the contractor foT the carriage of mails from certain Colonies, whilst the Orient Steam Navigation Company contracted with other Colonies. It is not my intention to enter into any details as to those old contracts from which the present service has sprang; but as far back as 1888 the British Government entered into an agreement for the carriage of mails from the United Kingdom to Australia, and from Australia to the United Kingdom. On that occasion the British Government acted, not only on its own behalf, but also for the various Colonies of Australia. The amount which, by that contract, the British Government agreed to pay to the two companies for carrying our mails was £170,000 per annum. The contract was for a period of seven years. and of the £170,000, the share paid by the Australian Colonieswas , £75,000. In 1895 that agreement, in the ordinary course, would have expired, but it was renewed for a further period of three years. In 1898 the British Government renewed the contract with the companies on the same terms. When the contract was renewed for the second time, by the adjustment of some poundage between the United Kingdom and the Australian Colonies, the proportion of the £170,000, which the latter had to contribute, was reduced from ,£75,000 to £72,000. That was the position of affairs when the second renewed contract expired on the 31st January last. After that date it became necessary that there should be a new contract for the conveyance of mails between the Australian Commonwealth and the United Kingdom. For some time before the 31st January last various Australian Governments which had been in power had been endeavouring to obtain tenders for a service. Honorable senators have before them a copy of the contract now in existence, and which I am asking the Senate to ratify. They have also in print a good deal of correspondence and copies of calls for tenders which were advertised. Some time ago negotiations passed between the Commonwealth Government and the Imperial Government relative to the necessity of calling, for tenders before the then existing contract expired. Honorable senators will see by reference to the papers that the Imperial Government expressed its inability to join with Australia in calling for tenders for a service both ways. It therefore became necessary for the Commonwealth Government to invite, for itself, tenders for a service which would dovetail in with whatever service the Imperial Government secured for the transit of mails from the United Kingdom to Australia. The Senate will remember what took place after the termination of the renewed contract of 1898. In .the early part of this year the two companies to which I have made reference ceased to carry mails under the contract with the Imperial Government. There was at that time no satisfactory tender in the hands of the Commonwealth Government, and it was found impossible to conclude at that stage of the negotiations any satisfactory arrangement! by which the mails from the Commonwealth could be carried to the United Kingdom at what was considered a reasonable rate. The only tender that was received after advertisements had been published was one from the Orient Steam Navigation Company, the company with Which the Government is now. in contract, and which contract is the subject of my motion. The first offer of the company was to carry the mails at a cost of £170,000 per annum. That amount was subsequently reduced to £150,000. It was again reduced to £140,000; and finally the amount agreed upon between the company and the Government was £120,000. So that the negotiations resulted in the lowering, of the company’s terms from £170.000 to £120,000. Many other details in reference to the contract were dealt with. The Postmaster-General of the day was faced with a very difficult situation. He had only one tender before him. That tender was in no way affected by any competition, either existing or probable. The company, no doubt, felt that it was in a position to be able largely to dictate terms to the Commonwealth Government. But after protracted negotiations, the PostmasterGeneral was enabled to induce the company to cut its price down from £170,000 to £120,000, and was also successful in modifying many of the terms and conditions which the company wished to have embodied in the contract. One very important condition which the company wished to impose was that it should be entitled to poundages rather than that the Commonwealth Government should receive them ; and when I tell honorable senators that the amount of poundage per annum to which the Commonwealth Government is. entitled now, as the result of the existing arrangement, is estimated at £25,000 per annum it will be seen that this was a very important consideration. We receive £’25,000 per annum from the United Kingdom by way of poundage for dealing ‘ with the mail matter that comes forward to Australia by other than those ships which are in contract with the Imperial Government ; and on the other hand, inasmuch as the mail matter which we send to the United Kingdom, whether by way of letter, parcel, or newspaper, is less than that which is sent- from the United Kingdom to Australia, the amount of poundage which we pay annually to the United Kingdom under present conditions is approximately £15,000 - leaving, of course, in the matter of poundages a balance in our favour of £10,000. That item will have to be considered in dealing with the financial effect upon the Commonwealth of the altered arrangements involved in the existing contract. Another important consideration which the
Orient Steam Navigation Company wished to have embodied in the contract was that all settlements as between the company and the Commonwealth Government should take place in London. That condition also the company had to modify. I am only referring to a few of the many considerations that came up in the course of the negotiations. Another important matter was that, the company wished to carry our mail matter only as far as Naples. Under the present contract we can make provision that it shall carry our mail matter from Adelaide to Naples, and at Naples shall disembark the letter portion of the mails, and shall be bound to carry on from Naples to the United Kingdom in its own ships the rest of the mail matter. It must be understood, however, that it would have meant an additional expense to the Commonwealth Government, if it had been necessary to also transmit mail matter other than letters across the Continent of Europe. The present contract is for a mail service between Naples and Sydney, fortnightly each way, and the time within which the trips have to be completed is 696 hours. I may point out that, not with . standing all the negotiations that took place between the late Government and the representatives of the Orient Steam Navigation Company, and notwithstanding the many .modifications that the then PostmasterGeneral succeeded in’ securing in the conditions which the company wished to impose, I do not think unqualified approval could be given to the contract as a contract, if it had to last for any considerable time. But the contract is only for a period of three years, and it is competent for either party, before the end’ of Januarynext, to give notice of their desire to terminate it at the end of January, 1908. If it be intended,, as I think and hope it will be, bv the people of the Commonwealth, to secure terms more reasonable and fair, notice should be given by the Commonwealth Government now, or as early as possible, in order that every opportunity, so far as time is concerned, may be afforded to secure a better and more up-to-date contract.
– If the Minister has not made up his mind as to whether that is the wish of the people, how can he ascertain what that wish is between now and January ?
– I have not said that I have not made up my mind.
– Has the Government?
– I have not said that the Government has not made up its mind. What I say is that the contract is not all that could be desired ; but we must recognise, as, I think, honorable senators will realize from .my opening remarks, that the Government of the day were largely in the grip of circumstances when they concluded this contract. Honorable senators will remember the great outcry there was in Australia immediately after the termination of the old contract, when, during the period of negotiation, the Government for the time being endeavoured to have the mails transmitted from Australia to the United Kingdom- under the poundage system. If the Government had been able to establish that system there would have been, in comparison with the subsidy that is now paid to the Orient Steam Navigation Company a very substantial saving per annum. But it was found absolutely impossible to regulate the times of the despatch of the mails or the ports at which steamers carrying mails inwardly - which were not under contract- should . call. Other inconveniences were found, many of which, no doubt, were made much more harassing by the particular company, which was determined to use its position, as far as it could, to show the convenience of a contract system, as compared with a poundage system for the Commonwealth. We must remember that to a large extent the Government of the day were compelled by force of circumstances to conclude, somewhat hastily, their bargain with the company ; but, fortunately, the contract is only for the period I have mentioned, with a provision that it may be terminated on either party giving certain notice.
– If notice is not given before January next, must the contract go on for a further period after the three years ?
– There is a provision that in such contingency a certain notice must be given to determine the contract - two years, I think.
– That will mean five years, if notice is not given before January.
– The contract is determinable on the 31st January, 1908, if either party give notice to that effect twenty-four calendar months prior to that date. If the contract is not determined then, it continues in force after the 31st January, 1908, subject to twenty-four months’ notice. It will, therefore, in the absence of notice before January next, be five years practically before the contract can ‘be determined. As an instance of the unsatisfactory character of the contract, in some regards, we have the example by way of contrast of that which the Imperial Government have secured with the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company. That company, as I have indicated, are the contractors for the Imperial Government for the carriage of mails from the United Kingdom to Australia, and their service dovetails in with the service of the Orient Steam Navigation Company under contract with the Commonwealth Government, the boats of each company running alternative fortnights each way. The Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company’s vessels bring the mails from the United Kingdom to Australia under contract with the Imperial Government, and carry back mails from Australia at poundage rates, whereas the Orient Steam Navigation Company carry the mails from Australia to the United Kingdom under contract to the Commonwealth Government, and return from the United Kingdom to Australia carrying mails at poundage rates. The time allowed for a journey from Brindisi to Adelaide, under the contract which expired on the 31st January last, was 686 hours. The contract time for the journey of the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company’s boats between an Italian port and Adelaide, under the existing contract with the Imperial Government, is 662 hours - a reduction of twenty-four hours. The time of the journey for the Orient Steam Navigation Company’s steamers under the contract now before us, between Naples and Adelaide, is 696 hours, or thirty-four hours longer than the time occupied by the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company’s vessels on the voyage from an Italian port to Adelaide. These are the contract times, but they are not always adhered to in practice by the vessels. Since the existence of the present contract between the Commonwealth Government and the Orient Steam Navigation Company, the ships of that company have invariably arrived at Adelaide earlier than the time specified, and the same may be said, but in a larger degree, of the vessels of the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company. For the first twelve trips of the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company’s boats, under the existing con- tract with the Imperial Government, .the vessels arrived, on an average, thirty-nine hours earlier than the specified time, and for the first ten trips of the Orient Steam Navigation Company, under the present contract with the Australian Government^ the vessels arrived, on the average, eleven hours earlier.
– Why take twelve trips in the one case and ten in the other?
– Because the con: tract with the Orient Steam Navigation Company was not concluded until later in the year. It will be seen, therefore, that the Orient Steam Navigation Company’s boats take, on the average, sixty-two hours longer than those of the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company to negotiate the trip between an Italian port and Adelaide.
– How is it that we get the mails later by the Orient Steam Navigation Company’s boats?
– As a matter of fact, we do not get the mails later, but really earlier by the Orient Steam Navigation Company’s boats. The Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company have improved the speed of their steamers of late years much more so than have the Orient Steam Navigation Company; and although, ordinarily speaking, the vessels of the former are due at Adelaide at 2 o’clock on Sunday, they invariably arrive a day and a-half earlier.
– I think that is very rarely.
– It may be that the contract time is not 2 o’clock on Sunday, but that is the hour at which the vessels are generally expected, and, as I say, they arrive a day and a-half before, or, at any rate, sufficiently in advance to- enable the mails to be sent on by the Melbourne express on Saturday.
– Is there no train from Adelaide to Melbourne on Sunday ?
– No; but a special train is always sent on when necessary. When the mail is sent on by the Saturday’s express, and arrives in Melbourne on Sunday, the New .South Wales portion is not held in Melbourne, but is forwarded to Sydney by special train, and the mails are there delivered on Monday in time for reply correspondence to catch the return mail. Under ordinary circumstances, those mails would not come to Melbourne or Sydney until about the Wednesday, so that, instead of being late, they ace really a couple of days in advance. As an illustration, I may point out that, in connexion with the first twelve trips of the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company’s vessels under the existing contract with the Imperial Government, four special trains were sent from Serviceton to Melbourne at a cost of £107 8s. 9d. each, or £429 15s.; eight from Melbourne to Albury, at ,£71 8s. 9d. each, or £571 10s. ; eight from Albury to Sydney, at ,£154 each, or £1,232 - the total cost of these special trains being £2,233 5s- The Queensland mails, which are taken on to Sydney by those trains, are forwarded in ordinary course. There is no train from New South Wales to Queensland -on the Saturday, but if the mails arrived in Sydney on that day, and it wds desired’ to expedite their .transit, any arrangement would largely depend on the Queensland Government. No charge appears to be made by the South Australian Government for the special trains from Adelaide to Serviceton. The cost of the special trains between, Melbourne and Sydney, when the mail happens to arrive in Melbourne on- a Sunday, is borne wholly by the New South” Wales- Government ; and the cost of the train from Serviceton to Melbourne is borne wholly by the Victorian Government, unless it be required also for the purposes of the Department in, New South Wales, when the cost is divided between the two States. On mails from Europe, each State of the Commonwealth, through and beyond which mails are conveyed, receives credit from the country of origin at the following rates: - Letters and postcards, 4d. per lb. ; other articles, except parcels, 4s. per cwt. Therefore, New South Wales, for the ordinary carriage of the Queensland mails, receives credit for the carriage from Albury to Wallangra, and Queensland would get credit from the United Kingdom for the carriage of the mails from Wallangra to Brisbane. I have instituted this comparison between the condition of affairs, so far as the Orient Steam Navigation Company and Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company are concerned, in order that honorable senators may see that our contract is not as satisfactory as a contract with the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company would have been if they had given us the same terms and conditions as they have given to the United Kingdom. But then we were faced with this difficulty : the
Peninsular and Oriental Steam, Navigation Company did not tender for this contract.
– It was all arranged by the shipping combine.
– It might have been arranged by the shipping combine, but they did not tender, from whatever cause.
– It was because of the white labour policy.
– The honorable senator is the first to say that. The manager of the Orient Steam Navigation Company in Australia has stated that their action in asking for an increased price for the conveyance of mails between Australia and the United Kingdom was in no way due to the provision of the Post and Telegraph Act, to which Senator Macfarlane refers. ^Further than that the chairman of the board of directors of the Orient Steam Navigation Company- made a. similar statement at a meeting of the board or of the company. If Senator Macfarlane knows more than does the chairman of the board of directors and the manager of the company in Australia, we must, of course, bow to his superior information.
– It was not a question of the increased cost.
– I am pointing out that, so far as the Orient Steam Navigation Company are concerned, they are not giving us the conditions which we had a right to expect in view of the fact that they have been competing for so long with the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company, and that the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company in their contract with the Imperial Government are providing.
– Did the honorable senator say that South Australia did not charge for special trains? There is a large amount on the Estimates for the purpose. We voted £2,000 last year, and we are to be asked to vote .£3.000 for that purpose this year.
– I spoke of what might be called extra special trains that are put on only in cases where, when the mail steamer arrives, there is no ordinary train to meet it.
– That is what the charge on the Estimates is for.
– I think not. There are a number of trains which are run on the arrival of the mails in ordinary circumstances. But I am speaking of cases where it is desired to expedite the transit of mails to Melbourne, in order that Victoria and New South Wales, as well as other States, may derive some benefit from a particularly early arrival at Adelaide. Honorable senators are aware of the terms of the contract which is before them. It is a somewhat lengthy document, setting out the whole of the relations between the three parties. It is for them now to consider the motion I have submitted for the ratification of the contract. They will see in the concluding part of the motion a reference to the cases of Queensland and Tasmania, but is of the opinion that without varying the original contract with the Commonwealth Government, arrangements should be made by which during the continuance of its present contract with the Queensland Government, the company in consideration of the payment of 3s. Sd. per mile by the Commonwealth, shall agree tocarry postal matter between the ports of Sydney and Brisbane, and shall reduce the payment made by the Queensland Government by a corresponding amount, and also that arrangements shall be made for making a similar provision in the case of Tasmania.
A contract was entered into by the Queensland Government with the Orient Steam Navigation Company after the Commonwealth had concluded the contract which honorable senators are asked to ratify by this motion. That contract with the Queensland Government was for the purpose of getting the company’s boats to call at Pinkenba, in the port ofBrisbane, once every fortnight. It contains provisions with regard to the carriage of produce from Queensland in the Orient Steam Navigation Company’s boats to the old country. The subsidy to be paid by the Queensland Government is an annual sum of £26,000.
– And what else?
– There are other conditions providing for the exemption of the company’s boats from pilotage, harbour dues, and other charges of that kind. That is a very common provision in contracts between Governments and private companies. The Queensland Government and certain representatives of Queensland in this Parliament have asked that the Government of the Commowealth should direct that the Commonwealth should shoulder the responsibilities of that contract so far as its financial burden is concerned. In another place, when the ratification of this contract was under consideration, it was decided that Queensland should be relieved of so much of that £26,000 annua] subsidy as should re- present a sum equal to 3s.8d. per mile on the 500 miles between Sydney and Brisbane, calculated twenty-six times to represent the twenty-six trips each way which the Orient Steam Navigation Company’s boats will make in pursuance of the Queensland contract. The Government and another place recognised that, so far as that contract is concerned, it is not in the nature of a mail contract, but a contract in respect to the carriage of produce. Taking the amount paid under the present contract between the PostmasterGeneral of the Commonwealth and the Orient Steam Navigation Company, it may be estimated that for fifty-two trips in the year - that is, twenty-six each way between the United Kingdom and Sydney, the mileage rate is 3s. 8d. If it had been calculated on the distance between Naples and Sydney the rate would have been 5s. 4d. per mile. Inasmuch as the Orient Steam Navigation Company’s boats, in going from Sydney to Brisbane, might have to carry mail matter, other than letters, in the nature of parcels and such matter, provision is made here that Queensland shall receive credit for a sum equivalent to 3s. 8d. ger mile for the twenty-six trips that would be made each year. This will amount to a sum of £4,766 13s. 4d.
– Have the Government calculated the amount for which the mail matter could be sent from Sydney to Brisbane by these boats on the poundage system?
– It is not sent by the boats.
– No; but if it were desired to send it in that way ?
– Does the honorable senator refer to mail matter generally?
– To that which the Government will send under the proposed arrangement.
– That would not cost more than about £25.
– And the Government propose to credit Queensland with £4,766 for it ?
– The Orient Steam Navigation Company will not be paid any more, but of the £120,000 Queensland will be credited with £4,766 13s. 4d. Queensland pays the company a subsidy of £26,000, and what is proposed is that she shall be recouped £4,766 of that by the Commonwealth.
– The mails will go by train ?
– That is so. Each of the States has entered “into certain obligations in respect of the transit of mail matter through its territory to the nearest port of despatch, and from the nearest port of arrival.
– Is it contemplated by the Government to abandon the present system of sending Queensland mails by train?
– Certainly not. They will still go by train, for reasons of despatch, but the company will be bound, if necessary, to carry other mail matter between Sydney and Brisbane, and not, as heretofore, have it landed at Sydney to be sent from there by train to Brisbane.
– What mail matter will that be - newspapers?
– Newspapers, parcels, and mail matter other than letters. With regard to Tasmania, a contract exists between the Post and Telegraph Department and the Union Steam-ship Company, providing for the carriage of all mails in and out of Tasmania, including the English mails from Tasmania to Melbourne, and the English mails inward from Melbourne to Tasmania. The contract is for £13,000 per annum. Inasmuch as the usual practice is that each State shall have its mails carried to its own border, provision is made that, with respect to the distance of 277 miles between Melbourne and Launceston, Tasmania shall be credited at the rate of 3s. 8d. per mile.
– For how many trips ?
– Twenty-six each way in each year.
– That is not defined in the motion. Ought not the motion to be amended to make that clear?
– I think that the motion is sufficiently clear in providing “that arrangements shall be made for making a similar provision in the case of Tasmania.”
– What similar provision ?
– Provision for the payment of 3s. 8d. per mile. The reason why the matter has not been set out in the same way as in Queensland’s case is that in some instances throughout the year the mails, instead of being, carried from Melbourne to Launceston, are carried inward by way of Burnie. That shortens’ the distance bv some forty or fifty miles, and when the adjustments are made, the actual mileage will be calculated, and the average throughout the year may be less than 3s. 8d. per mile for 277 miles, as two or three mails running are sometimes taken by way of Burnie. The provision will never exceed more than 3s. 8d. for 227 miles.
– Will the Minister say why it is proposed to pay for only twenty-six trips per annum?
– Because the Orient Steam Navigation Company will only make twenty-six trips per annum.
– Will not the same credit be allowed in respect of trips made by the Peninsular and Oriental steamers ?
– No; because they have no relation to this contract.
– If it is reasonable to make this provision in respect of the service by the Orient- Steam Navigation Company, why not make a similar provision in respect of the service by the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company ?
– That is a matter which should be separately dealt with. It cannot be dealt with in a motion . relating to the adoption of this particular contract. I have said that the amount we pay under this contract, calculated between the United Kingdom and Sydney, is 3s. 8d. per mile. I wish to inform honorable senators that what we were paying, previously, when our proportion of the subsidy was £72,000, was a mileage rate of 2s. 7d. per mile. This contract raises the mileage rate to 3s. 8d. The contribution of the United Kingdom to the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company was only part of a total sum paid to that company in respect, not only of the Australian service, but of other services to the East, and the average payment was something like 4s. 7d. per mile.
– The Australian contribution was £72,000.
– The Austalian proportion of the contribution of £170,000 was £72,000. The Imperial Government paid the rest, and their total annual subsidy to the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company gave an average of something like 4s. 7d. per mile. The two companies which carry on the ser- ‘ vice between the United Kingdom and Australia employ nine vessels each, and in tin* respect, too, there is a difference, because the average value of a vessel is £250,000 in the case of the Orient Steam Naviga.tion Company, and £300,000 in the case of theother company, I think, without going into minor details, I have given all the information which will be of value to honorable senators. They will see that the principle of ratification has been added to by the other House by a provision for the cases of Queensland and Tasmania, and it will, I think, meet with their approval. This contract was entered into by the late Governmentas far back as April last, upon the distinct understanding that it was to be subject to ratification by Parliament. So far the Government has not been in a position to make any payment to the contractors, and a sum of money is held in London until the contract is ratified. The amount of the subsidy payable, in the event of the agreement being ratified, is £29,011 from the 4th April to the 30th June, and £30,000 for the quarter ending the 30th September, making a total of £59,011.
-Col. Gould. - I think that a sum of £60,000 has already been appropriated for the purpose.
– In that case the money will be available for paying the company as soon as the contract is finally concluded. The contract is not perhaps all that we could have wished, and the reasons which combined to bring about that result I have pointed out. I hope that at no very distant date we shall be able to conclude one which will be much more satisfactory to the people of Australia, and which will bring about very much more desirable results in connexion with the communication with the old world, both postally and otherwise, than we can expect to flow from the present contract.
– What will be the nature of the future mail service?
– There will be a considerable time in which to consider that question, and not a very little time, as there was on the last occasion. I hope that honorable senators will see that, in all the circumstances, the best of a bad position was made and agree to ratify the contract, subject to the conditions contained in the motion.
– As Senator Keating has indicated the terms arranged with the Orient Steam Navigation Companyare not as good as might be desired by the Commonwealth, . but on the whole they. are. as favorable as it was pos sible to obtain at the time. We have often heard of working men going on strike, but we had a most excellent instance of shipping companies going practically on strike when this contract was being entered upon. It was well known that the Commonwealth was unable to get more than one offer for no other reason than that the other shipping companies held off in the hope that they would be able to coerce the Government into coming to their own terms. As has been said, the Commonwealth was very much at the mercy of the shipping ring, and while it may be our best policy to knuckle down now; this experience ought to be a lesson to us in the future, and the Government should give notice at a very early period for the determination of the contract, advertise for tenders, and thus give the Commonwealth a clear opportunity of obtaining more favorable terms. There is one objection, however, to this contract, which I think mav be very fairly urged from the Commonwealth point of view. . To my mind, it unnecessarily mixes up the conveyance of produce with the carriage of mails. We have nothing to do with the export trade of the various States. All we ought to interest ourselves in is the carriage of mails from Naples to Adelaide. No doubt it is extremely desirable that vessels coming here should take away produce on the most favorable terms, but that is not our business ; it is the duty of the States to arrange that matter. Would the Commonwealth make an arrangement between different post-offices within its jurisdiction for the carriage of goods as well as for the carriage of mails ?
– And if they did, what harm would result?
– To my mind, it would be a departure from its own business of carrying the mails. Of course, if any matter could properly be brought within the category of mail matter, it would be the business of the Post Office to arrange for its transmission. But surely it would not enter into competition with the railways in the carriage of wheat, or turnips, or potatoes ! Under existing circumstances that class of business would be considered to be outside its sphere. The carriage of produce between Australia and Europe is in exactly the same category. No doubt it is desirable that we should have cold storage and low freights by steamers visiting the different ports at regular intervals. But it is the business of the States to arrange for the steamers to call. -When we have arrived at a state of unification, it will then be the duty of the Commonwealth to make the arrangements in these matters. Until that event occurs, however, we ought not to interfere with the functions of the States. In the contract it has been expressly stipulated that, whilst the mails are to be landed at Adelaide, the steamers must proceed to Melbourne and Sydney. They may also go beyond Sydney to Brisbane or Townsville, or anywhere they please, I suppose, but on the return journey they must call at Sydney and Melbourne.
– On the return journey they must call at Sydney. Melbourne is not mentioned in that connexion, and that is the injustice done to Victoria.
– In any case, the vessels are bound to call at Melbourne and Sydney.
– It was their own offer.
– In that case, whywas it mentioned in the contract ?
– I think that the company wanted it mentioned more than we did.
– The company may have wanted the stipulation made, but do they get any extra payment ?
– No; but if they stopped at Adelaide they would want extra payment.
– If the company had to land the mails at Adelaide that would not stop them from sending their ships on to Melbourne and Sydney, and, if they pleased, to Brisbane.
– Under the previous contract they were stopped. They were only allowed to go to Newcastle for coal.
– If the vessels are bound to proceed beyond Adelaide to Melbourne and Sydney for trading purposes, because it is not claimed that they go there on mail business-
– It is.
– Well, the boats carry parcels and things’ which I think ought to be sent by train. In any case, the mails are landed at Adelaide, and the boats proceed to Melbourne and Sydney on their own business, because it pays them to go. If it was not mentioned in the’ contract, thev would still continue to call. In that case, why stipulate in the contract that they shall call ? Or, why mention the provision for cold storage?
– If the honorable senator could get something for nothing, would he not accept the offer ?
– Surely the honorable senator does not believe that the Orient Steam Navigation Company are going to give the Commonwealth something for nothing ! They are not quite simpletons. If the honorable senator does not understand why Sydney and Melbourne were named as ports of call in the contract, I can assure him that I do. It was simply that trade facilities might be afforded to those two ports ; and I have not the slightest doubt that the fact of the companybeing compelled to contract to go to Sydney and Melbourne affected its price.
– It would have gone in any case.
– But the Government said to the company - “ In addition to landing the mails at Adelaide, you must go on to Sydney and Melbourne.”
– The tenders only mentioned Adelaide.
– I am not dealing with the tenders, but with the contract entered into.
– The company made an offer, and the contract ‘was based’ upon that offer.
– The contract is the only document which we have to consider. It says that the company must go on to Melbourne and Sydney, and that whether it goes further is a matter for itself to decide. On the return journey, it must also call at Sydney and Melbourne. That is what we, in Queensland, complain of. We object to Melbourne and Sydney being made ports of call, and to the Commonwealth paying for the company’s boats calling at those ports for trade purposes.
– The contract does not say so.
– How can the honorable senator say that? Surely, he can read a document. The company is paid £120,000 for carrying mails from Naples to Adelaide, and for proceeding to Melbourne and Sydney.
– Honorable senators seem to read this document according to their own particular desires.
– Does the honorable senator say that these large steamers would come from the other side of the world and stav at Adelaide?
– I am not in the confidence of the Orient Steam Navigation Company, and I do not know. All that I know is, that the Orient Steam Navigation Company and the Commonwealth Government have entered into an agreement that the company shall carry our mails from Naples to Adelaide, and shall proceed to Melbourne and Sydney. That is all that appears on the face of the contract.
– The company would want£100,000 or £200,000 more if its vessels were not to go further than Adelaide.
– Who would prevent them from going further than Adelaide?
– No one, and, therefore, they can afford to take£120,000.
– I do not say that the Commonwealth ought to hinder the vessels from going past Adelaide. But there is a very great difference between hindering a company from doing a particular thing and compelling it to do a particular thing.
– Can the honorable senator show that it costs us anything?
– I can show what is in the contract.
– But the honorable senator knows what it means.
– All that I know is that the company is bound by this contract to proceed past Adelaide.
– It is bound by the necessities of its trade, and is allowed to put the fact in the contract.
– But why ? If I make a contract with Senator Pulsford to carry some articles to Albury, and if part of the agreement between us is that he shall proceed from Albury to Sydney, would he not consider that he had not finished my work when he had deliveredthe articles at Albury, but that he had to go on to Sydney?
– If I was going to Sydney, where I had a profitable business, I could afford to do something at Albury on cheaper terms than if I were not going to Sydney.
– That is the very answer that I was fishing for. In that event, it would not be necessary for me to make any bargain with Senator Pulsford to go beyond Albury. I should simply say, “ Will you take this article to Albury for me on certain terms?” That is all I should need to say. He could go wherever he chose afterwards. I maintain that the Commonwealth ought to have taken up exactly the same position. It should have said to the Orient Steam Navigation Company, “ You will deliver our mails at Adelaide, and what you. do after that is nothing to us.” But the Commonwealth has not done that. It says, “After landing the mails at Adelaide, you must proceed to Melbourne and Sydney.”
– “ In accordance with your offer.”
– What has the company’s offer to do with the matter ?
– If it had offered to go to Brisbane that condition would have been in the contract.
– I cannot bind honorable senators down to the terms of the contract. They will introduce something else. We have nothing under heaven except this contract before us.
– Can the honorable senator prove that it costs the Commonwealth more because the vessels go to Melbourne and Sydney ?
– I do not think it is necessary for me to prove that. Can the honorable senator prove the opposite?
– Does he mean to say that the company is not paid for taking its vessels to Melbourne and Sydney ?
– Then why is this stipulation put in? Is the Orient Steam Navigation Company a philanthropic concern? We had a very fine exemplification of its philanthropy when tenders were invited. We could not get a single offer but that of the Orient Steam Navigation Company, for the simple reason that the shipping ring had entered into an agreement.
– The honorable senator has no proof of that.
– We know that we could not get more than one offer.
– Because other companies were shut out.
– There was only one offer for the iron contract in New South Wales lately.
– That is a different thing altogether. There are any number of shipping companies in England.
– They are not going to do work for nothing.
– The Orient Steam Navigation Company is to receive £120,000 a year - a very much larger sum than was previously paid. It is absurd to say that it is doing the work for nothing.
– I did not say that. I said that the company would not do the work for nothing. It would require to make a profit.
– Certainly ; I think it ought to make a profit. I do not think that any companv or individual should work for nothing - except perhaps members of Parliament; and they ought to work for the honour and glory of the thing, ‘and for the love of their country, as I am sure they do in most instances. What I suggest to the Government is this : In any future contract they should omit all reference to the cold storage of goods, and confine it exclusively to the carriage of mails. That is their business. Everything else referred to in the contract is entirely utside their province in dealing with mail matters.
– The Government have been urged on all hands for years and years to make provision for the carriage of produce.
– Cannot the Minister see the reason? The trouble between the Commonwealth and the States is like that between local bodies and the States. The States practically say, “ Let us get everything we can out of the Commonwealth.”
– Before the Commonwealth came into existence the same desire was expressed.
– We are not dealing with any period except the present, nor with any fact except this contract. We ought, I say, religiously to avoid mixing up the carriage of goods with the carriage of mails. We ought to confine ourselves rigidly to our own business. If the people of Victoria are anxious that these mail steamers shall call at Melbourne, the people of ‘‘New South Wales that they shall call at Sydney, and the people of Queensland that they shall call at Brisbane, for trade purposes, let the States Governments pay, ifany payments have to be made. The contract is not optional. The steamers must go on to the cities mentioned. The presumption is, ifthey must igo on, that they are paid for going on.
– It is a fact; it is not a presumption.
– Was it the Orient Steam Navigation Company or the Commonwealth that proposed this further concession ?
– I amnot concerned with who proposed it.
– The correspondence shows that it was the proposal of the Orient Steam Navigation Company.
– I find that if one turns to the correspondence and the preliminary negotiations one gets fogged.
– They contradict themselves.
– Yes ; each proposal contradicts the one that preceded it. The only reliable document before us is the contract, and the contract compels these vessels to proceed to Melbourne and Sydney. It has been suggested that we ought not to agree to the contract. I object to it probably as strongly as any one can, but I think that in all the circumstances of the case the wisest course is to adopt it, and to look out for a better contract on the next occasion. If we were to refuse to ratify this contract, we should immediately be consigned to the old poundage system, with all its uncertainty as to the arrival and departure of the mails. That would be a state of affairs which, I am sure, would not prove pleasant while it lasted, and wouldbe of no advantage to the Commonwealth. While ratifying the contract, however, we should determine to make a better arrangement in the future.
– A wiser one.
– Yes ; and probably a cheaper one. The amount paid in the way of subsidy to the Orient Steam Navigation Company is too much, but we are in the iron grip of circumstances, and I do not see what we can do unless we start a Commonwealth service. That, however, could not be accomplished in twenty-four hours, but I do not think that it is an impossibility. According to Senator Keating, the two shipping companies are running eighteen vessels, each of which cost something like £250,000, representing, perhaps, a capital of £5,000,000. Well, it is proposed to spend £5,000,000 on a transcontinental railway, and, if not on that scheme, it may probably be squandered on the Federal Capital.. It would be much more profitable for the Commonwealth to establish a Federal line of steamers. With these reservations, I think I shall be acting wisely, not only for Australia, but for the State I represent, if I vote for the ratification of the contract.
– Many faults could possibly be found in the agreement, and to some of these Senator Stewart has called attention. It is with some pleasure, therefore, that I am able to turn to clause10, which deals with the necessity of employing white labour on the mail steamers, and which, I am sure, nearly every senator - though I know not all - regards with much approval. It is a matter for extreme congratulation that the late Government, as well as the present Government, never deviated from this very excellent policy.
– They could not.
– From what one has seen of the action of Federal Governments, I am not personally convinced that there is anything they could not escapefrom, if they set. their minds on doing so. It is perfectly certain, at any rate, that if either of the Governments tried to evade the White Australia policy they have not been successful’; and, as a result, we have attained the object which the Federal Parliament desire, and, we feel satisfied, at no extra cost to the Commonwealth. I wish to make the latter point specially clear, because, when I was in England, the majority of the newspapers persisted day afterday, and week after week, in asserting that this clause explained why the Commonwealth was unable to come to terms with the Orient Steam Navigation Company.
– The clause had a great deal to do with the trouble.
– The secretary, the manager, and the chairman of th? Orient Steam Navigation Company, and the various Prime Ministers who had to deal with the matter, one after another have pointed out that that assumption was erroneous. The fact is this clause made no difference whatever In the dealings of the Orient Steam Navigation Company in regard to the contract.
– The Peninsular and
Oriental Steam Navigation Company would not tender under the conditions.
– So far as that company is concerned, we have nothad to contribute any share of the subsidy paid under the contract with theImperial Government; we merely pay poundage rates, whichare admitted to ‘be cheaper. I should very much prefer thatthe Peninsular and Oriental . Steam Navigation Companywere not paid anypoundage, because I frankly . admit that, in my opinion, it . is not logical to refuse to make a contract because black labour is employed, and then to pay, in another form, for the carriage of the mails by the same vessels. That seems to me to. be a most glaring evasion of the principle that underlies the resolution of the Commonwealth Parliament. At any rate, the Commonwealth has saved money by the transaction, so that I do not know of what Senator Walker has to complain.
– I am not complaining.
– I understood Senator Walker distinctly to claim that the absence of a contract with the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company had led to greater expense.
– The.hOnorable senator is mistaken. What I said was that, owing to the conditions, the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company would not tender, and that therefore the Commonwealth was confined to one tender.
– My point is that this clause has caused no extra expense, and it was my statement to that effect that I understood Senator Walker to contradict. If the honorable senator did. not contradict the statement there was no necessity for his interjection. The position is really very little understood. We, in our desire tohave white men employed on mail-ships, are in advance of public opinion in England, but it is gradually drifting in the same direction. Every day There are undoubted evidences that the public of Great Britain are coming to appreciate the fact that, owing to the employment of coloured and alien labour, English seamen are steadily being displaced.
– What is the honorable senator’s authority ?
– Does the honorable senator wish to have a White Ocean ?
– I wish the honorable senator would allow me to proceed. I am now dealing with the manning of the British mercantile marine.
– And of the British Navy.
– And of the Navy. I am in no sensedealing with the navies of other countries,or with the ocean generally. I,and others who think with me, have a special definite object in view, which we desire to see carried out. I suppose that Senator Gray would approve of Mr. Chamberlain as an authority.
– No, I should not.
– Most people consider Mr. Chamberlain an extremely shrewd man, who is able to appreciate the drift of public opinion in England.
– Not a bit.
- Mr. Chamberlain is a man whose capacity is appreciated everywhere, and whose intellect commands respect. Whether we believe in his policy or not, we must admit that, at the least, he is a very clever man. In a letter to the secretary of the Scottish Shipmasters and Officers’ Association, at Glasgow, Mr. Chamberlain says -
The whole subject of the manning and officering of our mercantile marine demands reconsideration and the reversal of our present policy is urgently called for.
I shall not read the whole of the letter, but Mr. Chamberlain pointed out that it is necessary to encourage the employment of British subjects in the mercantile marine to the exclusion of aliens.
– “British subjects.” Those coloured men to whom the honorable senator objects are British subjects.
– What could be more ridiculous than to say that these coloured men are British subjects? They are subjects of the British, if the honorable senator pleases, but they are no more British citizens than are the kanakas of the Pacific Islands. It is folly for honorable senators to talk as Senator Gray is talking on the present occasion and to adopt quite a different policy when they are discussing Imperial defence. I wish to recall to honorable senators a fact which they continually forget.
– Does the honorable senator propose to connect his remarks with the question of the mail contract?
– I wish to point out that the British Indian is not placed bv the British Government on a parity with the British white subject.
– Has that anything to do with the mail contract?
– Undoubtedly, because there is a clause in the contract which says that only white labour shall be employed. I wish to emphasize the reason for that clause, by showing that the coloured British Indian is not placed on a parity with the British white subject, and is, therefore, properly excluded from employment on ships subsidized by the Australian Government.
– Is the British Indian not a British subject?
– In calculations connected with the defence of the Empire the natives of India, Africa, the Straits, the West Indies, and all British dependencies are invariably omitted, only the white population being taken into account. Why so? Because, in the opinion of the British Government, at any rate,those natives cannot be depended upon for defensive purposes.
– Does not history prove that those British Indian subjects have been defenders of the Empire?
– I do not care what history proves. I say that these natives are invariably left cut of defence calculations bv the British Government..
– But not for the reason stated by the honorable senator.
– I donot care what the reason is; these natives are omitted. We are told what the white man’s duty is, namely, to pay 15s. per head towards the defences of the Empire; but this is parenthetical. What we want is British seamen.
– We cannot get them.
– We can get them perfectly easily; and it was to provide for the employment of British seamen on the mail steamers that we advocated this clause. The . Navy League in December last year issued a leafletpointing out the enormousincrease in the proportion of foreigners to British persons employed on British ships during the last thirty years, and urging that the remedy is to render the mercantile service attractive to British boys of. good physique, and respectable parentage. They say - and at the same time to make it worth the while of British ship-owners to employ such boys without compulsion, or other undue interference by the State with the conduct of the ship-owners’ business.
That is what this clause amounts to.
– Does not the honorable senator’s argument go to prove that Norwegians, Italians, and such people should not be engaged?
– Undoubtedly it does; but we must advance in this matter by degrees. We cannot attain our object in one bound. The first thing we have to do is to shut out the coloured races.
– What about Sir John Fisher, who is supposed to be. half a Cingalee?
– I do not know what he has to do with the subject. Another point urged against the clause is the temperature in which the stokers have to work in the Red Sea. We are told that it is most detrimental to their health. It is only within the last fortnight that we have learned that the miners of Bendigo work in almost the same temperature for eighthour shifts.
– Does the honorable senator really think that that is a reason why this contract should be accepted or rejected. He seems to me to be wandering fiom the subject. I have no wish to curtail discussion, but I would ask whether the temperature of the stokehold has any relation to the question of whether the contract should be accepted or rejected?
– Certainly it has. I am pointing out the extreme benefit of this clause, for the special information of Senator Walker, and a few of my honorable friends, with whom this question is a bete voir, and because I think they fail to realize the advantages which might be derived from this clause.
– Are we compelled to listen to a speech on labour politics on this motion ?
– The honorable senator is at perfect liberty to retire if these references are irksome to him. I am aware that the truth is very often unpalatable. The inconvenience of working in the stokeholds of these vessels is nothing compared with the discomfort which is put up with by white miners in the Bendigo district.
– I really think that the honorable senator is wandering from the subject. I ask him to confine himself, so far as he can, to the motion.
– Of course, if the President rules that these allusions to temperature are out of order, I bow to his ruling.
– They are not relevant.
– I think they are, because they are the basis on which this particular clause 10 was inserted in the agreement.
– The honorable senator should try a reference to cold storage after this.
– I shall have much pleasure in gratifying Senator Millen later, as I have somewhat extensive notes on the subject of cold storage; but at present I propose to deal with the poundage system. Objection has been taken to this contract, because it is stated that by adopting the poundage system we should save £80,000. That is the figure given by the Postmaster-General. I point out that that view of the question is not altogether justifiable. There can be no doubt that the commerce of Australia would suffer very great inconvenience from an irregular mail service. This was made particularly clear when it became apparent, during the time the contract was under discussion, that the Orient Steam Navigation Company, during the dull season of the year, intended to run only one ship each month. In that case Australia would have been left without a fortnightly service for a portion of each year. I think that regularity of service is well worth paying for, but whether it is worth £120,000 a year is quite another question. I cordially agree with Senator Keating in hoping that the next agreement of this kind will provide for a subsidy on a very largely reduced scale. It is impossible to shut one’s eyes to the fact that the prosperity of Australia is largely associated with the prosperity of the mercantile community. It may be perfectly true to say that farmers, graziers, and the people of the country districts generally are not interested directly in the regularity of the maiT service. But the prosperity of Australia certainly interests them, and there can be no doubt that itlargely depends on regular mail communication with Europe. I quite agree with Senator Stewart that there wasno necessity whatever to have provided for anything more than a mail contract. As a matter of fact, only a small part of clause 8 deals with insulated space. There can be no doubt whatever that every one of these boats would have carried refrigerating spaces exactly as they will under the operation of this contract, and without any special provision being made. The Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company’s boats carry the same refrigerating spaces, and, so far as I know, there is no contract requiring them to do so. Doubtless Senator Keating can inform the Senate on that subject. I should like to suggest that the eight or nine lines dealing with refrigerating chambers are entirely out of place in this : contract, and might very well be struck out. Mr. Chapman, I believe, holds the view that it is ultra vires for the Commonwealth Government to enter into any contract in connexion with trade. I certainly think that a portion of clause 8 of this agreement is distinctly ultra vires.
– Of what?
– Of the Constitution.
– Then we cannot subsidize a shipping line if we please?
– Not to the exclusion of one State. My sympathies are entirely with the representatives of Queensland in that respect. I go further, and say that it is wrong to have such a clause in this contract, as well as absolutely unnecessary. I shall be quite prepared to support any honorable senator who will move to strike out this provision. I do not think it materially affects the contract in any respect, or that the omission of it would be likely to prevent its ratification. The clause introduces in a mail contract a provision dealing with trade.
– This contract has been signed.
– That is so, but it is subject to our approval. I come next to the point raised by Senator Stewart as to why we should pay for these ships going on from Adelaide to Sydney. Undoubtedly we do pay for that under this contract. It is provided for in the contract, and, whatever Senator Keating may say to the contrary, I propose to prove that we do pay for that service.
– The honorable senator cannot do so.
– Senator Pulsford is very bold. I refer him to sub-clause 5 of clause 2, which provides -
In any such case as is mentioned in the last sub-clause -
That is in case of a break-down - the contractors -
That is to say, the Orient Steam Navigation Company - shall bear the cost of conveying to Sydney or to Melbourne and Sydney (as the case may be), all parcels on board the mail ship intended for transmission to those places, and also the cost of the necessary conveyance from Sydney or Melbourne to Adelaide of any parcels intended for transmission from Sydney or Melbourne to be conveyed by the mail ship on her homeward voyage.
– That is a postal matter.
– Undoubtedly it is postal matter, and we say by this contract that it shallbe carried from Adelaide to Sydney, and that if, in case of a breakdown, the mail-ship cannot carry this postal matter to Sydney, the Orient Steam Navigation Company must pay the Commonwealth for its transmission to that place in some other way. That is explicit, and I put it to Senator Pulsford whether he should not now withdraw his statement that’ I could not prove that we pay for this service.
– What on earth does that trumpery clause prove?
– It proves that we pay the Orient Steam Navigation Company for the transit of mail matter from Adelaide to Sydney by their ships, and that, if they do not carry it in accordance with our request, they must pay us the cost of some other means adopted for its transportation.
– That makes it a mail contract right through to Sydney.
– It does. I give the Senate another reason why this is clearly a mail contract through to Sydney. The estimate of 3s; 8d. per mile is based on the mileage, not from London to Adelaide, but from London to Sydney, and that is the basis on which we propose to pay Queensland.
– A lot more is paid under the Queensland agreement.
– Queensland pays £26,000 under that agreement.
– And the rest. She guarantees, if the ships get ashore, to get them off for the company.
– In the circumstances, I do not see how we can possibly, in justice to Queensland, refuse to pay a corresponding mileage payment for the distance between Sydney and Brisbane, but I do protest most strongly against the manner in which that arrangement has been entered into. It would have been far better if the contract had provided that the service should terminate at Adelaide, with the power - just as it is expressed in connexion with Sydney - to go on to any other port the company thought fit. It would have been perfectly easy to provide for that in the contract. I intend to support the proposal as it stands under protest, because I think it is the only thing tobe done ; but I sincerely trust that the Government will, as indicated, give notice of the termination of this agreement before the 31st January.
Senator GUTHRIE (South Australia).So far as I can see, there is nothing for us to do as a Senate but to ratify the agreement made with the Orient Steam Navigation Company, because, to disallow it at the present time would have the effect of putting the whole of our arrangements into a very unsatisfactory state. I hope, however, that the Government will take into consideration the discussion which takes place in the Senate, and which has taken place elsewhere, and when the time for giving notice of the termination of the agreement arrives, will see to it that notice is given, and during the following two years will endeavour to make arrangements for the more satisfactory carriage of our mails. We might very easily secure a more satisfactory speed and more satisfactory terms than are provided for in this agreement. I rise to comment, not so much on the agreement with the Orient Steam Navigation Company as on the proposal to extend the voyages of the Orient Steam Navigation Company’s boats to Brisbane. The motion says - during the continuance of its present contract with the Queensland Government.
What is the nature of the agreement between the Orient Steam Navigation Company and the Queensland Government? It has not yet been placed before the Senate, and I should like the Minister to give an assurance that those words do not mean that in passing the motion we shall ratify the agreement.
– We have nothing to do with it.
– We have a lot to do with the Queensland agreement. A great deal has been said by the representatives of that State to the effect that the contract entered into by the Government of the Commonwealth with this company was unconstitutional. But it is provided in paragraph 4 of section 85 of the Constitution that -
The Commonwealth shall, at the date of the transfer, assume the current obligations of the State in respect of the department transferred.
Certain Departments have yet to be transferred from the States to the Commonwealth. For instance, the Quarantine Departments can be taken over, and when the transfer is made their obligations will be assumed by the Commonwealth.
– The Commonwealth is not taking over any obligations in connexion with the Queensland agreement.
– The contract, on its very face, acknowledges that certain obligations will be taken over by the Commonwealth when the Departments are transferred. Clause1 6, for instance, says -
In case the Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia shall fail to. ratify such recited agreement of 25th of April, then this agreement shall be void.
Why was not the Queensland agreement laid before this Parliament to be ratified before it was asked to agree to this subsidy of 3s. 8d. per mile?
– That agreement has not been circulated.
– No; it is a State paper, so far.
– That refers to the ratification of our contract with the company.
– The honorable senator has found a mare’s nest.
– I have not found a mare’s nest, as the honorable senator will realize directly.
The Contractors’ Mailships, mentioned in the said recited agreement of the twenty-fifth Aprit last, shall continue their voyage from Sydney to the Government Wharf at Pinkenba, in the Port of Brisbane, for the purpose of conveying passengers and all lawful merchandise and produce to and from Pinkenba and parts beyond the seas in the ordinary course of trade free of any restriction by any combination in restraint of trade, and as to refrigerated produce in refrigerated holds at rates of. freight not exceeding those charged by them at the same time from the Port of Sydney, except as hereinafter provided.
That is all right, but what do they do for that assistance?
The services shall commence on the first September, one thousand nine hundred and five.
In consideration of the foregoing services, the Government of the State of Queensland agrees to pay to the contractors an annual subsidy of £26,000 by equal quarterly payments of£6,500 each, to be made in London on the thirty-first January, the thirtieth April, the thirty-first July, and the thirty-first October in each year during the continuance of this agreement, but the first payment covering two quarters is to be made on the first March, 1906, if the contractors have not availed themselves of the provisions of clause 15 of this agreement, and the second payment covering two months is to be made on the thirtieth April, 1906.
The contractors are to have the preference of carrying all Government cargo, and the passages of all assisted or other immigrants to Queensland under the control of the Government at current rates of freight, and passage money, but the contractors shall only be entitled to the passage money of immigants who shall be landed at Pinkenba (or elsewhere in the State at the expense of the contractors), which passage money shall be payable in Brisbane only.
The Government will encourage exporters of butter to ship with the contractors.
The said Government will provide efficient pilotage service from and to the wharf at Pinkenba and the open sea, -
If the Commonwealth were to take over the Pilotage Departments, it would have to assume that obligation of providing free pilotage for this compaay’s ships.
– Does the agreement sav that free pilotage shall be provided?
– It says-
The State Government will provide efficient pilotage service from and to the wharves at Pinkenba and the open sea.
– That does not necessarily mean free pilotage. It only means that the State will insure efficient pilotage.
-Waiving that point for the present, the agreement goes on to say - and the assistance of the Government staff and plant in case of accident between those points.
The Government will not enforce any port- dues or other charges ordinarily leviable on shipping in the Port of Brisbane. The Government will maintain a navigabe channel between the open sea and Pinkenba Wharf, of not less than twentyfour feet depth, and will provide a. swinging and. berthing basin at Pinkenba Wharf, of sufficient area,and not less than twenty-six feet in depth
The Government will grant the sole use of the wharf at Pinkenba to the contractors for the use of their mailship during their stay, and will provide suitable moorings and other accommodation to enable the said ships to berth with safety and convenience at all states of the tide.
The Government will grantfree passages by. rail between Pinkenba and Brisbane to the servants and agents of the contractors when engaged on the business of the contractors, and will carry between Pinkenba and Brisbane all coal, provisions and other requirements of the said mailships free of charge:
In case the said mailships are quarantined at Pinkenba, the Government will undertake the lightering of the cargo, and the taking and quarantining of the passengers.
– The Commonwealth would not be pledged to Federal pilotage, even if it were to take over the Department to-morrow.
– It would be pledged by the Constitution to fulfil the obligations of the Departments from the date of transfer.
– The honorable senator will see that whether we adopt this contract or not the liability of the Federation to accept these obligations, will still remain.
– If we do not ratify the contract, the agreement will not eventuate.
– In this motion we are virtually asked to accept the conditions of the Queensland agreement.
– The way to get out of the difficulty is to refuse to ratify the contract.
– No; I think it can best be done by striking out the words I quoted at the beginning of my speech. Section 91 of the Constitution says -
Nothing in this Constitution prohibits a State from granting any aid toor bounty on mining for gold, silver, or other metals, nor from granting, with the consent of both Houses of the Parliament of the Commonwealth,: expressed by resolution, any aid to or bounty on the production or export of goods.
What are we asked to do by. Senator Keating? We are invited to pass a motion which, on its very face, merely proposes to make a rebate to Queensland in. respect ofa service which is not rendered; but behind it. we are asked to give an aid to the export of goods from Brisbane:
– The same as the honorable senatoris asked to do in the case of Sydney, Melbourne; and Adelaide.
– We are asked to do nothing of the kind Adelaide receives’ no assistance in thatregard;
– In fact, it is rather distasteful to Adelaide.
– According to thestatement of the Minister, Adelaide not only handles all the mails for the States, but takes them from the anchorage and carries them to Serviceton without charging for special trains. Adelaide is not gaining much by the visits of the mail- boat, but is providing a convenience to the other States.
– I think that the people of Adelaide are very glad that the mail-boats call, and give them the mails to carry by rail.
– I do not know how the people of Adelaide gain much by the visit of the boats.
– Did they not make a little demur when the company threatened not to call there?
– They did when the company suddenly stopped the service and capsized people’s arrangements without giving due notice.Probably if the mailboats refused to call at any of the ports in Australia a little natural demur would be made. The outcry was principally directed to the capsizing of arrangements which had been running on for years.
– Is not a large sum spent in Adelaide by the passengers who land from the boats and go forward by train ?
– That may or may not be the case; but I do not think it has any relevance to the question before the Senate. I believe that if the adoption of this motion means the ratification of the Queensland agreement, it is absolutely unconstitutional, because it is giving an aid to the export of goods. The Constitution does not permit a bounty to be granted by a State until it has been ratified by this Parliament. The main object of the Queensland Government in agreeing to give this bounty is to promote the export of butter. In fact, the agreement contains several clauses which say that certain persons who had previously made contracts with the Orient Steam Navigation Company are to get special rates and that other persons are not to .get them. So that really the concessions which are granted by the Queensland Government in the agreement are aids to or bounties on the export of goods. I think I have shown that if this agreement be ratified the Commonwealth will be called upon to discharge certain obligations when the Pilotage and Quarantine Departments are transferred.
– They will be State obligations.
– In this agreement the State has contracted with the owners of the mail-boats to take over the whole of their cargo and passengers in the event of their being quarantined. Again, when the Pilotage Departments are transferred the Commonwealth will have to carry out what Queensland has agreed to do for this company.
– When the Departments are transferred, the Commonwealth will honour their obligations, but the State of Queensland will have to pay the money required for their fulfilment.
– That is questionable. Why did the framers ‘of the Constitution so carefully provide that where aids were proposed to be given by a State to special industries or for the export of certain goods, the consent of the Commonwealth Parliament had to be obtained? What has been the result of the Queensland agreement? The mail-boats have gone to Brisbane and entered into a strong com petition with local seamen and ships. TheOphir is advertised to leave Brisbane in advance of her usual time, and is guaranteed1, to land passengers here in time to see the race for the Melbourne Cup. Here is a. bounty agreed to be given to a foreign company - that is to say, a company which isnot Australian - to compete for the coastal trade of Australia under conditions which are not nearly so favorable to employes asare the conditions prevailing on Australian, vessels.
– That is the Federal feeling !
– I do not know what the honorable senator means. But we have given special concessions to this company, which are denied to a local company that has its headquarters in Brisbane.. We give the Orient Steam Navigation Company an opportunity to compete with an Australian company on unequal terms. That, is not fair. I wish those honorable senators who time after time have pledged themselves to support local industries to understand the position exactly.
– Then will the honorable senator vote against the contract?
– No; but I will vote against the special concession in regard1 to Queensland. The motion refers to the contract with Queensland. We do not know -exactly what that contract is. I think we ought to know. There is a constitutional question involved, because what I have referred to is absolutely a bonus paid in contravention of section 91 of the Constitution. I trust that before” we are asked to vote the Minister will be able to give us an assurance that what is proposed is within the Constitution, and that we are not ratifying the Queensland agreement in passing themotion that he has submitted.’
Senator MILLEN (New South Wales).I think that the Senate is under an obligation to Senator Guthrie for having directed attention to a clause in the Queensland agreement with which, so far as I can gauge, honorable senators were previously unacquainted- I myself certainly had no knowledge that there was such a clause in the agreement,- nor was 1 aware that the agreement remained to be ratified. The honorable senator’s statement opens up aquestion which I should prefer to have discussed quite apart from that of the acceptance or rejection of the Orient Steam Navigation Company’s contract. The whole question now raised is covered by section 91 of the Constitution, and has reference to the constitutionality or otherwise of a State, without the consent of both Houses of the Parliament, granting any aid to or bounty On the production or export of goods. It does appear to me that that section is distinctly pertinent to the matter we are discussing. We have to consider whether we are not asked to ratify something which, whether we might approve of it or not under other conditions, has never been submitted in a proper form. It has this further objection - that if we now indorse the proposal before us, we shall hold out an invitation to another State to do what appears to me to be a breach of the Constitution, relying upon the fact that the Senate will pass it because a similar breach has been committed in this instance. I very much regret that the matter comes before us in this way. I am entirely in favour of granting the measure of aid to Queensland set out in this motion. But it is one thing to be in favour of that, and another thing to do what seems to me to be a breach of the Constitution. While, however, I am in favour of Brisbane obtaining the benefit of this steamship service, I cannot free my memory from the knowledge that recently most of the public men oi Queensland have been very loud in their denunciations of what they call Federal extravagance. I admit at once that that denunciation is not limited to Queensland, but that one of the favorite topics of State Treasurers and public men is the tendency of Federal expenditure to grow. It is bound to grow if the States make requests for further expenditure in this fashion. It is impossible for them to ask the Commonwealth to accept obligations, and to do .certain things which will entail expenditure, arid at the same time expect the Commonwealth to be in a position to hand back to them an undiminished portion of the money standing to their credit under the bookkeeping system. I merely draw attention to this because, in common with other honorable senators,, I regard many of these criticisms about growing Federal expenditure as being unwarranted and unjust. Now I will come to the contract itself. I was rather impressed in listening to the remarks of Senator Matheson - whose remarks invariably impress us - with the ease and facility with which he managed, in seeking support for his argument, to confuse terms. He quoted a letter from that very versatile gentleman, Mr. Cham berlain, in which the term “ British subject “ was used in reference to the British mercantile marine. Senator Matheson said that the use of the term “ British subject “ very clearly meant the white Britisher, and had no reference to any other subject of the Crown. If that be so, may . I ask Senator Matheson to interpret exactly the same term, when used by the Imperial Government in a despatch to the Commonwealth, dealing with the white labour subject. Thev said that it was impossible for the Imperial Government to ratify or enter into an arrangement with the Commonwealth for the carriage of mails between Britain and Austraia, seeing, that we insisted upon excluding a considerable portion of British subjects. What was meant there?
– Was not the term used, “His Majesty’s Indian subjects”?
– No; and I can refer honorable senators to several communications received from the Imperial Government when we were dealing with the Immigration Restriction Act, in. which a similar phrase was used. It is possible, however, to consider this question without honorable senators bringing into view _ the desirability or otherwise of repealing that section of the Post and Telegraph Act. I am merely pointing out now that it is rather an extraordinary thing to seek to read into certain words a meaning which will suit one’s purposes to-day and to deny that thev have that meaning to-morrow. I see verv little reason for denying that the retention of the white labour section in the Post and Telegraph Act must have a tendency to increase the cost of our mail service. I am not saying that that is a reason for repealing the section. But just as the Commonwealth has willingly shouldered an enormous expenditure in connexion with the sugar industry of Queensland, in the interests of white labour, it is not, therefore, to be said that because the dismissal of coloured labour from the mail cargo steamers costs a little more, that in itself should be an argument for abolishing the section.
– But it does not cost more, according to the statement of the chairman of the Orient Steam Navigation Company.
– I quite understand the comfort which my honorable friend wishes to draw from that statement. I wish I could agree with him. But the fact remains that we had only one tenderer for the mail contract. And why ? Because the only other possible tenderer was rendered incompetent by that section of the Post and Telegraph Act.
– Does the honorable senator think that the other company would have tendered, except for that section ?
– Undoubtedly. But suppose it does cost a little more? Honorable senators will say that they are willing to pay it, because of the principle underlying the section. But that is no reason for denying, or for doubting, that but for that section in the Post and Telegraph Act, the Imperial authorities would have been able to arrange with the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company, as it did before, for the continuance of the mail contract to Australia, and back to England. The correspondence shows that the Imperial Government was prepared to make an arrangement with the Peninsular “and Oriental Steam Navigation Company of that nature, but, that owing to the existence of the section to which I have referred, it was not possible to do
– The proof of that is, that the Commonwealth Government is not a party to the English contract with the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company.
– We are not in that contract at all. The retention of the section has rendered it impossible for us to be parties to it. And that brings me down to this further point- that, having shut out one of the competitors - as far as we know there were only two to whom we could look - we were practically at the mercy of the remaining one. And regarding that one, no language which you, Mr. President, would tolerate would enable me to express the contempt which I entertain for the action of that company during the period of the negotiations. It certainly did strike me that the action of the company was such as we should not have expected from a large corporation which for many years had been doing business with the Commonwealth. It showed its spirit by its action both -with regard to its threatened stoppage at Adelaide, and its refusal to receive certain mails and to land them at certain ports.
– And consider the action in stopping an extra mile or two out in the gulf at Largs Bay.
– Yes; all these things were little to the credit of the company, and it is to me a matter of profound regret that we are obliged to accept the tender submitted to us. I say “ obliged “ because there is nothing else to be done.. I believe that the ex- Postmaster-General, who conducted the negotiations, did everything that it was possible for him to do to obtain the best terms under the circumstances. I think the late Government did that. But, at the same time,, the matter is none the more palatable to me, or to the people of Australia, and I hope that before the present contract expires arrangements will be made to give us an equally efficient service, and on terms far more acceptable to the people of this country. With regard to the matter, to which I first referred - the constitutional aspects-looking, at the contract again, I hardly know how it would be. possible to consider it without negativing the motion, or indefinitely delaying a settlement. I do not want to take any action which might deprive Queensland of the convenience . which she. expects to gain from the contract. . .
– We should strike out the whole contract.
– I do not propose, to submit , any amendment. . The objections which I have ought to be stated,but beyond that I hardly feel prepared to go, because I am’ not quite clear whether any action that might suggest itself to my mind would clash with any action which others may desire to take.,
Senator PEARCE. (Western Australia).I do not propose- to gointo- the matters affected by the contract at any length, because we all recognise that there is no other course for the Senate to pursue than- to adopt the motion which Senator Keating has proposed. But I do hope that the Government will terminate the contract at the earliest possible moment; and, furthermore, that they will energetically make preparations for entering into a new contract under better terms than those of the present one. With that expression of opinion, I pass from, the question of the provisional contract. But we are asked to do something more - we are asked to indorse another contract, which was entered into by the Government of Queensland with the Orient Steam Navigation Company, and which the Commonwealth is asked to shoulder because of the action of that Government.
– We are not asked to indorse that agreement.
– We are; and our indorsement will, to the extent of nearly £5,000, relieve that State Government of their payment towards the subsidy of £120,000. The State Government of Queensland entered into an arrangement with the -Orient Steam Navigation Company without in any way consulting, the Commonwealth Government, and that arrangement is now- used as a lever to relieve the State Government of a certain proportion of responsibility in connexion with the British mail contract. I know that the arrangement is justified on the ground that it is something more than a contract for the carriage of mails, but if we adopt the proposal now before us, it will be an admission by the Government that a certain proportion of the additional expenditure has been incurred, because of the trade conditions laid down in the contract. The Government have no need to allow themselves to be placed in that position, because the original tender was for a larger sum, and provided for a service terminating at Adelaide. It was the shipping company’s own offer that the service should terminate at Sydney, and the contract eventually entered into was for a sum Jess than that originally asked for a service terminating at the South Australian port. It cannot be said that any part of the expenditure is due to the fact that in the contract there is a clause providing that the boats shall go on to Sydney. I ask what reasons can be advanced for the proposal that the Federal Parliament shall remit Queensland’s share of the expenditure to the extent of £5,000? Further, I ask whether Parliament is prepared to extend similar conditions to other States in contracts of the kind. Very shortly we shall be dealing with the Vancouver mail service, the contract for which certainly involves what is more a trade subsidy than the subsidy in the contract now under discussion.
– The Vancouver subsidy is entirely a trade subsidy.
– If Queensland and Tasmania are entitled to a rebate because of this mail service terminating at Sydney, I contend that Victoria, Tasmania, South Australia, and Western Australia are entitled to a rebate, because the Vancouver service terminates at Brisbane arid Sydney. We cannot ‘justify the singling out of these States in this way.
.- The Tasmanian contract is only for the carriage of mails.
– Nominally that is so, but actually we know that it is a trade subsidy.
– How does the honorable senator know ?
– We know that the subsidy is far in excess of what would be required to carry on a mail ‘Service ; it is given for the purpose of opening up and facilitating the American trade. i move -
That all the words after the word “ports,” line 9, be left out.
The motion will then be one to ratify the arrangement entered into by the Government with the Orient Steam Navigation Company, and that is all that this Chamber ought to be called upon to indorse. If the Government wish to relieve Queensland of a share of her contribution to the mail subsidy, for the reason that the State does not enjoy all the benefits that flow from the mail contract, the .question ought to be dealt with apart- and on its merits. The question should not be discussed as having reference to only one State, but as connected with all the States, having in view the mail contracts entered into bv the Commonwealth Government. It is un-fair and invidious to single out two States in the manner proposed.
– What about Western Australia? The mails from Adelaide to Western Australia and back again are not paid for by the Western Australian Government, and that Government is the only one which does not pay for such carriage.
– Western Australia pays her proportionate share.
– Every other State pays the whole expense of carrying its own mails.
– All we ask is that Western Australia should be treated in exactly the same way as are other States.
– The Western Australian Inter-State mails are carried under this subsidy by the Orient Steam Navigation Company.
– As I said before, if this treatment is to be meted out to Queensland and Tasmania, a similar course should be taken with Western Australia, Victoria, Tasmania/ and South Australia in connexion with the .Vancouver service.
– Did the Queensland Government not ask that Brisbane should be included1 as a port of call long before the arrangement was entered into with the Orient Steam Navigation Company?
– That is so, but my complaint is that the terms of the arrangement were never submitted to the Federal Government - that the Federal Government were never consulted - but that when it had been entered into, and the House of Representatives could not be induced to take over the whole responsibility, it was agreed, as a solatium to Queensland’s feelings, to give that State some advantage which could not have been obtained but for the arrangement entered into by the State.
– Is it not only fair to say that Queensland entered into that arrangement because her requests were ignored by the Commonwealth Parliament?
– That may be the reason, but what’ I say is that the arrangement entered into has been used as a lever to extract this concession to Queenslandand Tasmania.
– Before dealing with the specific contract, I should like briefly to reply to some of the arguments used by Senator Pearce in support of his very un-Federal amendment concerning Queensland and Tasmania. I submit that we are not asked to indorse the arrangement which has been entered into between the Queensland Government and the Orient Steam Navigation Company. That agreement in no way effects the original contract between the Commonwealth Government and the shipping company, nor are we asked to take on ourselves the burden of that arrangement. All we are asked to do by the resolution is to pay mileage rates on the mail steamers going from Sydney to Brisbane, similar to those paid by the Commonwealth on the steamers from the old country to Sydney ; and the same proposal is made in regard to Tasmania. It is a simple act of justice on the part of the Commonwealth Government to place the ports of Brisbane and Tasmania on the same footing as the chief ports of the other States. Senator Pearce complains that the Queensland Government entered into this arrangement without in any way consulting the Commonwealth Parliament or Government ; and I, as a representative of Queensland, at once plead guilty. Queensland did not consult, nor could they consult, the Commonwealth Go vernment or Parliament, seeing that the representations of the State in the matter had been entirely ignored. For anumber of months before the Commonwealth contract was entered into, the Queensland Government had been continually making representations to the Commonwealth Government with a view to better treatment being extended to the State in this connexion. Those representations were completely ignored, and, therefore, the Queensland Government, in order to safeguard in advance the interests of the citizens of the State, were compelled to enter into independent negotiations.
– Why did the Queensland representatives not mention the matter in Parliament?
– The representatives of Queensland were constantly bringing the matter before Parliament, but Parliament was not sitting when the contract was ar ranged.
– It must also be remem bered that Queensland gets the least advantage of the passenger traffic en route.
– That is so; and Western Australia, which is kicking up the greatest noise, gets the most advantage. We are told that the same treatment must be meted out to every State. That is a fine and noble principle ; but will the represen- . tatives of Western Australia have the courage to express their willingness to reimburse the Commonwealth for the expense unfairly undertaken bv the Commonwealth for the benefit of that State? Western Australia is the only State in the Commonwealth whichdoes not pay for the carriage of its own Inter-State mails. Under the contract we are now discussing the Inter-State mails are carried to and from Western Australia and Adelaide without any payment whatever by Western Australia.
– Is that not for tha convenience of the eastern States as muchas for the convenience of Western Australia? Do the mails go only one way ?
– Does Western Australia contribute any payment for the carriage of her Inter-State mails ?
-. - The honorable senator has discovered a mare’s nest.
– Tasmania has to pay for her Inter-State service.
– Both ways.
– Nothing of the kind.
– I might as well point out to Senator De Largie that the carriage of the mails benefits Western’ Australia ; but Western Australia wraps herself up in selfishness, and will not contribute a farthing of the cost. Yet honorable senators from that State are always talking about the “Federal spirit.”
– Western Australia pays a proportion of the cost of the service to Tasmania.
– Yes, £36 out of £i3>00°-
– If Western Australia paid her proper proportion of the cost of carriage of Inter-State mails, instead of getting the other States to do it for her, there might be more ground for this talk about the Federal attitude.
– Does the honorable senator deny that the Inter-State mails are not carried both ways?
– I do not ; but I say that Western Australia does not pay her fair proportion of the cost. If we take the case of Tasmania, are not the mails carried both ways there?
– Certainly, and the other States have to pay.
– They do not. Western Australia pays £36 out of £13,000.
– Senator Pearce says that the proposed concession to Queensland is unconstitutional ; but if the honor able senator takes up that attitude, I challenge him to vote against the ratification of this contract, because it is entirely unconstitutional, inasmuch as it provides for trading facilities for the benefit of some States, without extending the advantage to all.
– These facilities can be taken advantage of bv all the States.
– We are, under this contract, subsidizing a line of boats to go to some States and not to others. That is a distinct disadvantage to the States to which the boats will not go. I challenge the Western Australian representatives to take up that attitude, and to say that, because, on that ground, the contract is unconstitutional, they will not agree to ratify it.
– Does the honorable senator contend that the Federal Government cannot subsidize a line of steamers running between the United Kingdom and Australia unless the boats call at every port in the Commonwealth?
– It would not be necessary that they should call at every port in every State, but there must be no discrimination as between State and State, under which one State will secure an advantage that is not given to another. There is nothing in the Constitution about treating each port of each State alike, but all the States must be treated alike. On the face of this contract, it is to a large extent a trading contract, which discriminates between State and State, and is, therefore, unconstitutional. I am firmly of opinion that if any State, feeling itself aggrieved, brought this contract before the High Court it would be disallowed, notwithstanding any .ratification we might give -it. For my part, despite the tardy recognition, proposed in a paltry way, of the just demands of Queensland in this matter, I am prepared to vote against the whole thing, and I ask honorable senators from Western Australia if they are prepared to adopt the same attitude in support of their contention that the proposal is unconstitutional ?
– The parasite State is doing very well in the Federation, in getting sugar bounties and everything else.
– If honorable senators will look at the public works appropriations submitted to Parliament this session, they will see that Western Australia is doing remarkably well also.
– The “ parasite “ State did not ask for a transcontinental railway.
– We have built our own railways in Queensland, and we have not felt sore because other people have not helped us to pay for them. We have been asked whether the concession proposed to Queensland in this instance will be given to other States in connexion with the Vancouver mail service. I should be prepared to provide that the vessels engaged in the Vancouver mail service should go not only to Fremantle, but right round to Port Darwin, if that were necessary, and if the company would accept such a contract. And if the other States are prepared to do what Queensland has done in dealing with the Orient Steam . Navigation Company, and contribute £30,000 or £40,000 per annum to induce the Vancouver boats to call at their ports, I shall be willing, in dealing with the contract for that service, to extend the same concession to those States that is being given to Queensland in the paltryrecognition of her demands proposed in connexion with the Orient Steam Navigation Company’s contract. We have been told that the Vancouver service is purely a trading service. So far from that being the case, it is purely a mailservice, and there are no provisions that contract for a trading service at all. On the face of the contract . we are now asked to ratify, provision is made for cold-storage space, refrigerating machinery, and that the boats shall call at ports at which it is not necessary they should call to provide a mail service. All these provisions are made palpably for the purpose of affording facilities for trading. When the late Postmaster-General, Mr. Sydney Smith, had entered into the contract with the Orient Steam Navigation Company on behalf of the Commonwealth Government, he wrote a very long minute in justification of his action, and on page 17 of the correspondence I find the following passage in the honorable gentleman’s minute : -
The contract entered into applies not only to Commonwealth mails, but covers all mails irrespective of the country of origin or destination. Provision has also been included in the contract for insulated space and refrigerating machinery for the carriage of perishable products.
I defy any honorable senator to say that that is not a trading contract pure and simple. There can be no doubt that the whole contract isdirectly in contravention of the Constitution, which says that no action shall be taken by the Commonwealth which shall discriminate as between State and State. If I can get any support, I am prepared to vote against the ratification of this contract, because I am satisfied that a much more favorable bargain can be made by the Commonwealth Government. I am convinced that we shall be no better off in respect of the carriage of our mails under this contract than we were under the poundage system. It was in response to an outcry made by interested members of the trading community in Melbourne and Sydney that the late PostmasterGeneral receded from the attitude that he had at first assumed, that he would not “cave in” to the “bluff” of the Orient Steam Navigation Company. He stated over and over again that £100,000 was the limit of the subsidy which he was prepared to give for a fortnightly mail service with the old country. Yet we find that, in response to the outcry of intereste3 persons, he subsequently vielded to the “ bluff “ of the company, and lagreed to pay no less than £120,000.
SenatorEt. -Gol. Gould. -The honor able senator : should remember that the company wanted , £1 50, 000, and fought very hard for it too.
– I propose to refer to that point. Senator Pearce, in support of the amendment he has moved, said that the fact that the company at first demanded £150,000 for a service to Adelaide, and subsequently accepted £120,000 for a service to Sydney, proved that the extension to Sydney added nothing whatever to the cost. It proves nothing of the kind.If the honorable senator so desired, he could argue as strongly in the opposite direction, and I have not the slightest doubt that if ever the necessity arises he will do so with equal effect. The question of going to Sydney and Melbourne was in the minds of the authorities of the Orient Steam Navigation Company when they asked £150,000, just as much as it was when they accepted £120.000. I say that the company were openly “bluffing” all the time, and the question of the terminal port had really nothing to do with the arrangement of the contract. It was only when they found that the people of Australia would not tolerate their extortionate demands that they reduced them to something like reason. That is why thev accepted a subsidy of £120,000, and not because of any concession to the boats ‘fo go to Melbourne, Sydney, or anywhere else. It has been pointed out by some honorable senators that the Vancouver service may be quoted as a reason why Queensland should not get any recognition of her demands in this instance. I point out that the Queensland Government, in conjunction with the New South Wales Government, entered into a purely mail contract with a line of steamers running to Vancouver. That purely Australian service has been, for a number of years, paid for by New South Wales and Queensland. Whilst the Other States have received the benefit of that service, they have not contributed a single cent, towards its cost. I have here a memorandum of what the service cost to New South Wales and Queensland. Upon the transfer of the Post and Telegraph Department to the Commonwealth the subsidy paid by Australia for the service was£17,500 per annum, of which New South Wales paid £10,000, and Queensland £7,500. In 1903, the Commonwealth Government extended that contract for a further period of two years, the Australian subsidy being increased to . £23,863 12s. 3d. ; the cost still being borne only by Queensland and New South Wales. The contribution of New South Wales, under the extended contract, was £13,636 7s. per annum, and of Queensland £10,227 5s. 3d. That contract is in existence at the present moment, and though the other States are enjoying the benefit of it as much as are New South Wales and Queensland, they are not contributing a single farthing towards the. subsidy.
-Col. Gould. - That is being altered now.
– It is to be altered in a new contract, which, I believe, will shortly come before us, and under which the subsidy will be further increased to £26,626 16s. This amount is to be apportioned amongst the six States on a per capita basis as follows: - New South Wales. £9,738 9s. 9d. ; Victoria, £8,088 4s. 2d. ; Queensland, . £3,486 zs. 3d. ; South Australia, £2,49011s. 4d. ; Western Australia, . £1,619 3s 6d. ; and Tasmania. £1,204 5s. So that, in future, if the contract for that service is ratified, the people of Western Australia, whose representatives are raising the present outcry against the little concession proposed to Queensland, will be asked to pav only £1,619 3s. 6d.. If any State will reap a greater advantage from the contract which we are asked to ratify than another, it is Western Australia, because Fremantle is the first port of call on the inward trip and the last port of call on the outward trip. When the mail-boats arrive at that port, they are loaded with passengers, who spend a great deal of money in Fremantle and Perth. Therefore, I think it comes with exceedingly bad grace from the representatives of the State which derives the chief advantage from this contract to try to deprive Queensland of the small advantage which is proposed to be given to her by the motion. Queensland will get no advantage similar to that which will be obtained bv Western Australia in that respect, because 95 or 98 per cent, ofthe inward passengers will be landed before the boats go to Brisbane, and the outward passengers will be very few compared with the total number who will be carried.
– But the boats will do coastaltrade.
– The coastal trade which the boats will do between Brisbane and Sydney will.be infinitesimal, because
Brisbane is the only port in the State at which the steamers will call, and the chief object in getting them to ‘call there is to enable dairy produce and produce of a like nature to be carried direct from the State to the markets of the old world. I think I have dwelt sufficiently long on the Queensland aspect of this question. Of course, I shall vote against the amendment, and I challenge Senator Pearce, if he is in earnest in upholding the principle that no contract which is not exactly constitutional shall be entered into or maintained between the Commonwealth and any company, to join with me in voting against the ratification of this contract. Because, so far as Queensland is concerned, notwithstanding this little sop which has been given to her-
– It is a sop.
– It is a miserable, paltry recognition of Queensland’s just claim to fair and Federal treatment, to allow a rebate of 3s. 8d. per mile for the voyage of the boats from Sydney to Brisbane. Were it not for the fact that it is a recognition of the principle that all the States mustbe treated alike in future contracts of this description, I should place very little value upon it, and I believe that my view is shared by a considerable section of the public in Queensland. The recognition of that principle is a valuable one. The contract, as it stands, is ‘not only unjust to Queensland, inasmuch as it forces a contribution of about £21,000 from the State over and above what she has to pay as a State of the Commonwealth in order to get the same service. But, in addition to that, the contract is, I maintain, inherently bad, and for that reason, I am prepared to join any honorable senators who are ready to vote against the motion. I shall briefly state the reasons whv I believe the contract should not Le ratified. Of course, I agree with Senator Matheson, who pointed out that in one respect it is a valuable contract, inasmuch as it has entirely disposed of the old. wornout theory that was held by honorable senators on the other side’, that it was impossible to get an efficient or qheap service unless the boats were manned with black labour.
– Remember that there was only one tender sent in.
– It was not bv reason of the conditions in regard to labour that only one tender was sent in, but because of the shipping combine.
– The honorable senator says that there is a combine, but nobody has ever proved that there is.
– I ask the honorable senator if he only believes in things which are capable of clear legal and physical proof ?
– The honorable senator states what is a fact, but he cannot prove it.
– The honorable senator has said hundreds of things which are facts, but which he cannot prove.
– What are they?
– If the honorable senator were asked for legal and physical proof of the Christian faith that is in him he could not give it.
– Mr. Anderson said that the black labour conditions was not the reason why the company asked for a larger subsidy.
– It is wonderful how pleased the members of the Labour Party are to quote Mr. Anderson as a witness in this matter.
– We do not want the evidence of partisan witnesses ; we prefer to put our political enemies in the box, and make them prove our case. At a meeting of the company on the 29th April last, Mr. F. Green, chairman of the board of directors, referred to this very contract in these terms : -
One of the obligations imposed upon them by the new contract was that they were to carry only white crews, but they would part with their Lascars with regret, for the latter were efficient firemen, and were more fitted for work in the tropics than were white men. The idea that they had asked for an increased subsidy owing to this obligation was erroneous. There was very little difference in the cost of employing white or black crews; more black men - more Lascars - had to be employed, as they were not so strong as white men, and the increased number about compensated for the higher pay given to white crews.
Here is the chairman of the board of directors of the company speaking with knowledge and authority. I agree with Senator Matheson that, in making provision for the manning of our boats with white crews Australia is adopting a far-sighted national and racial policy, because, as everybody will admit, if ever our race should have to fight for its existence it will be exceedingly necessary that our first line of defence - our naval forces, no matter in what part of the Empire they may be - shall be available and efficient. Unless we have a white mercantile marine to draw upon for the manning of our naval defences it will be utterly impossible for us to have available in the time of need a large and efficient body of men of our own race and colour to help us to maintain our position. If a large section of our mercantile marine is to be manned by coloured crews, where shall we get that large reserve of white naval men to draw upon? They will not exist. If the policy of employing coloured crewsto any large extent is to prevail then “ the boys of the bulldog breed “ and “ the sonsof the sea” will not be available. I ask those honorable senators who are so fond of advocating the employment of coloured crews on our mail-boats and other vessels why they should not look upon this national and racial aspect of the question, especially when, as pointed out by the chairman of the Orient Steam Navigation Company, the same work can be done by fewer white than coloured men. It has been continually hurled at those who are in favour of only white seamen being employed on the mail boats that they want to force their policy upon outside people, that they want to establish a White Ocean, although the ocean is not under the control of the Commonwealth. No later than this evening Senator Walker hurled that sneer across the Chamber. We do not want to do anything of the kind. We say to the owners of the boats which come here to trade, “ You can employ any crews you please, but weshall not subsidize you for any service if you employ coloured labour.”
– We sent our letters bv the poundage system.
– That is not a sub sidy. If this contract were based on that principle we should save £80,000 a year. The service was quite as efficient under the poundage system as it is under the present contract. Our letters were taken to and delivered in England then iust as regularly and expeditiously as they are now, and’ vice versa.
– Not so regularly.
– Yes, just as regularly and expeditiously.
– Sometimes the mails- were an hour and a half or two hours late.
– And sometimes aweek.
– There was not anything of the kind. We do not wish to enforce a White Ocean policy. We have no desire to go outside our own jurisdiction.. But when we are spending our good money in subsidizing any service we should have something to say as to the conditions under which it is spent. Those who do not want to receive subsidies from us can employ any labour they choose.
– That is the argument of the cruel and tyrannical boycotter.
– There is no boycotting about it. I have a right to select with whom I shall deal, and under what conditions. In examining this contract and the correspondence which led up to it, I find that the amount to be paid is £20,000 more than the late PostmasterGeneral considered to be fair and reasonable. Mr. Sydney Smith stated emphatically that he would not consent to pay more than £100,000.
– But pressure from the commercial world necessitated it.
– The commercial world ! A little handful of big merchants, wielding a disproportionate amount of influence in Sydney and Melbourne, could bring pressure to bear on the Commonwealth Government to have this wrong done. And they did bring pressure to bear. We are told that the Labour Party favours class legislation, yet here we have Senator Gray shamelessly admitting that the Government which he supported was guilty of a gross piece of class legislation in making this contract;
– Absolutely nothing of the kind.
– That is the logical effect of the honorable senator’s statement. The influence of a handful of traders in Melbourne and Sydney, calling themselves the commerical world, could, because they had the press at their back, bring about the making of this contract. Every one knows that enormous pressure was brought to bear upon the Reid-McLean Government by the commercial people of Melbourne and Sydney, but the matter did not affect the general public of the Commonwealth one iota. They did not care whether the contract was entered into or not. Our mails were as regularly and expeditiously carried under the poundage system as they are being carried now, at £80,000 per annum less cost. That, surely, is a very important consideration. When on the top of that we have an admission from the late Postmaster-General that not a penny beyond £100,000 ought to have been paid, the contract is surely sufficiently condemned.
– The amount we pay is only £u 0,000 nett, because we get back £10,000.
– I am inclineid to believe that that set. off is very mythical indeed. I also take up the ground that the contract is unconstitutional, because it discriminates between State and State. It is undoubtedly a trading as well as a mail contract. We are making a payment of £120,000 a year to the Orient Steam Navigation Company to obtain certain concessions and specified services, included in which are the providing of refrigerating machinery and cool storage. Every one must admit that cool storage is not required for the carriage of mails. Therefore, the conditions requiring the company to provide refrigerating machinery are outside the requirements of a mail contract. They are, I contend, unconstitutional, because the same facilities are not provided for each State. The contract practically offers a bounty to those States at whose ports the vessels are compelled to call. It will be admitted that the mail boats have practically finished their work, so far as a mail contract, strictly speaking, is concerned, as soon as they have delivered their mails at Adelaide. But the contract compels them to go on to Melbourne and Sydney. They may proceed beyond Sydney if they choose, but they must call at that port on the way backClause 3 of article 4 of the contract says -
The contractors shall be at liberty at their own option to continue the outward voyage (that is, from the United Kingdom) of any mail ship beyond Sydney, after calling at Sydney, and tocommence the homeward voyage (that is, to the. United Kingdom) of the said mail ship, from any port, provided she calls at Sydney.
It is remarkable that Melbourne is not mentioned in that clause as well as Svdney. It appears to me that Melbourne hasbeen overlooked in that instance. But I maintain that the provisions to which I have referred make it a trading contract which offers special facilities to some States that are not extended to others. Therefore, the provisions1 are unconstitutional ; and I believe that if any State which felt itself to be aggrieved were to have the point tested by the High Court, the contract would be disallowed. I am glad that the present Government have recognised, in a small way, the just claims of Queensland in this matter. But, nevertheless, I believe that my State has been grossly and shamefully ill-treated. So-‘ also has Tasmania. I hold that it is the duty of the representatives of those States- in the Senate - which is a States House - to make an effective protest in defence of their rights. I. am prepared to go the full length of refusing to ratify the contract, and if any honorable senator calls for a division against the motion, I shall vote with him. It has been urged that we must make the best ofa bad bargain. I do not share that view, because our position, if we refuse to ratify the contract, will be no worse than it was before it was prepared. Under the poundage system, we were as well served in respect of the conveyance of our mails as we have been since.
– The mail boats did not go to Queensland, though.
– Queensland is under no obligation, either to the Commonwealth, or to the Orient Steam Navigation Company. She has to pay about£26,000 for the privilege of having the boats calling at Brisbane. If there was no mail contract at all, I believe the vessels wouldgo to Brisbane for that payment just the same. I do not be lieve that it costs a great deal more because we compel the vessels to call at. Melbourne and Sydney, but I do object to the recognition by the Commonwealth of the principle of compelling the vessels to call at those two ports, without extending the same privilege to every other State. I also take up the position that a mail service of this kind should be paid for as a mail service only, and that we should not incur the expense attached to providing, subsidiary services. The Commonwealth should enter into a mail contract purely as a mail’ contract, and if it were desired that trading facilities should be afforded by the samevessels, that should be done bv agreement with the States, and every State should pay for the privilege. Then, if any particular State stood out from the agreement, it would not have to pay its share of the cost.
– Then the vessels would not take mails tothe States that did not pav.
– They only take mails to Adelaide now. The Commonwealth should concern itself with the mail contract and nothing else : but the States could make arrangements with the Commonwenlth for trading facilities on thevessels which the Commonwealth subsidized. If that were done. Queensland would have no cause of complaint, because she would not have to pay more than her nroportionate share. If,onthe contrary, Queensland did propose to come in, she would enjoy to the full the facilities for which she was paying. But under the mail contract system, which is abortive so far as some of the States are concerned, Queensland has to pay her full proportion, while shedoes not get her fair share of the benefits. We have been told times out of number, whenever it has been proposed to introduce a radical measure which would be for the benefit of the masses of the people, that the powers of this Parliamentare limited by the Constitution, and that we should not engage in trading or trespass on the rights of the States. But here we have had the Commonwealth Government trespassing on the rights of the. States in this contract.
– Is this not a case of a State trespassing on the rights of the Commonwealth?
– Queensland has not done anything of which she need be ashamed, but only what she was compelled to do for her own protection.
– Constitution or no Constitution- !.
– There is nothing unconstitutional in the arrangement entered into by the Queensland Government.
– I referred to granting aid to exporting, without the consent of the Federal Parliament.
– Queensland has, not done that Senator Guthrie has discovered a mare’s nest.
– I was not referring to that point. What I say is that Queensland is granting a subsidy to the Orient Steam Navigation Company, as a means of aiding production and export; and section 91 of the Constitution says that that cannot be done unless both Houses of Parliament consent by resol ution .
– I read the Constitution somewhat differently. That section applies only when one State attempts to obtain bounties or facilities for trading which no other State may enjoy.
– The section does not say anything about any other State.
– Section 91 of the Constitution is as follows: -
Nothing in this Constitution, prohibits a State from granting any aid or bounty on mining for gold, silver, or other metals, nor for granting, with the consent of both Houses of the Parliament of the Commonwealth expressed by resolution, any aid to or bounty on the production or export of goods.
– This is surely an aid ?
– It is an aid of £6,000 for the export of butter.
– Queensland is lot granting any aid or bounty for the export of goods. All that Queensland does is to provide, by her own action, for her producers and exporters the same facilities that are given to the producers and exporters of other States, with the exception of Tasmania, at the Commonwealth expense. The Commonwealth Government provide those facilities for New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia, and Western Australia at the expense of the people of Queensland, along with people of the other States, ou!. the same facilities are not provided for Queensland or Tasmania. Queensland had to step in and take action for the protection of her own citizens ; and are we to be told that such action is illegal and unconstitutional ? I, for one, intend to stand up for the fair and just treatment of the smaller States; and 1 hope other honorable senators will do the same. I shall vote against the amendment; and I challenge Senator Pearce, if he is sincere in regard to the Constitution provisions about which he made such a “blow,” to help me to destroy the contract altogether. I venture to say that he is not “ game “ to dp so.
– Had it not been that on several occasions you, Mr. President, have refused to decide questions of the kind, I should have asked you .to say whether the portion of the motion which it is proposed to expunge, is in conformity with the Constitution. However, under the circumstances I am quite content to discuss the motion as it appears before us. Every honorable senator will, I think, agree that the Commonwealth Government had no option but to enter into this contract with the Orient Steam Navigation Company.
– I suppose the honorable senator says that because the contract suits Western Australia?
– I do not see why the honorable senator should make that remark. As a. matter of fact, Western Australia is quite indifferent in this matter, because it! is certain that whatever other . ports may be passed by_ the mail boats, Fremantle, owing to the trade which is there to be found, is bound to be a port of call. This contract had ‘to be entered into, or the Commonwealth mails carried on the poundage system ; and, under the circumstances, I do not see that the Government could have made a much better bargain, although there is a substantial increase in the subsidy. Whatever Government had been in office, I daresay the same set of circumstances would have brought about the same result. But something must be done to insure that the same circumstances do not again arise. Senator Keating has intimated, in an indefinite kind of way, that some steps will be taken in the future to that end ; but we have not been taken into his1- confidence as to what is proposed. If something is not done, there is no doubt that, as the time for the termination of the contract approaches, we shall find ourselves in a similar predicament to that of some months ago. There is no lack of evidence that, not only amongst the oversea shipping companies, but also amongst the coastal shipping companies there is a ring; and unless drastic means are taken, the evil influence of the combination will be felt whenever contracts of this nature are under negotiation. On the coast the effects of the ring are not so apparent, because the mail contracts with the local companies are of a comparatively minor character. It is only when a large sum - such a sum as £120,000 - is involved, ‘ that we realize the full power of a combination of the kind I have indicated. Some time ago a Select Committee, of which Senator Keating was chairman, considered proposals for the provision of better shipping facilities between the mainland and Tasmania, and unless the recommendations in the report of that Select Committee, or others of a like character, are taken advantage of. State-owned railways ought to be followed by State-owned shipping.
– How far would the honorable senator propose to send the State-owned steamer - to England ?
– I should send the vessels as far as the service required. . Whether State-owned vessels are sent to the other side of the world, or only to Tasmania, does not affect the principle. The railway companies of England own the steamers which carry the mails to the Continent of Europe and to Ireland ; so that the suggestion I am making is no innovation. When our pockets are hit, as in the case of the present contract, honorable members must realize’ that private enterprise is not such a sacred thing after all. The late Senator Reid advocated the advisability of State-owned steamers as a means of lowering the freightage in the interest of the merchants of Flinders-lane, so that even the most ardent advocates of private enterprise sometimes abandon the principle when their own interests are at stake. Some time ago a Royal Commission was appointed in Western Australia to consider the question of ocean freights, and notwithstanding the fact that all the witnesses were drawn from the commercial classes, a large number advocated State-owned steamers, with a view of lowering the oversea charges. In proof of that, I quote the following from the report of the Commission : -
The majority of the witnesses examined, whilst expressing dissent from Government interference with private enterprise as a general principle, we,re in favour of Government taking action in the case of a monopoly so opposed to the general interests as that of the shipping ring. Whilst your Commissioners would welcome the establishment of an Australian mercantile fleet under Commonwealth control, for the transport of mails and cargo between Australia and the United Kingdom, and capable of being commissioned in time of war, we believe this ideal is not yet within measurable distance.
– I suppose that Commission was formed of members of Parliament ?
– Oh !
– There is an old adage of which I should like to remind Senator Gray : “ It’s an ill bird that fouls its own- nest.” Why should Senator Gray cast reflections upon members of Parliament ?
– I was not doing so. I was referring to the statement that this is a purely commercial transaction.
– The majority of the witnesses who gave evidence before that Commission were commercial men. They admitted that extortionate freights were being charged and that it was necessary that something should be done to remedy the existing state of affairs. No one who has given consideration to the matter, who is aware of the freights charged to Western Australia, not only from the United Kingdom, but from the eastern States, and also of the system of deferred rebates and the way in which it operates in Western Australia, can wonder that the gentlemen connected with commercial life in that State should be anxious for an improved condition of affairs. The Commission received evi dence that rebates were being withheld for as long as three years, in order to bind merchants to do business with certain steamship companies.
– Does the honorable senator think that has anything to do with the Orient Steam Navigation Company’s contract ?
– I think it has.
– The question is whether we shall affirm or shall not affirm a contract -with the Orient Steam Navigation Company.
– I think the remarks I am making are quite pertinent to that question. If they have no bearing on it, I am at a loss to understand what we have been discussing all the night.
– The Senate has been discussing a mail contract with the Orient Steam Navigation Company.
– It is a mail contract, but it is also something else.
– It conveys no suggestion of a shipping ring.
– Has it not been argued over and over again that it is because of the .existence of a shipping ring that the Commonwealth Government has been “ got at “ in the way it has been under this contract? It has been contended that it is because of the existence of a shipping ring that there was only one tenderer for the contract.
– Not a shipping ring amongst local steam-ship owners.
– We are certainly not dealing with the local steam-ship owners at the present time ; but I merely mentioned that there was a local shipping ring as well as a shipping ring controlling oversea ships.
– The honorable senator cannot prove either.
– If Senator Gray takes any interest in this matter he will have very little trouble in obtaining plenty of proof of the existence of a ring in both instances.
– If the honorable senator has the proof, why does he not give it to the Senate?
– I have not the proof at hand, but I can tell Senator Gray where he can get it in abundance. He has only to read the evidence taken by the Navigation Commission and by the Western Australian Commission to. which I have referred.
– The honorable senator must be aware that for many years oversea freights have been relatively very low as compared with coastal freights; and it is with oversea freights that we are now dealing.
– I quite grant that ; but Senator Pulsford must admit that, whilst freights between the United Kingdom and Australia are lower than Australian coastal freights, owing to the action of a strong shipping ring in the United Kingdom, freights are much lower from America to Australia than from the United Kingdom to this country.
– The American freights are so low that the companies are losing money.
– To which companies does the honorable senator refer ?
– I must ask the honorable senator not to be led away from the subject. American freights have really nothing to do with the question before the Senate.
– I should like to say that the Orient Steam Navigation Company at the present time charges a freight rate of 65s. per ton between London and Perth.
– For what class of goods ?
– I cannot say, but I should imagine that would be about the average rate charged. The same company charges freight between London and Melbourne, six days further steaming, at the rate of only 50s. per ton for the same kind of cargo.
– And to Sydney, I suppose, they would charge only 40s. a ton.
– I cannot say that the rate is lower to Sydney than to Melbourne, but I will say that it is more likely to be less than more. I attribute, that to the fact that a small port like Fremantle cannot do as big a trade as a port like Melbourne, and is, in consequence, not in so good a position to secure low rates of freight. I assume that the Government, instead of making any special arrangement for the advantage of Melbourne and Sydney, would decide that a uniformly fair rate should be charged in respect of all ports.
– If we had State steamers the honorable senator would advocate a mileage freight rate?
– I suppose that the Government would charge according to the services rendered to the people. We have had sufficient evidence given before the Navigation Commission, the Western Australian Commission, and the Select Committee presided over by Senator Keating to show that, unless we are prepared to take the bull by the horns, and provide a proper service of our own, we shall never be in any better position than we have been in the past to secure an economical service for the carriage of our mails and produce. It rests with the Government to say whether thev will recognise that. I may be told that what is proposed is a new departure, and a dangerous experiment which we should not undertake ; but I have already pointed out that the railway companies of the United Kingdom have their own steamers, and it would certainly be to our advantage if we had our own steamers. Commander Colquhoun, who had manyyears sendee in the mercantile marine, as well as in the Navy, in giving evidence before the Select Committee, presided over by Senator Keating, said that steamers could be built in such a way that they might be used as fast cruisers for Commonwealth defence, and for the carriage of mails and ordinary cargo at other times. That is the opinion of a man whose evidence should have some weight, and it should convince the Government that something should be done to provide our own steamers.
– We can provide anything if we like to pay for it.
– I am afraid that we have to pay a great deal now and get very little for what we do pay. We have to pay for ships that are supposed to be able to defend Australia, and we have had Ministers at the same time declaring that they are nothing short of death-traps, and are of no use for Australian defence. If we can throw away £200,000 a year on vessels of that kind-
– No Minister referred to the vessels of the Squadron m that way ; the reference was to our own little boats like the Cerberus.
– I think that it will be found that the Vice-President of the Executive Council was referring to the boats of the present Australian Fleet.
– Decidedly not.
– At any rate, we are paying a very large sum of money for ships that are lying idle all the time; and I question whether, when it becomes necessary to use them in the defence of Australia, they will be found any more serviceable for that purpose than steamers which could be made use of for commercial purposes, and also be used as fast cruisers in time of war. Senator Playford smiles at these remarks, but I doubt whether the honorable senator can be quoted as an authority against a gentleman of the standing of Commander Colquhoun.
– Does the honorable senator mean to say that Commander Colquhoun said that we could get ships to carry mails which would be in fighting power as formidable as the vessels of the Squadron ?
– I do not mean to say that Commander Colquhoun contended that fast steamers useful for the carriage of mails andcargo would be as serviceable for purposes of defence as an. iron-clad. We may have to transport men from one part of Australia to another, in order to defend this country.
– The honorable senator has been comparing them with the Auxiliary Squadron, and to its disadvantage, and I contend that he is wrong;
– If it is correct, as we hear from time to time, that the Auxiliary Squadron is somewhat out of date, and that some of. the ships are obsolete, even a fast cruiser of the kind referred to by Commander Colquhoun would be quite as useful as, if not more useful than, some of the boats we have here. Whether I am correct or not time will tell. I dare say that much can be said on either side of the question. I do not pose as a naval expert. I have quoted my authority for whatever statements I have advanced. But I do hold that our steamers could be made use of for the purposes of defence. It is the duty of the Government to see that a step is taken at once to provide for a mail contract in the future, and not to wait until the last few months of the present contract before taking any action when, as occurred quite recently, the Commonwealth would have to accent the inevitable position of having to pay through the nose for a mail service.
– I rise for the purpose of supporting the motion and opposing the amendment. It is a mystery to me how our fair-dealing friend, Senator Pearce, could ever have had the temerity to move the amendment. I have listened with, great attention to what has been said, but it appears to. me that the Queensland Government were practically driven into adopting the course which they did. I regret that, although every effort was made by Queensland to induce the Minister of the day to include Brisbane in the new contract as a port of call-
– Every effort was made by the late Minister to get it done.
– Yes, and when the Government of Queensland found that Brisbane was left out in the cold they took the only course they could of. making a contract for themselves. I am not prepared to enter into the constitutional aspect of the question, because it involves most intricate points on which I am not prepared to express an opinion.I do not think that section 91 of the Constitution, which forbids a State to grant any aid to the exportation of goods without the consent of both Houses of Parliament, applies, because no particular goods or products are singled out’. When Queensland was left out in the cold, and it was found that Brisbane was the only State capital which was not to be visited by the mailboats, her Government set to work to make a contract for a special service.
– Hobart is visited by the mail-boats.
– The mail-boats do not visit Hobart under the terms of the contract, but in the fruit season they pick up an exceedingly good freight. Any honorable senators who take the point that what Queensland has done is contrary to section 91 of the Constitution, might also consider whether it is not contrary to the Constitution to have a mail contract which compels all the mail steamers to call at four States out of the six, leaving the other two States out in the cold. For that reason, I think that the amendment ought not to be considered for onemoment. It seems to me to be an unfair proposal which on its merits, ought to be rejected. Senator Pearce seems to have quite forgotten the advantageous position in which his own State stands, as against, for instance, Tasmania. Not only have the people of Tasmania to pay their share of the subsidy of £120,000, but they have to pay for delivering the letters from Tasmania to Melbourne, and for taking our foreign correspondence from Melbourne: to Tasmania. But our friends in Western Australia, for their share of the subsidy of £120,000, get the whole of their letters carried from Western 1 Australia to Adelaide for practically nothing.
– What does that cost Tasmania ?
– It does not cost Tasmania anything directly ; but, in addition to our share of that subsidy, we have to pay for other services which are rendered to Western Australia for practically nothing. Many questions arise under the contract which some day. will have to Le settled by the High Court. What I particularly wish to deal with are some -statements made by Senator .Matheson, which, of course, were backed up by members of the Labour Party. I believe that the cause of the whole trouble, amd the extra’ expense, despite Mr, Anderson’s statement to the contrary, is the “white labour” section in the Post and Telegraph Act. It is perfectly true that under certain circumstances Sir. Anderson said that the necessity of replacing the lascars with white labour only would not increase the subsidy. But I think that certain facts could be submitted under which he would probably change his mind. Leaving that gentleman to speak for himself, the extra subsidy of £40,000, and all the trouble and suspense ‘which were caused to a little handful of merchants, or, as Senator Givens said, the commercial community, was entirely due to the fact that, owing to the white labour provision, we rn-l no competition for the service. We had to break away from the Imperial contract, and to give up the little claim which we had to Federation with the mother country. We were at the mercy of the Orient Steam Navigation Company, and we simply had to make the best terms we could. I think it is perfectly clear that, owing to the absence of any competition, we had to pay a higher subsidy.
– Surely the honorable senator did not expect that there would be any competition between that company and the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company.
– Mv honorable friend has got a little point there; but it is answered by the fact that England made with the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company a contract of which we could have taken advantage, at a . saving of some -^”40,000. I -leave my honorable friend to his little theoretical poi’nt, but I beg to remind him that the direct result of the white labour provision is that we have to pay £40,000 for the pleasure of driving our British black subjects out of the stoke-holds. I was verymuch astonished to hear him use that argument. He generally gets up his case very well, and is usually well versed in the facts, but the British Government has happened to call 280,000,060 persons in India British subjects. My honorable friend denied that fact, and went on to make the most extraordinary statement that these coloured citizens in India were not treated on a parity with other British subjects, as it was considered that they were not fit to take part in the defence of the country. He quite forgot that there are about 70,000 coloured soldiers in India, and that they have been used for the defence of the Empire. He seems to have forgotten that some of the Indian troops were the first to get inside the legations at Pekin, and save the British Ambassador and his wife from being massacred. If he did not forget that fact he ignored it, in order to make a little point. He seems to imagine that these black fellow-subjects of ours were absolutely discarded because they were unfit to be soldiers.
– It is a matter of fact that they were discarded, as I can prove.
– I venture to say that my honorable friend is wrong in that respect. He also made another very great mistake. He said it was astonishing to find how many people in England believed that the white labour section would greatly increase the cost to which the Commonwealth would be put for the conveyance of its mails. I can quite understand that thousands of persons in Great Britain were of that opinion, because every member of the Labour Party in the Senate, and every labour member and agitator outside the Chamber, denied what Senator Givens read just now. They would not take any of the evidence that was submitted that there would be little, if any, difference in the cost of white as compared with black labour. They all declared in their arguments, letters, and newspaper articles, that it was simply because black labour was so cheap that it was retained, and as they were in favour of class legislation, they wanted to turn their black brothers out _ of the stoke-holds to make -room for their white brothers. I do not think I ever heard Senator Matheson before make so many atrocious blunders or statements which were contrary to the fact.
– We made the honorable senator climb down from his attitude, anyway.
– I do not think that my honorable friends did. I look upon the white-labour provision as most unjust and inhumane, as I have said in every part of my little State, and the day will come when my honorable friends will have to alter the section. Do they suppose that the Government of Great Britain are going to alter it? Do they suppose that they can carry on with this system? Do thev suppose that, while the motherland, with her millions of citizens, acknowledges these coloured men as our fellow citizens, we can say that they are not? If my honorable friends are going, to cut Australia off from the Empire, and set up a ‘republic with a president, then Senator de Largie will be right. But until that is done, he is entirely in the wrong. I propose now to deal with Senator Stewart. It is all very well, when an honorable senator has one compact in front of him, and one point to consider, to theorize and lay down the law. When my honorable friend says he believes in entering into a mail contract only, and not in considering the requirements of the producers, or what refrigerating accommodation the mail-ships should provide, he is simply going contrary to the opinion of every producer, shipper, and merchant in the Commonwealth. As Senator Playford interjected, the merchants and producers from one end of a State to the other have demanded that this accommodation shall be provided. They see with the eye of common sense that when you are asking certain boats to come here to carry your letters it would not cost much to ask them to come with their holds in such a condition that they could take away perishable products. It would be simply ridiculous to confine this contract to the carriage of letters. Even if the carriage of produce is a State matter, we ought to co-operate with the States, and still make the one contract. Fancy honorable senators who pretend to be business men wanting to place us at the mercy of the ship-owners by entering into a contract for the carriage of mails, insisting upon the provision of refrigerating chambers, and possibly also the carriage of general cargo. Is that the way in which to make a good bargain ? On the contrary, is it not the way in which to play into the hands of the shippers?
– There is no necessity for a contract about refrigerating chambers. Has the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company got a contract to provide refrigerating chambers ?
– I have heard my honorable friend say that there is no occasion for us to pay a subsidy to the British Navy because if we did not we should get just the same protection from the British Navy as we do now. I decline to argue with any one who uses that sort of argument. If my honorable friend now says that there was no occasion to stipulate for the provision of refrigerating chambers because the mail steamers would call at all the ports, and that, therefore, we ought to pay nothing, I do not quite agree with that view.
– Do the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company get a subsidy for providing refrigerating chambers ?
– My honorable friend forgets that that company is subsidized by Great Britain to bring out letters.
– And for providing refrigerating chambers ?
– I do not know that that stipulation is in the contract.
– Exactly so.
– Suppose that it is, is it not much better to be sure than to be sorry ? Is it not much better when we know that we have butter, fruit, rabbits, and lambs, which require special accommodation, to arrange for a contract covering all that we require?
– Not unless it is necessary.
– Is not that commonsense business? I venture to say that if my honorable friend were making a contract on behalf of himself he would consider it necessary to have one contract, and to secure all the advantages thereunder that he could get.
– If it had been left to the Imperial Government, would they have taken all these things into consideration ?
– I dare say that the Imperial Government would have taken into consideration anything which we represented, but of course they would not have carried it out. They had to take into consideration the fact that the Commonwealth was going to repudiate 200,000,000 citizens of the Empire. Honorable senators know perfectly well that the Imperial Government has always given the fullest attention to the most petty details we could lay before them as to our requirements.
– In 1894 or 1895 the Imperial Government, when asked by the Agents-General, refused to have anything to do with the carriage of produce or with refrigerating machinery, and said that they only wanted a mail contract.
– How long ago waa that?
– It was while I was Agent-General for South Australia ; I think in 1895.
– It is all very well for Agents-General to come back to Australia ten years out of date. But the world has gone ahead since 1895. I think that the British Government now recognises that a great deal of the butter and meat consumed by the people of England comes from this part of the world, and that it can only be taken to England by providing means for its carriage.
– The Imperial Government has made no such provision in the contract with the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company, and that is a proof that they do not want to do it.
– What is the use of talking nonsense like that, when the British Government knows that its people require millions of pounds’ worth of perishable produce, and that we -want to send it to them ? Of course, it is. not the purchaser who requires to enter into a contract for the carriage of produce; it is the producer who wants such facilities. I do not say that this new contract is an advantageous one. It will cost us more by £40,000 than the old one. But that is owing to the white labour section. I have no sympathy with the idea of establishing a line of steamers, owned by the Government, for the carriage of our mails. We should lose hundreds of thousands of pounds a year bv it. That is the last thing that I hope to see the Commonwealth do. Whether we are going eventually to socialize everything is more than I can say, but I hope it will not be in my time. I intend to vote for the contract, though I repeat that the increased payment is due to the white labour section.
– Like Senator Dobson, I intend to vote in favour of the contract with the Orient Steam Navigation Company. There is not the slightest doubt that one of the greatest mistakes we made was in not calling for tenders for a mail service earlier. We left the matter until too late to improve our position.
– Tenders were invited in September, 1903.
– I am glad to hear Senator Drake’s remark. I must be wrong upon that point. But it strengthens my argument that the increased price must have been due to the white labour section.
– Then the chairman of the Orient Steam Navigation Company must be a liar?
– He is not the chairman of the whole of the shipping companies. Something has been said about the commercial community being only a handful of people in Australia. The commercial community is the whole community. Senator Givens is a member of it, and so am I. I was one of the deputation which waited upon the late Postmaster-General in reference to this matter, and we certainly represented more than a mere handful. As to Senator Matheson’ s remark in reference to the term “ British subjects “ not including Indians, I suppose that he would not include the Maories.
– They are subjects of Great Britain.
– When I was in England at the Coronation, no troops were more admired than the Indians. Some of the ‘ men were as big as members of the British cavalry. One reason why I support this contract is that because it is intended to carry postal matter it is nominally a postal contract; and that gets over the difficulty which has been mentioned in regard to section 91 of the Constitution. All the States are treated alike in respect to the carriage of mails. Some remarks have been made with reference to the poundage system, and it has been said that we got our letters just as quickly by that system as we do now. That is absolutely not the case. Recently, in Sydney, mails were delivered by the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company in thirty-one days from the time of their leaving London.
– The Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company’s boats are not quicker than are the French and German boats.
– Mails come to Sydney by the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company’s boats much quicker than bv any other vessels. I admit that the French and German lines are magnificent, but their vessels stop longer en route-. I am surprised that the Western Australian senators have not .emphasized the fact that when the railway connecting that State with the eastern States is completed, it will not be necessary to make a contract with the mail companies to go further than Fremantle. I am one of those who think’ that a mail contract should be confined to mail purposes, but, as other States receive extra advantages, I do not see why Queensland should not be included. As to Queensland, however, it must be remembered that Brisbane is not the whole State, and I expect that Rockhampton will begin to grumble that the capital is being too liberally treated. Honorable senators are mistaken in thinking that we have no right to expect the mail companies to do more than carry our mails. It must be remembered that mail coaches are compelled to carry so many passengers. In many cases we do not permit our mails to be carried on horse-back when that might be done, but provide that coaches shall be employed, for the convenience of passengers. A similar agreement is made in this case, and there is no harm in it.
– Provided that all States are treated alike.
– Of course, they should be ‘treated alike. A mail contract involves a -per capita tax all round. I am totally opposed to the idea of the Commonwealth Government owning vessels to carry mails.
– I am an individualist, not a Socialist.
– Then why does not the honorable senator carry his own mails?
– I have no mails to carry.
– Is the honorable senator in favour of privately-owned railways as against State-owned railways ?
– I am in favour of private as well as State railways, and when I was a. young man at Rockhampton I remember opening a debate in favour of that proposition. Great Britain ‘has ‘gone ahead by reason of private enterprise, at all events. My vote will certainly go with the Government in this matter, and I hope that those honorable senators who have not yet addressed the Senate will followmy. example in making a brief speech.
Senator MACFARLANE ((Tasmania).I should not have risen ^except for the purpose of removing a misapprehension. I shall ‘support the motion in the first place, because we are committed to the contract with the Orient Steam Navigation Company, and are already enjoying the privileges which it secures to us. Secondly, I support it because we cannot do any better. We cannot expect any competing company to enter the field. For that reason, I am surprised to hear several honorable senators say that there is a combine or a shipping ring that has prevented a number of tenders from being submitted. That statement is quite contrary to fact. I prove that in this way. Two years ago Senator Drake was !f.uH of expectation that he would, receive a large number of tenders. I pointed out to him and to the Senate that there is not the number of fast steamers on the British ‘ register to enter the field. There are only forty-six steamers on the British register sailing over sixteen knots an hour. We require eighteen of those vessels for Australia, leaving a very small number for the Atlantic trade. That was the case two years ago. It is still true. I have before me Whittaker’s Almanac for this year, which shows that the increase in the number of fast steamers has been very small indeed. I really think that those who talk about having fast steamers owned by the Commonwealth do not know the meaning of what they are saying.
– What are the rates at which the mail steamers travel now?
– They have to be capable of steaming sixteen knots sometimes, in order to carry out their contract of fifteen knots ; because, when a vessel experiences very’ bad weather, she possibly cannot’ make more -than twelve or fourteen knots per’ hour. She has to make up the loss iri fine weather. That is simply a matter of fact”. A vessel to keep her time has to ‘make up iri good weather what she loses in bad. In view of the small number of fast steamers available I do not know how any one can suppose that a shipping ring has prevented tenders being sent in.
– That does not prove that there is not a combine.
– There are not ‘enough fast steamers to ‘make it worth while to form a combine.
– Do we get a sixteenknot service now?
– I think that the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company’s service is fifteen knots, and that the Orient Steam Navigation Company’s serviceis close up to that figure.
– The best of our coastal vessels are faster than the old mail-boats were.
– Undoubtedly; but it must be understood that the faster we want our service to be the more we shall have to pay for it. The point I wish to emphasize is, however, that there is really no room for a combine.
The PRESIDENT having called on Senator Drake,
– I should like to ask whether there is any new standing order in accordance with which you, sir, call upon honorable senators?
– Senator Drake has risen several times. He rose before Senator Macfarlane.
– I have been rising all the afternoon and evening.
– I have not seen the honorable senator rise at all until now.
– I should like to say a few words before the debate closes, because I have some little acquaintance with the subject. If the Senate is to come to a correct judgment, we must take into consideration the circumstances under which the contract was made. The case has been very fairly stated by the Minister, and what I have to say is rather complementary to his remarks. The previous agreement made by the British Postmaster-General, to which all the Colonies assented before Federation, contained the condition that Sydney should be the terminus of the service. There was one clause in the agreement expressly allowing, steamers to go on as far as Newcastle, evidently for the purpose of coaling, but Sydney was to be the terminus, and the steamers for coastal or ordinary cargo purposes were not allowed to go past that port. That agreement was assented to, as I say, by all the Colonies when they agreed to pay their share towards the Australasian subsidy. A former Government began to call for tenders, not in 1904, as Senator Walker erroneously stated, but on the 3rd September, 1903. Senator
Walker, I may mention, was evidently misled, because he had in his hand a paper containing the advertisement calling for tenders in 1904. At the time I was PostmasterGeneral, the advertisement had been drawn up, and it was adopted by my successor, Sir Philip Fysh, and issued soon after he took office. That advertisement of 3rd September asked for tenders for carrying the mails between Adelaide and Naples, or Brindisi, via the Suez Canal, or between Adelaide and Colombo or Aden, fortnightly each way, calling at Fremantle and at such ports as might be mutually agreed on. After the delivery of the mails at Adelaide, the steamers had to proceed to Melbourne and Sydney. That was following the lines of the contract under which Australia had been working for a long time, and then was added the first innovation in the old contract -
Tenderers are invited to state the additional sum required to proceed further to Pinkenba in the port of Brisbane.
Up to that time Sydney had been the terminus, and the steamers could go no further. Then under another heading of the advertisement - and honorable senators will notice how wide this is - tenders were asked for carrying, the mails - between a port in Australia and a port in the United Kingdom, by such route as may be specified by the tenderer, fortnightly each way.
Tenders were called for in that way in order to leave the widest possible range, so that we might get from the shipping companies some offer acceptable to Australia. That advertisement was not successful in eliciting a single tender, and it became necessary, therefore, to modify the conditions under which we were willing to accept a contract. I may mention also that during the time the matter was under consideration, the Government . were strongly pressed to include a number of other conditions which find no place in the present contract. The condition as to refrigerating spaces, which is also in the present contract, was followed by others respecting the carriage of fruit. If I remember rightly, there was one condition that the contractors were to be liable for every case of fruit landed in a damaged condition. In short, the conditions were so numerous and so stringent that no shipping company was willing to tender. When Mr. Mahon became PostmasterGeneral, he issued another advertisement, which may be found in the paper which has been circulated. This advertisement contained the following : -
Between Adelaide and Naples, Brindisi or other suitable port in the Mediterranean, vid the Suez Canal, fortnightly each way, calling at Fremantle, and at such other ports as may be mutually agreed on.
I ask the Senate to note the following : -
Tenderers are invited to state the additional sum, if any, required to proceed further (i) to Melbourne, (2) to Sydney, (3) to Pinkenba in the port of Brisbane, and (4) to all o’r any of these ports.
There, again, the conditions were put in ihe widest possible way, so that there should be no favouritism.
– The advertisement did not ask tenderers to state what additional sum would be required for calling at Brisbane.
– I shall deal with that matter directly.
The Senate is aware of the long negotiations which took place afterwards with the Orient Steam Navigation Company. There were only two tenders - one by the Orient Steam Navigation Company, and one by the Scott Fell Company. The latter was for a service to Bombay only, for which £95,000 was asked, with an additional £20,000 for calling at Brisbane. As the service was to Bombay only, it would have been, for commercial purposes, practically useless. The Orient Steam Navigation Company, in their tender, first of all asked for £170,000, and eventually reduced the sum to £120,000, their tender being, honorable senators must bear in mind, to come to Adelaide only. I think Senator Pearce was wrong in saying there was- any alteration in the Orient Steam Navigation Company’s offer, after they first put in their tender, so far as the ports of call were concerned. From the first, the tender was to land the mails at Adelaide, and then proceed to Melbourne and Sydney, as before ; in fact, the company were tendering on the lines of the old contract, and under the old conditions. The PostmasterGeneral again and again endeavoured to induce the Orient Steam Navigation Company to state what sum they would require additional to go on to Brisbane; and, although there were a great many interviews, the gist is given in the minute of the PostmasterGeneral which appears on page 16 of the paper circulated. In that minute Mr. Sydney Smith says -
I therefore suggested to Mr. Anderson that the conditions of any proposed contract should asclosely as possible follow the whole of the provisions of the r8g7 agreement between the Imperial Government and the Orient Company, and alsothat the necessary conditions as to white labour* and, if possible, making Brisbane a port of call, as well as providing for cold storage accommodation, should be inserted in any agreement between the company and the Commonwealth Government.
I know personally that Mr. Smith tried hard to induce the company to make some arrangement of the kind, and in his minute he proceeds -
I strongly urged Mr. Anderson to arrange for the vessels of the’ Orient line to journey from and to Sydney and Brisbane on each trip, but he informed me such an arrangement would necessitate the employment of an additional vessel* which the company could not undertake at the present juncture to employ. He promised, however, that the matter would receive attention at art early date, and clause ‘4 of the agreement has been so worded as to permit of the desires of both myself and the Queensland Government in this respect being given effect to as soon as the Orient Company is in a position to do so at a reasonable cost.
Clause 4, of which he speaks, omits - they were working on the model of the old agreement of 1897 - the provision that made Sydney the terminus. In that contract, made by the late PostmasterGeneral, though he failed to obtain the insertion of a clause providing that the steamers should go to Brisbane, he secured “ the open door;” he removed the old condition which made Sydney the terminus, and left it open to the steamers to pass that port, as soon as arrangements could be made to make it worth their while to do so. It would have been impossible for the Queensland Government to make the arrangement they have if this contract had been drawn exactly on the lines of the original contract to which the Colonies had previously assented. It was the striking out of the embargo in clause 4, and the provision made in the new contract, that enabled the Queensland Government to make this arrangement. It is not surprising that, at the time the contract was made with the Federal Government, the Orient Steam Navigation Company would not name an amount for which they would allow their steamers to go to Brisbane, because the Queensland Government had then some sort of an arrangement - I do not know exactly what - with the Aberdeen Company, by which the steamers of that line came into the Queensland ports, and took practically all the cargo.
– The arrangement was only a remission of the port dues; there was no contract.
– Was there not an understanding that the Queensland Government would encourage shippers to use that line? In the contract which was read by Senator Guthrie, there were not only remission of port dues and other concessions, but the Queensland Government undertook to encourage the shippers of produce to favour those steamers.
– But there was no real contract in existence. .
SenatorDRAKE. - Whatever the arrangement may have been, the Aberdeen liners were induced, by the remission of port dues, to go to Brisbane, and they practically secured all the trade. The Orient Steam Navigation Company would not, for any sum that we could afford to pay, take their steamers to Brisbane empty and bring them away empty. It was, I suppose, owing to the termination of the arrangement with the Aberdeen Company that the Queensland Government have been able to invite the Orient Steam Navigation Company to send their vessels to Brisbane; and, in the arrangement made, the Queensland Government have undertaken to encourage shippers of produce to ship with the vessels of that company. It was, therefore, the prospect of trade that enabled the Orient Steam Navigation Company to name the sum of £26,000 agreed upon. It has been suggested that this arrangement is unconstitutional, but if that be so, it was unconstitutional, in the first place, for the Federal Government to endeavour to arrange with the company to take the vessels on to Pinkenba. In both the advertisements I have read, tenderers were asked to say what additional sum they would require to go to the port of Brisbane, and, clearly, at that time, it was considered perfectly constitutional that such a subsidy should be paid. The only obstacle in the way was that the Orient Steam Navigation Company would not name a price, because it was not worth their while to send their steamers to that port. Subsequent events, the cessation of relations with the Aberdeen line, and the fact that the freight previously secured by that line was left open to the Orient Steam Navigation Company, enabled them to name a price. So that they are doing now what they were not able to do at the time we were asking for tenders. It seems to me that there is nothing unconstitutional now in paying the company a certain amount to extend their service from Adelaide, past Melbourne and Sydney to Brisbane.
– That is whatwe really wished them to do at first.
– In making the contract, we opened the door in order to enable this very arrangement to be made, and now that it is found that it can be made, it seems to me that it would be a very unfair thing for us to take advantage of the fact that the company were not able to name an amount for this service at the time they entered into the contract, and to quibble by saying, now that the thing is past and gone, and Queensland has made an arrangement, that we cannot constitutionally take the burden off her hands.. I admit, of course, that it is quite a fair thing for the Parliament of the Commonwealth to consider what amount should fairly be borne by the Commonwealth Government.
– The Commonwealth is getting off very cheaply, I think.
– It would, perhaps; have been too much to ask that the whole amount of the subsidy which Queensland has agreed to pay should be recouped) but it seems to me that £6,000 is a very small proportion of it.
– Is the Queensland Government going to be satisfied with £6,000 out of £26,000?
– I do not know. The principle on which Governments have always gone in dealing with mail services on land is to pay more, in proportion to business done, for outlying services than for services nearer centres of population. In the same way, it is not unnatural to say that we should pay a higher rate for an oversea service at the extremity than between intermediate ports. I think that the Commonwealth Government and Parliament might very well have agreed to pay a larger proportion than is proposed. It would perhaps be ungracious to make too much of that. The House of Representatives has agreed to this amount, and I suppose it is a question now of ratifying the contract with this condition in it, or of refusing to do so. On the whole, I think that the contract should be accepted, but I thoroughly agree with honorable senators who have affirmed the desirability of notice being given next January to terminate the contract. That will give two years in which to secure a new service, and experience has shown that two years is not too long a time for the purpose. When the Government of which I was a member called for tenders in the first instance, we found that almost immediately there were complaints that the time allowed was too short. It takes some time for the conditions of tendering to become known at the head-quarters of the shipping companies. When they are known the companies require the best part of a year ita which to make up their minds and to tender, and a company that is not already engaged in the business of carrying mails will also require, if their tender is accepted, a long period of time in order to get their ships ready to carry out the contract. Taking everything into consideration, therefore, if we aim .at having what we might call a real Austraiian sendee, we must allow for at least two years in which to make the necessary arrangements.
– I do not know that Queensland has asked for any extra consideration in this matter. In the correspondence which passed originally between the Government of that State and the Prime Minister of the Commonwealth, it was clearly pointed out that Queensland asked for nothing which was not granted to the other States. The Prime Minister ot the Commonwealth had been holding a meeting in Brisbane, and had stated that the new service was to terminate at Adelaide, and I quote the following passage from a ‘letter written on 17th. December, 1:903, by the Premier of Queensland to the Prime Minister of the Commonwealth : -
In the speech referred to you employed language which clearly imports that in your view the existing mail contract makes Adelaide the tei minus of the service, and the companies concerned are under no obligations to send their mail ships to Melbourne and Sydney. Of course, if this view were correct, Brisbane, in regard to the contract, would be on a footing of absolute equality with Melbourne and Sydney, and could not reasonably protest against being denied a privilege which Melbourne and Sydney would owe entirely to the commercial inducements they offer to the mail companies.
That shows the position which was taken up at that time by the Queensland Government, and so far as I understand the matter that is exactly the position which is taken up at the present time, not only by the Queensland Government, but by the representatives of that State in the Federal Parliament. They contend that the contract now submitted for ratification is not only a mail contract, but is also a commercial contract. That being so, they simply ask that the same facilities shall be given to Queensland as are given to the other States. It is all very well for honorable senators to say that if the service terminated at Adelaide, the amount of the subsidy asked would be the same. That is not the question. The fact remains that conditions are included in the contract that the vessels used in the service must call at Adelaide, Melbourne, and Sydney. There is a further condition that they must make provision for the carriage of perishable products, and it has been pointed out that the arrangement with respect to the carriage of parcels is that they shall be taken on to Sydney. I have risen to speak chiefly in order to refer to some of the remarks which have been made by Senator Guthrie, who states that if we accepted this contract, as now proposed, the Commonwealth would be rendered liable to a great many obligations. 1 have only just seen the Queensland contract, but I am unable to discover that the Commonwealth would, under it. be rendered liable to any particular obligations. Clause 7 of the Queensland contract provides that -
The contractors are to have the preference of carrying all Government cargo, and the passengers of all assisted or other immigrants to Queensland under the control of the Government, at current rates of freight and passage money, but the contractors shall only be entitled to passage money of immigrants who shall be landed at Pinkenba (or elsewhere in the State at the expense of the contractors)., which passage money shall be payable in Brisbane only.
There is nothing in that. If there are passengers for whom the State Government are paying, they have a perfect right to make a contract with any steam ship company to do the work they require to be done. Clause 9 of the contract provides that -
The said Government will provide sufficient pilotage service from and to the wharf at Pinkenba and the open sea, and the assistance of the Government staff and plant in case of accident between those points.
Senator Guthrie has stated that this clause will interfere with the Federal pilot service in the event of this Department being taken over during the currency of the contract.
– We cannot take over a pilot service.
– Even suppose that we can make the pilot service a Federal Department, the clause of the contract to which I have referred does not provide that the
Government shall supply persons from the pilot service to do the necessary work. They are to provide people, efficient to act as pilots to take the company’s vessels in from Cape Moreton to Pinkenba. There is a sufficient number of men in the service of the Queensland Government competent to do this work without calling on the Queensland pilot service. When the British India Company’s boats used to run through Torres Straits, where navigation is most difficult, the services of men who did not belong to the pilot service were availed of. There would be no trouble in securing efficient men to carry out the work mentioned in clause 9 of the Queensland contract. The next clause of that contract provides that -
The Government will not enforce any port dues or other charges ordinarily leviable on shipping in the port of Brisbane.
If the Federal Parliament takes over the ports and harbors of the Commonwealth, there will be nothing to prevent the Queensland Government giving the facilities proposed to be given to the Orient Steam Navigation Company under this clause.
– When we take them over, we must do so subject to the conditions of all existing agreements.
– That is so; but in this case the Federal Government would not require to accept any responsibility, as it might be a condition with the State Government of Queensland that they should make up in a subsidy to the company the amount which they previously gained in being exempt from harbor dues.
– We have heard that sort of argument before, but in practice the result has been different, where the Federal Government has taken over liabilities.
– That has not been under a definite contract. Every one knows that this contract is subordinate to the contract being entered into between the Commonwealth and the Orient Steam Navigation Company. One clause states that if the contract between the Federal Government and the Orient Steam Navigation Company is- not ratified this proposal will drop out, and whenever that contract is terminated, if it should be ratified, the conditions under this proposal will also terminate.
– That exposes the false consideration of 3s. 8d. per mile.
– I contend that the Federal Government should have undertaken to pay the whole amount of the sub- sidy which the Queensland Government agreed to pay to the Orient Steam Navigation Company, and that there should not have been any difference made, at any rate between the capitals of the States. In connexion with railways and wharfage, the State Government have agreed to grant certain concessions to the Orient Steam Navigation Company on condition that the boats shall .call at Brisbane. Previously when they gave similar concessions to another steam-ship company no bother was raised.
– What about quarantine ?
– The agreement contains this condition -
In case the said mail ships are quarantined at Pinkenba, the Government will undertake the lightering of the cargo, and the taking and quarantining of the passengers.
Suppose that when a mail steamer arrives from Sydney she is quarantined at Pinkenba, which is situated at the mouth of the Brisbane River, the State Government are prepared to accept the responsibility of removing the passengers and the cargo, as the Federal Government would compel them to do, and, at their own expense, place them at the quarantine station, so that she may be able to leave the port. Whatever expense was incurred, it would have to be refunded by the State Government to the Federal authorities. So far as the lightering of the cargo is concerned, there would be no expense to the Federal Government. The cargo would be placed in the lighters, which would have to lie there until the ship was released, unless they resorted to fumigation. The passengers would have to be found with provisions on the island, and, instead of the Federal Government being called upon to bear the expense, the State Government would have to -refund any expenditure in that connexion. Senator Guthrie has urged that the mail steamers are entering into competition with the coastal steamers. I have always raised my voice against any competition of that description. In connexion with the Navigation Bill, or any other measure, I shall always be opposed to sea-going vessels being permitted to carry cargo or passengers from port to port on our coast. They have a right to land any passengers or cargo which they may bring from oversea, just as they have a right to pick up any passengers or cargo which they wish fo take oversea. I think it would be utterly wrong for the Government of the Commonwealth or of a State to assist oversea lines to compete with coasting vessels, which are paying considerably higher wages and giving far better conditions to their crews. I am not particularly wrapped up in this contract, and, with Senator Givens, I think that, if anything is going to be done, Queensland is entitled to receive as much consideration as the other States. If Senator Peace is prepared to vote against the ratification of the contract he shall have my support, and I should not be sorry if we were able to secure a majority against the motion.
– I am also very much in favour of voting against the ratification of this contract. But if the Federal Government are going to arrange for the payment of £120,000 to a company, and the contract is to provide for cold storage for exports from Melbourne, Sydney, and Adelaide, then I think we must do our best to get a similar concession made for exports from Brisbane and Hobart, and any other important port in the Commonwealth which demands that accommodation. I consider that this system of calling for tenders for a mail contract, and laying down a number of conditions referring to cold storage and the shipment of perishable products is a breach of the Constitution. Without a doubt, it is a bounty upon the exportation of goods. These bounties have a right to be uniform throughout the Commonwealth; but they are not uniform when they are confined to three or four States. If the Queensland Government had not arranged for the Orient Steam Navigation Company to get certain concessions if it agreed to provide the additional service for £26,000, I have no doubt that they would have tested this point in the High Court, where, I believe, they would have succeeded. I desire to say a few words in praise of the late Postmaster Genetal - Mn. Sydney Smith - for the splendid fight which he made against this company. Certainly he disappeared towards the close of the negotiation, but I assume that he had to take a back seat, so to speak, when Mr. Reid, the Prime Minister, intervened. The latter was very much against the contract until a certain resolution was passed by the Employers’ Association in Svdney! Up to that point he was. almost as strongly as Mr. Sydney Smith against accepting the terms of the company. I think he made a mistake when he gave way, because the people of the Commonwealth were, without a doubt, supporting his colleague in the stand he was taking.
– The pressure was from all round, and not from any particular quarter. Nearly all the States complained as soon as the mails began to arrive irregularly.
– A so-called great outcry was made by the various Chambers of Commerce throughout the Commonwealth, but those institutions do not represent the great bulk of the people, who, I suppose, do not receive more than halfadozen letters each per year from the old country, and are not particular to a week or two as to when they arrive. . They were getting a very fair service under the poundage system, which was adopted prior to the conclusion of this contract. The owners of these mail-boats belong to a great shipping combine which is acting like the pirates of the olden time. Senator Drake will remember that not very long ago a Brisbane merchant, Mr. T. C. Bierne, complained bitterly of the action of this combine in preventing the Aberdeen line of steam-ships from taking goods directly from the old country to Brisbane. The combine actually forced the Aberdeen line to abandon their proposal to have twentysix trips per year to Brisbane. They said, “ No, you shall not run a vessel once a fortnight; we shall permit you to run a vessel once every three weeks.” Instead of twenty-six trips a year we had only seventeen trips. Not only did the combine interfere in that way, but they also said to the Aberdeen line, “ You may take butter, but not meat.” Is it not a dreadful state of things when a shipping combine can order a company to run only seventeen trips a year instead of twenty-six, and threaten the company if they do not abide by these terms, with a competition which might lead to their extinction. Some years ago the Australian Steam Navigation Company tried to put up the price on the Queensland Government for the carriage of the northern mails from about £14,000 to £26.000. There was then at the head of the Government a very firm and forcible character in the person of the late Sir Charles Lilley, who was afterwards Chief Justice. He defeated the proposal to levy this toll upon the people of Queensland by going to Sydney and commissioning Messrs. T. S. Mort and Company to construct a steam-ship called the Governor Blackall, I think, at a cost of £16,500. The steam-ship company held out until they saw the Governor Blackall steaming up the Brisbane River, while crowds on its banks cheered her approach. Thereupon the company came down several thousand pounds in their terms, and the action of Sir Charles Lilley, so he claimed, saved Queensland the sum of £50,000.
– What was the sequel ? The company bought the steam-ship, and then put up the rates again !
– If the politicians who surrounded Sir Charles Lilley had not the same backbone as he had, and thought he was improperly interfering with private enterprise, that does not detract from the credit which is due to him, nor does it show that the action taken by a Premier of Queensland was not one to be taken by the Prime Minister of the Commonwealth. If the latter were to hold out against the shipping combine in a similar manner, we should find a different state of affairs brought about.
– There has been a big change in public opinion, too, since that time.
– No doubt there has been.
– £16,000 a year would not do it now.
– The honorable senator will see that, if the Government of Queensland could get a steamer at a cost of £16,500 to carry the mails up the northern coast, the Government of the Commonwealth might very well undertake to threaten the steam-ship companies in a similar way with regard to the carriage of the oversea mails. I shall be prepared to join any one in defeating this contract as a whole; but if a majority of members of Parliament are willing to pay the Orient Steam Navigation Company a subsidy of £120,000 per annum for certain services, I* think that Queensland should g(et its share, and that the Commonwealth should pay the sum which it has agreed to pay in connexion with the carriage of mails from Brisbane.
– I do not like the contract, and should prefer te vote against its ratification ; but if the motion is going to be carried - and I believe that it commands a majority in the Senate - I shall certainly vote against the amend ment. I cannot see any fairness in the amendment of Senator Pearce, because it must be manifest to every one that this is a mail contract pure and simple which we are asked to ratify. It should have been entered into only as regards the carriage of mails. But as the Government has gone further, and laid down the stipulation that certain facilities are tobe provided in the interests of the producers, I do not think that it is fair to discriminate between State and State, as this contract certainly does. I am quite in favour of the idea that the producer should be assisted, but this is not the proper way to do it. As the contract provides that the steamers are, after delivering the mails at Adelaide, to call at Melbourne and Sydney, I think that Queensland and Tasmania are not securing any unreasonable concessions. In fact the concession made to them is a miserable one. If the contract is to be agreed to at all, I trust that the Senate will, in fairness to Tasmania and Queensland, reject Senator Pearce’s amendment. At the same time, I believe that the earliest notice should be given of the termination of the contract at the expiration of the period.
– The earliest notice we can give is to refuse to ratify the contract at all.
– I am prepared to vote against it if Senator Givens calls for a division ; though I am satisfied that there is a majority in favour of it. I think the contract should never have been entered into, and would not have been, except that the late Government allowed itself to be bullied and dragooned by a small number of merchants into paying £38,000 more of the money of the taxpayers than there was any need to pay. There was no demand from nine-tenths of the people of Australia for departing from the poundage system.
– The position was intolerable under the poundage system.
– There was no outcry against it except from a few big merchants.
– Merchants and bankers.
– How much inconvenience did they suffer ? I venture to say that ninety-nine people out of a hundred did not know that our mails were being carried by the poundage system.
– The intelligent people did know, but, unfortunately, the majority of people are not intelligent:
– It is not given to all of us to have the intelligence of my honorable friend, but still, there are a number of people who think they are endowed with some little intelligence, and who, nevertheless, hold the opinion that Australia had a far better bargain under the poundage system than she has under this contract. It has to “be remembered that if the merchants and others to whom Senator Walker has referred had had their way, Mr. Sydney Smith would have accepted a tender for £150,000. It is a well-known fact that there was a large amount of correspondence purporting to make it appear that the commercial interests of Australia were being ruined because the contract was not signed, and that £1.50,000 was not too much to pay. But Mr. Sydney Smith stuck to his guns up to a certain point, and eventually secured a fair reduction. If the contract is to be ratified at all, I certainly think that Queensland and Tasmania should receive the small concession that it is proposed to give to them. It is to me almost inconceivable how their interests were overlooked in the first place.
– They were not overlooked ; the honorable senator could not have been here when I read what took place.
– I was here, and heard what Senator Drake said, but that does not affect what was contained in the contract. Certainly Tasmania and Queensland have not had those facilities granted to them for the export of produce that the other States have enjoyed. It is an improper thing to discriminate between State and State. Therefore, small as the concession is, yet, regarding it as a measure of compensation to Queensland and Tasmania, added on at the tail end of the agreement by the House of Representatives, I as a Tasmanian representative have to be thankful for the small mercies vouchsafed, and to accept them.
– I desire to make a few remarks on this matter, which is of considerable importance to Australia at large. I have on more than one occasion in the Senate expressed my dissent from any policy which made the Post Office subsidize national industries. I have ‘said that if the Government desired to promote any special industry, funds should be found for that purpose apart from the Post Office. Now that a contract is about to be entered into with the Orient Steam Navigation Com- ‘ pany, and the ships are to call at the principal ports of four States, and an agreement is made by a fifth State by which it pays a considerable sum to induce the vessels to go there, I cannot but realize that there is some justice in asking the Commonwealth to pay something towards that increased sum. I should have preferred, as I have said, a simple contract for the conveyance of mails from Adelaide to Europe. That is what Australia wanted. But that not having been done, Queensland has some right to complain if an agreement is entered into which confers certain benefits in which she does not participate. Queensland having made an arrangement by which the Commonwealth purse is drawn upon, naturally Tasmania also has some claim to be remembered. It appears to me that the following is something like the position in which Queensland will be supposing, the motion is carried as it stands. Towards the first sum of £120,000, I think Queensland will have to contribute about £15,000. Then Queensland has undertaken to pay to the Orient Steam Navigation Company a sum of £26,000. Out of that the Commonwealth undertakes, by this contract, to pay £4,600 ; but the Commonwealth will again debit Queensland with £930, her proportion towards the £4,600, and towards the cost of the concession to Tasmania. Queensland will pay £15,000 towards the £120,000, and £22,300 under the new contract, making a total of £37,300, plus a considerable sum in remitted port dues. How large that sum is will be apparent when I say that the amount which Queensland will pay towards the maintenance of the Orient Steam Navigation Company’s service, with the extension to Brisbane, is substantially equivalent to what the relatively more populous State of Victoria will pay. Western Australia, from whose representatives the principal objection to the proposal has come, would pay towards the £120,000 about £7,000. I would, however, remind honorable senators that, in proportion to population, the business interests of the great western State are proportionately greater than those of other States, and that, if Western Australia were to pay in proportion to the value of the services to her, or even in proportion to the number of the male population, she would be called upon to pay, not £7,000, but a sum much nearer £10,000. Under these circumstances, I think Western Australia has very little ground for complaint, and much cause for gratification. Then the geographical position of Western Australia gives her relatively much greater benefit from the mail service. From the eastern States a certain proportion of the mails for England, and all the mails for America, are taken either by the San Francisco or the Vancouver route, whereas Western Australia has the advantage of greater proximity to Europe, and much greater benefit relatively from the Suez service. Therefore, I think that Western Australia, for the reasons I have given, and for other reasons advanced during the debate, stands very well indeed in connexion with this contract. Then Tasmania would appear to have a very happy position. That State, towards the £120,000, will contribute, in proportion, about £5,400, but, as she is to be credited with £2,600 on the mileage system, she is called upon to pay only about £2,800 net towards thecost of the Orient Steam Navigation Company’s service. Nowadays it is the policy of all great countries, whether it be free-trade England or protectionist France, Germany, or the United States, to maintain swift mail services. Japan, which has lately entered the family of nations, has also begun to pay considerable subsidies to her mail steamers. It would be very strange if Australia should, under the circumstances, be unwilling to bear a reasonable share of the cost towards the maintenance of a valuable mail service under the British flag.
– Germany does not subsidize her fleets for the mail service.
– I do not care what is the purpose; at any rate, the German steamers which are subsidized carry mails Germany, France, and the United States all subsidize mail steamers to a very considerable extent.
-Will the honorable senator mention a single steamer on the Atlantic subsidized by the United States Government ?
– The United States Government are paying very large sums for the conveyance of the mails to England.
– Not by way of subsidy, but as poundage.
– It does not matter whether the payment is called poundage or subsidy, if it be at a high rate.
– The poundage paid is at the Berne rate.
– The United States Government pay a high rate of poundage to vessels under the American flag, and a low rate to vessels under foreign flags. I should like to draw attention to one little fact which has surprised a good many gentlemen. Even. Mr. Reid was very much astonished to learn that no tender was made for the mail service by Australian ship-owners. But on looking through Lloyd’s Register of last year we learnthat in Australia and New Zealand there were only six steamers of over 15 knots, the majority of which belonged to New Zealand; only seven steamers of14½ and 15 knots ; forty-one steamers of 12 to 14 knots ; and ninety-seven steamers under 12 knots. That is the reason why the ship-owners of Australia were not in a position to tender for the conveyance of mails to the old country. Besides, the Australian vessels were engaged in profitable trade. I think every one knows that the coastal trade of Australia is infinitely more profitable than the oversea trade between Australia and Europe; that is one of the well-known facts of commerce. If there are any gentlemen who doubt my statement, or do not know the. facts, I am quite sure they could easily find verification for it. On that point I have a quotation from the evidence given by Sir Thomas Sutherland before a Select Committee of the House of Commons in1901 on the question of steam-ship subsidies. Sir Thomas Sutherland said: -
The difference between mail steamers and cargo steamers is enormous, and I have no hesitation in saying that, without a subsidy, no steamers such as we employ for mail services would ever be built for the eastern trade. I assume to-day, for instance, that a good cargo steamer would be built for a ton on the registered tonnage, not the carrying capacity. If you count on the general tonnage, and come to what I call an intermediate steamer, a steamer capable of steaming twelve or thirteen knots, and carrying a certain number of passengers, that ship would cost you on the registered tonnage £16 to £17. That is what I might call an intermediate steamer. When you come to a mail steamer capable of steaming seventeen or eighteen knots, you get your price considerably above£30 a ton. I am sorry to say, taking into account this very important fact as affecting the eastern passenger trade, namely, that the steamers never fill with passengers except for two months in the year outwards, and two months in the year homewards. I have no hesitation in saying that a cargo steamer is a more profitable instrument than the mail steamer, even with the passage money and subsidy the latter earns.
That is the sworn evidence of the chairman of the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company.
– Sir Thomas Sutherland was dealing with a 17 -knot service, whereas the service now under discussion is 14 knots.
– It is all relative; a 14-knot service does not cost so much as a 1 5 -knot service, while a 10 or 11-knot service is very much cheaper than a 14- knot service. I have here quite a remarkable memorandum by Sir Thomas Giffen, the well-known statist, who says that the profits of the unsubsidized portion of the fleet of the Norddeutscher Lloyd Steam Navigation Company increased between 1895 and 1900 from £95,000 to £1,085,000, whilst the profits on the whole of the subsidized portion only grew from £60,000 to £90,000. These are very important facts as illustrating the truth, which I am inclined to press on the Senate, that vessels capable of running as mail steamers are very costly ; and that if any Government or postal administration desire to avail themselves of such services they must pay in proportion. I have here an extract from the Skipping World of 1904 which contains some statements worth noting. The extract is as follows: -
The publication of the ratified contract between the Government and the Cunard Company caused more stir in the world of ships than any other event of the year 1903. The Company, in return for building and running two vessels of twenty five knots speed, and keeping their entire fleet subject to Government order, are, as we stated last year, to receive a yearly subsidy of ,£150,000, besides the loan of the money for building these two new ships at 2f per cent, per annum. The attainment of the one and a half knots more than any previous record for large liners is a great undertaking ; and consequently a Commission, including several prominent ship-builders and owners, has been formed to consider the best method of engineering these vessels. The Commission has not yet reported, but experiments are being made, and it is generally conceded that the twenty-five knot ships will require from 76,000 to So, 000 horse-power to drive them ; that is to say, more than twice the power necessary on the Deutschland to attain twenty-three and a half knots. No machinery of such huge dimensions as this has ever before been attempted ; and the difficulties of the transmission of such an enormous amount of power, and other considerations, led to the suggestion that the new steamers should be engined with turbine machinery ; and there is a general belief that the deliberations of the Commission will end in the recommendation that this form of machinery be adopted.
As a matter of fact that form of machinery has been adopted. These vessels, which are now, I believe, nearly complete, are amongst the most costly models of marine architecture that has ever been built. Sir Hiram Maxim, in ah interesting article some time ago, on the “ growth of speed,” stated that whilst a ship can be driven across the Atlantic, at the rate of 20 knots, with the use of ‘20,000-pound horse-power, it would require 160,000 horse-power todrive a vessel at the rate of 40 knots. All that shows the costliness of high speed. I have here a quotation from Coghlan’s Seven Colonies, which I shall not take up the time of the Senate by reading, but I may say that he makes the statement that the British India Company, to which the Queensland Government had been paying a considerable subsidy, requested that it might be discontinued, and that they might run their vessels in the ordinary way without a subsidy. Coghlan in referring to the matter, says -
The subsidy was abandoned by the shipping company, who preferred to run their steamers without restriction.
I have here another quotation on a page which I tore out of a Cassell’s Magazine, which I came across some little time ago. In a few words a very strong illustration is given of the enormous expense involved in the maintenance of these great vessels. I find it stated that -
The ordinary public have little idea of the difficulties and expense of the ship-owner in overhauling and re-painting his steamers. The great Atlantic liners are, as a rule, re-painted every trip. This in itself is no mean task. The sides of the average first-class liner from water-line to rail represent an area of about an acre. The outworks of decks and cabins amount to almost as much more, while the outside surface of the two great funnels and masts total over half an acre. Thus there is an area of about two and a half acres to be covered on the big liners at the end of every voyage.
It is evident that statements like these can be multiplied almost indefinitely. If the Senate were informed of all the details of , the enormous expenditure which these great shipping companies must undertake to keep a line of steamers in first-class order, prepared to meet all weathers and to maintain what is known as a “time-table service,” honorable senators would be very much surprised by the facts which would be disclosed, and they would not grudge paying what is, I admit, a very considerable sum. £120,000 is a large sum, but the question is : Is it a sum which is largely in excess of what the State ought to pay? I should like to say a few words on the matter of tenders. We know that when tenders were called for only this one tender was sent in. We know also that the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company, year in and year out, have contracts arranged with the British Government time after time for ten-year periods. This all indicates that we cannot, atour own sweet will, draw tenders from the ship-owners of the world, because swift or fairly swift steamers are scarce, and a fleet cannot be created at once. I wish honorable senators to take note of the fact that there is, to a greater or less extent, something in the nature of a partnership between a great mail line established for the service of a particular country, and the Government of that country. I will say at once that it is the bounden duty of a company like the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company, or the Orient Steam Navigation Company, which is partly maintained by a subsidy, to deal with the subsidizing Government with the utmost frankness. They should let them know their position. They should maintain their service with economy and efficiency, and should be prepared, when time permits, to consent to a reduction of the subsidy. On the other hand, the subsidizing Government, on its part, requires to recognise the difficulties and the expense involved in the maintenance of the service, and should be prepared to deal liberally with the company when it performs its duty to the public well.
Question - That the words proposed to be left out be left out - put. The Senate divided.
Majority … … 13
Question so resolved in the negative.
SenatorCLEMONS (Tasmania). -I suggest that this is a reasonable hour at which to adjourn the debate. I desire to propose’ an amendment, but I am aware that ifI state it I shall not be at liberty to move the adjournment of the debate. I ask Senator Playford, in the circumstances, to allow the debate to be adjourned at this stage.
Debate (on motion by Senator Clemons) adjourned.
Senate adjourned at 10.44p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 18 October 1905, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1905/19051018_senate_2_27/>.