2nd Parliament · 3rd Session
The President took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– I desire to ask the Minister of Defence, without notice, whether he will take steps to ascertain, as far as possible, the views of the officers and men in the Military Forces in regard to the provisions of the Canteen Bill, and lay them upon the table of the Senate before the discussion on the second reading of that measure is resumed?
– I have taken the necessary steps, and when all the information is obtained, I shall lay it before theSenate. I have already obtained the information from the officers and’ men in New South Wales and Victoria, and if the honorable senator should care to see it, he may.
– The main thing is to have the views of the officers and men available to honorable senators before the discussion on the second reading of the Bill is resumed.’
– I shall have all the information ready by that time.
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
Is it true that in connexion with the recent telegraphicchess match between New South Wales and Victoria the New South Wales Association was charged full rates, amounting to about£8, whilst Victoria was only charged press rates, amounting, to about£2?
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follow : -
TARIFF COMMISSION’S REPORTS.
asked the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
By what date must reports of the Tariff Commission be presented in order that the Government may submit them to Parliament for consideration this session ?
– The answer to the honorable senator’s questions is as follows : -
As stated by the Treasurer last night, the Go vernment will submit to Parliament any report whenever presented, provided proper time be afforded them to properly ‘consider the recommendations made. In view, however, of the fact that submission to Parliament is only the first step in dealing with the reports, and it being necessary, if possible, both in the interests of the Commonwealth and of private traders, that any items of the Tariff once entered on should be completed, the Government urge that the reports be presented at the earliest possible moment, especially having regard to the advisableness of completing the work of the session by the end of September.
– Arising out of that reply, Idesire to ask the Minister of Defence if he can more closely define his use of the term “ proper” in the answer to the first part of my question?
– “ Proper “ means sufficient, I should imagine.
– Has the Minister no further answer to give?
– That is my interpretation of the meaning of the word.
MAIL SERVICE TO EUROPE.
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General,’ upon notice -
Referring to the mail contract now before Parliament -
Does the signature of Mr. W. H. Croker, as agent for a company nut yet in existence, bind the proposed company?
If not, is Mr.W. H. Croker personally liable for any breach of the contract which he has signed?
Why is the contract signed “ W. H. Croker, fro the contractors.” ?
Is the Minister aware whether any written authority has been produced authorizing signing of the written contract by the agent?
If any action were taken against Sir James Laing and Sons Ltd., seeing it is a limited company, can they not successfully defend such action that being a limited company the company is not bound by the act of a so-called agent ?
When a limited company contracts through an agent must there not be a resolution of the company or of the directors authorizing the signature of the contract before the company can be bound ; could the shareholders not successfully defend the action on the contract now alleged to be signedon the ground that there was no authority given by the company for the agent to sign such contract? 7.In the event of the contract being assigned - to the “ permitted assigns “ mentioned in the contract, how are they bound to the Commonwealth Government by the signature of the agent who did not pretend to act on their behalf?
Is there therefore any possible way in which penalties could be enforced against such “permitted assigns”?
Does not the contract on the face of it offer a mere excuse for trading off the contract with “ permitted assigns “ without any corresponding liability on them under the’ contract? 10.Whywasnottheprovisioninsetedin the tenders that appeared in the contract, viz., that should any Commonwealth laws be passed causing additional expenses to the shipping company, the additional cost should be paid by way of compensation to the shipping company ?
Was it not misleading to the other tenderers, and does it not permit an unlimited sum to be paid hereafter to the shipping company by the Commonwealth ?
Why was not such a provision limited purely to “ shipping “ laws, and not to any general laws of the Commonwealth; can the shipping company claim in the future that any new law of the Commonwealth is a cause of increased exSense ? as the Commonwealth taken any advice as to Mr. Croker’s financial position should any action be brought against him for breach of warranty of authority ?
Is there any other remedy open to the Commonwealth should the mail company fail to carry out its contract?
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follow: -
– Arising out of the answers, Idesire to ask the Minister if he will lay upon the table of the Senate the authority given by Sir James Laing and Sons Limited to Mr. Croker to sign the agreement ?
– I have not seen the communication, and I do not know whether it contains anything which is of a confidential character.
– There should be nothing confidential in a communication to the Government.
– If it does not, I feel sure that there will be no objection to the document being laid upon the table of the Senate. I shall communicate with my honorable colleagues, with a view to having that done.
– Arising out of that answer, I desire to ask the Minister if we shall have an opportunity of getting a definite reply to my question before we are called upon to deal with the motion for the ratification of the mail contract?
– I shall endeavour to afford it during the debate.
Bill received1 from the House of Representatives.
Motion (by Senator Playford) proposed -
That the Bill be now read a first time.
– That was during last session.
– Yes ; but I take it that a resolution binds the Senate until it is rescinded.
– A resolution only binds the Senate for the current session.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a first time.
The PRESIDENT reported the receipt of a message from the House of Representatives, asking the concurrence of the Senate in a resolution approving of an agreement, with certain modifications, between the Posrmaster-General and Sir James Laing and Sons Limited, for the carriage of mails between Adelaide and Brindisi.
– I move -
That the Senate approves the agreement made and entered into on the 7thday of July, 1906, between the Postmaster-General, in and for the Commonwealth, and Sir James Laing and Sons Limited, for the carriage of mails between Adelaide and Brindisi, with the following modifications : -
Proviso to clause 3 -
Provided that, in the event of the PostmasterGeneral requiring the “ period of transit”on the voyage from Brindisi to Adelaide to be reduced to 612 hours, the period of 612 hours shall thenceforth be deemed to be the “ period of transit “ for each voyage from Brindisi to Adelaide, and each such voyage shall be completed within that period. Proviso to clause 15, -
After the word “ legislation “ insert “directly” ; after the words “with the consent of” insert “or subject to approval by,” and after “ Parliament “ insert “by resolution.”
Honorable senators will, no doubt, recollect a somewhat lengthy debate that we had during last session on a motion for the ratification of the contract for the mail service between Europe and Australia, which is now in existence. In moving that motion, I took the opportunity of making reference to the provisions which had been in existence for a considerable period1 of years in connexion with the communication between Australia and Great Britain. It is, therefore, absolutely unnecessary for me, at this stage, to enter Into a consideration of those provisions. It will be remembered that at that time neither I nor any other honorable senator who addressed himself to the motion, or any of the amendments thereto, was able to give an unqualified approval of the terms of the existing contract. I think it was recognised on all sides that ithad been entered into under conditions which were very highly favorable to the contracting. company, and somewhat disadvantageous to the Government of the day. We recognised that that Government was in the grip of unfortunate circumstances. We found that, in response to the invitation for tenders, only one tender had been received ; that the amount then asked for carrying out the service was £170,000 per annum, and that in the course of negotiations it was reduced, first, to£150,000, then to £140,000, and, finally, to £1 20,000. It was mentioned at that time that in the course of protracted negotiations, the contracting company endeavoured to force other concessions which the Government could not see its way to make. ‘ And, realizing, as we all did, the difficult circumstances in which the Government was placed incarrying out the negotiations, an opinion was freely expressed all round this Chamber that, though we were ratifying the provisional contract, it was desirable that, before the end of January last, we should exercise our right to give the necessary notice of our intention to terminate the agreement. A further expression of opinion was given to the effect that a mistake had been made in connexion with that contract in not making it purely postal. The Queensland Government, recognising the fact that the contract, if it did not expressly provide for something more than a postal service, at any rate contemplated such, claimed that Queensland should receive certain consideration. Otherwise it was urged the Commonwealth Government would be dealing unconstitutionally with certain States - that is to say, it would be discriminatingin regard to one State disadvantageously in comparison with other States. In pursuance of that intimation, and in conformity with the wishes expressed both in the Senate and in another place, information was conveyed to the Orient Company of the desire of the Government to terminate theexisting contract on the 31st January, 1908. As soon as possible general conditions of tender were drawn up and’ published, and tenders were invited for a new contract, which was to commence at the termination) of the existing contract with the Orient. Company, namely, at the end of January,. 1908. Honorable senators have had an opportunity - and doubtless they have availed themselves of it - of perusing in detail thosegeneral conditions. The efforts to secure a contract that would be advantageous to the Commonwealth both from a postal and a general point of view, have on this occasion, I think it will be admitted, been attended with considerably more success than were the efforts made a few years ago.. We have not had one tenderer only. Wehave had five tenderers. It will be seen from the papers presented that the tender which has been accepted is for a sum of £125,000 per annum. The tender nextabove that was one for £150,000 per annum ; and the next in order was a tender for £185,000 per annum for the same services.
– Under different conditions.
– Under the general conditions of tender whichwere notified.
– The conditions were altered afterwards.
– What was the amount of the tender that was received too late ?
– That has not beenstated, and I do not know personally.
– Did the Orient Company tender?
– It did, but washopelessly “ out of it.”
– That was the “ too late” tender, I suppose?
– The existing contract with the Orient Company imposes upon us the necessity of paying a subsidy of £120,000 a year. The contract is for thecarriage of our mails fortnightly by theOrient Company from Australia to Europe, certain provisions being made for the disembarkation of a portion of the mail matter at Naples, and the carriage of the re- mainder by steamer from Naples to Great Britain. The Orient Company also carries mails from Great Britain to Australia at poundage rates. Its service dovetails in with a fortnightly service of the Peninsular and Oriental Company that is conducted under contract with the British Post Office for the conveyance of English mails to Australia; and the ships of the Peninsular and Oriental Company on their return voyage from Australia carry mail matter from this country to Europe at poundage rates. When we were dealing with the existing mail contract Vast year I pointed out what were the contract times in the case of the Peninsular and Oriental Company with Great Britain, and in the case of the Orient Company with Australia. We saw then that the Orient Company’s contract allowed a period of transit some hours longer than did the con.tract with .the Peninsular and Orient Company.
– What was the period ?
– The period in the contract with the Peninsular and Oriental Company was 662 hours, and the contract time with the Orient Company was 686 or 696 hours; but, although those were the specific periods of transit, in every instance the companies ran their boats in less time. I think that in the case of the Orient Company the average extending over ten or eleven voyages was shorter than the contract time by something like eleven hours.
– Sometimes the Orient Company’s boats were late.
– That may have been the case a year or two ago, but the * Cuzco* and some of the older vessels have since been replaced. As against the existing contract, that which the Senate is now asked to confirm, provides, not for a period of three years, but for a period of ten years, for the duration of the contract. The reason why ten years has ken adopted instead of the shorter term is because it was only by offering to the tenderers a period of at least the duration mentioned that they could be induced to embark their capital in the construction of the vessels that will be necessary for carrying out this enterprise. The amount of annual subsidy which we, shall have to pay is very little in excess of the subsidy which we are at .present paying to the Orient Company. It will be £125,000 per annum. The Mediterranean port and Adelaide will, for all purposes, be the terminal mail ports, because the port of Brindisi will be that at which the letter portion of the Australian mail will be landed, and Adelaide will be the terminal port at which the English mail will be landed, .the period of transit between the two ports will be 636 hours - a considerable reduction upon the present contract time of 696 hours. In regard to that reduction in the period of transit alone, I think we are making a very excellent bargain when we recognise that we have to increase our subsidy only by £5,000. Not only shall we be assured an accelerated mail service, but the contract gives to the Postmaster-General power to require the company during the term of the contract still further to accelerate the speed of its vessels, and to establish a transit period of 612 hours instead of 636. As the existing contract stood, some doubt was expressed a little time ago as to whether, when the Postmaster-General tendered a request like that, there would be any obligation upon the Orient Company to comply with it ; but one of the amendments added to the contract now under discussion will, at any rate, make it sufficiently clear that if the Postmaster-General does request a reduction in the period of transit to 612 hours, the tenderers will be under an obligation to comply. Of course, provision is made for increasing the ,£125,000 subsidy in such cases by the actual extra cost entailed upon the company by the increased consumption of coal and in other directions. The extra cost having been ascertained, it will be added to the subsidy paid by the PostmasterGeneral to the company. That extra cost, whatever it may be, over and above the £1.25,000, will not be fixed in an arbitrary manner, but will be ascertained by actual calculation. There is another provision which I may mention while I am referring to the period of transit, namely, that during a certain period of the year that is perhaps better known to the Western Australian senators than to others - the period of the south-west monsoon - the company shall be allowed an extra period of thirty-six hours.
– How long does that period last?
– I am not sufficiently familiar with the facts to know.
– Three or four months.
– Of course, it will be remembered that the vessels of the contracting company are to carry our mails once every fortnight ; and during the period of the south-west monsoon, they are to be allowed some latitude in respect of the time of transit. One of the conditions which the Orient Company endeavoured to have inserted in the existing contract was that all payments should be made in London, and that any further transactions that might from time to time take place between the Commonwealth and the company should be conducted in London. As compared with that request preferred by the Orient Company - which, of course, was not granted - the contracting company with which we are now dealing, has preferred to establish conditions in connexion with its business in Australia. It will contract that the vessels that are to be built - which, I may mention, are not to be of less than11,000 tons registered tonnage-
– Has the Government yet made up its mind as to what that means ?
-I willcome to that point directly. The vessels are to be registered in Australia.
– In Adelaide, I suppose?
– That is a point which, so far as I know, has not been definitely determined.
– It does not matter twopence !
– It may not matter to the honorable senator, but at any rate it indicates a desire on the part of the company to make itself a real Australian Royal Mail Company. It will also, in its voyages between Australia and Great Britain fly the Commonwealth flag. Its ships will be constructed as soon as possible after the contract has been ratified by Parliament.
– Are all the ships to be constructed or are. some of them in existence now?
– They are all to be constructed. The plans will be submitted to the representative of the Commonwealth in London.
– Who is that mysterious person?
– The present representative of the Commonwealth in London is Captain Collins.
– Is he the representative named in the contract?
– No person is actually named. The representative of the Commonwealth in London is mentioned.
– Is Captain Collins that mythical personage?
– Certainly not.
– Is Captain Collins’ decision to determine the matter?
– Senator Neild asked me who is the present representative of the Commonwealth in London. I have replied that he is Captain Collins. But that does not mean that Captain Collins will necessarily be the person delegated by the Government to act as its representative in this matter. The Government may delegate any individual whom it chooses to act as its representative for this purpose; and I presume that the Government will be seized of the importance of selecting some fit and proper person who will be capable of giving it sound advice in regard to the plans. Captain Collins, if I remember rightly, was an officer in the Royal Navy. But it is not necessary to discuss any individual in connexion with this matter.
– Is he the individual who holds the £25,000deposited by the company.
– That bond, I understand, is held in London by one of the banks on behalf of the Commonwealth. I will obtain for the honorable senator alt the information which he desires.
– . After the vote?
– No, before the vote.
– Has the honorable senator a copy of the bond?
– Is there a copy in the Commonwealth ?
– I cannot say that there is.
– It would meet all purposes if the honorable senator couldlav the deposit upon the table of the Senate.
– No doubt it might simplify matters in more senses than one-. I have indicated already that the ships to be built will be each of 11,000 tons registered tonnage. Some question has been asked by an honorable senator opposite as to what is exactly meant by “ registered tonnage.”
– We all know; it has been explained.
– I understand that “ registered tonnage “ has been explained. I see that Mr. Paxton, who is a representative of the Chamber of Commerce in
Sydney, has indicated the three different kinds of tonnage that are recognised; and I presume that honorable senators,- who have a closer, and, certainly, a longer, acquaintance with shipping than I have, will take the opportunity afforded them in the discussion to enlighten the Chamber in this regard. All I know is that registered tonnage is the term that is used, and 11,000 is the figure that is fixed in respect of each vessel. I am given to understand, and I am prepared to believe, that, as a result of this stipulation, a larger and better class of vessels will necessarily have to be built under this agreement than are at present engagedin the mail service between here and Great Britain, either under the contract with this Government, or the contract with the British Government. There is a proviso in the contract that, with regard to the first six months, at any rate, the company shall have the right to use vessels of the Orient class so far as tonnage is concerned, always, however-, being liable, even while they are employing such vessels, to comply with the conditions as to the transit period.
– What does the Minister mean by “ Orient class “ ?
– I mean vessels of the tonnage of those employed under the existing contract. There is another very important provision to which, I think, I should direct attention. In case there is any loss of earnings, orany increase of expenditure, which either of them, or both taken conjointly, lessens the revenue of the company by £5,000 at least, and the loss is occasioned directly by the legislation of the Commonwealth in regard to shipping - directly in regard to shipping - it shall be competent for the Postmaster-General to Increase the subsidy by that amount.
– Not exceeding
– Not less than £5,000.
– That is, if the damage is not less, the company have a claim, but, I understand, there is no limit to the amount of the claim.
– That is so, though, of course, the Postmaster-General is not absolutely bound to recoup the company to that extent, he having the option, subject. again, of course, to the consent or authority of Parliament, to determine the contract entirely.
– On what notice may the Postmaster-General determine the contract ?
– The honorable senator will see that set out in the agreement.
– The notice is six months, I think.
– But the original agreement has been altered in another place.
– The agreement has only been altered in this connexionby a provision that the determination shall be subject to ratification by Parliament. The provision is contained in the two paragraphs of clause 15; and the alterations made in another place are that after the word “legislation” the word “directly” has been inserted; that after the words “ with the consent of “ the words “ or subject to approval by “ have been inserted; and, after the word “ Parliament “ there . has been inserted “by resolution.” This clause indicates the form in which the consentof Parliament shall be obtained to the determination of the contract.
– But has the company any option, supposing Parliament will not consent to increase the amount?
– Yes, according to clause 15, the contractor shall be at liberty at any time to determine the agreement on giving six months’ notice in writing. There is an option given to either the contractors or the Postmaster-General, under defined circumstances, to determine the contract. I think I have drawn attention to whatmy be called the salient features of the contract.
– The provision to which the Minister has just been, referring is very important.
– It is; and honorable senators will recognise that in many respects the present agreement is an advance on the existing contract, and that the differences, are manifestly to the advantage of the Commonwealth. When the general conditions of tender were issued some time ago, the Government had the benefit of the advice of a large number of people in Australia. That advice, which, I may say, was altogether unsolicited and gratuitous, was to the effect that it was hopeless to consider that there would be any tenders under such conditions. But we find that notonly this company, but four other companies have tendered. The conditions have been complied with, and they are conditions which, I venture to suggest, no one in this or the other Chamber last year, when the existing contract was under consideration, would have dreamt of so soon obtaining. We all expressed the belief that better terms could be arranged than were then under our notice.
– This is a longer period of contract..
– Quite so ; we must give something if we are to get increased advantages. As I say, we all expressed the hope that a strong effort would be put forward to obtain better terms. The Government have endeavoured, so far as they could, in the interests of the Commonwealth, to secure the best terms in connexion with the conveyance of our mails to Europe. As Senator Macfarlane reminds me, the term in this particular instance has been extended to ten years; and by that extension, the Government are enabled to obtain advantages which no company would be able to afford if the period were three years, or much shorter than that of ten years. Reference has been made to the question of guarantees. On referring to the general conditions of tender, which are contained in the latter pages of the papers that have been circulated, honorable senators will find, according to condition No. 38, that the successful contractor is to be bound in a sum equal to one-fifth of the annual subsidy. As the annual subsidy is £125,000, one-fifth is £25,000, and the Government have an approved guarantee to that amount in London, and, further, a deposit of £2,500 in Australia. Honorable senators will see from the subsequent condition, No. 39, that the prospect of a company tendering which had no vessels, but would have to build them, was in contemplation. To provide for such a contingency, it was set forth that if the successful tenderer happened to be a person who would require to build the necessary ships, the Postmaster-General would have every opportunity to inspect the vessels while they were building, and that, if the Postmaster-General, at any time during the building;, was not satisfied with the progress made, or with the bona fides of the attempts to provide necessary and properly equipped ships, he would be empowered to ask for another £25,000 guarantee. That is to say, the PostmasterGeneral could raise the general guarantee from £25,000 to £50,000 if he saw fit.
Then honorable senators are well aware that in all such contracts, penalties are provided for the non-fulfilment of certain conditions. A few moments ago, I said that the contract time for the conveyance of mails from Naples to Adelaide by the Orient Steam Navigation Company is- 696 hours. We propose in this agreement to fix a period of transit which shall be at most 636 hours for each trip, with a. power to the Postmaster-General at anytime, should he so desire, to request the, company to reduce the time of transit to- 612 hours.
– With an extension for the monsoons.
– Always subject tothe exception for the south-west monsoonal period. If we get the term reduced to 612- hours, we shall make the necessary allowance of 36 hours for the monsoonal period./
– On the voyagehome ?
– Our contract isonly for the conveyance of mails from Australia to Europe. I was pointing out that in regard to the period of transit, penaltiesare always attached for the non-fulfilment of the conditions. In this connexion, weare in a most curious position at thepresent time. If the Orient Steam NavigationCompany happens to be one hour, twohours, or twelve hours late, there is nopenalty ; it is absolutely necessary at present, before penalties attach, that the vessels on the particular trip shall be at least” twenty-four hours late; in other words, penalties are provided for the number of days the vessels are late. ‘ In the general conditions of tender for the agreement under discussion, we seek to remove that disadvantage. I shall now indicate to honorable senators the provisions which deal’ with this point. The provisions do not appear in the terms of the contract itself, but in the general conditions of tender. At the same time, these conditions are part and parcel of the contract, because the first part of the first article of the contract indicates that the general conditions of tender, except as modified by the specific provisions of the contract itself, shall be deemed to be part of the contract. In other words, these conditions are not repeated in the contract ; and I deem it my duty, therefore, to draw the attention of honorable senators to the fact. If honorable senators look” at general conditionNo. 25, they will see the penalties to which* the contractors may be liable under certain circumstances. Should the company, after the completion of the contract, fail to commence to carry out the provisions of it, they will be liable to a penalty of £500 for each day of such failure ; but they are not to be liable for any greater sum under such a heading, than £20,000 in the aggregate. Our existing contract terminates on the 31st January, 1908; and the company, under this agreement, will, on a certain date in February, have to commence operations in pursuance- of the obligations imposed by the agreement. If it is a day late in commencing its operations under the contract the company is to be liable to a penalty of £500, and a further penalty of £500 for every succeeding day during which the delay continues.
– No; the penalty is only £too for every succeeding day.
– Clause 23 of the general conditions of tender says -
If the contractors shall fail to commence the performance of the services on the day of February, 1908, from Adelaide, and on the day of February, 1908, from
Naples, or other approved port, the contractors shall forfeit and pay the sum of ^,’500 for every complete period of 24 hours which shall elapse ^before the contractor shall commence the performance of such services.
But, in the whole, the contractor is not to be liable to a penalty amounting to more than. .£20, 000 in ..respect, of default in this particular.
– The penalty is to be only £100 if the boats do not put to sea on the proper day.
– That is another matter. , I am dealing now with the penalty imposed for delay in commencing the services under the contract. As honorable senators are aware, in order that this contract shall be properly fulfilled, it will be necessary, not only in the interests of the contractors themselves, but also in the interests of the general public of the Commonwealth, that a schedule of times for the departure of the steamers shall be fixed. Such a schedule will be arranged, and in the event of the contracting company failing to provide a boat to sail from Adelaide or Naples, in accordance with the scheduled time, they will be liable to a penalty of £500, and a further penalty of £too . per day for every day during which such failure shall continue, but the aggregate penalty imposed for such a breachof the contract is not to exceed the subsidy applicable to that particular voyage by more than £1,000. That provision is limited to some extent. It does not apply in the case referred to in clause 20 of the general conditions of tender. That clause contains a provision to which I have not yet referred, and enables the PostmasterGeneral in certain circumstances, if he should deem it desirable in the public interest to do so, to vary the route. In addition to the penalties to which I have already referred, the general conditions of the tender provide for a penalty in the case of boats being late. I have just indicated that before we can impose a penalty against the Orient Steam Navigation Company under the existing contract, it is absolutely necessary that a boat shall be late to the extent of twenty-four hours. We have altered that condition in the general conditions of tender governing this contract, and we propose the imposition of a penalty regulated by the hour. We propose here the imposition of a . penalty of £5 for every hour occupied by a vessel in excess of the aggregate period of transit which the contract entitles the company to take in the voyage from Adelaide to Brindisi.
– Are these penalties ever enforced now?
– 1 think they are. I think that Senator Drake, when acting as Postmaster-General, imposed a penalty sufficiently severe in the case of the Cuzco to cause the company to withdraw that boat from the service.
– I think that the penalty was imposed only once.
– I do not think that the company used the Cuzco after that.
– No, I think not.
– I believe that the penalty imposed in that case was sufficient to induce the company to replace the Cuzco by a vessel that could be depended on to run to the schedule time. We make provision that where the cause of delay is1 ; beyond the control of the contractor - the”’ act of God, the King’s enemies, and so on, in accordance with the usual provisions’ - to be found in bills of lading and marine contracts - the contractor shall not be liable to the penalty. Although we make these very stringent provisions with regard to- ‘ penalties, it is also provided that they shall be liquidated damages, and recover-‘’ able as such bv the Postmaster-General. It is * further provided that, even although the penalties are enforced, the PostmasterGeneral shall not be deprived of his right to void the contract for a, breach of its provisions on the part of the company. I do not think that there are any other matters of importance contained in the general conditions of tender to which I need direct the attention of honorable senators.
– Referring to clause 15 of the general conditions of tender, will the Minister inform the Senate what authority is to decide whether the earnings of the mail-ships have been diminished through the action of the Commonwealth in passing laws relating to shipping?
– I am not certain for the moment whether that is specificallyprovided for. There is a provision by which, in the event of disputes under the contract not being determined by mutual agreement, recourse shallbe had to arbitration. That is dealt with in clause 41 of the general conditions of tender, which provides -
When any dispute or other matter authorized or directed by the contract to be settled by arbitration shall have arisen, then unless both parties shall concur in the appointment of a single arbitrator, each party, on the request of the other party, shall nominate and appoint an arbitrator, to whom such dispute or other matter shall be referred.
That clause indicates the proceedings in connexion with arbitration, where that form for the settlement of the matter in dispute is authorized under the contract. I am unable at the moment to say whether the matter dealt with in clause 15 is specifically provided for.
– If such a claim were made, the contractors would have to produce their books.
– Under any circumstances, it would be necessary for them to! satisfy the Postmaster-General, before he would agree to their claim.
– Suppose they make the statement that, by reason of our legislation, the. earnings of their vessels have been decreased?
– Is not the contract ample to cover that? If people put in a claim under this orany other agreement, they must prove their claim.
– They would have to ‘prove their claim. To give an instance, I. will assume that the contract has been in force for three or four years. Some legislation is passed by the Commonwealth
Parliament in relation to shipping. The contractors come to the Post and Telegraph, Department of the Commonwealth and say, “ In consequence of your legislation of last session we have had to increase our expenditure,” or, “ Our earnings havebeen diminished,” or “ As the result of increased expenditure and diminished earnings our revenue is now less than it was by £8,000.” If the Postmaster-General were not satisfied with that, the resort of the company would be to take the matter to Court, where they would claim, that the Postmaster-General had broken his. contract, and was bound to pay the £8,000 They would then have to prove that theloss of £8,000 had actually occurred astheresult of additional expense and diminished earnings, and they would further have to prove to the satisfaction of the Court that that was due directly to the legislation of the Commonwealth in relation to shipping-‘ There are one or two other matters in connexion with the general conditions of tender to which honorable senators might direct their attention. One is that contained in clause 30, in which there is a. provision which is commonly found in contracts, and particularly in contracts involving a lease. It is provided in this clause that the contractor shall not assign or sub-‘ letthe contract without the consent in. writing of the Postmaster-General. As honorable senators will see, that is a very important provision”. When, as I said be fore, the Government some little time ago> received from all sides gratuitous and unsolicited advice to the effect that these general conditions were such that there would” be no tenders at all, theyvery soon found after the result of the tender had beendisclosed, and the terms of this contract bad been made public, that informationwas forthcoming,in many instances from the samequarters. to the effect that it wasnotlikely that the contractors would be able tocarry out the contract.
– I presume that, as a matter of fact, there were no other tenders . at a price which the Government would have been prepared to accept?
– I have already referred to the other tenders.
-They were at aprice which the Government would not accept.
– Quite so.
-Then the fact that there were a number of tenders really amounts to nothing.
– We have here a lender tor £125,000, with all these advantages over the existing contract.
– Does the honorable and1 learned senator refer to the ten years’ period as an advantage?
– To whom ?
– I suppose that the balance of that advantage lies with the contractors, but, as I have already said, we cannot expect to get everything and give nothing.
– I agree with the Minister as to that.
– We cannot expect to be provided with a service of 11,000- t.on ships without an extended contract.
– The honorable senator has not yet told us what an 11,000- ton shin is.
– The honorable senator knows. There is no member of the Senate who is in a better position to give information on that question than is the honorable senator. I believe that Mr. Paxton has intimated publicly that the Government have the choice of three classes of tonnage.
– And that we are at liberty to choose our own-
– Surely that is not so?
– I do not know. There are members of the Senate who have had long experience and close association with shipping.
– We are at liberty to interpret the contract as we like.
– For the purposes of our own interpretation. There are members of the Senate who are much better able than I am to inform honorable senators what is meant by “11,000 tons registered tonnage.” I was pointing out that we have reserved’ to ourselves the right to consent to any assignment of the contract.
– Will not the Government state definitely which registered tonnage they understand the contract to mean ?
– No, which does Mr. Croker believe in?
– I am pointing out in answer to the criticism that the contract is one which the contractors will be able to hawk about, that we have reserved to ourselves the absolute right to refuse to consent to any . assignment. That is provided for in the general conditions of tender, clause 30.
– The Minister agrees that the contractors can assign the contract.
– With the consent of the Postmaster- General. I have already suggested that the Postmaster-General has power in certain circumstances to alter the route. When the general conditions of tender were first drawn up, Naples was fixed upon as the particular Mediterranean port at which the letter portion of the mail matter should be landed and embarked. At the same time, it is stated that any other approved port might be substituted. As the contract is now drawn up, it is decided that the terminal port in the Mediterranean, so far as the letter portion of the mails is concerned, shall be Brindisi. In other respects, the general conditions of the tender, so far as I can see, have been adhered to; but the’ Postmaster-General has power, under clauses 19 and 20, to alter the terminal port on three months’ notice, and also to alter the route on notice. It might be necessary in certain circumstances, in the public interest, that the route should be altered. It might be on account of complications caused by war, or on account of danger to the travelling public, or to the Commonwealth from the importation of any disease prevailing at a port of call. It would be necessary, in such circumstances, that there should be power to deviate from the route, and provision is made to enable the Postmaster-General in such cases to alter the route, and to make the necessary adjustments of payment which are to be settled by mutual agreement, and failing that, by arbitration.
– Has the Minister said what is to happen in the sixth year of the contract?
– I have not said anything as to what is to happen in the sixth year. The provision with respect to that is of considerable importance. Inorder that we shall not, at this juncture, absolutely tie ourselves to certain conditions in the face of the fact that improvements may take place during the period of ten years, we provide for fixing, the sixth vear as a determinant year, and that, if other companies have established communication between Europe and? Australia by a better class of shins than those which are contemplated by this contract, we may take certain action.
– To obtain a better class of ships.
– No, the words “ better class “ are not used. We can call upon this company to provide similarly good means of communication. Perhaps if I read the words of the clause it may meet the convenience of honorable senators. It is as follows: -
That if during the sixth year of the fixed period of ten years mentioned in clause z hereof any competing line of mail ships shall then provide an improved and accelerated service from Europe to Australia, the contractor shall, if so required by the Postmaster-General, provide a service equivalent to such improved and accelerated service upon the following conditions : -
The general conditions of tender are in some respects similar to those which have been issued on former occasions. They have been improved, notably in the particular instances to which I have referred. The improvements have been effected by reason of past experience. I think that if honorable senators will give to the motion and to the contract their fullest consideration, they will realize that we are about to secure those better terms tor which we all expressed a wish when we were dealing, last year, with the provisional contract with the Orient Steam Navigation Company. I think it will be admitted that the Commonwealth is to be congratulated upon securing such advantageous terms, even though, in order to attain that end, it has been necessary to extendi the period of the contract from three to ten years. The contract into which we entered in conjunction with the British authorities for a mail service to and from the United Kingdom was for a period of seven years, so that, after all, this period of ten years is not a very great departure from the terms of pre-existing contracts. I think, too’, that honorable senators will recognise that we have followed the right course in providing that, from the Commonwealth point of view, this shall be a mail contract and nothing else. We provide for the’ subsidy, or subvention, to be charged against the Department of the Postmaster-General. It is only right and fair that it should be charged with nothing further than the obligation of transmitting, as speedily as possible, mail matter from Australia to Europe.
– We do not -want
IT,000-ton ships to carry mail matter.
– It is obvious that any company which enters into a contract for such a period may at the same time take advantage of its means of communication to supplement the subsidy it receives solely for carrying mail matter by the freights it may receive for the carriage of produce and other articles to Europe.
– That is a matter for the company itself.
– Yes, as the contract recognises.
– If this is only a mail contract, why does1 the Commonwealth stipulate for II,000-tOn boats?
– Because we get the advantage of the boats. »
– But the Commonwealth is called upon to pay for the service more than it would otherwise do.
– I do not know that the Commonwealth will pay more for the service. If we were to get boats of half that size, but which had not. carrying capacity to enable the contractors to supplement the mail subsidy by the freights thev would receive, probably they would want a heavier subsidy.
– Then why stipulate foi 11,000-ton boats?
– Because we can get the boats at the present time.
– Why did not the Government leave it open to the tenderers to say what size of boats they would provide?
– So we did. If the honorable senator will look through the general conditions of tender he will see that there is no provision requiring the tenderer to supply boats of 11,000 tons.
– Is there no tonnage provided for?
– When, under the contract, the contractors are prepared to provide boats of that class, are we going to say that we do not want them? Under the present contract we have no provision as to the tonnage of the vessels, and the contractors are charging us £120,000 a year for the carriage of the mails. But here we are to get the service for £125,000 a year.
– Are the contractors really offering these big boats as an inducement’ to the Commonwealth to deal with them?
– I presume that the reason why the contractors are putting on the big boats is because, by providing increased space, they hope to be able to take a considerable amount of freight from Australia to Great Britain. >
– The Commonwealth did not stipulate that, but the contractors offered it.
– Yes. We stipulated only for a mail service by a specified route from Europe to Adelaide.
– The States asked the Commonwealth not to stipulate about cold chambers.
– So far back as the20th April last the Prime Minister communicated with the different States on that subject. Perhaps if I read this letter honorable senators will see the exact position which the Commonwealth Government is taking up as to its responsibility in connexion with anything beyond the question of transmitting the mails.
– Yes; but can the Minister explain why the Government put in clause11 the provision that each of the mail-ships to be employed under the provisions of the agreement shall be at least 11,000 tons registered tonnage?
– Because that is the stipulation of the tender.
– No, that is a provision in the contract. If the contractors do not send out such ships, they will break the agreement.
- Senator Guthrie will see that the stipulation to which he refers is part of the contract. When we asked the world totenderfor a contract we had no stipulation” or condition as to the tonnage of the vessels to be employed!. This particular company offers to carry our mails, in ships of 11,000 tons. Are we going to be so blind to the interests of the States that compose the Commonwealth as tosay that we do not want them?
– Why put it in the contract then?
SenatorKEATING. - The contractors offered the boats, and we decided to take them.
– Suppose that they could render the service in the same time with other ships?
SenatorKEATING.- If we could get ships of 20,000 tons at the same price we would take them.
– Suppose that the contractors could carry the mails with 5,000-ton boats?
– If it were to cost the Commonwealth the same price for using 20,000ton boats, as for using 11,000-ton boats, we would) take the former
– Then this is not a mail contract?
– In the contract there is nothing with regard to anything but the transmitting of mails. We carefully refrained from introducing any provision of that kind. But so far back as the 20th April last, the Prime Minister addressed the following circular letter to the Premiers of the different States -
I have the honour to invite your attention to the proposal put forward by me at the recent meeting of the Conference of State Premiers to the effect that the AgriculturalDepartmentof the States should.be urged to immediately communicate with the exporters of perishable products, or others interested in them, in order that we might arrange to guarantee either the whole or a certain proportion of the cold storage accommodation which will be provided by the steamers to be employed in the mail service between Australia and Great Britain.
The matter is one of considerable urgency, as the Postmaster-General expects to receive the tenders for the mail service next month. Unless some early intimation is received through the State Governments of the wishes of the producers, it will not be possible to make this a condition of the contract with the successful tenderers, and an uniqueopportunity may be lost for making most favorable conditions for an Australian export trade of products for which the quickest possible transport is desired.
Under the circumstances, may I ask that you will give instructions for the ‘matter to be considered at the earliest possible date, both as to the quantity to be shipped, and the rates to be obtained ?
– It would be very difficult to get them tocome into line?
– It was difficult, as the honorable senator will see when I read the replies. The first reply was received from Tasmania. It conveyed from the Premier of that State to the Prime Minister a resolution from the Derwent Valley Fruit-growers’ Association to the effect’ that it - views with great concern the proposal of the Federal Government to arrange for the freight of fruit to England, and desires to strongly deprecate such proposed action.
A similar resolution was passed at Hobart, and the Premier of Tasmania said that it was undesirable to disturb the satisfactory arrangements which existed as far as its producers were concerned, and he regretted that his Government could not co-operate. The reply from the Premier of South Australia was that it was impossible to estimate the requirements, as so much depended upon how the season might turn out. From Queensland came a resolution of exporters to the effect that the mail service should provide refrigerating space available for each State of the Commonwealth. The Premier of New South Wales forwarded the report of an officer in charge of the Agricultural Department, which is summarized in these words -
The conditions in this State do not seem to be favorable to the taking up of freezing space on steamers by Government authority.
The Premier of Western Australia replied that Western Australia was not in a position at the present time to make any reliable estimate of cold storage which would be required. The Premierof Victoria replied -
This Government regrets it does not see its way to fill a certain quantity of space.
He suggested that they would favour a line giving special facilities at a slightly higher freight than that ruling under the existing contract.
– Practically, they all said leave us alone.
– Exactly. In the case of Victoria the Government added to the reply that -
It is felt that nothing can really be done in the matter until a definite offer has been received.
With reference to cargo steamers, apart from mail steamers, on the 30th April the Prime Minister forwarded to the Premiers of the States the following letter: - In connexion with my communication of the 20th inst., I have the honour to invoke your attention to the further suggestion made by me at the recent Conference of State Premiers with reference to the export of produce generally, and particularly of produce requiring cold storage.
That letter was written ten days after the previous letter, and it refers purely to cargo steamers. The replies received with regard to the suggestions in that letter were similar to those which I have already read in connexion with the proposals as to mail steamers, with the addition of an intimation from the Premier of Victoria that “ it is felt that nothing can be done in the matter until a definite offer has been received.” Honorable senators will, therefore, see that the Government has been mindful throughout these negotiations of the necessity of entering into what is wholly and solely a postal contract; but, at the same time, it has recognised that it is at any rate possible, when arrangements are being made for a postal contract; to be able to assure to the contractors certain other possibilities, or certain conditions, which will enable them to provide a better class of vessel at much more reasonable cost to the Postal Department than ifthey had not those other sources of income to look to. I think it will be admitted that the Government was perfectly right in following that course. Now we are about to enter into this purely postal contract; and, although we stipulate for nothing further than that the voyage shall be from Adelaide in South Australia to Brindisi in the Mediterranean, we know, as a matter of fact, that, for its own convenience and profit, the company’s vessels employed in fulfilling the terms of the contract, will go further east than Adelaide.
– Query !
– Of course, merely from the business point of view, it is not to be supposed that these vessels will depend upon the income of £125,000 which they are going to receive from the Post and Telegraph Department. For that reason alone, it is evident that they will visit Melbourne and Sydney. Honorable senators will recollect, however, that the Premier of Queensland last year,, put forward a claim that the Commonwealth was discriminating as against his State, and it was urged that the Queensland people were entitled to have the mail boats calling at Brisbane fortnightly at the cost of the whole Federation. We have been mindful of our experience in this regard, and have, therefore, made the contract under consideration a purely postal contract. I think that honorable senators who have perused the papers will recognise that, although the amount of the subsidy is larger than that we are at present paying, we are securing terms and conditions that are distinctly superior, not only to those in the existing contract, but to anything that, twelve months ago, it was considered that we could hope so soon to obtain.
– Can the honorable senator tell us what is paid under the poundagesystem to the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company?
– Speaking from recollection, we get poundage credit from the United Kingdom for mail matter coming to Australia for something like £25,000, whilst we pay in respect of the contract vessels of the British Government, namely, the Peninsular, and Oriental Steam Navigation Company’s vessels, something like £15,000. The net balance in our favour comes to about£10,000.
– Those were the figures quoted, in another place. I think.
– I am speaking from recollection of the information supplied to me last year. In the course of the negotiations with the Orient Steam Navigation Company, which resulted in the existing contract, one of the conditions which the company wanted to claim from the Commonwealth Government was that it should receive the benefit of the poundage paid, and not the Government ; in other words, in addition to the £120,000 paid in subsidy, it was claimed that the company was entitled to get the benefit of the poundage paid to the Government. But the Government of theday would! not agree to that, and, as I said before, the net result, if my memory serves me rightly, is that there is a balance of £10,000 per annum in our favour.
-In view of the fact that the bond can be increased from £25,000 to £50,000, have steps been taken to see that each surety is a substantial man ?
– We have taken care of that. The sureties have been approved after the most careful inquiry.
– Having in view the fact that the amount of the bond can be raised to £50,000?
– Quite so.
– Does the honorable senator know the distance from Adelaide to Brindisi that governs this contract?
– I can furnish the honorable senator with that information in the course of the debate. I fancy it was stated lastyear, when we were discussing the mileage rate, and I can easily turn it up.
– The contract indicates certain hours, but does not mention the rate of speed.
– I think the rate of speed is 15 or 16 knots; but, so far as we have provided with regard to the time, it is the transit period that is mentioned. With these remarks - which have been to some extent disconnected, mainly by reason of the fact that many honorable senators have wished for different information at the same time - I think that I can safely commend to the kindly reception of the Senate the contract, the terms of which are now before it; and I shall now content myself with moving, in accordance with the notice on the paper, the motion standing in my name.
– I beg to second the motion. I am in general agreement with those who have urged that this contract is very advantageous to the Commonwealth. Whether it will be very advantageous to the contractors is quite another matter, though it is certainly one of the points which we ought to consider, inasmuch as sureties are provided for. There are, however, one or two points which I should like the Senate to consider, and which appear to me to be important.
– The honorable senator cannot second the motion and afterwards move an amendment.
– I am aware of that, sir. I do not intend to move an amendment, but I wish to suggest certain improvements, leaving it for the Government to make amendmentsif they choose. One of the points which I wish to raise is with regard to clause 6 of the agreement. I do not think that the Minister gave quite so clear an explanation of what is meant by the clause as honorable senators would have liked. It provides that the Commonwealth may increase the subsidy to the contractors for providing an accelerated service, upon the conditions that -
– I think it would be subject to the term mentioned in the contract.
– In case of a disagreement, the matter is to go to arbitration, and the arbitrators are to be the final court of appeal, because their decision can be made a rule of the High Court. So that we might very easily be landed on the horns of a dilemma, and our contract might be found to be for a very much extended period. There is another point which I suggest for the consideration of the Minister. In clause 11 of the agreement, it is provided that the steamers of the contracting company “ shall be of at least 11,000 tons registered tonnage.” The Minister this afternoon, like the Prime Minister in another place, wasvery cautious in his explanation of what “registered tonnage” meant.
– There was no caution about Mr. Deakin. He said that it meant what it meant.
– It means what is put on the hulls of ships by the Board of Trade after deduction of space , for boilers, bunkers, and crew.
– The Merchant Shipping Act, section 7, requires that the registered tonnage shall be cut into the beams of the vessel. That condition is carried out in the case of the vessels owned by the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company by the registered tonnage being cut and painted on the beams in indelible letters; and that is the only register officially recognised. It is the tonnage on which the vessels pay their dues. Section 77 of the Merchant Shipping Act mentions how that register tonnage is to be arrived at. The matter is also dealt with in section 79. It is provided that to ascertain the registered tonnage certain deductions shall be made from the space included in the measurement tonnage. Othersections dealing with the matter follow, leading to the natural assumption that there is only one “registered tonnage,” and that is the net registered tonnage of a vessel.
– “ Registered tonnage “ equals net tonnage, and it never meansanything else.
– Yes. Therefore, when this contract says that the registered tonnage of the vessels shall be 11,000 tons, it means, if it means anything, net tonnage; that is to say, vesselsabout twice the size of the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company’s steamers which visit our ports. If we are going to leave this provision as it stands, it will be open to any one to commence legal proceedings against the contractors if these steamers are not up to the registered tonnage specified. I have no wish tosee this contract made null and void. Therefore, I shall not move the insertionof either the word “ net “ or the word “gross” ; but I suggest that some alteration in this direction is necessary. Some yearsago, under the States laws, Chinese Immigration Acts were passed limiting the number of Chinamen introduced to one for every 500 tons register of the vessels which brought them. In South Australia, someof the steam-ship owners held that they were entitled, in this connexion, to have regard to the gross tonnage ; but that was objected to by the South Australian Government, and it was held in law that it should apply to the net registered tonnage. I amaware that in former years, in Victoria, some Chinamen were admitted on the gross tonnage ; but we need not go into these matters, because the Commonwealth now prevents Chinese immigration under different conditions. When the Prime Minister says that the vessels under the agreement are to be much larger and better than any which now visit Australia, he evidently ha”s it in his mind that the term “’ registered tonnage “ means the net registered tonnage.
– Thev will be very fine vessels if that is what is meant.
– Does the Prime Minister say that the net registered tonnage is meant?
– No ; and I fancy that the Prime Minister does not know what is meant.
– It is a pity that the Senate does not know what agreement it is entering into.
– Under the agreement the contracting company will provide three times the refrigerating space now provided by the Orient and Pacific Steam Navigation Company
– I have here the British Merchant Shipping Act, which is verv clear in its directions as to how the tonnage of vessels is to be arrived at.
– The shape of a vessel has a lot to do with the matter.
– -Yes; but “registered tonnage “ is a well-known term to nautical men.
– Two vessels may be of the same registered tonnage, but their carrying capacities may be very different.
– Section 7 of the Merchant Shipping Act provides -
Every British ship shall before registry be marked permanently and conspicuously to the satisfaction of the Board of Trade as follows : -
The section then sets out how vessels are to be marked, and goes on -
The Board of Trade mav exempt any class of ships from all or any of the requirements of this section.
Then section 77 of the Merchant Shipping Act provides -
The tonnage of every ship to be registered, with the exceptions hereinafter mentioned, shall, previously to her being registered, be ascertained by Rule r in the Second Schedule to this Act, and the tonnage of every ship to which that Rule 1 can be applied, whether she is about to be registered or not, shall be ascertained by the same rule.
The rule in. the section sets out how the measurements are to be taken ; and it is made very clear how the registered, tonnage is to be arrived at. I suggest to the Government the advisability of consulting some of their legal friends.
– - Let us make it clear now by providing that “ registered tonnage “ shall be as denned by the British Merchant Shipping Act.
– I have no desire to endanger a good contract by an amendment of the kind. I should like a little more information about those who are associated with Sir James Laing and Sons. Some very influential names have been mentioned.
– But these firms are not bound by the agreement.
– That is so. I understand that most of those other firms are not ship-builders, but engine-builders; and, no doubt, they would be only too glad to get contracts on condition of’ taking a few shares in the mail company. That, I take it, is the reason for their association with Sir James Laing and’ Sons. These associated firms are not directors in the contracting company, which, so far as we know, have no ships of their own at the present time.
– As previous speakers have pointed out, there seems to be a general consensus of opinion that the agreement is one on which the Commonwealth is entitled to congratulate itself. I am not going to .dispute that opinion at present, because it seems to me that, in connexion with the agreement, ‘there are certain- matters on which we have not been enlightened, and that we shall have to leave to time the determination of whether we are entitled to self-congratulation. Certainly, if the agreement is carried out in the way presented to us, the Commonwealth may conclude that it has made an excellent bargain. But, having ohe or two doubts in my mind, I am compelled to suspend my, judgment until we see the contract fairly at work. At the same time, I think the Government may say that thev have done’ the only thing possible under the circumstances. The Government appear to have sought all the information .available, and. believing that information to be reliable, they have made what they no doubt regard as an excellent bargain. I have mentioned that there are certain matters which I shall not say make me suspicious, but which raise in my mind some measure of doubt. For instance, the Government are unable to tell us what is meant by “ registered tonnage.” When the Prime Minister was asked a question on the matter, he replied, “ It mean’s what it means.” It hardly requires the Prime Minister of a country, where education is free, and supposed to be compulsory, to tell us that. But the replydid not help the debate forward, while it showed that even the Government responsible for the agreement are unable to say exactly what they think they are getting under its terms. Senator Keating is evidently under the influence of the same doubt. When he was asked a similar question by interjection, all he could say was - I cannot pretend to repeat his words, hut they were to this effect - “ I am not going to determine the agreement, but a Mr. Paxton has written to the newspapers, and told us that there are three definitions of registered tonnage, and practically you are at liberty to interpret the term for yourselves.”
– I think I said that the vessels under the agreement will be considerably larger than those of the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company, or the Orient and Pacific Steam Navigation Company, and will provide three times the refrigerating space.
– That does not affect the matter at all. The Minister’s interjection actually shows that he is not prepared to say whether the registered tonnage is to be gross or net, or whether it refers to the space, available for cargo under the deck - to which of three classes referred to by Mr. Paxton it belongs. I mention Mr. Paxton because he was the authority mentioned by the Minister. If the tonnage is to be that set out in the British Merchant Shipping Act, as referred to by Senator Macfarlane, it means that the new vessels will have to be between 15,000 and 16,000 tons gross.
– Rather from 19.000 to 20,000 tons gross.
– For the purpose of my argument, it will be sufficient to say that under such conditions the new vessels will have to be from 15,000 to 16,000 tons gross, which will make them,on an average, twice the size of the boats of the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company, which are from 6,000 and7,000 to10,000 tons.
-That is the registered tonnage.
– No ; that is thegross tonnage : the registered tonnage that the present shipping companies advertise is the gross tonnage. I should be delighted if I could think for a moment that we were going to get a service of vessels of the kind I have indicated, but I very much doubt whether that will prove to be the case. I am inclined to think that what is meant in the agreement is the second class of tonnage to which Mr. Paxton refers. But whether I be right or wrong, to whatever class of tonnage it is intended the agreement shallapply it is clearly the duty of the Government to know what is meant, and the Government ought to be in a position to give the Senate the benefit of the information. To come here and ask us to accept an agreement, without being able to tell us what is meantby one of the simple terms employed, appears to meto be the reverse of business-like. If the Senate feels any doubt in the matter, it is not too late to make the meaning abundantly clear by the insertion of a word. I should have no hesitation in submitting an amendment, but for the fact that a number of honorable senators will follow me, who may take that step, if. in the meanwhile, the Government are not prepared to enlighten us on the point. I refrain from submitting an amendment in the hope, and with the request that the Government will, before the debate terminates; make such a statement as will set the matterentirely at rest. If not, I trust thatsome honorable senator who follows me will endeavour to do what the Government have failed to do. When the representative of the Postmaster-General referred to that portion of. the agreement which stipulatesthat the vessels shall carry white crews. I could not help thinking of the measure ofhypocrisy which underlies all that is; supposed to be embodied in the clauseIn accord with the Post and Telegraph Act, we have, in this agreement, determined that we shall make a contractonly with a company which employs white crews. Immediately after having told us of that stipulation, Senator Keating informed us that the proposed service will alternate with one suppliedby the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company, who willcarry our intermediate mails to Europe on poundage rates. I can seevery little on which we may plume, ourselves.If weare setting put to make the ocean white, and we have a contract one week with a company
– No; we have not.
– Why, we are being asked to indorse an agreement with a company which, I am pleased to see, undertakes to employ white labour. What I . say is that we are not entitled to take any credit to ourselves, seeing that we have 110 hesitation in sending our mails under the poundage system by theboats of a company whichemploys black labour.
– We have no control over that company.
– If our virtue in this regard is so high - if we determine that nothing shall be done for Australia by any but those who have white skins - why send our mails on poundage rates?
– Does the honorable senator advocate our sending no mails by the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company?
– No; I would take advantage of every opportunity to send our communications abroad to the world.
– We have just made a contract for the carriage of our mails to New Guinea on vessels worked with coloured labour.
– Does Senator Millen object to the white labour stipulation?
– Certainly not; but I object to the Government attempting to take credit for the stipulation, and, at the same time, sanctioning payment to the owners of vessels on which black labour is employed.
– There is no other option.
– There is no other option but not to send our mails by that line. Is themorality of the honorable senator of the kind that is only maintained in. the absence of opportunity for immorality ? The honorable senator appears only to require temptation to evil. I pass on to another matter. The member of the Government who introduced the motion referred to the fact that this is simply a mail contract, and I rather gathered from the honorable and learned senator’s remarks, that he took some credit to the Government, for the fact that it is a mail contract only. I can hardly see how the Government can take any such credit, seeing that they made strenuous efforts to make the contract something more.They communicated with the Governments of the States, asking them to takejoint action which would enable them to make this a mail contract plus a contract for the carriage of refrigerated cargo. It it was desirable that arrangements should be made with this company for the supply of refrigerated space for the carriage of produce, if cannot be equally desirable that the contract should be limited solely to the conveyance of mails. One or the other course was certainly the better, and for the Government to say that it is beneficial that this should be limited solely to a mail contract, after they have done everything in their power tomake it something more, seems to me to be a. little inconsistent. Personally, I see no reason why the Government should not have made a contract which would be more than a mail contract, if they thought fit to do so, nor do I see any reason why they should not have limited themselves to a mail contract. The whole question was, what was the best arrangement they could make? If they could have secured an equally good mail contract with other advantagesby the payment of a merely nominal sum in addition, the Government would have beenvery foolish ifthey had not taken advantage of the opportunity to do so. On the other hand,they would have been equally foolish ifthey had hampered a good mail contract by the addition of provisions of an undesirable character for the transport of frozen produce.
-They did not wish to interfere with private enterprise.
-They did all they could. The Prime Minister wrote not one, but two letters to the Governments of the States, and it is quite clear that if the Government could have arrived at an arrangement with the States, they would have endeavoured to enter into a contract which would have included the carriage of produce.
-They could have got better terms, ifthey had been in a position to agree to send a certain quantity of produce by every ship.
– I am not finding fault with them on that account, but it seems somewhat inconsistent that after trying to do this, one of the members of the Government should stand up here, and, with a certain measure of pride andglorification, refer to the agreement before usasonly a mail contract, and as though it were an achievement for the Government to have secured such a contract. We are not now called upon to consider whether a contract solely for the conveyance of mails is necessarily better than a contract with something else added to it. This contract must stand on its merits, and, assuming that it will be carried out, I think that the Government have made an excellent bargain. The only point about which I feel some doubt is that in spite of the fact that the names of some reputable persons have been mentioned in connexion with the matter, the weakness of the position has been indicated by am interjection that there does not appear to be any measure of responsibility attaching to those persons. So far as the deposit is concerned, I ask any honorable senator who has any knowledge of big commercial transactions, and particularly of mining transactions, to compare the deposit which has to be paid for mining options, where a much smaller amount of capital is involved, with that which is demanded in this case. The sum of £27,000 is somewhere about3/4 per cent., of what is stated to be the capital required to place this service under steam. I ask’ honorable senators to refer to their own knowledge of what takes place every day in the mining world, and to mention if they canany big mining proposition the option of which has ever been placed under offer on so small a deposit as that provided for in this contract. Ten per cent. would represent much more nearly the average deposit asked for in transactions of the kind.
– And even in ordinary Government contracts for the building of a school.
– Yes; in connexion with contracts for Government works, involving an expenditure of a few hundred pounds, deposits of 5 and10 per cent. of the contract price are required. I do not wish to impugn in any way the bona fides of those who are said to be behind this contract. Their names stand for themselves; but I must say that negotiations appear to have been carriedon, not with a number of responsible firms, but with one gentleman here, and, in view of the smallness of the deposit, and the fact that the contract does appear to be an excellent one from our point of view, I shall watch the progress of events for the next few months with, a considerable amount of expectation, to put. it in a mild wav, but certainly with a firm hope that the contract will be carried out.,.. If it is carried out it will be the best, contract that Australia could hope for in. the circumstance’s.
.- I have carefully examined this contract, and, if everything connected with it transpires as we hope it will, I do not know that we shall have a great deal to complain of. However, had I been the adviser of the Government in any way in this matter, I should have insisted upon the ships going on from Adelaide to Melbourne and Sydney, as the Orient Steam Navigation Company’s boats are bound to do under the existing contract, and possibly to Brisbane also. I believe that it would not have cost the Commonwealth a farthing more to have made this important stipulation. It seems to me that that would have been a wise thing to have done. As matters stand, there is no power on earth that can compel the new mail company to bring their ships beyond Adelaide.
– And there is no power on earth that will keep them at Adelaide, either.
– They could not carry on the contract unless they did so.
– I wish to believe, and I do believe, that the boats of this company must come on from Adelaide to Melbourne and Sydney, but they arenot bound under this contract to do so. If they could be so bound, without any further expense, surely it would have been a prudent thing, in the interests of the Commonwealth, to have them bound in that way. Now that they are not bound, the company may make excuses, and there is a remote possibility that the boats will slip across to New Zealand, and it may be contended thatthey will earn as much money in that way as they would earn by coming on from Adelaide to Melbourne and Sydney. New Zealand is only three or four days’ sail from Adelaide. If what I suggest had been provided for the producers of Victoria, New South Wales, and Queensland could have made better conditions with thecompany for carrying on their export trade than they will be able to do under this contract.
– As Queensland did with the Orient Steam Navigation Com pany.
– I should have been delighted if, under this contract, the new company had been compelled to bring their boats on to Melbourne, Sydney., and Brisbane, because it would have been of immense advantage to the producers of Victoria, New South Wales, and Queensland to know that they would be able to take advantage of a ship leaving every fortnight from Brisbane for the home land. Under the existing contract with the Orient Steam Navigation Company, that company is not only obliged to bring the boats on from Adelaide to Melbourne and Sydney, but to provide freezing chambers of a certain capacity, and self-registering thermometers in those chambers to insure the carriage of perishable produce under proper conditions. There are no such conditions provided for under this contract. Even though the boats of the new company should come on to Melbourne, Sydney, and Brisbane, without provision for the facilities I have referred to, the producers of the Commonwealth may suffer great loss. The danger is that the new company may take advantage of the looseness of this contract to squeeze from Australian producers better terms than they could otherwise get.
– Is the honorable senator quite sure of his ground when be says that self-registering thermometers have to be provided on the Orient Steam Navigation Company’s boats? -
– I am perfectly sure of it. I do not state what I am not sure of.
– Is that provided for in the agreement with the Orient Steam Navigation Company for the carriage of mails, or in that company’s agreement with Victoria for the carriage of produce ?
– It isprovided for in the Commonwealth agreement with the Orient Steam Navigation Company, of the date of 5th September, 1905, if I recollect it rightly. Honorable senators will remember that the subsidy was raised in the last contract to £120,000, and under that contract the Orient Steam Navigation Company are obliged to carry frozen produce subject to the conditions to which I have referred. We are now about to sanction a contract involving the payment of a subsidy of £1 25,000 per annum for ten years, with a possible extension of ten years more without parliamentary sanction, though I am not quite sure that I am right as to that.
– The honorable senator is wrong.
– Where is that provided for?
– I refer honorable senators to clause 6 of the contract, which provides -
That if during the sixth year of the fixed period of ten years mentioned in clause 2 hereof any competing line of mail ships shall then provide an improved and accelerated service from Europe to Australia, the contractors shall, if sorequired by the Postmaster-General, provide a. service equivalent to such improved and accelerated service upon the following conditions : -
The notice to be given by the PostmasterGeneral to the contractors requiring, such improved and accelerated serviceand the date such service is to commence from ; and (b.) The amount of the additional annual’ subsidy to be paid to the contractorsfor providing such improved and accelerated service ; and
The extended period for whichsuch improved and accelerated service shall, continue shall, failing mutual agreement, be determinedby arbitration in the manner provided in the said’ “ General Conditions of Tender.”
Notwithstanding the Minister’s contradiction, I think that clause enables the company to secure an extended service for a. further period of ten years.
– It is ambiguous, but I think that the contract is limited to tenyears.
– If it is so limited, then paragraphs b and c of this clause arevery loosely worded, and if I were drawing, up such an agreement, I should tellmy solicitor that I would not have it expressed in that fashion.
– I quite admit that it: should not be ambiguous.
– I submit to expert, opinion in that regard. The Orient Steam-. Navigation Company are now carrying on a very satisfactory, service for a subsidy of £120,000 per annum, and are complying, with the conditions to which I have referred in supplying frozen space and selfregistering thermometers in their freezing, chambers. This company is to get a subsidy of £125,000 per annum for a period of ten years. That is certainly a very great advantage. The Orient Company is carry ing out a very successful service for a subsidy of £120,000. But the boats of the new company need not go to Melbourne or Sydney, and it is not bound to provide any freezing space or registering instruments. It is just possible that itmay arrange with- the Government of New Zealand tocarry all its frozen produce, and pick up the Australian mails at Adelaide. Moreover, its. boats would not be obliged to go to London. If they get cargo, it could’ be transhipped at Brindisi. It would not be possible, however, to tranship frozen butter.
– The boats must go on to the United Kingdom.
– I believe I am right in stating that the company need not send its boats beyond Brindisi. Certainly they should go to an English port. With regard to the term “ registered tonnage,” whether it be net or gross tonnage which is meant, I am quite satisfied that there is not much in the’ objection made. It might, however, be cleared up. The new boats of the present mail companies from England are supposed to be 10,000 tons each. If we get what the ordinary layman understands to be ships of 10,000 or 11,000 tons, I think that there will be nothing to cavil about.
– But the ordinary understanding is the registered tonnage.
– A layman recognises other tonnage besides registered tonnage. A ship of the Orient Steam Navigation Company which is, 10,000 tons nominal register, may be only 7,000 tons net register. One ship which has been built to steam 20 knots may be very narrow, and yet mav be registered as 6,000 tons ; whereas another ship may be built like a tub, with the same tonnage, but with twice or three times her carrying capacity. So that the term “ registered tonnage “ does not tell us very much. Can the Minister say whether Sir James Laing and Sons will be bound bv the agreement?
– It was not prudent on the part of the Government to take the signature of an attorney when it was possible to get a cablegram or an assurance from the actual contractor. I should saythat the firm ought to be bound by the agreement, and that no attorney should have been allowed to sign it when a message by cablegram could have been obtained’. I have some doubt as to whether the firm will ‘be bound bv the contract.
– We have received a cablegram to that effect from the firm.
– That is satisfactory. I do not propose to move any amendment. I believe that the Government are anxious to do the best they can. but I am very sorry that the States did not see their way to meet its view, because, after all, it is the producers upon whom the mail contractors will have to depend for their reward. In view of the occurrence of droughts and other difficulties, it is very easy to understand the attitude of the States Premiers. For instance, in Tasmania, last year, there was a very small apple crop, and naturally the Government did not like to be bound by any agreement as to the amount of freight to be contributed’.
Senator Col. NEILD (New South Wales) [4.36]. - I am very much more than dubious about ‘the advantages to be derived from this service. Ta begin with, I am very dubious as to whether there is any contract worthy of the name, or any contract in law. It is well known that in important matters an incorporated company! as we are told the firm of Sir James Laing and Sons is, cannot delegate its authority except under seal. What proof have we that any resolution of the shareholders of this firm, or of its board of directors has ever authorized any of the proceedings connected with the proposed transaction ? What knowledge have we that its seal has been attached to any document authorizing the carrying on of these negotiations, let alone their completion ? It is well known to every experienced .man that a resolution of an incorporated company under seal is absolutely essential to give validity to any proceedings of great moment. If we look into this document we find that it really is not a contract beyond that a sum of ^2,000 has been paid by some one to somebody somewhere. When I pressed the Minister this afternoon he could not say who had paid or received that sum. It is said by some persons that it was deposited by Mr. Croker, and by others that it was deposited by Sir James Laing and Sons, but practically no one knows who made the deposit, or where the money is. When the Government propose to let a contract for the erection of a weather-board post office in the back blocks it requires a hard cash deposit of about 10 per cent, of the value of the building. What have’ we in this case? We have an allegation of a deposit of ^2,000’ somewhere and a bond. When I asked the Minister this afternoon if he had seen the bond, he said “ No.” He does not know what it contains. What is taking a bond by way of security ? It may be the best possible method of buying a law suit if the contractors fail to carry out the obligations of this option. I wish particularly to emphasize the fact that this is not a contract for a mail service, but merely an option to enable somebody at the other end of the world, but not very clearly defined, to traffic for eighteen months on the Stock Exchange to see whether he, having risked a couple of thousand pounds, can form a company to carry on this work. Senator Millen has pointed out how utterly insignificant is the security. I forget now whether he was referring to the deposit or to the bond. $
– To the whole lot.
– My honorable friend will’ see that if he was referring to the bond he was referring to that which, after all, might simply become the subject of an expensive law suit at the other end of t;he world.
– Taking the very best which can be urged on its behalf, it only represents a miserable percentage.
– It represents, only three-quarters per cent, of the value. The Ministry do not know what the bond contains. Apparently they cannot tell us who gave it. We cannot get any information except that, possibly, it may be held by a bank ‘in London for the Commonwealth. It cannot be a document made wholly on one side. I suppose that the Commonwealth was a party to the acceptance of the bond. How d:d it give its assent in order to give validity to the transaction? Was it given by Captain Collins, who, after all is said and done, seems to be a kind of superfluous officer of the Commonwealth ? He is superfluous as a Secretary for Defence, if he can be in London for years. We did not know that he was going to London in any capacity other than to deal with war stores. I think that the members of the Senate had no idea that he was to be a kind of general representative of the Commonwealth.
– I do not think that the honorable senator ought to discuss Captain Collins.
– I only desire, sir, to discuss the matter to a certain extent, and I think you will see that I am strictly in order.
– The honorable senator is only supposing that Captain Collins has had anything to do with the bond.
– That is the only supposition which is possible. This afternoon he was named by the Minister as being concerned in the matter. When our assent was given to Captain Collins going to England, we had no idea that ;he was to be concerned in the manipulation of important Commonwealth matters. There are several points about this business which I think are very unsatisfactory. For instance, there is no agreement for cold storage. Why did the Commonwealth require the use of steam-ships of 11,000 tons net register to carry mails? Why, sir, an ordinary despatch boat would be sufficient to carry all the mails, and might have been obtained at a third of the price.
– We never specified” the exact tonnage of any boat to carry the mails. It was the tenderer who had to say that.
– Why did not the Government stipulate for at least a maximum rate of freight for cold storage? It is of the greatest consequence to the butter-producing interest in Australia that the date of the arrival of shipments in. England should be known with certainty. The date is known in connexion with the mail steamers now employed in the service between Australia and the old country, but the date is net known in connexion with steamers of the tramp class, nor even in connexion with so important a service as the White Star Line. The date of arrival in London of shipments of butter is a matter of very grave consequence to the trade. We know perfectly well that the arrival of a shipment a day late makes a very important alteration in the price obtained. Accuracy of date in the delivery of a cargo so easily damaged as butter is of grave consequence j and I think that when the Government was providing for the construction of - steamers which, I will show directly, are to be, under the law - not in accordance with the fanciful idea of any one, but under the law - 11,000 tons nett meaning 15,000 tons gross-
– It does not mean that.
– My honorable friend may say what he pleases, but I will read the law to him directly, and that will satisfy him that I know what I am talking about. The Government, in obtaining the service of vessels 15,000 tons burden gross, or 11,000 tons net, for the carriage of mails, leaves absolutely out of account the certainty- that something else is intended in regard to the use of those vessels. It is evident that they are fo be put to some other purpose than the carriage of mails ; and my honorable friend, Senator Fraser, hit it off very correctly when he said just «now - giving expression to something which I have on my notes - that the probabilities are that the steamers will not only traverse the Australian coast ; but after delivering their mails at Adelaide, there is a probability that they will go off to New Zealand. But Senator Fraser did not say what I am going to suggest, namely, that in all probability the New Zealand Government will pay a very handsome subsidy to get those steamers to cross over to New Zealand rather than that they shall - traverse the southern and eastern shores of Australia. And these contractors - :if the thing ever becomes a going concern - will, in .pursuance of the subsidy granted by the New Zealand Government, cause their steamers to cross the ocean, and obtain the advantages of a satisfactory cargo, plus a’ Government subsidy which they cannot get by going along the south and east coast of Australia.
– That is quite possible.
– Absolutely possible ; and I think it is more than possible - it is highly probable.
– Will it be possible for the steamers to obtain as profitable a trade by going to New Zealand as they would get by calling at Melbourne and Sydney ?
– I think that the possibilities are greater - there is less competition for the shipping trade of New Zealand than for that of Australia ; but I am suggesting the likelihood of the New Zealand Government paying a subsidy as against the advantage to the steamers in going rd Melbourne and Sydney without any subsidy. They will have earned their subsidy from the Federal Government when they have reached Adelaide.
– Is the honorable senator advocating a Commonwealth-owned line?
– I am not advocating anything of the kind, but I am pointing out that the Government has been hypnotized by a gentleman named Croker, who evidently does not know everything about steam-ship matters, but who, it is a matter of common talk in the city, is receiving .£5,000 for working this option through. Any one can go on to .the Stock Exchange and hear that. I am only relating what is ordinary talk in the city. The Government has been hypnotized by this very eloquent £4,000 gentleman.
– £9,000? Good luck to him if he gets it.
– The honorable senator mentioned £5,000 and £4,000 - that makes £9,000.
– The Government has been hypnotized by this gentleman, and has accepted and entered into an agreement, but the dear, good people thought that they were inaugurating a Commonwealth mail service, whilst they were doing nothing of the kind, but only granting an option. Reference has been made to the deposits required in connexion with Government contracts. Let me draw attention to what States Governments have required in connexion with carrying out public or semi-public works by private individuals. I might take a case such as the laying down of a few miles of railway in connexion with a coal mine.
– I think I had” to deposit £10,000 in connexion with the building of a line ‘from Bendigo to Echuca.
– I think it is very probable. I might refer to a case where Parliament grants right by Statute to carry out some work of a semi-public character, such as the construction of a harbor or the carrying out of irrigation works or waterworks. Let me instance one or two cases. A Bill was passed through the New South Wales Parliament - I had charge of it - for the purpose of supplying Broken Hill with water. It was necessary, under that Bill, for the promoters to pay to the Treasury of New South Wales - not a bond which could be litigated upon by-and-by, but hard cash, to the sum of £10,000, within, I think, three months of the Royal Assent being given to “the Bill. , The same thing happened in connexion with a Bill to enable a company to make a harbor. In that case the deposit was the same. The harbor was never made, and the Treasury Accounts were flushed by the £10,000 deposited. I need not occupy the time of the Senate by quoting other instances of the same kind. But surely, in the face of such instances, there is something to be said against the mere payment of £2,000 by somebody, to somebody, somewhere, particulars of which we have not been able to ascertain.
– :The £2,500 - not £2,000 - is in Australia.
– Has it been deposited here?
– That is a little bit better.
– We also have a bank guarantee for £25,000 in London.
– The honorable senator has not seen any document to that effect. He does not know of his own knowledge that the money has been guaranteed. He must, as a lawyer, have had before him in his professional capacity instances where guarantees have been made the subject of very extensive and expensive litigation. The honorable senator will not dare to tell the Senate, either as Minister or as lawyer, that a guarantee or bond is equal to hard cash. Never a law term passes but there are actions upon guarantees and bonds. Cases of that kind are amongst the commonest known to the law. We have had litigation in Australia extending over three, four, and five years, and eventually going to the Privy Council, in regard to guarantees and bonds. In this case, the bond is one which, if it ever has to be enforced, is held at the other end of the world. That bond ought to be here. It is a most unsatisfactorydocument, inasmuch as we know nothing about it, except that we have the bare assertion that it exists. We do not know anything about its terms. All that we are told is that a bond has been entered into by some one, andthat the sum of £25,000 is mentioned. I say that such a deposit as £2,500, with a bond somewhere or other at the other end of the world, is a guarantee altogether at variance with “the practice of the States Governments when they grant to private individuals or public companies, extensive public or semi-public rights. There is another feature of this matter that has not been mentioned, but is of some consequence. There is a condition in the contract that enables the Commonwealth to take over the line of steamers at any time it chooses. But we are told that Messrs Laing and Sons are to be the builders of these ships. Clearly there is no obligation upon them to build the ships except in their own way, on their own terms, and at their own price. They can value them at whatever figure they like.
– Plans must be submitted.
– What is to prevent the nominal value of those ships being swollen by well known methods, so that if ever the Commonwealth desires to take them over the owners will be able to set up a claim for a much higher price than they were actually worth? If they were to be built by contract, we should know what the real value was. But they are to be built by the contractors, who are to placetheir own price upon their own work. What is to prevent a sum of as many thousandsof pounds a year as you like to name being debited to these ships by way of management, or on account of chairman of directors, president of the board of management, or whatever you please to call it. Charges can be made to the extent of many thousands of pounds a year for fictitious or semi-fictitious services. The nominal cost of the ships may be piled up in that manner, in a way that would be eminently disadvantageous to the Commonwealth if it desired to purchase them. I do not think that I quite finished - by reason of interjections - saying all that I desired with reference to the failure of the Government to fix a maximum charge for the carriage of refrigerated cargo. The butter trade has grown to such an extent that while the freight some years ago was no less than 3d. per lb., it is now down as low as1/2d. or3/4d. per lb. That fact shows how immensely important the trade is. I may state, with all humility, but at the same time with a degree of certainty concerningthe truth of my utterance, that the Government has lamentably failed in protecting one of the primary industries of Australia, in not’ fixing in this agreement or option a reference to the rate of freight which this company - if it ever commences operations - will be entitled to charge. We know that the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation and the Orient Steam Navigation Companies have been working on the same rates of freight. But if this new company comes into being, the Orient Steam Navigation Company will probably be out of the way ; and there wilt be nothing to prevent a new arrangement being entered into between the new company and the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company, under which the only two companies with a regular delivery in London ‘ will be able to charge whatever rates of freight they please for the benefit of their shareholders, but to the detriment of the producers of Australia. It is all very well to say that it is only a question of1/4d. a lb., or something of that sort. But by the time the butter is delivered on the London market, it may mean much more than1/4d. a lb. A difference of1/4d. per lb. freight may make a material difference in the price which the farmer gets for his goods. I desire now to clear away from the mind of Senator Fraser, or any other honorable senator any doubts there may be as to the meaning of “ registered tonnage.”
– We all know what the meaning is, but the working out is very difficult.
– The working out is provided for in every detail in the British Merchant Shipping Act, from which I shall read a few passages of importance in this connexion. Let me say, in passing, that many years ago there was a great controversy as to the fixing of registered tonnage for the purpose of levying dues on vessels which passed through the Suez Canal : and after the point had been settled by, I think, an international tribunal, the method of measurement set forth in the Act I have just mentioned was agreed to, and has been acted on ever since. Section 78 of the Act dealing with screw steamers provides -
In the case of any ship propelled by steam or other power requiring engine room, an allowance shall be madefor the space occupied by the propelling power, and the amount so allowed shall be deducted from the gross tonnageof the ship ascertained as in the last preceding section mentioned, and the remainder shall (subject to any deductions hereinafter mentioned) be deemed to be the register tonnage of the ship, and that deduction shall be estimated as follows; (that is to say) and in ships propelled by screws, in which the tonnage of such space is above 13 per cent., and under 20 per cent., of the gross tonnage, the deduction shall be thirty-two onehundredths of the gross tonnage.
Paragraph b provides - and in the case of ships propelled by screws, the contents of the shaft trunk shall be added to and deemed to form part of the space ; and the measurement of the space shall be governed by Rule in in the second schedule of this Act.
I shall read as little as possible, but I must draw attention to a portion of section 79, as follows : -
In measuring or re-measuring a ship for the purpose of ascertaining her register tonnage, the following deductions shall be made from the space included in the measurement of the tonnage, namely : -
In the case of any ship - (1. ) any space used exclusively for the accommodation of the master ; and any space occupied by seamen or apprentices and appropriated to their use, which is certified under the regulations scheduled to this Act with regard thereto ;
any space used exclusively for the working of the helm, the capstan, and the anchor gear, or for keeping the charts, signals, and other instruments of navigation, and boatswains stores ; and
the space occupied by the donkey engine and boiler, if connected with the main pumps of the ship.
I could elaborate by reading more, but I think I have read amply sufficient to make the point clear to honorable senators. These sections show most conclusively that in the case of screw steamers - and no doubt the vessels proposed in the agreement will be propelled by screws - all the space required for engine-room, boilers, screw shaft, accommodation for captain and crew, stores of all kinds connected with the working of the ship, and, as provided later on, also the space between double bottoms, if any, is to be deducted from the gross measurement of the ship before the registered tonnage is arrived at. It will be seen that materially more than one-third of a vessel’s gross tonnage has to be deducted in thisway ; and therefore, if, for the sake of dealing with round figures, we suppose a vessel to be 15,000 tons gross, some 5,000 tons must be allowed for, leaving only 10,000 tons as the “ registered tonnage.”
– Does that system of measurement obtain in Australia under cur Navigation Act?
– We have no Navigation Act.
– There can be no doubt that any legal proceedings in connexion with the proposed option agreement - I decline to call it a mail contract - would be taken in England, and that the British Merchant Shipping Act would necessarily be the authority on which the Court, or, it might be, the Privy Council, wouldrely. Apparently there is no one in Australia to actfor the company, because Mr. Croker would disappear from the scene quickly enough, unless he remained in a professional capacity, as he verylikely might do.Clearly there is no probability of litigation at this end of the world.
– The British Merchant Shipping Act applies in Australia.
– No doubt it does. Not possessing thelegal knowledge of Senator Best, I was merely pointing out that, as a matter of fact, any suit connected with this option would have to be tried in England, and that the Merchant Shipping Act would be the authority relied on.
– In case of a contract made in Australia?
– I do not know where it has been made.
– It has been made here.
– I do not think so.
– It is signed by the Postmaster-General. Where did he sign it- - in Home?
– I do not know, though we have had an allegation about a cablegram. A cablegram, however, is not good in law unless it be proved who is the sender; just as a bank will not pay money on a telegram, unless there be some proof as to the sender of the message. A cablegram will not bind anybody at the other end of the world, unless there be satisfactory proof, not only as to who sent it, but also .is to the authority for sending it.
– If the parties themselves send the telegram and get a reply, they are bound.
– The honorable senator is surely forgetting the many vicissitudes that have overtaken people who have innocently entered into contracts they believed to be good and sound, but which have produced an aftermath of litigationsuch litigation as that in which “the legal gentleman concerned in this option would shine, as he did before the Butter Commission. I have pointed out what I conceive to be serious objections to a contract, which, if it: be given vitality in the future, will possess some elements of possible advantage. At present..«however, the agreement is surrounded with much uncertainty, and there is a lack of, I shall not say legal proof, but common-sense business proof, as to the iona fides of those concerned. After all, what we have before us is merely an agreement for an eighteen months’ option in favour of certain people at the other end 0^ the world, to whom a well-known firm mav possibly have allowed the use of its name, in prospect of getting a glorious job in the construction of vessels - a finer prospect, seeing that the vesels are apparently to be all on the same model, than, perhaps, exists in the minds of any other ship-builders in the . United Kingdom. Mr. Croker, or somebody else, has deposited a very small sum of money in Australia, but we have no other proof of bona fides beyond a statement that somebody has given to somebody else, somewhere, an alleged bond, and that somebody has despatched a cable from England to the Commonwealth PostmasterGeneral. Yet we are trading away, with all the solemnity of parliamentary sanction, an eighteen months’ option .to enable the persons who are manipulating this business to see how much money they can make out of it in financial circles in London. There is the prospect that if the option does eventuate, the steamers may never call at any Australian port after Adelaide, but mav, under a subsidy from New Zealand, proceed to that important Colony - a prospect that we may see no more of the steamers than their arrival in and departure from Spencer’s Gulf. I do not think that this contract, or, rather, this option arrangement, furnishes the Commonwealth with any material basis for jubilation. On the contrary, I am afraid that it is an option agreement, which, in the first instance, is very likely to come to nothing. I see that this transaction is being boomed in the newspapers at Home for flotation purposes. Every one with any knowledge or experience of financial methods, is aware that it only requires a certain price te create a boom in certain monetary journals in the city of London. We have all heard of the thousands of pounds which had to be disgorged not long ago bv certain newspaper writers in England in connexion with a scandalous flotation. The new mail arrangement is now being hailed as a great success ; and if the booming is only done industriously enough, some capital will be raised, and. probably a company formed. But the’e is another drawback, which, I am sorry I did not mention before. Under the agreement, it is open to the PostmasterGeneral to permit the assignment of this option to anybody.
– That ought not to be allowed.
– That ought not to be allowed; it should be subject to the approval of Parliament. I make no suggestion of impropriety, either at present or in the future, but I do say that the transfer of a great contract like the one proposed is too great a responsibility and power to be exercised by the gentleman, whoever he may be. who, for the time being, occupies the position of Postmaster-General. Indeed. I think it is too great a responsibility to be exercised bv even the Ministry of the day. If the Government may not enter into an option bargain of this kind without the sanction of Parliament, why should the greater power I have indicated be given to a future Ministry, or even the present Ministry, if the latter last Jong enough, which I do not think likely? I cannot be accused of saying anything personal, because I cannot form any opinion as to who may be the successors of the present Government. If the present Government feel that this agreement option for eighteen months is a matter of such importance that they cannot deal with it, and must seek parliamentary sanction for it, that is proof enough that any succeeding Ministry should be required to come to Parliament for the sanction of any transfer of the bargain to any one else. If this is James Laing a:nd Sons’ contract or option, they are, we understand, responsible parties, but while there is nothing in this agreement to prevent such a thing, there is, on the other hand, every provision in it to enable the PostmasterGeneral of the day to consent to the transfer of the contract or option to anybody - to any parcel of monetary sharks or adventurers calling themselves a company with capital, actual or alleged, and probably alleged more than actual. I think there should be a clause in this contract to provide that it shall not be transferred or assigned to any person, body, or company, except with the approval of Parliament. I have said what I have, because it seems to me that the matters I have mentioned are of paramount importance, and I have not taken up the time of the Senate for a moment longer than I have thought necessary in the discharge of my public duties.
– I think that, it is a very great calamity indeed that some understanding with regard to this contract was not arrived at between the States and the Commonwealth. The result of their failure to come to any agreement on the subject is before us in this contract. Which is of a hybrid character. It is neither fish, “fowl, nor good red herring. The representative in the Senate of the Postmaster-General told us, in moving the motion, that this is a mail contract pure and simple. Looking at the contract purely from the Commonwealth point of view, I should say that the Commonwealth ought not to trouble itself with anything other than the conveyance of mails. Put when we come to consider it with reference to the large producing interests of Australia, we are bound to come to the con clusion that a mail contract ought to be combined with a contract for the carriage of produce, and that, from my point of view, can only be done with the consent, concurrence, and co-operation of the States.
– Did not the honorable senator express the opposite opinion during the last discussion of a mail contract in the Senate?
– What I said was this, and I stick to it : I said that the Commonwealth as a Commonwealth should not concern itself with anything but the carriage of mails. I hold to that opinion now. I say that if any subsidy is to be given to a shipping company for the carriage of produce, that subsidy should’ be paid by the States interested, as States, and not by the Commonwealth. But while holding that view, I never expressed the opinion that the Commonwealth should charter ships only for the purpose of carrying mails, because that, in our present stage of development, would not be satisfactory in the’ interests of the Commonwealth. I held before, and I hold now, that a contract for the carriage of our mailsought to be combined with a contract for the carriage of produce, but that while the Commonwealth should be solely responsiblefor the carriage of the mails, the States should’ pay for the other services rendered’ under the contract.
– So they do.
– My objection tothe present contract is that it is a com- . promise contract. It is an attempt, and a very ineffective one, to provide at once for a mail and a produce service. Senator Keating, as I have already said, has declared” that this is a mail contract and nothing else. If it -is, why have we this provision for vessels of 11,000 tons register?
– That is not a provision.
– It is insetted inthe contract.
– It is an offer whichwe have accepted.
– It is a term of the contract.
– It is part of the contract. The contractors must provide, not one vessel of 11,000 tons, but a fleet of vessels of that tonnage, and they must benew vessels, to be built within a certain period. Senator Keating has told us that thev will contain three times the refrigerated space provided by the ships of the-
Peninsular and Orient Steam Navigation Company. I have no objection whatever to that. I have no objection to the size proposed for these vessels. I say the bigger the vessels the better. What I object to is that we are subsidizing a cargo service in this contract, in addition to a mail service. The Commonwealth is being placed in this very peculiar position : That, because the Government would not insist on the vessels going to Brisbane, in addition to Melbourne and Sydney, the vessels, under the contract, cannot be compelled to go past the port of Adelaide. My objection to the whole thing is that we are actually subsidizing a cargo service while professing that it is purely a mail service. The members of the Government have, I suppose, come to the conclusion that, in any case, these vessels will call at the ports of Melbourne and Sydney, and1 that there is, therefore, no need to mention those ports in the contract. They naturally came to ‘the conclusion that if they had included those two ports in the contract, the representatives of Queensland would insist on Brisbane being added. They think that thev have provided under the rose “ for Melbourne and Sydney being served by these vessels, but have we any guarantee of that? Several honorable senators have already pointed out that these vessels might proceed to New Zealand for cargo instead of going to Mel.bourne and Sydney.
– Thev will surely call al Melbourne and Sydney. .
– They will do whatever will pay them best.
– There is no compulsion under this contract on the company to fake their vessels to either Melbourne or Sydney. If they can get cargo in New Zealand that will pay them better, they may go there ; and, if there is the development in the meat and butter trade within the next ten years that I think every one of us expects there will be, the new company may actually be placed by this contract in a position to extort unfair freights from the ports east of Adelaide. I think that is quite on the cards under this contract. This is my objection: We are paying for something under this contract which the contractors are not bound to give us. If it is purely a mail contract, why this provision that the vessels must proceed to a port in the United Kingdom? The mails -may be sent on by smaller boats to Naples and Brindisi, whilst the mail-ships proceed to a port in the United Kingdom. If this is a mail contract pure and simple, why should not the voyage of these ships begin at Naples and end at Adelaide?
– Newspapers and packages must be sent round by the mail vessel.
– Surely it would be cheaper to send the mails and packages overland than to incur the expense of sending these ships right round from Naples to London, or whatever port in the United Kingdom may be decided on? All that I have mentioned goes to prove that this is something more than a mail contract. That being the case, I am decidedly of opinion that it will be to the advantage of Victoria, New South Wales, and Queensland if the new company is compelled to carry out’ the work it is, going to be paid for under this contract.
– What about Tasmania. Is she to be the only State left out?
– The representatives of Tasmania are here in full force, and can speak for themselves.
– The honorable senator’s troubles about them !
– 1 am, of course; troubled about Tasmania, as I am troubled about every other portion of the Commonwealth.
– But the honorable senator does not desire to usurp the functions of the Tasmanian representatives.
– I have no intention to usurp their functions. If in order, I propose to move -
That in clause 2 of the Articles of Agreement, after the word “ between,” where it occurs for the second time in line 7, the following words be inserted, “ the ports of Melbourne, Sydney, and Brisbane.”
– What about Hobart?
– Senator Dobson can move the insertion of the word “Hobart,” and I assure him beforehand that if he does so I shall vote for his amendment.
– The honorable senator had better include it now in his amendment, and make one job of it.
– I prefer to leave that to a representative of Tasmania.
– I think that the honorable senator had better move his amendment in the form of a proviso, as an addition to the motion. I shall then be able to put the question - “ That the word’s proposed to be added, be added.”
– I accept the suggestion, and move -
That the following words be added : - Proviso to clause 2 -
In line 7, after “ between,” where it occurs a second time, to insert, “the ports of Melbourne, Sydney, and Brisbane, and.”
It is of the greatest importance to our producing interests, not only that we should’ have regular communication with the markets of the old world’, but that the space in the vessels should be ample for all necessary purposes. An attempt has been made by the Government to combine in the contract a mail service with a cargo service. But it is a very ineffective one. The ships might or might not proceed to Melbourne and Sydney.
– Or Brisbane.
– If it be not set down in the contract that they must do so, there will not be much probability of the ships going to Brisbane, unless development should proceed there rapidly during the next few years. I do not see why Queensland should be left out in the cold in this fashion. I dare say that within very few years she will be a larger primary producer than any other State.
– Then she will get plenty of steamers to call at her ports.
-The “steamers will want some encouragement.
– Not at the Commonwealth expense.
– Queensland will pay her share of this subsidy, and yet get no benefit therefrom.
– She will get her letters carriedby the boats.
– It is very easy for the honorable senator who represents Tasmania,which is in a direct line between New Zealand and the old country, to talk in that way. During the apple season, the mail ships call at Hobart.
– . And it does not cost the Commonwealth anything.
– No, simply because Tasmania is right on the track between New Zealand and Europe. If it were in the same position as Queensland, we should have the honorable senator and his colleagues endeavouring to forward the interests of their State in every way they could.
– We are not quite so selfish as that.
– In Queensland, we are not selfish. We want to develop the resources of the Commonwealth, and if development in one part of the Commonwealth were promoted, that would help every other part.
– Hear, hear. I hope that the honorable senator will think in that way when the Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta Railway Survey Bill is submitted.
– We are discussing a question of very much greater importance, I think, to Australia than that survey. Somehow or other we ought to combine an efficient mail service with an efficient cargo service. I have always held, as I hold now, that the mere carriage of mails between Australia and Europe is of comparatively little consequence. What does it matter to the average citizen whether he gets his mail from Europe one day or two days, or threedays, or even a week late? What really does matter to the great mass of the people is that our produce, should be carried regularly, and in the best possible condition, to the London market.
SenatorFraser. -Andthatthe correspondence shall be delivered promptly, too.
-Nodoubtwe want both if it can be accomplished. I have no doubt that as population increases and production advances we shall be able to get both, but in the meanwhile let us pay most attention to that which I think affects us in the greatest degree.
SenatorFindley. - The honorable senator is on very bad ground when he says that a week’sdelay in regard to correspondence would not be material.
– It would not be very material.
– On that line of reasoning it would not matter whether the Sydney express train took oneday or threedays to make thejourney to Melbourne.
– It would ; but the difference of a day or a couple of dayson a journey of four or five weeks is of no great consequence.
– Why dowe not pay poundage rates then, and save- £100,000 a year?
– Exactly. My contention is that we ought to try to get the very best possible cargo and mail service. The attempt made in the contract to combine the two services is a most ineffective one, because it does not give us a cargo service while agreeing to pay for it. The vessels might not go beyond Adelaide; on the contrary, they might go from Adelaide to New Zealand, get loading there, and even hold up the Commonwealth during a time of stress, when probably there was a verv large quantity of frozen meat and butter to be sent to European markets. By the mere threat of not going to Sydney and Melbourne they might be able to inforce increased rates. I think it would be much better for the Commonwealth to pay the company an increased subsidy, and to compel them to send the boats to Sydney, Melbourne, and Brisbane.
.- The reason which induces me to formally second the amendment is that I am desirous of impressing upon the Government the necessity of securing for the Senate more definite information than has been supplied. It has a right to be supplied with exact information before it is called upon to give a vote. The agreement in its present form is lax and defective in many serious particulars. As the parties are here, it is quite competent for the Government to secure an addendum which would enable the two Houses1 to know definitely the terms of the contract. In regard to the subject-matter of the amendment, it has been urged bv several honorable senators that there is no possibility of doubt that the intention of the company is to send its boats to Melbourne and Sydney. If that is the understanding between the parties, is it not most desirable, in view of contingencies which might happen, that it should be included in the terms of the agreement? So far as New Zealand shipping is concerned, some extraordinary things have taken place, particularly in the matter of freights’. At the present moment there is going on in that Colony a warfare in which the Government is to some extent interested, because it is assisting one large company as against certain other shipping companies! which have hitherto traded there. In view of the freights which might be picked up in New Zealand, there is a reasonable possibility that Sir James Laing and Sons might find it most advantageous to . send their boats to New Zealand. The only consideration with the company would” be which trade was the more likely to yield a profit. If the advantages of trade with New Zealand surpass those offered bv the Commonwealth, in whose interest this contract is being actually entered into, we may take it that New Zealand will be selected in preference. I am, therefore, urging that there should be greater certainty in regard to the terms of the contract. My honorable friend, the Minister, may say in answer to the amendment which has been submitted, that if we attempt to alter this agreement, it may be put an end to altogether.
– Hear, hear !
– There is no doubt about that.
– My answer to that is what was urged by myself in connexion with the Eastern Extension Company’s agreement - and it appears to have been somewhat prophetically urged in that case. It is acknowledged that once an agreement has been entered into, although it is subject to ratification by Parliament, no alteration of it can be made without the consent of the other party.
– What is the use of making it subject to ratification of Parliament if Parliament is not to have a voice as to its terms?
– When Parliament ratifies, it does so, of course, subject to its own views, but if the other sides did not choose to fall in with the terms of Parliament, undoubtedly, the result would be that the agreement would be at an end. The agreement is, no doubt, so far as its fundamental principles are concerned, satisfactory, and “desirable. We should desire to see it consummated. But serious objections to it have been raised. There is, for instance, the question of tonnage. On the face of this agreement, we understand it to mean that the net tonnage of the vessels is to be 11,000 tons. The Minister says that there is no doubt that that is the intention. Surely, if that be so, it might as well be stated so that there may be left no room for doubt. This Parliament should definitely know what the contract actually is, and it should firmly and definitely set out the wishes and desires of Parliament. I am urging these matters as points in which the contract might be amended for this reason. First of all, the Government itself has to go to the other side, that is, to the representative of Messrs. Laing and Sons, in order to secure the confirmation by him of its own proposed amendments. What I urge is that when the Government goes to the representative of the contractors, with its own amendments; it shall at the same time ask him to agree to certain amendments which, so far as I understand the representations and arguments used in the Senate, ought to be made before this agreement is actually confirmed. If, having done so, the Government comes back to Parliament and says that the other side is not prepared to consent to the amendments asked for, it will be for us to reconsider the matter. I for one will give the Government every assistance in order that a satisfactory arrangement may be made, and that the contract may be carried out. Perhaps the most important objection to the contract in its present form has yet to be referred to by me. It has already been mentioned by Senator Fraser, Senator Macfarlane and one or two other honorable senators. I refer to the ambiguity of the clause having reference to the extension of the term. On glancing through the contract hastily, as I came into the chamber, I thought that what was meant by clause 6 was that the extended term referred to was to be a term within the fixed period of ten years. But, on closely reading the clause, I donot think it means anything of the kind. I think, moreover, that it would be quite competent for the Postmaster-General to give notice extending the contract for twenty years, and Parliament would not have a word to say. Parliament is not empowered to say a word - either yea or nay - to an arrangement of that kind, because automatically the matter is fixed by the tribunal mentioned in the general conditions of tender.
– Failing a mutual arrangement.
– Of course, the Government and the contractors can mutually asrange the matter, but if they cannot definitely agree a tribunal is constituted for the purpose of securing, certainty and fixity.
– There is no doubt that the words mean an extended period.
– Clause 6 says -
That if during the sixth year of the fixed period of ten years mentioned in clause 2 hereof any competing line of mail-ships shall then provide an improved and accelerated service from Europe to Australia, the contractors shall, if so required by the Postmaster-General -
That is to say, he is to give notice - provide a service equivalent to such improved and accelerated service upon the following conditions : -
Before I proceed to paragraphs a, b, and c, I point out that a person reading this contract through for the first time would conclude that it meant that if, during the sixth year, it was thought desirable to get an accelerated service, the PostmasterGeneral would simply have to give notice that, during the balance of the term, the service should be accelerated. But then we read -
This means, so far as I can understand it, that notice has to be given by the PostmasterGeneral that he wants an accelerated service to commence at a particular time, and he has to offer an additional annual subsidy. That extended service might last for twenty years. If there is any disagreement between the parties, the whole question is to be determined by arbitration, under a provision of the general conditions of tender. So that the result would be that, if a twenty-knot boat was required, and an extended period of twenty years, in the opinion of the PostmasterGeneral, should be given, he might, in the most irresponsible way - I say irresponsible advisedly - give this particular notice; and, if once that notice was given, Parliament would have no say in the matter whatever, because a tribunal is fixed for the purpose of ascertaining definitely the terms and fixing the subsidy. It will be observed that, according to clause 1, the general conditions of tender are incorporated in the articles of agreement. Of course, my honorable friend the Minister might refer me to clause 27 in reply to my argument. Clause 27 of the general conditions of tender says -
The contract shall come into operation on the of February, 1908, and shall con tinue in force until the inclusive, and shall then determine if notice in writng to that effect shall have been gven twenty-four calendar months previously to the said last-mentioned date, either to the contractor by the PostmasterGeneral, or to the Postmaster-General by the contractor, and if not so determined the contract shall continue in force after such last-mentioned date until the expiration of a notice of a like duration given by either party at any time.
My honorable friend may urge that this would enable us definitely to terminate the contract upon giving twenty-four months’ notice. But I do not think that that is so, because it will be observed that clause 1 of the agreement provides that the general conditions of tender - shall be deemed to be part of this agreement, and that the Postmaster-General and the contractors shall respectively perform and observe each and every of the conditions, covenants, stipulations, agreements, and provisos on his and their part to be performed and observed, as the same are set forth in the “General Conditions of Tender,” except where such conditions, covenants, stipulations, agreements, and provisos, or any of them, shall be inconsistent with or modified by the special covenants and the provisions hereinafter set forth.
One of the special provisions of the articles of agreement is that this contract may be indefinitely extended without the consent of Parliament. Parliament, of course, in sanctioning the contract, would sanction the provisions in it which enabled the extension to be made; and if Parliament does that with its eyes open, it must expect to be bound thereby. What I am urging is that if the Government does not understand what I have stated to be the proper interpretation of the articles-
– Has the Government said that?
– I understand the Government to say that the extended period is to be within the period of ten years. If the Government understands that the extended period is to be the limit of ten years, and if the contract obviously says the contrary - or if there is such ambiguity about it that honorable senators and the Government are not at one as to what the true interpretation is - it is clear that we should endeavour to ascertain what it really does mean. Under these circumstances, I urge my honorable friend toadjourn this debate, with the object of seeing if it is not possible to get an addendum signed, first of all, definitely dealing with the question of the extended term - as to whether it is to be within ten years, or whether some limit is not to be placed upon the term. Whether it be ten years or fifteen, let it be firm and definite. Do not let us be in the position in which we were in regard to the Eastern Extension Company’s contract, which nobody understood, and the ambiguity of which caused an indefinite amount of heart-burning.
– If there is to be a fresh agreement, it also should be subject to the ratification of Parliament.
– I was going to suggest ratification by Parliament, but I see an objection to that. The agreement, in its present form, would have to be altered, because it says that the term and the amount of subsidy are to be fixed by arbitration. If they are to be fixed by arbitration, the determination could hardly afterwards be a matter for ratification by Parliament. There is a little difficulty in that regard. I had jotted down on my notes “ Consent of Parliament should be sought.”
– The arbitration might go.
– The arbitration might go ; and that would mean the re-casting of the clause. It would be infinitely more satisfactory if, instead of appealing to arbitration, the Government of the day were to make this a matter of mutual arrangement, and come to Parliament and say, “ It is desirable that we should have an accelerated service, and we can get that service on terms that are embodied in an agreement, which we submit for sanction.”
– That would be the course followed, undoubtedly. There was no obligation on theP ostmaster-General to submit this contract to Parliament. The Postmaster-General “ inserted the condition when he drew up the general conditions of tender.
– There is no obligation, but Parliament would undoubtedly insist on such a condition.
-Thatwouldapply in the other case.
-Itis expressly excluded, because of the arbitration.
– There is no obligation,otherthanthatprovidedbythe PostmasterGeneral in the general conditions of tender, requiring ratification by Parliament. What other obligation is there?
– Undoubtedly the PostmasterGeneral was not obliged to put such a provision in the original conditions of tender. Such strong interest was taken in this subject, as honorable senators are aware, that not only was this matter made the subject of question, but it was clear that Parliament would have insisted on having the right of ratification.
– So it would in the other case.
– The Minister cannot see the difference.
– I must confess I cannot.
– The answer would be that in the agreement itself there was a provision that the Postmaster-General was to be at liberty, on his own responsibility, to enter into an arrangement to extend’ the term. I admit that the Postmaster-General had the right to insert such a provision. If there is no objection to an arrangement of the kind being ratified by Parliament, all I ask is that the ratification be provided for in the agreement.
– I am sure that the Postmaster-General would not exercise such a power without reference to Parliament.
– That might or might not be so.
– May I ask Senator Best a question? The honorable senator, I gather, understands the Government to have affirmed that it was intended under this clause to provide for an extended period, and now the Minister is evidently arguing that the Postmaster-General would come to Parliament for ratification.
– I made no such statement to the Senate. Iwas asked casually, and I answered without even looking at the clause.
– I do not say that the Minister did make such a statement; I merelv ask Senator Best whether he understood the statement to have been made.
SenatorFraser. - The statement was made to me.
– I was not in the Chamber when Senator Fraser was speaking.
– It was said to me by Senator Playford.
– Senator Fraser says that this statement’ was made to him. I have no desire to go behind public utterances in any way, because what is said to the Senate is what Ministers are responsible for. The only point I make is that I was justified in concluding that the Government were under the impression - and I hope I may be forgiven if I in any way misconstrue the intentions of the Government - that the extended term was to come within the period of ten years. If I am wrong, I, of course, will accept correction at once.
– The Minister replied to me that that was so.
– I was not in the Chamber when Senator Fraser was speaking, and, so far as the Minister of De fence is concerned, he assures me that he has not made a statement.
– What view do the Government take?
– I place the same construction as Senator Best is placing on the condition at present.
– And that is the interpretation I place on the condition.
– I freely admit that the clause, with other clauses, is most ambiguous; and I am glad that the Minister now accepts the view that has been urged. If that be so, is it unreasonable to ask that some further negotiations shall take place with the representatives of the contractors, so that we may definitely know the exact terms of the contract into which we are entering? If after further negotiations the Government come to this and another Chamber and say that the terms are the very best they are able to secure, it will then be for Parliament to say definitely whether or not we shall enter into the contract. What I am urging is that we have a right to know the exact terms before we ratify, the agreement. Ministers must recognise that the Senate is sympathetic, and desirous to help them in every way. The criticism that is being offered could not be objected to, because its purpose is to assist the Government ; and when we are told definitely what the contract is. I am sure it will receive the most generous consideration. Again urging that the debate should be adjourned, with a view to obtaining a supplementary arrangement, I ask that that arrangement should definitely deal with the matter of the extended term, with the question whether the contractors are prepared to make any stipulation as to the boats proceeding to Melbourne, Sydney, and Brisbane, or as to which other ports they are willing to bind themselves to call at, with the questions whether “ registered tonnage” means the net registered tonnage, and whether Parliament should not have a right to sanction any assignment that may be made. These are the points in regard to which I see serious objections, and on which I, along with others, desire to be enlightened before we are called upon to ratify this agreement.
– Senator Best has, in my opinion, put his finger on a very important objection to the contract in its present form. Apart from the period fixed, the contract, so far as I am able to understand it, represents a very satisfactory arrangement. My only objection is to so long a period as ten years, and that objection will be considerably strengthened if it be open to the Postmaster to hereafter extend the term indefinitely. Ministers ought to make themselves clear on this point. With the constant improvements in steam navigation, it is impossible to foresee what the conditions of transit may be ten yearshence.
– We have only to cast back our eyes for ten years in order to realize that.
-Quite so. I remember, many years ago, one of the principal engineers on the Clyde, in delivering a lecture, being asked when we were likely to see an end to the improvements in steam navigation, and he replied that he could not imagine any limit. On that I agree with the engineer; and, if there is any limit, it will not be in regard to speed, and so forth. There may be a limit as to the size of the boats that our harbors and ports will accommodate, but it is not possible to forecast what improvements may take place in other directions. I do not think there is really so much as is imagined in the stipulation as to the tonnage of the vessels to be used under this contract. Senator Guthrie has given shipping matters a closer study than, I suppose, has any other honorable senator; and I know that he will not agree with me when I express the opinion that the stipulation in the agreement as to the registered tonnage may refer to the net tonnage of the boats, the gross tonnage, or both. As a matter of fact, both tonnages of Australian shipping are registered under our present law.
– The Register of Australian and New Zealand Shipping supports my contention.
– That is issued by the Underwriters’ Association ; it is not an authoritative publication.
– It is as authoritative in regard to Australian shipping as Lloyds’ Register is in the old country and in other parts of the world.
– We cannot get behind the Merchant Shipping Act, which deals with the question of registration, and applies to the whole of the British Possessions.
– I will not contend that the system of registration in Australia is quite as authoritative as the registration at Lloyds’, but it is our Australian system of registration.
– No ; it is only the underwriters’ system
– In Australia both the gross and the net tonnages are registered.
– That register is merely made for the information of the insurance companies.
– According to the Australian register, both gross and net tonnage are registered.
– It is printed, not registered.
– Take the Kanozvna, for instance, which is the largest steamer on the Australian coast. It is stated in the Australian register that the gross tonnage of that vessel is 6,942 tons, and the net tonnage 4,376 tons.
– The latter is her registered tonnage.
– The gross and net tonnages are in the same column, and so I take it that ships may register under either one or the other, or both.
– Ask the Australian United Steam Navigation Company to pay harbor dues on the gross tonnage, and see how they will object ! They pay on the registered tonnage.
– I agree with the honorable senator that the company may pay on the net tonnage.
– On the registered tonnage, not the net tonnage.
– But we see that the shipping companies always advertise the gross tonnage of their vessels. What is the reason ?
SenatorFraser. - To catch the public eye.
– And I suppose that, in a sense, that is what the contracting company under this agreement are doing when they place this clause in the contract. I feel quite sure that there is no likelihood’ of the contracting company ever giving us vessels with a net registered tonnage of 11,000 tons. There are very few ships afloat of such a tonnage, and certainly no boats of the kind are coming to Australia. Even the Grosser Kurfurst, which is the largest vessel trading to this country, falls short of that in her registered tonnage. If we get vessels of a gross tonnage of 11,000 tons, I hold that we shall get a much better class of vessels than are at present carrying our mails to the old country, and that seems to be admitted by all ‘honorable senators who have spoken. I do not see why we should raise so much objection to a better class of boats, because there is some indefiniteness as to the meaning of “registered tonnage.”
– There is no indefiniteness.
– Until I have some better proof to the contrary than I have yet heard from the honorable senator, I shall continue to hold the opinion that there is.
– No one ever saw a ship marked with her gross register.
– I cannot say that I have ; but, according to this publication, both gross and net tonnage are given. In any case, some more important objections can be raised to the contract than that which is raised with respect to the tonnage of the vessels to be supplied. After all is said and done, there is only a little indefiniteness in that respect.
– It is1 a matter of importance whether we get a vessel of 11,000, or 15,000, or 16,000 tons.
– I do not believe that our harbors in Australia would accommodate a vessel of 16,000 tons.
– Yes; Adelaide can.
– I have yet to learn that Adelaide has a harbor of any kind. I hold that the question raised with regard to the control of freights is of very much more importance than the question of the exact tonnage of these vessels. The Government might contend that in making a contract purely for the carriage of mails it would not do to include any provision regarding the regulation of freights, but it should be borne in mind that, in’ common with other parts of the world, Australia has suffered more or less from the operations of shipping combines in the control of over-sea, as well as of Inter-State, freights. There have been continuous complaints against the exorbitant freights charged by shipping companies in the combine. We know that the shipping combine in the old country, which is known as the Shipping Conference, has controlled freights to such an extent that the people of Fremantle have had grave cause of complaint “in the high freights charged to that port.
– The merchants of. Fremantle are members of the combine, and draw dividends from it.
– No doubt the merchants of Fremantle are as keen in busi- ness matters as are the merchants of Adelaide, but that does not justify a continuance of inordinately high freights. We are now concerned in securing for Australia as good a steam-ship service as we can possibly get. If the tender received from the new company is a genuine one - and I think it is - under this contract the company will be free to join the shipping combine, and to raise freights to the extortionate rates we have heard so much about, in the past. The action of the Government in the matter would have been more consistent if legislation in the direction I have indicated, and which is proposed in a Bill under consideration by this Parliament, had been taken advantage of in this contract. We have anti-trust legislation! now before Parliament, and why the principle of that legislation should have been lost sight of when this contract was being drawn up I am unable to understand.- Australian industries have . suffered in the past from the combination of shipping companies to raise freights above a reasonable, rate, and I am therefore very sorry that there is no clause in this contract for the regulation of the rates of freight to be; charged by the vessels engaged in this service.
– Surely the honorable senator is not satisfied with the Inter- ; State freights.
– Fair from it. There is much graver cause of complaint against the Inter-State freights than there is against the oversea freights. The action in this respect of the oversea shipping companies is extremely “fair when compared with the action of our own InterState companies. When the last mail contract was under consideration in the Senate, Senator Pearce directed attention to the labour to be employed upon the boats engaged in the service. I am not now referring to the colour of the labour, but to the question whether it should or should not beunion labour. At the time the honorable senator proved that the action taken by the Orient Steam Navigation Company was undoubtedly hostile to union labour. They were taking advantage of the operations of a shipping federation in the old country, which is an employers’ association, that practically led to the boycotting of members of the seamen’s unions of the old country. It is an important omission from this contract that no provision is included to deal with that kind of thing. Seeing that the matter was discussed in connexion with the last contract, and that the complaint made was justified, the Government might very well have borne it in mind in making this contract. They should have seen to it that the British sailors who are members of the seamen’s unions, comprising the best seamen leaving the old’ country, would be given a’ fair deal so far as employment on the boats to be run under this contract is concerned. It has been said that the new company may hawk this contract about with the object of assigning it to some one else - that, in fact, the contract is not a genuine one on their part. I do not think there is much danger of that, because I do not see that the company would have very much to gain from trickery ofthat kind. Believing that the contract is a desirable one, I do not think we should be justified in deliberately refusing to take advantage of all the good which may follow from it, simply on the ground that some one believes that some trickery on the part of the new company is intended. I do not agree with those who say that the proposed contract is too good to be true. I believe that it is a desirable contract, and I believe also that the persons who are parties to it will be honest enough to carry it out. The” suggestion that they are not likely to carry it out has probably originated with some disappointed tenderers. If the new company do not carry out the contract, their action will only afford a further argument in support of the contention that the only course which will go to the root of the trouble will be the establishment of a national line of ships, over which we should have full control. Senator Fraser, when referring to the terms of the present contract with the Orient Steam Navigation Company, stated that it provides for cool chambers and the supply of selfregistering thermometers in those chambers. I asked the honorable senator at the time whether he was quite sure of his ground in making that statement. He said that he was ; but I have since looked through the contract, and can find no such provision in it. The contract does make provision for cool storage, but there is no reference in it to the supply of selfregistering thermometers.
– I think I remember seeing that in the contract.
– I cannot find any reference to it. It must be borne in mind that in the contract before us we are not making provision for the carriage of any kind of cargo. This is a mail contract only, and in making such a contract I think that the Government have acted wisely. I have been sorry to find that some honorable senators, who, when we were dealing with the Orient Steam Navigation Company’s contract, complained that it provided for more than the carriage of mails, now assert that this contract should be something more than a mail contract. That is an inconsistency which they will find it hard to explain. With respect to the term of the contract, I think very little objection can be taken to it. I intend to support the Government, but I hope they will take steps to make it clear that the term will not extend beyond ten years.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 7.45 p.m.
.- The Senate would have done well, I think, if it had requested the Minister to move the motion in Committee, as we could then have criticised the contract more fully, and moved any amendments we might think necessary. I fear, however, that it is almost too late to take that course now, and that we must try to make such amendments as we can. Regarded as a postal contract alone, it offers many advantages to the Commonwealth, and I shall be very, glad to see it ratified. I have been reminded of the very great facilities which now exist for sending our produce to the markets of the world by large cargo vessels. I admit at once that some of the large cargo boats take our products quite asquickly as do the mail-boats ; but nevertheless Ithink that the Government would have done well had it put in some stipulations with regard to the space in the cold chambers, and to the boats calling at the various ports. I am inclined to think that we shall have no peace on this point until theydo call at Brisbane. I am quite certain that the representatives of Queensland, headed by Senator Stewart, will not let the matter drop. But if the company are to be compelled to call at a port there ought to be in the contract a proviso to the effect that there shall be enough freight forthcoming to pay the expenses of the journey to and fro. I do not think that the Government are called upon to compel the steamers to call at a port unless the .shippers at that port undertake that there will be enough cargo to pay bare expenses?. If Senator Stewart should carry his amendment, I propose to add to it the words “ and at the port of Hobart during the season for shipping fruit to Great Britain.” I am aware that the Prime Minister made every possible effort to get the States to take united action with regard to securing a certain amount of cold storage for their products, but they did not appear to fall in with his ideas. I am inclined to think that they gathered from the correspondence that they would have had to guarantee so much freight. In Tasmania, for instance, we would have had to guarantee so many thousand cases of apples, and Victoria would have had to give a guarantee in respect of fruit, butter, and rabbits. I suppose that the States shrank from giving a guarantee of that description, because they feared that circumstances might occur which would not enable them to fulfil the obligation. In Tasmania last year there was a very bad fruit season, partly owing to a frost, and partly owing to very dry weather. Instead of having a full crop of apples, we had only half a crop. I believe that two growers who had engaged space for 20,000 cases had to plead with the company to be let off with supplying (5,000 cases, and I understand that in some instances shippers in Hobart had to pay for space which they did not occupy. I imagine that had the Government called for alternative tenders they would have made slightly better terms. They might have called for tenders to provide cold storage at the present market rates, or at slightly above those rates. In Tasmania when the shippers commenced to ship apples they had to pay a freight of 4s. 6d. a case, but it is now down to 3s. 3d. Considering that fruit is constantly bought for the English market at 3s. 3d. and 3s. 6d. a case, it is very hard indeed upon the shippers that they should have to pav a freight of 3s. 3d. a case. When outside boats call freight is often quoted at 2s. 6d. a case.
– Suppose that alternative tenders had been called, would the rates have been binding for the term of the contract?
– That would be as the tender set forth.
– That is the question.
– I admit that it might be a mistake for the Commonwealth to bind the shippers to pay 3s. a case for the carriage of apples, because they are now carried for 2s. 6d. a case, except on the mail-boats, which charge 3s. 3d. a case. A stipulation might just as easily have been put in the contract about the rates for cold storage, as about the ships themselves. If we had a right to demand that the company shall supply a new fleet in order to provide the accelerated and more advantageous service, surely we had an equal right to say. that the freight should be reduced according to market rates. I believe that if the PostmasterGeneral had called foi alternative tenders with regard to taking our produce home in cold chambers, at a rate not exceeding a certain sum, he would have got additional advantages for our producers. I have nc particular liking for a mere postal contract, because it does not give to the public the benefits which they have a right to expect. To scores of places in the Commonwealth a chaise cart or a boy and a pony would be able to carry the mails, but the Department provides that the contractor shall supply a waggonette or a coach in order that’ the public, quite apart from’ postal advantages, may derive a benefit from the contract. I do not see why that principle should not have been applied in the case of this ocean mail contract. I believe that clause 6 of the articles of agreement is so momentous that it will never be acted upon. It appears to me to be perfectly certain that if the extended period for which the improved and accelerated service is to continue be left to arbitration, without imposing any limit, it will rest with the arbitrators to fix upon any period which they may think fit. It might be argued that, as ten years is the period mentioned in the contract, they could not give a second term of ten years, but I do not believe that the Court would interpret the clause in that way, because it is absolutely unlimited. It appears to me that if an accelerated and better service than the one being provided should be given in the sixth vear of the contract, it would be at an enormous additional cost to the contractors, and, naturally, they would require an enormous additional consideration. I do not think that any arbitrators would think it fair to require the contractors to recast the whole of their arrangements and to build new ships capable of travelling at an increased speed unless they did get an additional term df ten years, though I quite admit that it is a very important matter to the Commonwealth. One can see that, in ratifying this contract, we might be binding the Commonwalth for a period of sixteen years, and that Parliament would have nothing more to say about it until the expiration of that period. Suppose, for instance, that in the sixth year we were to ask the contractors to give us an accelerated and better class of steamers, I take it that the arbitrators would probably give them an additional term of ten years.
– As they are building ships now on a chance of getting only . a six-years’ contract, would thev not give us new boats if they got another term of six years ?
– No; I think it is fair to say that the contractors are proposing to build the boats now on a ten-years’ contract. In my opinion, the chances are as fifty to one that clause 6 will never be put in force, and that the contractors will have only a ten-years’ term. But if six years hence we should ask them to provide a service equal to r/he best in the world, it would be imposing great additional responsibilities upon them, and any arbitrators would give them a greatly increased subsidy and advantages. That is one of the amendments which I should like to see made in the terms of the contract. I think that paragraph c of clause 6 ought to be altered to read as follows: -
The extended period for which such improved and accelerated service shall continue for a term not exceeding -
The term could be fixed at ten or six years. Suppose, for instance, that the contractors had to give this better service in the sixth year of the contract, there would be four “years of the term left.
– If they had to build new ships the new contract could not start to run until, say, two years from that time.
– I quite admit that the contractors should be allowed a reasonable time in which to get ready for rendering the better service. If they required two years’ notice, then there would be eight years of the contract gone. No arbitrators would compel them to make that provision without giving them an extended term of eight or ten years. There is nothing, however, to prevent the arbitrators from giving the contractors a term of fifteen years. After the amendment of Senator Stewart is disposed of, I should like to move an addition to paragraph *c of clause 6.
– If the honorable senator concludes his speech without moving an amendment, I do not know that he can move an amendment later on.
– Is it competent for me, sir, to move an addition to the amendment of Senator Stewart? The PRESIDENT. - Yes.
– I move-
That’ the amendment be amended by the addition of the words “ at Hobart during the season for shipping fruit to England and.”
– That is too indefinite.
– It would be better to say “ during the months from January to_ April.”
– In Tasmania we never ship fruit in January.
– Never mind about that ; let the boats go to Hobart in January.
– Can I move another amendment, sir?
– Only one amendment can be moved at a time.
– Is it too late for the Senate to go into Committee to consider this motion?
– It has already been discussed in the Senate, and we cannot go into Committee now.
– I shall ask Senator Clemons to move another amendment.
– I can quite understand tiny member of the Senate who has glanced at this contract coming to the conclusion that it is, practically speaking, too good to be true. I have spent some time listening to the criticisms upon it, and I have come to the conclusion that there is much of it that requires very careful attention. I am going to point out some serious flaws in it. I will deal first, as the question has been very much debated, with what is meant by “ registered tonnage.” On that point I should like to offer this criticism: That it is the first and ‘foremost duty of the Government clearly to understand what is intended by a contract that it puts before Parliament. To me it does not much matter whether the gross tonnage of the vessels to be built by the contractors is to be 11,000 tons, or whether, as seems more likely, it is to be something approximating to 15,500 tons. But the Government should come here with a distinct and clear understanding of what the words in the contract mean. They would be able to state explicitly and directly that 11,000 tons registered tonnage means so much in terms that can be understood by every honorable senator. I listened carefully to Senator Keating, and I gathered that he does not know what is meant. I have not heard him indicate what is meant. We have listened to many arguments as to what the words are intended to convey. But it ought not to be necessary for any single member of the Senate to have anything to say on this point, which ought to be expressed in language so clear that we could understand it at once, without having to debate what the real meaning of the agreement is. I am inclined - and I am sure many honorable senators are - to think that there are manythings in this contract which are to be viewed with suspicion. Whether I am right or wrong, it appears to me that what the contractors have probably had in their mind’s is the possibility - and I defer to Senator Guthrie in saying this - of a registration in Australia which does not conform to the registration at Lloyds in England or under the Merchant Shipping Act.
– There can be no registration in Australia that does not conform with the Merchant Shipping Act.
– I am inclined to think that there is some method of registration in Australia which differs from registration in England, and which would enable these contractors to indicate by 11,000 tons registered tonnage 11,000 tons gross.
– There is no registration in. any part of the British Dominions except under the Merchant Shipping Act.
– Possibly I am wrong; but we know that this company will have to pay heavy dues and charges on its boats coming through the Suez Canal on their registered tonnage. Our ports also impose charges and- dues in respect of registered tonnage. Consequently, it is practically certain that the company will make the registered tonnage of its vessels as low as possible. I have also secured this information during the adjournment - that the registered tonnage of the Mooltan, one of the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company’s vessels - which is advertised as being 10,500 tons - is about 4,900 tons. That means that the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation
Company pays dues and charges on 4,900- tons, whether in Australian waters or in .the Suez Canal. If the contractorsin this case are adopting the same system, of registration as the Peninsular and Oriental ‘Steam Navigation Company does,, honorable senators will’ see at once what it means.
– What other system of registration can they adopt?
– I have a grave suspicion that if the company adopts thesame system of registration as the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Companyadopts - taking the Mooltan as a sampleits boats will be nearly 22,000 tons gross. I do not imagine that these contractors areless astute than are the managers of the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation. Company, and if that company can run a. boat of r 0,500 tons, and pay dues only on 4,900 tons registered tonnage, I think we may take it for granted that these contractors will do the same. If that be the case, the vessels are going to be of a gross, tonnage of about 22,000 tons. I think I am justified, therefore, in suspecting something behind this description of I I.000 tons registered tonnage. I venture tothink that we are all entitled to have suspicions about it. Coming, to the contract itself, I do not think that clause 5 has. been touched upon. It deals with the possibility of ‘attaining! increased speed by the payment of ai further sum of £25,000- per annum. We have here - there is nothing in the contract to indicate it clearly,, but I think it is apparent - the possibility that these boats may be turbine steamers.. I wish to point out that the Government may have been caught napping with regard’ to this clause, if the vessels are to be turbine steamers. It is almost a matter of common knowledge that the economical rateof speed of turbine boats is very much higher than the economical rate of speed’ of steam-ships driven by any other method. I do not mean to say that this observationapplies actually to the boats referred to inthis contract. But let me give an instance. We have running in Australian waters theLoongana,. The economical rate of speed’ of that boat is 16.6 knots per hour, which means that, if the Loongana is to be run> at a payable rate to her owners, she must
Tun at 16.6 knots per hour. The distancefrom Adelaide to Brindisi is, I haveascertained, 8,815 miles and the rate at which these boats are to run - allowingeighteen hours for stoppages - averages alittleover14milesanhour. I can conceive it to be quite possible, if they wereturbineboats, that itwould be just as cheap for the company to run them at the additional rate of speed provided’ for in clause5, as it would be to run them at a lower rate.
– The additional rate is only to berun when the Postmaster- General requires it.
– The company may say, “ We are going to run these boats at a payable speed, and we ask’ you to give us so much more money for doing so,” -whereas the fact may be that the additional increased rate will involve no more cost. In other words, the Commonwealth will be paying£25,000 for nothing.
– Any increase in speed will mean extra cost.
– If the boats are to be built with an economical rate of speed of 151/2 knots per hour, it will be absurd topay the company£25,000 more for running them at that economical rate. I have worked out the rate of speed at which they will have to run to reduce the journey to 612 hours, as provided in clause 5. The average will be under 15 miles an hour. I am allowing for all the stoppages.
– They will not run at 15 miles an hour through the Suez Canal.
– I have made due allowance for that. The point may not be very important, but it is worth while to mention it.
– Is the honorable senator taking the Loongana as typical of all turbine boats?
– No; but the salient feature of all turbine boats is that they can run at a higher rate of speed than their economical rate. The turbine is only suitable when a high rate of speed is desired. That is the essence of it. Now I come to clause 6 ; and here I wish to give notice of an amendment that I think ought to be moved. My first criticism is that I am unable to ascertain for what reason the Government has hit upon the sixth year of the fixed period of ten years, for ascertaining whether there is a better line in competition with the mail steamers affected by this contract. Senator Keating gave no explanation, and on the face of it, one may well wonder why the sixth year has been chosen’. Why not the fifth or the seventh? I see no reason to limit it to the sixth. I see no reason, if we are going to get a better service, and if it is desirable that we should get a better service, why we should limit ourselves to a period, when the fifth year of the contract has gone by. This is one of those arbitrary selections which have to be made, but which nothing in particular can justify.
– I presume that the sixth year was chosen: because then half the contract period will have elapsed.
– Possibly it has been chosen because it represents one-half of the contract period. Expressing purely my own opinion as to the construction of clause 6, I have not the slightest doubt whatever that the extended period’ referred to in paragraph c means a period beyond and over the fixed term of ten years. I have been informed that the AttorneyGeneral in another place said distinctly, clearly, without any reservation whatever, that that extended period would not go beyond the original fixed term of ten years. But I have heard that Senator Keating now admits that it does. I have no doubt what ever that on a strict construction, this exfended period could mean nothing, but some period of time over and above the fixed term of ten years. Unless we put that interpretation upon the clause, I fail to see how we could interpret the extended period, and what meaning we could possibly give to paragraph c.
– Is there any limit to the extended time?
– There is absolutely no limit. The question we have to consider is whether there ought to be an extended period over and above the ten years, or whether it is desirable that the period of the contract should be strictly limited to the ten years. As the clause reads, there is power to give the contractors a further period of ten years, or if you like, twenty years. That power is placed entirely in the hands of the PostmasterGeneral, acting on behalf of the Executive. The introduction of the power to arbitrate clearly indicates that it is to be placed altogether outside the province of this Parliament to say for what, if any, period the contract shall be extended. I do not think that it is the desire of this Senate that the contract shall be extended under any circumstances beyond the ten years, without the ratification and authority of Parliament. If that be so, and assuming that that is the intention of the Senate - and I hope the intention of the Government - 1 propose to move an amendment to paragraph c.
– The honorable senator cannot move any amendment while there are two amendments before, the Chair.
– Does that mean that there is a limit?
– An amendment has already been moved. The Standing Orders provide that there shall be only one amendment at a time before the Senate. There is an amendment on the amendment that has been moved. The original questions is, therefore, for the time superseded, and the question under discussion is the amendment on the amendment.
– I know that there has been a ruling, that there can only be one amendment at a time before the Chair.
– That is fundamental. Taking the amendment for the time being to be the original question before the Senate, I shall put the question - “ That the words, proposed to be added be added.” After that is disposed of, any honorable senator who has not spoken may move another amendment.
– Cannot an honorable senator who has spoken move an amendment ?
– He cannot. We cannot have half-a-dozen amendments before the Senate at once.
– Perhaps, Mr. President, you would indicate to , me the manner in which I may move an amendment ?
– I do not think the honorable senator can at present move an amendment.
– I do not mean at present; but when the other amendments are disposed of. Will it be competent for me then to submit another?
– I do not think so. The Standing Orders provide that an amendment may be moved by an honorable senator, and that in moving that amendment, . he may speak to the original question and to the . amendment. When the amendment so moved has been disposed of, other honorable senators, who have not spoken, may move other amendments ; but honorable senators who have spoken cannot move further amendments. Otherwise there would be no end ; an honorable, sena tor might speak, and afterwards continue moving amendments, and thus the discussion would never terminate. If Senator Clemons wished to move a further amendment after the amendment before us had been disposed of, he need not have spoken, but could have submitted his amendment by-and-by.
– We ought to be in Committee.
– We cannot go into Committee now, and those honorable senators who make the suggestion speak without knowledge of the Standing Orders. I admit that on one occasion a discussion was initiated in the Senate and finished in Committee. If that was a good practice, it would apply to every motion. Any motion might be half discussed in the Senate and then be taken into Committee. That is contrary to our Standing Orders; and if we initiate a discussion in the Senate we can not, in the middle of such discussion, go into Committee. I can see no reason why we should go into Committee on this motion. I quite admit that a great many amendments may be moved, and the motion may be discussed at great length, but I see no reason whatever to depart from the fundamental Standing Orders of the Senate in this connexion.
– While I do not in any way dispute your ruling, Mr. President, I should like to point out the position in which we find ourselves, for your ruling’ does not apply to me only. Because one or two honorable senators, who have already spoken to the motion, happen to have moved amendments, the limit apparently has been reached. I understand that our Standing Orders provide that there can be only one amendment on an amendment.
– I do not say that.
– I thought that was how you had ruled.
– I said that we could only have one amendment at a time before the Senate.
– Do I gather that if any honorable senator who has spoken wishes to move an amendment, he must wait until the two previous amendments have been disposed of.
– If he has spoken to his original question, or to the original question, and an amendment, he can not afterwards move another amendment.
– That being your ruling, Mr. President, I suggest the desirability of postponing the discussion in order to consider some means of going into Committee. The proper consideration of the motion must necessarily be seriously hampered if we deal with amendments in the Senate only. Unless we go into Committee there will obviously be a restriction on the power of honorable senators to improve the contract as they think fit. I suggest to Senator Keating that he should consent to an adjournment of the debate, in order, as I say, that you, sir, may consider some means of permitting us to go into Committee. So far as I am concerned, I am willing to refrain from making any further remarks, and to regard myself as being cut off from submitting amendments which I think desirable. I may indicate, however, how, in my opinion, paragraph c ought to be amended. I should like honorable senators to understand that I make these suggestions on the assumption that they do not approve of an extended term being granted by the Executive, that is to say, by the PostmasterGeneral, as expressed in the clause. What I should like to move is that paragraph c should be amended to read as follows: -
The time within the fixed period for which such improved and accelerated service shall continue.
That would be a clear statement that any alteration of the service should be an alteration of the original fixed period of ten years.
– We have an amendment on clause 2 before us.
– I am only indicating the amendment I should have liked to move in order to meet the question raised in clause 6.
– Would such an amendment be fair to the contractors?
– Certainly. The position would be that if the contractors wanted to give an accelerated service they could do so at any time after six years, but they could not do so for a longer time than the ten years originally fixed without the sanction of Parliament. Whether honorable senators approve of such an amendment or not is for them to decide ; but, as I say, I submit it on the assumption that we do not desire to extend the period for more than ten years without giving Parliament an opportunity to go into the question. That exhausts my criticism of clause 6 ; and I think I have already expressed my opinion as to clause n, whichdeals with the registered tonnage. But I may indicate an amendment which, if we were in Committee, I should certainly submit in order to make that clause clearer. I should like to insert words providing that the ships to be employed in pursuance of this agreement “ shall for the purposes of payment of dues and charges be of a registered tonnage of 11,000 tons.” If we had sucha provision we should know exactly what we are doing; but, again, I am debarred from submitting an amendment in that direction.
– Is the honorable senator not content with a gross tonnage of 11,000 tons, and a net tonnage of 6,000 or 7,000 tons?
– The honorable senator misunderstands me. I am not quarrelling with the provision of 11,000 tons, but with the uncertainty oni the part of the Government as to what their own contract means. I object: to vote for an agreement the terms of which I do not understand. There has been much debate as to what ‘ 1 registered tonnage 1 ‘ means, and I venture to say that many honorable senators do not understand its meaning.. If, however, we insert words to the effect I have suggested, the point will be made clear. If the contractors contended that such a tonnage was too much, they would be exposed as practically endeavouring to induce us to believe that the vessels to be employed would be of 20,000 tons. We certainly ought to have an opportunity to debate this matter in Committee. If it is worth discussing at all, the agreement is worth an honest attempt to improve it. There is another debatable clause, which has so far escaped much criticism, and to which I shall not devote much time. I entirely object to, dissent from, and dislike clause 36 of the general conditions of tender. As honorable senators will notice, that clause is not like a similar clause im the contract made bv the Imperial authorities with the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company or in the contract with the Orient and Pacific Steam Navigation Company. If the power given; were to purchase the vessels for defence purposes in time of emergency and stress I should have no objection. Whether I have to vote for the contract or not, I desire to say that
I disagree with this clause. I object to the Postmaster-General having the right at any time to purchase the boats at a valuation, and also to his having the right at any time to charter them. This, again, is a power given to the Executive Government, without any provision for consideration bv Parliament. I admit there is pro.bably a safeguard in the fact that a sum for the purpose would have to appear on the Estimates; but I object to the principle.
– If the Postmaster-General agreed to purchase the boats, and Parliament did not vote the money would the company have an action against the Government?
– I do not think so. I do not think there would be any chance of an action being brought because the Postmaster-General desired to purchase, and Parliament objected to the purchase, of the boats.
– Why not insert the words “ subject to the sanction of Parliament “ ?
– I do not want to qualify the clause, which is obviously safeguarded, seeing that, the PostmasterGeneral could not .purchase the vessels without a sum appearing on the Estimates.
– Why should the Postmaster-General not have the option, if there was any advantage in securing the boats?
– If the honorable senator wants my reason, I say quite openly it is that I object to the ‘Commonwealth owning these steamers. I do not want to in any way disguise my views ; and I am entirely adverse to any proposal that the Commonwealth should own these boats.
– So am I.
– I do not propose to offer any further criticism1 of this contract. Reluctant as I am to oppose the agreement, I shall have to do so, unless some at least of the alterations I have indicated are made. I cannot consent, for instance, to agree to a contract the terms of which I have to pretend I understand, or on the terms of which I have to place my own interpretation, which may possibly differ from the Minister’s interpretation. I decline _ to agree to even a resolution the terms of which the Ministers themselves openly admit they do not understand. Such a position would be derogatory to the dignity of this or any other Chamber. In this connexion let me indicate what previously happened in the case of the proposed contract with the Eastern Extension Telegraph Company. Honorable senators, I have no doubt, remember that in that proposed contract there was a clause which induced some of us to believe - I merely quote this by way of illustration - that if the contract were agreed to, certain old contracts with the various States Governments would thereupon be annulled, and have no force or effect.
– After a certain period.
– It was pointed out in the Senate that considerable doubt was created by the words of the agreement, as to whether those old contracts would be rendered null and void by the adoption of the new agreement. It was asserted that the Attorney-General, Mr. Isaacs, had stated that the operation of the words would be sufficient - that the old contracts would go. But the Senate, I think verv wisely, decided to make the provision clear, and inserted words by which it was specifically stated, without equivocation or doubt, that if the agreement were ratified, the old contracts should expire, and have no further force or effect. We know the sequel. Whether for that reason or some other-
– There was another very important amendment as to the termination of the agreement itself.
– There was; but with deference to Senator Keating, I did subsequently attach very great importance to the fact that the Eastern Extension Telegraph Company _ refused to ratify that agreement. Rightly or wrongly, I thought their refusal was largely due to the fact that we had provided, in explicit terms, that the old contracts should be of no force if we adopted the new contract. The Eastern Extension Telegraph Company presented a clause which was vague and misleading, and we made it clear. That illustration applies with considerable force to the present agreement; and I urge honorable senators not to support too hastily, an agreement which has much to recommend it, but to make certain that we clearly understand what the contract is we are allowing the Government to enter into.
– With reference to the suggestion which has been made more than once as to the advisability of continuing the discussion, of this matter in Committee, I should like to say that it is, of course, my duty, as far as possible, to so rule as to permit the fullest and freest discussion of all matters submitted to the Senate. In the circumstances, I suggest that if it is considered by the Senate that it is advisable to discuss this matter in Committee, the present debate should be adjourned, and, before the time fixed for its resumption has arrived, a motion might be made, after notice, that the motion be referred to the Committee of the whole Seriate. If that is d’one, the amendments of the motion now before the Senate will disappear, because they will not have been moved in the Committee, and the whole question will be considered afresh. If it is the wish of the Senate that that should be done, it can be done in accordance with our Standing Orders, but it will be necessary to get rid of the debate in the Senate first of all. If the debate is adjourned, the Minister in charge of the matter, or some other honorable senator, can give notice of a motion that the matter should be discussed in the Committee of the Whole.
Motion (by Senator Guthrie) proposed -
That the debate be now adjourned.
– Before the question is put, I should like to point out to honorable senators the importance that attaches to the motion for the ratification of this contract. Notice was given on the last day of sitting that it would come up for consideration as the first matter to be dealt with .this afternoon.
– I do not think that the honorable senator is entitled to speak to the motion for the adjournment of the debate.
– Bv leave of the Senate, I should like to state that it is important that this matter should be dealt with at the earliest possible moment. For that reason it has been put in the forefront of the Government business on the notice-paper. I ask honorable senators to take this circumstance into consideration in connexion with the proposal for the adjournment of the debate.
Motion agreed to; debate adjourned.
– Do I understand that Senator Keating accepts the suggestion that the discussion of the matter should be referred to the Committee of the Whole?
– I am not prepared to move that.
– I ask the leave of the Senate to give notice of a motion that the Senate go into Committee to consider the proposed contract for a mail service to Europe.
Leave granted; notice given.
In Committee. - (Consideration resumed from 27th July, vide page 1965):
Clauses 30 and 31 agreed to.
Clause 32 (Compensation for entry on and occupation of land).
– I am a little doubtful as to whether, when we were considering subclause 3 of clause 25, some understanding was not arrived at with regard to this clause, and also as to whether sub-clause 3 of clause 2!s was amended.
– Sub-clause 3 of clause 25 was not amended.
– In view of the discussion which took place on clause 25, I ask the Minister whether he considers that clause 32 covers both Parts III. and IV. of the Bill ?
– We referred by way of anticipation to this clause when dealing with’ sub-clause 3 of clause 25. I then pointed out that this clause came within the division of the Bill headed “ Compensation,” which in itself is complete. Honorable senators are aware that under the Acts Interpretation Act the headings of divisions and sub-divisions form part of a Bill. It is for that reason that this clause 32, with all its particularity as indicated in paragraphs a and b of sub-clause 2, finds its place here rather than in Part III. of the Bill, although it refers to damage in every case where the owner or occupier is affected by acts done under the powers conferred by Part III. Subclause 2 specifically deals with cases where owners are damaged by reason, not of the acquisition of particular land, but of the temporary occupation of land in connexion with the acquisition of adjoining land. The clause applies wholly to the powers under Part III. of the Bill, and with special force to any damage which may be occasioned by the exercise of powers given under clauses 23 and 24. I think that it covers, so far as Part III. is concerned, all that is required, and, so far as clauses 23 and 24 are concerned, all possible cases of damage that might arise under them.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 33 agreed to.
Clause 34 (Time for making claim for compensation).
– - There is a slight alteration in this clause as compared with the existing Act. The Minister is substituted for a Justice of the High Court. Senator Keating can probably offer some reason for the alteration.
– I think I indicated the reason for the alteration in moving the second reading of the Bill. In actual practice it has been found that in some instances claims for compensation have not been furnished within the time prescribed by the existing Act, and, owing to the hardandfast rule applied!, it is now necessary for a claimant desiring an extension of time in a meritorious case to go to the High Court, a:nd incur the costs and delay involved in making his application. The alteration referred to in this clause is to enable a claimant to secure assent to an application for an extension! of time, without any necessity for recourse to that tribunal at all.
– The explanation given by Senator Keating is satisfactory from one point of view, but it is possible that, acting quite in a bond fide manner, the Minister might think the excuse offered by a claimant for not having lodged his claim in time insufficient to justify him in acceding to an application for an extension of the time. As the Minister would to some extent be a party in the case, I am not entirely convinced that the alteration is an improvement.
– Might I point out to the honorable senator that the only thing that would follow in the case he supposes would be that the Minister would have to go through the procedure provided for in clause 40, as if no claim were made. It would cause him additional trouble if he refused the application! for an extension of time, whilst the claimant’s rights would still be conserved.
– I see that that is so.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 35 to 39 agreed to.
Clause 40 -
– When Senator Keating drew my attention to this clause as bearing upon clause 34, I assented to his statement that in the event of any claim being lodged within the time, the Minister would have to go through the procedure set out in clause 40, which provides that action cannot be taken when no claim has been lodged. It hardly seems to-fit the case which we were discussing on clause 34.
– It applies to a case where no extension of application has been granted. That would be a case where -an application for extension had been made, but refused.
– If the Minister is clear on that point, I am quite satisfied to take his assurance.
– Otherwise, what could the Minister do? The man would have a claim for compensation, and, therefore, he would be in the .position of a party who had not furnished his claim.
– Suppose that it was a case in which a man had an interest in the land.
– He would have a claim for compensation, because every interest in the land, as soon as it is acquired, is converted bv the measure into a claim for compensation.
– The person might think that he had an interest in the land, but the Minister might think otherwise, and as the application had been lodged out of time, he might not be granted the extended time to which, under other conditions, he would be entitled.
– I do not think that there is any doubt. If a man has any title to compensation, it is preserved.
– I shall accept the Minister’s assurance on that point, because I am satisfied that he, like myself, does not wish to shut out any one.
– I am perfectly certain that the clause will cover a case of that kind.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 41 -
Compensation shall bear interest at the rate of three per centum per annum from the date of the acquisition of the land, or the time when the right to compensation arose, until payment thereof is made to the claimant or until the amount thereof has been deposited in the Treasury.
Provided that, where the compensation awarded in an action for compensation, or determined in a judicial proceeding, is not more than the amount offered by the Minister in satisfaction of the claim for compensation, the compensation shall only bear interest to the date when the offer of the Minister is communicated to the claimant.
– I wish to draw attention to the fact that this clause makes an alteration in the existing law which is, I think, of some importance. In section 20 of the existing Act it is provided that in all cases where compensation is awarded, or costs are adjudged to be paid, the money shall be paid by the Commonwealth within one month from the determination. In this clause, however, there is no stipulation as to any period within which compensation shall be paid. The rate of interest to be allowed on the sum which has been awarded, or which is payable to the individual is limited to 3 per cent. That can hardly be called an adequate recompense for keeping a man out of hismoney. If the percentage were that which is ordinarily allowed in law courts, namely, 5 per cent., perhaps the proposed alteration of the existing law would not be of so much importance. But, seeing that we are asked to limit the rate to 3 per cent., which I admit is the same as the rate prescribed in the existing Act, I think that in the clause we ought to set out the period within which the Commonwealth shall pay the money. Bearing in mind that the interest allowed for neglecting to make prompt payment is so miserably inadequate, I ask the Minister if he will agree to the re-insertion of the provision making the amount payable within one month from the date of the determination ?
– Could not the period be extended to, say, three months, without doing injury to any one ?
– The honorable senator, of course, gauges my object, which is to have a reasonable limit fixed. I am not wedded to one month any more than to six weeks. It seems to be that where all the formalities have been complied with, and, by the Court or some other machinery, a determination has been arrived at, a month’ from the date of the determination is a sufficiently reasonable period within which to ask the Commonwealth to make payment. Itmay be that the acquisition of the land has taken place many months previously, but the interest payable on the amount of the compensation is only to run from the date of the determination. I ask the Minister if he has any objection to insert sub-section 1 of section 20 of the existing Act, or any amendment which would achieve that end. That sub-section reads as follows : -
In all cases where condensation is awarded or costs are adjudged to be paid by the Commonwealth, the amount thereof shall be paid to the party entitled thereto, or to his agent duly authorized in that behalf, within one month after such amount has been determined.
– I do not know that there is any particular reason why the provision in the existing Act should not find a place in this Bill. I would suggest to my honorable friend that possibly it would be better, if he desires a similar provision to be inserted, to have it inserted, not as an addendum to this clause, but as a new clause, either to precede or to follow clause 41. If he is prepared to follow that course, I shall offer no objection at the recommittal stage, of the Bill to an opportunity being afforded for the consideration of a new clause to that effect.
– But is it necessary to wait for the recommittal stage to be reached if it is to be inserted in the first part of clause 41 as it stands?
– With regard to the policy of the clause, I am not in a position at the present time to offer any information to the Committee. There may or may not be some information which would influence the judgment of honorable senators in deciding whether or not to reinstate the provision in the existing law. It is for that reason that I ask my honorable friend to abstain from pressing the matter now, and to take the course I have suggested.
– I thought that Senator Millen was going, to call attention to the fact that 3 per cent. is a very low rate of interest for the Commonwealth to give. I ask the Minister whether he thinks it is fair to give only that rate? I find that in paragraph b of clause 42 31/2 per cent. is mentioned as the basis of the actuarial calculation to be made thereunder, and as no State can now borrow at less than that rate, it is rather unfair to the land-owner to make him take 3 per cent. Whether it is to be 3 per cent. or not, it should run from the date of the acquisition of the land, because the first thing that the Government do is to enter thereon. In Tasmania, for instance, some land was taken just below Hobart for the purpose of a fort. The land-owner came to me to complain that very nearly twelve months before that time the Commonwealth, by surveyors and others, had entered upon his land, and that he had heard no more about the matter. For nearly a year he was in a state of anxiety and uncertainty as to whether he was going to be the owner of the land or not.
– That would not hurt him much.
– I think that, as a rule, the land-owners get very liberal compensation.
-That all depends upon the arbitrator. I do not think that the Commonwealth should enter upon a man’s land to-day, and acquire it twelve months afterwards, thereby preventing him from cultivating it or, perhaps, raising a feeling of uncertainty in his mind as to his position. I am inclined to think that, from the day of entry, the Commonwealth ought to pay compensation. The Minister knows that, generally, a purchaser has to pay interest on his purchase.
– Suppose the Commonwealth did enter upon the land, and prevent the owner from putting in a crop. Would not that appear as a claim for compensation ?
– It would all depend upon the circumstances of the case.
.- If the proposal of Senator Dobson be given effect to, I think it would open the door to quite a large number of claims, many of which would probably not be at all reasonable.
– But an amendment would open thedoor to make the Commonwealth act promptly.
– In what way?
– If, after going upon a man’s land, the Commonwealth do not want it, it should give him notice to that effect.
– Quite so; but my honorable friend will observe that the Bill already provides that the person shall be compensated, not only for the land actually acquired from him, but for any damage which may be occasioned to him by virtue of the exercise of any of the powers conferred by Part III. If, therefore, the officers of the Commonwealth enter upon any land for the purpose of viewing it and considering whether it is desirable to acquire that particular piece or any adjoining land for a public purpose, and if, by reason of their entry, which possibly may precede by a lengthy period the actual acquisition of the land, the owner is in any way endamaged, he will recover compensation for the land. This, however, is a provision as to the rate of interest. We have decided that in cases where the land is actually acquired the compensation shall bear interest as from the date of its acquisition or from the time when the right to compensation arose.If it be a question of entering upon the land for the purpose of viewing it the right to compensation will arise from the time of incurring the actual damage. So that there is no necessity to specify that in every instance it shall arise from the entry upon the land. The actual damage occasioned by the entry will ground a claim to compensation, altogether apart from the compensation for any land which might be acquired, and the interest on that portion of the compensation would run from the date when the right thereto arose. I think that my honorable friend will see that it is far better to leave the provision as it is. If the person whose case he cited did suffer any damage his right to compensation would arise at the time when it was suffered!, and the interest would run from that date as regards that portion of his claim.
– What about providing for31/2 per cent. interest in clause 41 and only 3 per cent. interest in this clause?
– That is entirely a matter for Parliament to determine. Three per cent. is, I think, a very reasonable rate. It is the rate at present being paid in respect of compensation that may become payable to claimants under the existing Act.
– Does the Minister know any money which is available outside that Act at 3 per cent. to private people?
– Possibly not.
– No State can borrow money now at 3 per cent.
– I do not know that that is a very solid reason to advance for fixing permanently and definitely31/2 or 4 per cent, as the interest payable on amounts to be paid for compensation. As a matter of fact, the object of this Bill is to enable the Department to get rid of these claims as quickly as possible. In all the circumstances I think that 3 per cent, is a very fair amount to pay.
– Suppose that the Minister was acting for a client in a case where a claim to interest was involved, what would he put in as a fair rate of interest - 3 per cent. ?
– That would dependentirely upon the nature of the claim and the amount involved.
– I think that the Government should allow interest at the rate at which they could borrow.
– That is entirely a matter for the determination of Parliament.
– With regard to fixing a time limit, I am quite content to adopt the Minister’s suggestion to allow the matter to stand over until the recommittal stage is reached. But as he has already undertaken to get certain amendments drafted in respect of clauses which he has agreed! to recommit, I would ask him if he will get the draftsman to draft an amendment to carry out my suggestion. I am entirely with Senator Dobson with regard to the rate of interest. It is an anomaly to say that we will resume the lands of a State and pay it31/2 per cent. interest on its money from the time when payment is due, whilst, when we resume the property of an individual, we will allow him only 3 per cent. The rates of interest should be uniform. In cases which come before the Courts’, I have never heard any one object to 5 per cent. being allowed in commercial transactions. The whole of a private individual’s capital may be involved. The Commonwealth Government looks it up and pays him only 3 per cent, upon it. _ It seems to me that if the Commonwealth Government, for the purposes of a post-office, takes a portion of a man’s land, and perhaps a little shop which he has upon it, representing his sole wealth, it should at least treat him as liberally as it treats a State. It is not even logical to allow 3 per cent. to an individual and31/2 per cent, to a State. I move -
That after the word “three,” line 2, the words “ and one half,” be inserted.
– I hope that the Minister will not accept the amendment. There is a good reason why a distinction should be made between an individual and a State. If the individual were to sell his land, it is not probable that he would get an immediate investment. He would probably put his money in the bank. If he deposited it on current account he would get no interest. If he put it in the Savings Bank, he would get only 3 per cent.
– In the Savings Bank in New South Wales interest up to 4 per cent., is paid on amounts up to£200.
– In Victoria, where the largest Savings Bank business is done, the interest allowed is not more than 3 per cent. The Government is not likely to hold the money of an individual when it has to pay 3 per cent, interest on it. The Commonwealth Government is not in the same position as a State Government, which runs payable enterprises like railways. The Commonwealth Government runs unpayable enterprises, and, until such time as we have a Commonwealth Bank, it would be unprofitable for the Government to retain a man’s money and pay 3 per cent. interest on it. If there were a high rate of interest, it would be an inducement to the individual to leave his money with the Government until he could find a better investment.
– That is not so, because, under, clause 45, as soon as the money is taken to the Treasury, interest on it ceases.
– Even if that be so, it does not justify a higher percentage than 3 per cent., which is sufficient to induce the Government to pay the money into the Treasury as soon as possible. As to the payment of31/2per cent. interest to the States, it has to be remembered that the States are, on an average, paying more than 31/2 per cent, on the properties transferred.
– On an average, they pay over 4 per cent.
– We in New South’ Wales pay on our railways approximately 31/2 per cent.
– Even in Western Australia the average rate is 3.57.
– There is a great ‘deal in the argument of
Senator Millen that there appears to be an inequality in our dealing with an individual and with the States. But one of the objects of this Bill is to facilitate prompt payment, and’ to induce prompt acceptance of payment. A low rate of interest would be one means of facilitating prompt acceptance of payment. I look upon it as extremely undesirable that when money is made available, it should be left in the hands of the Commonwealth officers. It would be useless for investment purposes. If the Commonwealth must have the money available at any time when the claimant likes to come for it, it is not of any advantage to the Government to retain it. Very little injury can accrue to the person to whom the moneyis due. I am inclined to favour a low rate of interest, for the reason that the Commonwealth Government cannot have any use for the money. It will be an encumbrance rather than an advantage to retain it in the possession of the Government, when the person to whom it is due can claim it at any moment.
Question - That the words proposed to be inserted be inserted - put. The Committee divided.
Majority … … 5
Question so resolved in the negative.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 42- -
The compensation payable to a State in respect of any land acquired under this Act may . . be paid . . .
– As the Committee has decided that 3 per cent, is a fair amount of interest to pay when the Government has impounded money belonging to the individual, I now propose-
– The Government does not impound the money.
– It refrains from paying it. When the Government withholds money due to an individual, it has been decided by the Senate that 3 per cent. is sufficient interest to allow. For the sake of uniformity,for which the Senate always contends, I move -
That the words “ and one-half,” line 9, be left out.
– Most of the properties that will be acquired by the Comwealth from the States, or that have been acquired, have been paid for by the States out of loans which are of different denomination, but which, it is estimated, average in interest about31/2 per cent. Of course, in the case of the individual, . if we said that the moment his compensation was detemined it had to bear31/2 per cent. interest we should undoubtedly offer to him an inducement to treat the Commonwealth as a banker to some extent.
– He might be paying 5 per cent. to his own banker.
– But, in many instances, the individual would find it advantageous to leave the money with the Commonwealth at 31/2 per cent.
– Not in one case in a dozen.
– In many cases that would be found to be so. What we desire is to expedite the lifting of the compensation.
– And, therefore, it is proposed to pay an unfair rate of interest?
– Not at all; it is a very reasonable rate of interest. As I say, the average rate of interest paid in connexion with properties likely to be transferred, or which havealready been transferred, is something like 3.5 or 3.6 per cent.
– It is about 3.70 or 3.80 per cent.
– For the reason I have stated, it has been decided that the compensation to the States should be at the rate of31/2 per cent. ; that is the present law which the Bill does not propose to alter.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 43 agreed to.
Clause 44 (Deposit of compensation in the Treasury).
.- This clause seems to provide a backhanded way of arranging the matter. I do not think there is any necessity for clause 45, which provides for the investment of compensation deposited in the Treasury. Why cannot we, in the clause before us, provide that the Minister may deposit the money in the Treasury, the sum so deposited to bear interest at 3percent. ? It appears to me that when money is kept in the Treasury, and an owner cannot be found for it, interest ought to be paid. I advise the Minister tosimply provide, at the end of this clause, that interest shall be paid, and to strike out clause 45.
– I think the arrangement of the provisions in the Bill is the better one. The clause under discussion provides when and under what circumstances the Minister may deposit the money in the Treasury, and, further, that he shall, at the same time, deposit a memorandum setting out the material facts relating to the matter. It would not be sufficient to make the amendment suggested by Senator Dobson. In clause 45 we propose to provide expressly that the Minister may, at the risk of the person, invest the compensation in the Government securities of either the Commonwealth or the States. These securities might bear interest either above or below 3 percent. ; and the interest that would accrue to the owner would be the actual interest earned by the investment. I think that is a more reasonable provision than to fix the Interest at 3 per cent.
– What inducement is there for the Treasurer to invest the money in Government securities if he can keep it for nothing?
– It is optional with the Treasurer whether he invests the money.
– If it be desired that the money shall be takenawayquickly. would it not be better to leave it uninvested ?
– Quite so.
– Then, why does the Minister now support a proposal which a little while ago he said he did not approve ?
– There might be cases in which it would be desirable to invest the money, and it is as well to give the Treasurer the power. In many cases, where compensation is not claimed, the Treasurer ought to have power to use the money, especially if it happens to be a large amount, the investment of which, in Government securities, would be of considerable advantage to a State or the Commonwealth, while not prejudicing, the interests of the person entitled to the compensation and interest.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 45 agreed to.
Clause 46 (Payment out of compensation).
.- Is there any authority for letting money be paid by direction of the AttorneyGeneral? Is this a new provision?
– The existing law is that the Treasurer shall, unless and until an order of the High Court, or of a Justice of the High Court, has been made, pay out any money so deposited to such person as the Attorney-General directs.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 47 agreed to.
Clause 48 (Paymentsto be a good discharge).
– Does this clause mean that when the Commonwealth Government have deposited the money in the Treasury, all responsibility to the owner of the compensation ceases - that the Commonwealth Government are not to be bound to see that the person entitled to the compensation gets it?
– It is left to the person entitled to take the compensation ; the responsibility is thrown on him. That is the existing law.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 49 -
– I am afraid that under this; clause we may do great injuries to a mortgagee. A mortgage may have been a good investment for some years, and yet, apparently, the mortgagee would be obliged by this clause to accept six months’ notice from the Minister or the Government.
– That is a usual provision in nearly all mortgages.
– There may be such a provision as to overdue mortgages, but not as to current mortgages.
– Such a provision is often inserted to operate even during the term of a mortgage.
– There ought to be some saving clause providing compensation for the mortgagee.
– -The mortgagee will get compensation.
– Senator Walker seems somewhat disturbed about the treatment of the mortgagee under this clause. It seems to me, in reading the clause, and bearing in mind a recent discussion here, that the mortgagee is the one individual specially singled out for favorable treatment. I desire to direct attention to the extremely enviable position in which he is placed as compared with the unfortunate individual on whose behalf I ventured fo say a few words some moments ago. Under this clause we do not merely tell the mortgagee that he shall get 3 .per cent. ; we provide that he shall have all he is legally entitled to, we give him six months’ interest in advance, and then - and this is the point to which I specially direct attention - we go to the length of providing that if the interest to which he would be entitled if his mortgage continued in force is higher than the interest he could obtain by an ordinary investment at current rates of interest, the Commonwealth shall make good the difference.
– I am afraid I overlooked that part of the clause.
– It seems to me that the mortgagee is placed in a particularly favorable position. I do not quarrel with that; but I draw attention to the fact that there is no corresponding clause for the unfortunate mortgagor, nor for the unfortunate individual who must be content to take payment when the Commonwealth chooses to make it, and be satis fied “with 3 per cent. After the recent division I do not propose to press the matter. I find it idle to address arguments to honorable senators, who consistently abstain from listening to them.
– I am listening.
– I am not referring to the Minister, who is a model as an auditor. I direct attention to the fact that there is the discrepancy to which I have referred. Whilst we are especially tender towards the mortgagee, we leave the unfortunate mortgagor, and the equally unfortunate owner of the land, to the tender mercies of clause 42.
.- I still think there is something in what Senator Walker has said. I direct the attention of the Minister to what is pro.bably a slip in sub-clause 2, in the use of the words “at or before.” If these words are used the Minister may give six months’ or six days’ notice. We know that, according to law, an overdue mortgage cannot be paid off without six months’ notice, and if the mortgage is not due it cannot be paid off until it is due. I move -
That the words “ or before,” lines 5 and 6, be left out.
– It would not be advisable to leave out the words “ or before.” The object is to enable the Minister to give notice to the mortgagee that he intends to pay off the mortgage at any time. v
– Surely a man should have time to look about for a re-investment.
– The honorable and learned senator will notice that, under paragraph b of sub-clause 3, we provide that the amount to which a mortgagee is entitled under this clause shall be the principal secured by the mortgagee, and - the interest due at the date of the notice and six months additional interest.
Having assured the mortgagee that he will get six months’ additional interest from the date of notice, provision is made to give him notice that the mortgage will be paid off at or before the expiration of six months.
– That is whether the mortgage is due or not.
– That is the full amount to which he would be legally entitled after the expiration of the mortgage.
– Yes. Senator Dobson must surely see that.
– Yes. I ask leave to withdraw my amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
– This provision apparently limits the Minister to giving six months’ notice, and, in view of what has been said as to the business aptitude of Ministers, is there any necessity to limit the Minister to giving six months’ notice ? I see no advantage in tying the Minister’s hands. It might be desirable that he should be able to give nine months’ notice. His Department might know that, in connexion with the carrying out of a public work, certain land would be required in nine months’ time, and it might be desirable to give a. more extended notice to the owner or mortgagee of the land.
– The Minister in such a case could delay giving notice.
– And in the meantime the mortgagor and mortgagee might agree to the erection of a building on the land. I am asking whether there is any advantage to be gained by limiting the notice which the Minister may give. If he knows that in nine months’ time he will resume a piece of land, what earthly objection can there be to give him power to notify the parties concerned that it is his intention to do so? Why should he not do that, instead of keeping the secret to himself until three or four months before the time at which the resumption must take place. The Minister, or his Department, may foresee that in nine or twelve months’ time it will be necessary, for the purpose of some public work, to acquire a certain portion of land, and I fail to see what objection there can be to giving the persons interested the longest possible notice. Under the clause, apparently, the Minister must wait until six months from the time the land is acquired before he can give notice of the intention to resume it.
– The honorable senator must have misread the provision. There is nothing to prevent the Minister giving notice of the intention to acquire land nine months before it is acquired. The provision now under consideration is an obligation cast upon the Minister, and not a power given to him.
– To protect the mortgagee.
– Exactly. It is not a power given to the Minister, but a duty cast upon him. We provide, first of all, that if any land acquired under the Bill by agreement is subject to a mortgage, the Minister may pay off the mortgage. Then we prescribe how he shall do it, and, in order thereto, we provide that the Minister shall give notice to the mortgagee. If the Minister knows that the land will be required twelve months before it is necessary to acquire it, there is nothing to prevent him giving twelve months’ notice of the intention to resume the land. But this provision imposes a duty upon the Minister to give a certain notice.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 50 to 55 agreed to.
Clause 56 -
If any land acquired under this Act, whether by agreement or by compulsory process, was, immediately prior to its acquisition, subject to any encumbrance jointly with any other land, and the land so acquired is released by virtue of this Act or any release or instrument from the encumbrance, then, subject to any agreement between the parties, the other land shall continue to be subject to the whole of the encumbrance or part thereof as the case requires, and the party entitled to the charge shall have the same rights and remedies in respect of the land continuing subject to the encumbrance or part thereof as the case requires as he previously had in respect of the whole of the land.
If any encumbrance is released in pursuance of this Act, the Attorney-General shall, upon the deed or instrument creating or transferring the encumbrance being tendered to him for the purpose, sign a memorandum indorsed on the deed or instrument specifying the part of the land originally subject to the encumbrance which has been acquired under this Act, and -
how much, if any, of the encumbrancewhich has been released and how much continues payable ; or
that the remaining land is thenceforward to remain exclusively charged with thewhole of the charge or encumbrance.
– I move -
That the word “charge,” line it. be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the word “encumbrance.”
Honorable senators will see that the clause refers to the - whole of the encumbrance or part thereof as the case requires, and the party entitled to the charge shall have the same rights and remedies, and so- on. The word “charge” has beenwrongly inserted, because the previous word’ used throughout the clause is the word “ encumbrance.”
Amendment agreed to.
Amendments (by Senator Keating) agreed to -
That the words “ as the case requires,” line 14, be left out.
That the word “ which,” line 25, be left out. That the words “ charge or,” line 29, be left out.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clauses 57 to 60 agreed to.
Clause 61 -
All persons claiming any purchase money or compensation shall, at their own expense, when required, produce to the Attorney-General all deeds and documents relating to or evidencing their title to the land in respect of which such purchase money or compensation is payable, and particulars of any damage claimed by them.
.- I should like to know what is the precise meaning of this clause. We all know that where land is compulsorily taken the Government have to pay the whole of the expense, but under this clause it is provided that -
All persons claiming any purchase money or compensation shall, at their own expense, when required, produce to the Attorney-General all deeds and documents.
The Government ‘ might be about to take a piece of land whichwas subject to a mortgage, and the owner would be unable to produce the deeds of the land without paying a fee for their production.
– The Government would pay all the costs eventually.
– The Government would pay the costs of the conveyance, and of furnishing abstracts, and so on ; but under this clause it is provided that, if a person claims compensation or purchase, money, he must produce his deeds at his own expense. They may not be in his possession, and he may have, to pay a fee to get them. I do not think that the Committee should pass the clause.
– Honorable senators will find that this clause has been taken bodily from the existing Act. It repeats word for word section 28 of the existing Act. In the next clause we provide that -
In the case of all land acquired under this Act, the Commonwealth shall bear all costs, charges, and expenses -
of all conveyances and assurances of the land, and of’ any outstanding interests therein ; and
of making out and furnishing such abstracts and attested copies as the Attorney-General requires.
I think that at present the principle is that in the first instance the party him self incurs the expense of having his title produced, but he is afterwards recouped under paragraph b of clause 62, without calling upon the Attorney-General in the first instance to pay other persons, through their representatives who hold interests, which necessitate their retaining possession of the title deeds. If the Department had to go and pay the mortgagee’s solicitor for the production of the deed, it would not only be inconvenient and possibly in some instances harassing, but it might be used very often to prevent the Commonwealth from acquiring the land with the expedition which might be necessary.
– Does the Minister think that under clause 62 a man will get back the fee which he has paid under clause 61 ?
– I do.
– Well, I doubt it.
– If it had not been recouped there would have been an outcry long before this time. I believe that paragraph b of clause 62 will cover the production fee to the mortgagee’s solicitor. The object of that provision is really to make the owner lend all possible assistance to complete the contract.
– All right, then.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 62 agreed to.
Clause 63 (Mining leases and licences).
– Do I understand from the Minister that the Commonwealth will have mining rights in respect of any lands which it may purchase from a State or private person?
– That is quite a new departure so far as New South Wales is concerned.
– We have acquired a good many of the lands by the operation of the Constitution, and without being subject to any reservation.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 64 -
If any land acquired or deemed to have been acquired under this Act, or under any Act repealed by this Act, is not required for any public purpose, the Governor-General may authorize the disposal of it as he thinks fit, and the land may be disposed of accordingly. . . .
– In accordance with the contingent notice, I move -
That after the word “ purpose,” line 4, the letter “ a “ be inserted between parentheses.
The object in making this amendment is because it is intended to insert another paragraph which may be seen on the amendment notice-paper. The present provisions in the clause are that, if any land be acquired under the Act, the GovernorGeneral shall authorize the disposal of it as he thinks fit, and that a return of all lands disposed of under that particular power shall be tabled in Parliament. In the various States theDepartments have a number of properties which are not of very great value. For instance, the Defence or Post and Telegraph Department may have an allotment of land upon which there stands a building which is not being used for its purposes at all. A person in the locality may desire to lease or to get the right to occupy that property for a certain specific purpose. In some instances these properties are let to such persons at a nominal rental of 2s. 6d. or1s. or 5s. a week. It is like using a Nasmyth hammer to crack a nut to ask that the Governor-General shall be called upon in each trivial instance to authorize the letting of the property. So it is proposed to give to the Minister the power, in every instance where the lease would not be for a period longer than three years, and where the annual rental would not exceed£50. In an earlier part of the Bill we inserted a corresponding clause to enable the Minister to acquire directly such rights without recourse to the GovernorGeneral.
Amendment agreed to.
Amendment (by Senator Keating) agreed to -
That after the word “ fit,” line 5, the following new paragraph be inserted : - “or (4) where the estimated annual value of the land does not exceed Fifty pounds, the Minister may authorize the leasing of the land for such period not exceeding threeyears, and on such terms and conditions as he thinks fit.”
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clauses 65 to 68 agreed to.
Postponed clause 5 further postponed.
Postponed clause 10 -
Any purchasemoney or compensation payable in respect of any land acquired under this Act may be paid to the person who, under this Act, is empowered to sell and convey the land.
– It will be remembered that on clauses 10 and 11 there was a good deal of discussion. It was pointed out that in clause 10 it was provided that the purchase money might be paid to the person who, under the Act, was empowered to sell and convey the land. We had already provided in clause 9 that persons having limited interests should have the power to sell and convey the land. We provided in clause 10 that the purchase money should be paid to such person, but there was no reference made as to the application of the purchase money by such person amongst those others who might be, perhaps, more interested in the land than he himself, although he held the legal estate. Then in clause11, we had this provision -
Any such purchase money or compensation, when paid to a tenant in tail or for life, guardian, committee of a lunatic or idiot, executor, administrator, or person having a partial or qualified interest only, and not entitled to sell or convey except under the provisions of this Act, shall be applied in some one or more of the following manners : -
in the discharge of any debt or encumbrance affecting the land, or affecting other land settled therewith to the same or the like uses, trusts, and purposes; or
in the purchase of other land, or of Government securities of the Commonwealth or of a State, to be conveyed, limited, and settled upon the like uses, trusts, and purposes, and in the same “manner, as the land in respect of which the purchase money or compensation was paid ; or
if the purchase money or compensation has been paid in respect of any buildings acquired under the authority of this Act in removing or replacing the buildings or substituting others in their stead ; or
in such manner as the High Court or the
Supreme Court directs; or
in payment to any person becoming absolutely entitled to the purchase money or compensation.
I promised to reconsider both these clauses with a view to bringing down a clause which would meet the views of honorable senators, as indicated in their criticism. It is proposed to omit the clauses, and insert a new clause dealing comprehensively with the whole subject. The provision reads as follows : -
That would be where a person was disabled from selling otherwise than by the provisions of the Act -
That is inserted in the forefront of the methods to enable, if possible, the parties to first of all resort to negotiations for a settlement of terms which would be mutually agreeable -
That is a method which, no doubt, would be adopted by a person who felt that he was in the position of a trustee, and did nor like to accept any responsibility or incur any risk. He would immediately turn and deposit the, money with the Registrar of the High Court or the Master-in-Equity, or other proper officer of the Supreme Court, and as honorable senators are aware,the term “ Supreme Court “ is defined in clause 5 as the Supreme Court of the State in which the land is situated. Sub-clause 2 of the proposed new clause reads as follows : -
Then come paragraphs a, b, c, d, and e, worded the same as the paragraphs in present clause 11. Then, as was suggested during the discussion on clauses 10 and 11, we adopt another provision for dealing with compensation where the amount involved is not very considerable. I think that on that occasion I mentioned that in the Lands Clauses Consolidation Act of Great Britain, there are differential provisions regulating the amount of compensation. We adopt a similar principle here. It has been adopted in conformity with the expressions of feeling manifested in Committee -
Provided that where the purchase money or compensation does not exceed £50, it may be paid to the persons who would for the time being be entitled to the rents and profits of the land.
Sub-clause 4 provides that where any infant, lunatic, or idiot is entitled to receive any of the purchase money or compensation, his consent may be given by a committee or guardian, or the money may be paid to his committee or guardian. Honorable senators will remember the discussion we had with regard to the application of purchase money in cases where there was more than one person interested. I think the amendment covers the whole range of the criticism made in Committee, and should meet with the acceptance of honorable senators, to whom I feel very much indebted.
– What about the fees on paying the money into Court and taking it out again?
– I think that, in most instances, there is a disposition on the part of people to avoid having recourse to the Court, and they will try to come to some mutual agreement. But payment into Court is the safest thing for all parties. It may be that the Court will recognise that, in instances such as these, if the general scale of fees is too high, they should be lowered.
– There might be a sliding scale.
Amendment (by Senator Keating) agreed to -
That the following new clause be inserted : - 10. 1. Where any land is sold or conveyed to the Commonwealth by or acquired from any person who was not entitled to sell or convey the land to the Commonwealth except under this Act, the purchase money or compensation may be applied as follows : -
With the consent of all parties interested, the purchase money or compensation may be paid to a trustee subject to such trusts as are declared by a deed of trust approved by the AttorneyGeneral : or
The purchase money or compensation may be paid to a Registrar of the High Court or the Master-in-Equity or other proper officer of the Supreme Court to be applied in accordance with any order of the Court.
The High Court or the Supreme Court may, on the application of any person interested, order any purchase money or compensation to be applied as follows : -
in the discharge of any debt or encumbrance affecting the land, or affecting other land settled therewith to the same or the like uses, trusts, and purposes ; or
in the purchase of other land, or of Government securities of the Commonwealth, or of a State, to be conveyed, limited, and settled upon the like uses, trusts, and purposes, and in the same manner, as the land in respect of which the purchase money or compensation was paid ; or
if the purchase money or compensation has been paid in respect of any buildings acquired under the authority of this Act - in removing or replacing the buildings or substituting others in their stead ; or
in such manner as the High Court or the Supreme Court directs; or
in payment to any person becoming absolutely entitled to the purchase money or compensation.
Provided that where the purchase money or compensation does not exceed Fifty pounds it may be paid to the persons who would for the time being have been entitled to the rents and profitsof the land.
Where any infant, lunatic, or idiot is interested in or entitled to receive any purchase money or compensation his consent to any application or disposition of the purchase money or compensation may be given by a committee or’ guardian on his behalf or the purchase mosey or compensation may be paid to bis committee or guardian.
Postponed clause 11 negatived.
Postponed clause 16 (Approval of acquisition).
– A suggestion was made that the Government should give effect to its promise to insert certain words expressly setting out that no operation with regard to the Federal Capital Site should take place under this Bill.
– An amendment has been drafted, but, apparently, it is not in print. The clause can be further postponed.
Clause further postponed.
Postponed clause 5 (Definitions).
– An amendment has been circulated dealing with Senator Mulcahy’s proposal with regard to reservations, but itcan be dealt with on the recommittal stage. I am going to move’ that the Bill be recommitted for other purposes than that, and it is best to have only one recommittal. We can deal with Senator Mulcahy’s amendment, and with clause 5, at the same time.
Clause further postponed.
MINISTERS laid upon the table the following papers : -
Estimates of Revenue and Expenditure, 1906-7 Papers prepared by the Treasurer in connexion with the Budget, 1906-7.
Notification of the acquirement of land at East Perth, Western Australia, and at Forster, New South Wales, as sites for post offices.
– I should like to ask the Minister of Defence why the Estimates and the Budget papers were not distributed yesterday ? It was due to the Senate that copies of them should be circulated when they were handed to members of another place.
– They were not distributed through the post, but by hand.
– I tried to get a copy, and could not.
– I do not know what the course adopted by the other House is when papers are printed and circulated. I had some difficulty in obtaining a copy of the papers, and I do not know why they were not generally distributed.
Senate adjourned at 10.12 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 1 August 1906, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1906/19060801_senate_2_32/>.