3rd Parliament · 2nd Session
The President took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
Seizure of Wire Netting
– I desire to ask the Vice-President of the Executive Council, without notice, whether he is in a position to give to the Senate any information as to the action which the Government has taken, or proposes to take, with regard to the incident which occurred yesterday in New South Wales?
– No fresh action hasbeen taken by the State of New SouthWales to-day. A demand has been made upon the State for the return of the goods, and instructions have been sent to Sydney for the immediate issue to-day of a writ for the recovery of the property wrongfully taken from the control of the Customs authorities, and for an injunctionto restrain them from disposing of it. Instructions are also being issued with’ reference to the recovery of penalties in connexion with the removal of the goods.
– I desire to ask the Vice-President of the Executive Council, without notice, a question relative to a paragraph in the Daily Mercury of the 15th August, published at Mackay. I shall not read the paragraph, as it is ratherlong, but it isto the effect that owing to a misarrangement,there isnot enough money at thedisposal of the Collector of
Customs to pay the sugar bounties as the farmers send in their claims, and that, as a consequence, the farmers are unable to promptly pay their men. The matter is one of considerable urgency, and I shall be glad to hand the newspaper to the Minister.’ Ail I ask now is, will he make an inquiry, and, if he finds thestatement justified, request the Government to take the necessary steps to put an end to the difficulty?
– Ifmy honorable friend will be good enough to hand the newspaper to me, I shall be glad to make the necessary inquiry, and see what can be done.
asked theVicePresident of the Executive Council, upon notice -
– This matter relates to the Department of the Postmaster - General, who has furnished to me the following answers : -
– Arising out of the answer, may I ask the Minister if the company have actually been asked to submit an offer? I understand that the. negotiations are a year or two old.
– Personally, I can not say. I have readthe replies that have been f urnished to me by the Department.
asked the Minister representing the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
Have Commander Colquhoun and Mr. Clarkson been instructed to inquire into the feasibility of having vessels constructed suitable for defence purposes as fast cruisers, and also suitable for passenger, mail, and cargo traffic? If not, will the Government communicate with the officers named, and instruct them accordingly ?
– The answer to the honorable senator’s questions is as follows -
The officers were instructed to obtain information with regard” to vessels suitable for coastal defence. The class of boats contemplated, viz., torpedo-boat destroyers or submersibles, could not be utilized for purposes such as suggested by the honorable senator. The cost of cruisers renders their construction improbable at present.
asked the VicePresident of the Executive Council, upon notice-
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follow-
Report presented by Senator Henderson, andread by theActing-Clerk,as follows
The Printing Committee have the honour to reportthat theyhavemetin Conference with the Printing Committeeofthe House of Representatives.
The Joint Committee having considered all the Papers presented to Parliamentsince ‘the last meeting of the Committee, make the following recommendations with respect to such
Papers as were not ordered by either House to be printed, viz. : -
– I beg to ask the Senate for leave to move that the report be adopted.
– I object.
– In that case, Senator Henderson will have to give notice of a motion for the purpose, which he can only do by leave.
– I beg to give notice that to-morrow I shall move that the report be adopted.
– With the concurrence of the Senate the notice of motion is received.
Motion (by Senator McGregor) agreed to-
That a return be prepared and laid on the table of the Senate, Showing the amount of the expenditure incurred by the Commonwealth in Melbourne consequent upon that’ city being temporarily the Seat of Government of the Commonwealth for the twelve months ending June, 1907.
Motion (by Senator Best) proposed -
That this Bill be now read a third time.
.- I have no intention of re-discussing certain matters which were settled yesterday by considerable majorities. I only desireto remind the Vice-President of the Executive Council, and his colleague here, that they and the Government generally have a responsibility which I do not think they have yet discharged. In passing the ‘Pill to its present stage, the Senate has, I think practically departed from the spirit and the letter of the Constitution, and turned what the Federal Convention meant as an allowance for the payment of expenses into a reasonable salary. I . think that Senator Best ought to see that the payment of this generous sum of£600 a year is surrounded with ordinary safeguards. It is. our duty to deal with the publicfunds, of which we are the guardians and trustees, in the same prudent manner as we should deal with our own money. Senator Best knows that in Canada, where the salary is £520 a year, a member is liable to a fine of£3 for every day he is absent. In the case of the Lower House of Germany the salary is £150, and the member is liable to a fine of £1 for each day he is absent. I ask my honorable friend if he really thinks that the Government are discharging their duty to the public in not surrounding the payment of the salary to the members of this Parliament with some such safeguard as I have mentioned. Let me now refer to those who want the salary most. Members who have given up their trade or occupation are very seldom absent from their places. But members who have other work to do - business men, farmers, and those engaged in professions - are constantly compelled to attend to their private work, and thereby to add to their incomes while Parliament is sitting. They cannot afford the time to attend to parliamentary business as other members can do. In such cases I think that the allowance should be reduced. If we pass the Bill in its present form we shall be accused of acting in a very irregular manner and not surrounding the measure with any safeguards whatever. We shall be accused of paying members of Parliament£600 per annum, regardless of whether the country gets the services for which it pays or not. It is the wealthy men who are most absent. Honorable senators know that I have been a very regular attendant, but I was absent for a fortnight at the beginning of this session. Why? Because one of my partners was ill, whilst another was absent from Tasmania, and therefore it was my duty to attend to the affairs of my clients for which they paid me. If I - or any other senator - stay away to add to my income, why should I receive the full amount that is paid to other senators ?
– Do not take it !
– I want to have a law that will apply to every one. I like to do the just and right thing by the country. Whatever the law allows me to take I will take. It is our duty, in my opinion, to surround this Bill with safeguards. It is of no use for me to attempt to get the Bill recommitted, but I put it to my honorable friend the Vice-President of the Executive Council with all submission and with all deference, that unless he takes care to have some safeguard inserted he will be severely blamed by the public for the omission. I cannot say any more. If my honorable friend will allow the Bill to be recommitted in order that the point to which I have referred may be discussed, I shall be only too pleased to take action. But if he will not, he must accept the responsibility.
.- I have not been quite equal to speaking during the last few days, and have only a few words to say now; but I do not like to see this Bill read a third time without expressing my opinion about it.
– Perhaps the honorable senator had not been in the Age office yesterday.
– I do not want to meet with interjections of that kind. Surely I have a right to express my opinion with regard to the measure. I dislike very much to have ill-natured remarks made, and I can assure honorable senators that I entertain no ill will towards any of them. I wish to be on the best of terms with all. I think that I ought to. be allowed to say what I have to say without interruption. When Federation was being talked about in the country, it was declared by Sir Edmund Barton, by Mr. Deakin, and by the whole of the leaders of the movement, that the object was that we might be able to do what we could not do without unity. There was great difficulty in establishing the Commonwealth. We federated for certain specific purposes which are defined in the Constitution. The Commonwealth differs from the Dominion of Canada in certain important respects. The Canadian Provinces have certain specified rights which are -defined in the Canadian Constitution. In Australia, it is the Commonwealth that has certain specified rights which are defined. Therefore, our powers are prescribed. What- 1 say, and I am prepared to proclaim it from the house-tops, is that it is our primary duty not to interfere with States rights. It isthe duty not only of the Federal Parliament and of the Federal Government, but also of every Federal representative to do all they can to maintain good terms with the States, and not to encroach upon their rights unless of course in case of national emergency.
– Such as the state of things existing in Sydney.
– Well, it was never intended or hinted at, that the property of a State should be the subject of duty.
– That is beside the question altogether.
– I was a member of the Federal Convention, and can say, positively, that the taxation of State property was never intended. It is not true to say, as has been said, that there was a section of the Convention against the payment of members. I do not know of one member of [he Convention who was against that principle.
– Read Sir John Forrest’s speech.
– I doubt whether Sir John Forrest was opposed to payment of members.
– Read his speech.
– If he was, he must have been the only one. Nearly every country which has adopted parliamentary government, except England, has accepted the principle of payment of members. But, at the last general election, there was not a word in the speeches of candidates as reported in the press, at all events in Victoria, in advocacy of any alteration of the rate of parliamentary remuneration.
– That is not correct. The matter was referred to by me.
– I failed to see any record of the honorable senator’s observations.
– I suppose that the honorable senator saw no reports of my speeches.
– At any rate, I deny that remarks by a single senator, or even by any two or three, to that effect constitute a sufficient warrant for introducing a Bill like this, and rushing it through, as has been done. Moreover, I say deliberately, but with regret, that in my opinion the
Government of the day should have refused to bring down a Governor-General’s message. What would have been the result if they had refused? Possibly; they might have been turned out of office, but they would have had the satisfaction of going out with the feeling that they had maintained their convictions. But the Government did not say a word about the subject at the general election. . When Parliament met, however, the Government suddenly brought down a message, enabling this Billto be proceeded with. It was, to say the least of it, treating the country with scant courtesy. It was trapping the country. It looks to me as though the question was positively kept in the background until members of Parliament had been returned. It has been said - I am not sure whether the statement is right or” not - that the party which is now supporting the Government made this Bill a sine qua non of their support.
– Who said it?
– Has the honorable senator any proof of that statement?
– I am glad if it is not so.
– Who said it? Give us one name.
– Hear, hear.
– It has even been reported in the press.
– But, give us even one name.
– I could not. I am not responsible for the statement.I merely give itas a report that is going about. At any rate, it appears to me tobe very unseemly to rush the Bill through, as is being done.
– Whoever made that statement is a liar !
-There is no deny ing the fact that the voice of the people is against the Bill.
– It is very unseemly for the honorable senator to make a statement which he cannot prove.
– I ask honorable senators not to interject so freely. If Senator Fraser makes any statement which’ he ought not to make, attention can be drawn to it.
– I thought it right to mention areport which is notorious in the streets of Melbourne, at any rate.If it is wrong, I am glad to hear the denial. It is, at all events, true that the Government did not proclaim an, increase of the allowances of members of Parliament, as a part of their policy when they went to the country. Their chief plank was protection, which was to be the first matter dealt with. But now there is no hurry about protection. In my opinion, the Government do not intend that there shall be any hurry about it. At the elections 1 stumped the country a great deal for a. man of my age, and I was just as open on the platform as I am here, and as I shall always. be. I say deliberately that I had no idea that a proposal of this kind was going to be rushed through Parliament. I,t was the last thing I should have thought of. We were assured that the first matter of policy which the Government would attend to was the settlement of the Tariff, and. th’e institution df the. new protection:
– I hope the honorable senator will be a better protectionist this time than he was when’ we last dealt with the Tariff.
– Instead of protection being the first plank in the policy of the Government, it is likely to be the last. If the Government had been inearnest about the matter they could have dealt with the Tariff anomalies last session. They could have given relief to the industries that were saidto be strugglingand strangled. But there was no haste then, and there seems to be none now. I am expressing my own opinion, not giving utterance to Collins-street talk or anything of the kind, when I say that there seems to be no inclination on the part of th’e Government to rush the Tariff through.
– Is the honorable senator in a hurry about it?
– Yes; I should like to see the Tariff settled at once.
– I must ask the honorable senator not to deal with the Tariff, which is not before theSenate.
– I am blaming the Government-
– Which is always praiseworthy work !
– It is not with me
I regret to hayetodo it. But it isnecessary that these things shouldbe said. If a session only lasts three’ months, the Bill means that members of- Parliamentwill be paid£600 for attendance; and there is ho reason why three months” should not be a sufficient time for a sessionto last. The Commonwealth Parliament has only afew legislativematters to dealwith. Our powers areprescribed.I donot say that a Tariff could be dealt with in three months, but if the Tariff were out of the way there is no reason why any session should last a longer time.
– We shall all be out of the way before the Tariff is finally disposed of. The question has lasted 100 years in America.
– There is no difficulty about dealing with it, although there may be one or two items which it will take some months to dispose of. However, I rose principally to say that I object to the increase of remuneration, and believe that the country objects to it. I am a reader of the newspapers of the other States, and I did not see before the last elections any general statement by any party or parties to the effect that this increase of salaries would be moved for. I, therefore, think it is right that the country should protest against it.
– Like Senator Fraser, I did not address myself to the second reading of fhis Bill. The honorable senator’s reason for not speaking, was that he had not been very well. My reason was, that several honorable senators suggested that it was not worth while wasting too much time on the discussion of a somewhat unimportant measure, when such important business as the Bounties Bill and the Navigation Bill were awaiting the consideration of the Senate. Consequently I refrained from speaking, although I really had a desire to say a few words. The question is comparatively unimportant, in spite of the agitation which1 has been created almost solely by the daily papers in the different States. Senator Millen was quite right when he suggested that the object of the Age in taking up the question now was to divert the attention of the people from the Tariff. 1 believe that the object of the Argus is embodied in the very dirty insinuation made by Senator Fraser, that the Labour Party, which is a very important party in both Houses, made the introduction of the Bill a condition of their continued support to the Government. There is not an atom of truth in that suggestion, which is unworthy of the honorable senator who made it. He should never have made it unless he had some foundation for it, and was prepared to give his authority to the Senate:
– He only gave it as a statement.
– It was a dirty insinuation which should never have been made against any respectable party in politics.
– He said he spoke subject to correction.
– He had no right to make any such suggestion unless he had some foundation for it. If there was any foundation for it, he ought to divulge it to the Senate. If it was unfounded, he ought to withdraw the insinuation and apologize to the party which he has insulted.
– I made a statement, not an insinuation.
– The discussion has shown that there is a consensus of opinion on all sides of the Senate that the present allowance is insufficient.
-Except Senator Dobson.
– And Senator Cameron.
– Of course, Senator Cameron is against payment of members altogether. I did not hear all the speeches last night, and there is one point to which I do not think the attention of the Senate or of the electors has been directed. The strongest speech against the Bill was made by Senator Symon yesterday. His main argument was that, as the people adopted the Constitution with section 48 in it, fixing the allowance at£400 a year, it: should -not be altered without another re ference to them.
– I said that the people should be consulted before it was suddenly increased.
– Legal gentlemen are supposed to be able to argue on both sides of the case with equal success. I will put: the other side of the case of Senator Symon. Imagine how convincing an argument he could put forward on that side ! Section. 48 begins with the words “ Until the Parliament otherwise provides.”
– That was dealt with yesterday.
– Senator Symon did not take the view that I am putting. What a magnificent case he could have puton the other side if he had argued that the people by accepting section 48 with thosewords in it, had given Parliament power to alter the sum named whenever it thoughtproper.
– I took that point yesterday.
– I did not hear it. If Senator Symon, with his wonderful ability, had taken that view, and if he would write to the press of Australia, putting that side of the argument to them with his wonderful eloquence, what a difference it would make ! It seems to be a commonsense point of view, that the people, when they accepted that section of the Constitution - if they ever thought about it, which I do not believe - gave this Parliament full authority to act as it thought best. I do not believe that the electors ever considered what the allowance was to be. I do not believe that they would trouble about it now, if it was not for the action of the press. If they did notice that the allowance was to be .^400 a year, and did give consideration to that section, then, undoubtedly, when they accepted the Constitution, they empowered Parliament to alter it whenever it so desired. That seems to be a perfectly reasonable reading of the provision. If the newspapers would be fair, if they had some other object to serve than that of throwing dust in the eyes of the people to divert their attention from the Tariff, or of inducing electors who are not very pronounced in their political views to believe that it is the Labour Party who are anxious for the passage of this measure, and are bringing pressure to bear on the Government to put it through, the feeling of the people would be very different. It is these unworthy suggestions that are being circulated by the daily press, which have, to some extent, inflamed the feelings of the people, and induced them to take up their present attitude. It has been stated that the proposal was never put before the electors. Over three years ago, when I was a candidate, it had been suggested in the previous Parliament. It was, to some extent, before the electors then, but evidently they considered it of so little importance that at only one polling-place in the whole of South Australia was the question asked, whether we were in favour of increasing the allowance or not. That is the fact, although the matter had been discussed, and was undoubtedly before the electors at that time. I replied, on that occasion, that I thought the allowance was sufficient. The gentleman who asked the question - a political opponent - persisted, and asked whether, in the event of a proposal being made for an increase, the candidate would support or oppose it. I replied that, if a proposal to increase the allowance was brought before Parliament, I should sup port it. That happened in the election before last. The question was asked at only one polling-place in the whole State.
– One swallow does not make a summer.
– That is perfectly true, but I am only advancing these facts to show that the electors, if their feelings were not inflamed by the daily press, would not consider the question of the increase of the parliamentary allowance of sufficient importance to make any fuss about it. I am very glad that the measure is about to be passed by the Senate.
.– Before the Bill passes through its final stage, I desire to say a few words. Members of the Senate are aware that a meeting was . held last night in the Town Hall, Melbourne. No matter what may be said by the strongest supporters of the Bill, that meeting, although it was hurriedly convened, was, according to unbiased and unprejudiced people who attended it, one of the most enthusiastic and unanimous yet held- in that hall.
– The honorable senator will be a hero now.
– I do not desire to be a hero, but Senator Givens knows that when I was approached on this matter, I took up at that time the same attitude as I am taking up now. I said I was opposed to the Bill, and I believe the people of Victoria are opposed to it. They are not opposed to a reasonable remuneration being granted to members of the Federal Parliament, but they object to the unreasonableness of those who are supporting the measure, because the people have not had an opportunity of saying whether they favour it or not.
– How does the honorable senator account for the statement made at that meeting that “ a fiver a week was enough for any of us “ ?
– I am not indorsing all the views put forward at the meeting, nor do I know all that was said by the different speakers, but I thoroughly indorse the resolutions that were carried at the. meeting.
– I suppose the honorable senator knew a few of the speakers ?
– It was a public meeting.
– At. which, a man who got up to support the Bill was not allowed to speak.
– That often happens. The majority were evidently there to have their side heard.
– That is the meeting that the honorable senator is praising - a meeting where they suppressed their opponents.
– I am not ashamed to mention that a public meeting largely attended by the working classes - make no mistake about that - was held in Melbourne last night “to condemn this proposal. When honorable senators state that the agitation against the increase has emanated from the Age and the Argus, let them not be unmindful of the fact that the Call, the official organ of the Political Labour Party of Victoria, has denounced it in just as strong terms as those papers.
– Which is the honorable senator’s work, probably.
– That is a base and dirty insinuation, which has not a semblance of truth in it.
– Order ! Will the honorable senator’ take his seat? If the honorable senator has any objection to take to any remark made by Senator de Largie, he should call my attention to it, and if it was of such a character as I assume it was - I did not hear it - from the honorable senator’s reply, I will cause it to be withdrawn.
– The honorable senator may get his nose pulled if he makes the same statements outside.
– I am prepared to take that chance, too. If the honorable senator insinuates that I wrote that article, I will take my chance in any action he likes to take towards me. If I am any reader of a facer what has been troubling the honorable senator for the last hour or two, and also last night, has been the idea that I was the author of a certain article which appeared in the Call. I say I had nothing whatever to do with it, but I indorse the view contained in the article referred to. What view did the writer of the article take? He took the view which every labour man in Australia has taken since the inception of the labour movement, that when a question of vital importance to the people is sought to be rushed through Parliament without consulting them they have a right to resent such action, and insist that their opinion shall not be ignored.
– And this is a question affecting ourselves personally.
– That is so.
– Where is the necessity for connecting one section in politics with this measure?
– If I have done so it has been because of the insinuation thrown out that I was responsible for the article in the labour paper to which I have referred.
– The honorable senator started it.
– I did not. I did not connect the matter with the Labour Party.
– I ask honorable senators not to interject, and not to address each other directly.
– The various labour leagues in Victoria that ‘have dealt with this question have denounced the proposal.
– There it is again.
– The honorable senator should not .look so fiercely across the chamber.
– I can look where I please in this chamber, so long as I abide by the Standing Orders. Let me get back to the subject of the meeting held in the Town Hall. Every member of the Senate has been presented with a copy of the resolutions passed at that meeting, and it must be admitted that, they are couched in respectful language.
– What about the treatment of Mr. Flynn? Was that respectful?
– Mr. Flynn went to the meeting with the object of opposing the motions submitted. I do not always regard the newspaper reports of a meeting as correct, and they may not be correct in this instance. But it appears to be very evident that Mr.. Flynn was in a hopeless minority at the meeting. The majority did not take the same view, and voted in favour of the motions, not because those present at the meeting were against the proposed increase in the salaries of members of the Federal Parliament but because of the course taken by the Government in introducing this measure. That is the objection which is taken generally by the people of Victoria.
– What course should have been taken?
– The course which the Government should have taken was to have made the proposal a question to be seriously considered at the general election.
If at the time that certain members of this Parliament were asked questions concerning the increase of the. parliamentary allowance it were known that it would involve an. expenditure of£20,000 a year, the question would have been treated much more seriously than it appears to have been in the States in which it was incidentally referred to. These are the resolutions which were passed by the meeting.
– What have we to do with them? We are not responsible to those people.
– I do not know what Senator. Stewart has to do with them, but I am a citizen of Victoria, and these are resolutions passed by a public meeting held in this State.
– By the leading Tories of the State.
– I deny that the leading Toriesin Victoria were in a majority at the meeting held last night.
– All the speakers were Tories.
– The honorable senator surely does not call Fleming a leading Tory ?
– Fleming had his say as a citizen of the State, and I understand that if he had his way he would abolish Parliaments altogether. This is the first resolution that was passed by the meeting -
That in the opinion of this meeting no measure authorizing an increase in the. salaries to he paid to the members of the Federal Parliament should be finally passed until the constituencies have been afforded an opportunity of expressing their views th’ereon.
What objection can be taken to. that?
– The ob jection that the meeting arrived at a conclusion without hearing the other side.
– Senator Millen arrived at his conclusion without hearing the other side. The honorable senator did not consult the. people, and that is the attitude on the part of honorable senators generally which is so much resented. The second resolution was -
That the members of the Senate be urged to delay the passage of the measure authorizing such an increase, which is now under consideration by the Senate, until the constituencies have been consulted in regard to it.
That is a reasonable resolution, and it was indorsed by the meeting. I venture to say that if the passing of this Bill were delayed for another day or two similar meet ings would be held in various parts of Victoria, and their influence would extend to other parts of the Commonwealth.
– Does the honorable senator think that the people of the other States are so easily influenced by the opinion of the people of Victoria?
– I know that the people of Victoria are level headed and fair minded.
– They showed that at the time of the railway strike.
– Kyabram !
– No doubt certain waves of public feeling are noticed at different times in all the States.
– The Victorian people are the most hystericalin the Commonwealth.
– They are the people who expelled a certain; member from Parliament
– It is true that they did expel me from Parliament, and I believe that if it had been proposed at that time that I should be executed I. would have been executed forthwith. But I do not accept the feeling of the people at a time of’ great excitement as indicative of their general- feeling.
– There is no State that is more subject to these waves of excitement than is Victoria.
– I deny that. I believe that in this matter my opinion is the opinion of the majority of the people of the State.
– At one time they nearly put the honorable senator in gaol.
– I cannot help that. ‘ In connexion with this matter, the people of Victoria have become incensed at the action taken in passing this measure through without giving them an opportunity to say whether they are in favour of it or against it. They have no objection to recognise the just and legitimate claims, particularly of members of the Federal Parliament who, as the representatives of distant States, are placed at a disadvantage as compared with myself and other Victorian representatives. But before they give their consent, they ask respectfully, as they did at the meeting held last night at the Melbourne Town Hall, that the question should be submitted to them. I have said what I desired to say, and if I. have imported some heat into my remarks that has been due in a measure to the fact that certain unfounded insinuations were made as to the motive which has actuated me in opposing the Bill.
.- I have a few words to say in the closing moments of this interesting debate. I do not think that it is fair to lay upon any party in this Parliament the praise or blame for passing this measure. Although a majority of its members have supported the Bill, I do not think that it is fair to blame the Labour Party especially for it. When we find that the leaders- of each party in another place were very strongly in favour of the measure, Parliament as a whole must bear the praise or blame attaching to iti I regard the action taken in connexion with the Bill as wrong, because I believe that, by .passing it, we shall strike the severest blow at democracy that it has ever received in Australia. This may be a cause for laughter with some of my honorable friends who pose as typical democrats, but it is probable that they will find out in a year or two who is right in the matter. I say that by the passage of this measure democracy will have been wounded in the house of its friends.
– Because, as Senator Findley has said, the people have not been consulted in regard to it. Senator Trenwith has said that the meeting which has been referred to was a meeting of the leading Tories of Victoria, and I should like to ask the honorable senator whether he regards the resolutions which have been passed by various Political Labour Councils as emanating from Tories? Was the resolution which was passed at Bendigo on Monday or Tuesday night last, in which the leader of the Labour Party here was asked to block the further passage of the Bill, a resolution passed by Tories ? I say that the people outside have a truer sense df democracy than have those who are here, and Senator Findley possesses a clearer and shrewder vision of this matter and of the results which will flow from it than any of his colleagues in this Chamber.
– The honorable senator the other day told the women of .Geelong that the labour leagues are a national danger.
– Was that reported ?
– I believe it was reported in the Argus.
– The honorable senator is a slanderer. That is what he is.
– Order !
– Very well : I contradict Senator Pearce. I did not make that statement. I shall look up the Argus, and if I do not find it reported in that newspaper, I shall brand the honorable senator as a slanderer
– The honorable senator called upon the women to beware of the labour leagues.
– The honorable senator did not say so. I was present on the platform with him at the time.
– Senator Pearce, and* those who think with him, form the most intolerant class in the community. They are prepared to slander and stigmatize others, but when a little of their criticism is directed against themselves, they do not -like it. We have had a little too much of their criticism, arid we are not going to stand it any longer. I again ask whether the resolutions which have been passed by labour councils at a number of meetings held within the last day or two have emanated from the Tories or from the working classes of this country ?
– There are no Tories in this country.
– It is not the Tories who are objecting in this matter, but the great body of the working people, who have to toil hard for -their living, and who> object to being taxed to supply this extra payment of members of the Federal Parliament without being consulted.
– Should they not alsobe consulted in respect to the Tariff?
– That is another question altogether. ‘ It is of no use for the honorable senator to try to draw that red herring across the track. The statement has been made that the Age has raised this question in order to divert attention from the Tariff, but that is just another of the untrue statements that may be allowed to pass as being worth nothing at all.
– There is a great deaf of circumstantial evidence to support it.
– Public opinion will be found to be %’ery much the same all over Australia. If a meeting to consider this question were called in Adelaide, I venture to say that it would,, be attended by very much the same class of people as those who were present at the great meeting held” in the Melbourne Town Hall last night. I venture also to say that if meetings were held in Sydney, Brisbane, Perth, or
Hobart, they .would be attended by much the same class of people, and would pass resolutions similar to those passed at the Melbourne meeting, with the same enthusiasm. I direct special attention to the fact that in the resolutions passed by the labour councils, shire councils, and at the public meeting held last night at the Melbourne Town Hall, no exception is taken to the proposed increase. The people of Australia are too large-minded to grumble about an extra expenditure of ,£20,000, spread over the whole population of the Commonwealth.
– The anti-payment of members people were too cunning for that.
– I did not quite catch the interjection : but it seems to me that Senator Trenwith is running cunning at the present time.
– I said that the antipayment of members people were too cunning.
– These interjections about cunning while an honorable senator is speaking are not very seemly, and they are apt to be personally applied. I say that the objection is not to the payment of an increased allowance. I believe that the public would willingly accord an increased payment to members of this Parliament, but they have a right to be consulted in the matter. Our penny-in-the-slot labour leader, Senator McGregor, says that the proposed increase represents only a penny a year from each member of the public, but .1 believe the people would not care if it represented one pound so long as thev believed they would get value for the money, and the thing were done in a proper manner.
– I hope to hear the honorable senator in the same strain when we are dealing with the Tariff.
– I have been through too many Tariff battles for my honorable and verdant friend to be alarmed as to what I shall say on the Tariff. He will probably hear quite enough from me . on that subject. I repeat my protest against the manner in which this Bill has been brought forward and rushed through. It was quite evident that in moving the second reading of the Bill, the Vice-President of the Executive Council never undertook a more uncongenial task. The halting, hesitating, apologetic way in which he spoke, and his aspersions at the close of his speech, made it clear that no one will be. more pleased than the honorable “senator when this measure is out of the way. The Government should have adopted the manly course of putting the question before the country at the last general election. I am satisfied that if that had been done, and the case as stated last night by Senators Pearce and Millen had been put to the people they would willingly have conceded what, they will now very grudgingly concede to the members of this Parliament.
– Although this measure has undergone the ordeal of a second reading and consideratio’n in Committee, it would seem that some of its opponents are Still prepared to put up a gallant fight against it. I am reminded by what has taken place of the story that when the animals were being crowded into the Ark, the flea complained that he was being shoved by the elephant. The Melbourne meeting is in about the same position as the flea. I believe that the Parliament of Australia will be quite content to continue the role of the elephant, notwithstanding the complaint of the flea about being shoved. Senator Fraser has said that the country is against the proposed increase..
– Yes, I am sure of that, though the honorable senator’s eloquence may change my opinion.
– In the first place, we shall have, to agree as to what the country is, and what means were employed in ascertaining its opinion. The meeting which was held last night plays too large a part in this discussion. Various and devious means were resorted to in order to get public men of standing to participate in the meeting, but they were unsuccessful. The Lord Mayor stated that no members of the State or the Federal Parliament had been invited, but I have been informed on the best authority that that statement was not .true, that efforts were made to get members of Parliament to attend, and that they flatly refused to do so. When we run over the list of those who sought to inflict their opinions on the meeting, what a motley crew do we find ! I had never heard of them before, except perhaps in a notorious ‘ way. I had heard of some of them in a vague way as having been associated with every movement of a reactionary character. I flatly refuse to believe that the people of Australia will be led to express an opinion, at the behest of this motley crew of reactionaries and recalcitrants. Senator Symon bewailed the -action of this Parliament in taking upon itself to pass a measure without first consulting the people.
– Not a measure, but this particular measure.
– I dared to interject that the honorable senator intended that the money was to be wrongly procured, and he replied that he had said nothing of the sort. He did not say, however, that the money was to fee rightly procured. It was a question of the money being procured whether rightly or wrongly, and interjected that it was to be wrongly procured. I do not want to, indulge in any hair-splittng operation, but I submit that the money is being rightly procured, and in accordance with the intention of the people when they vested in the Parliament the exclusive power of dealing with the subject, without reference to them. I believe, as history will show, that in Australia the representatives ofl the people are as keenly alive to their public duty, and are as disinterested, even’ to that degree of selfsacrifice which is required for the promotion of the welfare and well-being of the community, as are any other class, aye, even’ more so. On former occasions when this question of remuneration was’ raised members of Parliament kept their eyes directly fixed upon the state of the finances, and how the country would stand the legislation. In Queensland the Parliament raised the amount of the allowance to ^300 a year in 1903, without a direct reference to the people, but, in 1906, when a check in the country’s prosperity came about, what did they do? Notwithstanding that vile abuse, which has been heaped upon public men by the press of this city, Queensland’s legislators recognising the position of the State, reduced their allowance proportionately. When the proper time comes - and I hope that it is far distant - the members of this Parliament will be found acting consistently with that action of the legislators of Queensland in 1906. That proves my point that the representatives of the people are not that selfish grabbing class which the respectable press of this city, and the arrogant persons who took it upon themselves to advise the public meeting last night, have attempted to make out. I believe that the members of this Parliament are only asking for that which after all is a fair reward for their services, and one which I believe the bulk of the people, if they were consulted to-daY, would have little hesitation in approving. In Western Australia we have had an experience of payment of members. It was not a serious matter there, and certainly it could almost be described as a political freak. When the Parliament took it upon itself to deal with the question, what did it do? It remunerated not only the members of the Legislative Assembly, but also the members of the Legislative Council, though certainly at a rate which did not reflect credit upon the originators of the scheme. I have had a bitter experience of payment of members there at £200 a year. While I recognise with Senator Pearce that it is not a becoming thing for a man to obtrude his personal experience upon the attention of his fellow members, still I am in a position to bear some testimony. Before I was pushed into public life there - and I was pushed into it, because I was requisitioned to come forward - I was given a salary of ^300 a year, with a travelling allowance of 10s. a day. I gave up that position in obedience, to a strongly-worded requisition that I should come forward and take my place as a pub-, lie man, at a salary of ^200 a year. My only regret is that I did not have an opportunity at the earliest possible moment of seeing that the legislators of the State were more adequately rewarded. It will be seen that there are other motives actuating a man besides that of merely standing forward for the purpose of grabbing the cash. A man is actuated by a higher motive when his fellow men call upon him to offer public service. That is what largely induced me to come forward and to make a sacrifice in the interests of the public. The public of that State are still slow to recognise the manifest injustice which is done to their representatives, and which throws upon them, as in our case, the responsibility of seeing whether or not they are being fairly treated. Is our present stipend a fair one or not? If it is not fair, how long are we’ to wait before the amount is converted from the wrong into the right? If we are to await the pleasure of some of those who have been offering the most paltry excuses iri order to shield their bitter opposition to the enactment of the Bill, we shall have to wait an indefinite period to see the final development of that latest tendency in every civilized country,’ and that is to reward with an adequate fee the man who sacrifices much and stands forward in the public interests. I desire now to refer to the way .in which the press of this city has treated this question. Last evening, Senator Symon dwelt upon the action of the Government in a way which did not reflect credit upon them. He said that they did not acknowledge the paternity of the measure, and were, in a sense, to blame.
– I said nothing about blame. The honorable senator is misquoting me.
– It does -not matter.
– I suppose it does not matter.
– No; drop the subject, and leave the Government alone.
– I am confident that Senator Symon referred to the action of the Government in not bringing this down as a Government measure.
– I did not say anything of the kind. I said that they ought ‘to take the responsibility of their action without qualification.
– What hair-splitting! Last night I spent a few minutes in placing on record what was done in Canada, which is constantly pointed to as a country in which healthy precedents may be found. I wish to direct the attention of Senator Fraser to what was done in that country.
– We have had it all ‘before.
– I am going to state the position again, because it takes a long time for plain truths to sink into some skulls.
– That is quite true.
– My object in restating the position is not to instruct those honorable senators who will not listen, but to show up the inconsistency of the press in this regard, and to point out how they have abused the privileges which they have enjoyed at the hands of this Parliament. The first session of the tenth Parliament of Canada was opened by the GovernorGeneral with a speech on the 12th January. 1905, but it did not contain a reference to the question of an increased allowance to the “members o’f the Parliament. On the 17th June, a motion was. brought forward in the House of Commons in terms similar to those of the motion which was passed recently in the other branch of this Parliament. The discussion on that motion, which was passed ‘on the same day, occupied . precisely two .pages of Hansard.
On the 1 8th June, a Bill was brought down for an increased allowance, and the; discussion measures only inches in Han sard. That brings out clearly two points which no person can afford to disguise. The first is that in the recognised means of placing their policy before the country the Government of Canada did not hint that such a measure was in contemplation.
– Had the original amount been fixed in the Constitution of Canada?
– The allowance was, I think, fixed in the Constitution, and this was an amending Bill.
– Will the honorable senator undertake to say that the original amount of the allowance was fixed in the Constitution?
– I undertake to say that prior to 1905 there was an allowance to the members of the Dominion Parliament.
– Was it fixed in the Constitution’ by the people of Canada ?
– My point is that the position in Canada was precisely the same that exists in Australia to-day, and that is whether the members of the Parliament should receive any more for their services.. The Government of Canada did not mention the matter” of the proposed increase iri the Governor-General’s Speech, and when, it was submitted to the House of Commons ,the discussion on the preliminarymotion occupied only two pages of Han sard, and the discussion on the ‘various stages of the Bill in that House occupied 6 inches, as the volume in my hand proves. I have shown that in this particular case in Canada the people were not specifically consulted on the question; and secondly, that the Bill was, as it mav be said, rushed through that Parliament. The allowance- paid to a member of Parliament in Canada is about ^520 per annum. In 1905 the first session extended over three months, and a second session was held later in the year. Under the Canadian arrangement, members of the Canadian Parliament, receiving a sessional allowance for each session, would receive £1,040 for that year. But I do not propose to adhere to that line of argument. -The point is that the minimum allowance paid to the members of the Dominion Parliament is £520, in addition to a travelling allowance, necessitated by the fact that Canadian- members have totravel over a vast country, which, however; is not larger than the area over which we have to travel. In Canada there are 87 senators, as against 36 in Australia, and there are 214 members of the Canadian House of Commons, as against 75 members of our House of Representatives. The amount involved in the alteration made in Canada was £156,000, as against the £20,000 involved in this measure. In other words, that is what it will cost to place the Australian representatives in barely the same position as the representatives of the Canadian people occupy, and as I have shown it is not correct to say that this Bill has been rushed, or that the procedure upon it has no parallel’ in legislative enactment. Now I have a word or two to say about the press of this city. I regard the press as one of the greatest agencies either for good or ill in the community. But I also consider that when this potent agency lends itself to the advancement of any particular view that suits the interests of its proprietors, it manifestly wanders from the path of rectitude in which it should travel. Let me point out that the press of this city has treated this subject in the most one-sided way. The newspapers here have given extended space to the speeches of those who have spoken against the Bill, and have even included in their reports the most frivolous remarks which have been made: upon the subject. But how Shave they treated those who have spoken in favour of the measure? Let others who have supported the Bill speak for themselves. I point out that when anything of a telling character was said in support of the Bill it was excluded from the reports of the newspapers, whilst remarks in a slighter vein received the utmost publicity. Now the representatives of the press have certain privileges extended to them in this Chamber. You yourself, Mr. President, have the power to order any stranger out of the Chamber. When the newspapers send representatives here who use the privilege extended to them for the purpose of placing an unfair construction upon debates on any subject at issue, I say that they are abusing the privilege vouchsafed to them. Take my own case. I have pointed to the Canadian precedent, and have shown how a similar matter was dealt with by the Dominion Parliament. Yet not a single reference to my brief remarks is made in the morning newspapers of Melbourne.
– That is quite a common thing.
– Why should it be so ?
– Order the newspaper proprietors to the bar of the Senate !
– I have a. right to complain that that treatment is not such as a public man should receive in connexion with a question like this. In my opinion, the press should fairly present the views of those who are in favour of a given proposition and of: those who are against it, and should then use its leading columns- to express its own opinions.
– That is a counsel of perfection, you know.
– In Western Australia we. have, L believe, the fairest press of any Australasian State. We have a press that will give fair reports of the views of the meanest members of the community who have anything to say upon any important public question. At the same time, our newspapers use their leading columns, as they are entitled to do, to point out the weak spots in any policy opposed to. that which they advocate, and to criticise the utterances of public men. I do not complain of such treatment. But I. do complain of the policypursued by the press of this city. The matter is one that affects every member of the Senate. Every honorable senator is interested to see that his views are fairly set forth. In this case, my allusion to the Canadian precedent is entirely suppressed.. But, on the other hand, consider the attention given to the meeting at the Town Hall last night. The Lord Mayor of Melbourne is reported in the Age to have said -
He desired to draw attention to the sudden introductionof the Bill and to its rapid progress through the House of Representatives. (Laughter.) He thought, indeed, that it would take the record.
I submit that that is not a true statement of fact. But here is a clear proof that the Melbourne Age decided to publish the opinions expressed by the Lord Mayor of Melbourne, who, so far as this Commonwealth is concerned, is an irresponsible person, and at the same time to suppress mine. The point which I wish to make clear is that it is decidedly unfair: that this should be so. It is time that the public recognised that the press is run for business motives, just as is a boot factory, or a shop. The press is run to make money for its shareholders and proprietors: But when it comes to one man sitting in his office, and constituting himself a censor of public men, while he refuses to publish the views of representatives of the people, and at the same time devotes space to the views of irresponsible persons, then I say that he has made a manifest departure from the path of justice and reason. Speakers at the Town Hall meeting were permitted to refer to the ‘.’rushing “ of the measure through the House of Representatives, and their remarks are reported at length. A Mr. Reid remarked that he had come forward to - protest against the measure that had been rushed through behind their backs in this iniquitous way.
A Mr. Wishart also referred to the fact that- when it was a question of putting 50 per cent, on their screws they rushed it through in a night.
The Age’s twin conspirator in suppression, the Argus, also adopts the policy of suppressing the statements of responsible public men, and at the same time publishes the views of these nobodies. I call them nobodies in a public sense, because they have not been chosen by their fellow-men to occupy the positions they fill as we have. I find the Argus, engaged in the same policy of suppression, allowing a Mr. Lowe to say - that they could search the history of Parliaments here and they would find no parallel for this action.
The Argus allows this nobody to say that there is no record of a parallel, while I have proved to the contrary, and the newspaper suppresses the fact. The leading article in the Argus also refers to the “ rushing “ of this measure. I contend that if this Bill has been rushed, there was still more rushing in the case of the Canadian Act. In drawing attention to the action pf the Melbourne press in this matter, I say frankly that I should like to move in a more drastic way to deal with these people who are abusing, instead of using, the privilege extended them by suppressing the opinions of public men, and at the same time, to suit their own cause, blazoning forth the opinions of irresponsible persons.
.- I did not take part in the debate on the motion for the second reading of this Bill yesterday, and will not repeat the arguments in favour of the Bill, with which I agree. But in view of the trend of the discussion to-day, I shall not allow the measure to pass and give a silent vote for it. In the first instance, I desire to throw back the insinuation which has been made that the party of which I am a member made a demand upon, the Government to bring down this Bill. It is unworthy of any man to make such a statement. There has been no such demand ; no such request ever emanated from the Labour Party.
– There would have been no harm if it had made a request.
– It is a hard thing to see such statements bandied broadcast through the press without a contradiction of them being launched. I desire to speak, because this is not the first time that I’ have taken part in a debate upon a Bill for the purpose of increasing the remuneration of members of Parliament. Upon a previous occasion when I spoke upon such a Bill I took an entirely different attitude to that which I shall take to-day. I then opposed the attempt made in a State Parliament to increase the salaries of its members owing to the fact that the people had had no voice, in the matter. But if I were to maintain the same attitude in regard to this Bill I should be entirely wrong. I shall support the Bill to the bitter end.
– The happy end !
– I am satisfied that the people of Western Australia are in favour of it, and I am prepared to stand upon any platform of that State and justify the vote I shall give. It is to the people of Western Australia that I am responsible for my vote, and not to any persons in Victoria, no matter what position they may occupy. ‘ The persons who attended the meeting of citizens at the Town Hall last night had every right to express their opinions. Every man who spoke at that meeting had a right to speak. But, at the same time, I maintain that it was entirely wrong on the part of the meeting and of the Lord Mayor to attempt to prevent a man who dissented from the majority from uttering his opinions. I am somewhat surprised that Senator Findley should have defended such a course of action.
– I simply said that the crowd would not listen to him. I had no control over -the crowd.
– The crowd had no right to howl him down, nor should the Lord Mayor have allowed it to howl him down. If it was a meeting of citizens called to consider a certain question, it was only right that every citizen should be allowed to state his views. There are only two ways of looking “at the proposed increase of allowances. It is either right or wrong. Senator McColl said that it would be the ruin of democracy. He characterized it as a blow aimed at democracy. I should like to know what those who are opposing the Bill will do after it becomes law. If I were to oppose it as strenuously as other honorable senators and members of another place have done, there would be only one course for me to pursue consistently with my personal honour as a public man. I should feel myself bound to refuse to accept or use the extra money.I am making this conscientious statement with all the sincerity of my nature. If I opposed the Bill on the floor of this Chamber, I should no more touch the increased amount which it would allow me to draw than I would put my hands in another man’s pocket and steal his money. Senator McColl said that some honorable senators posed as democrats.
– I did not use the word “ pose “ at all.
– The honorable senator said they pretended to be democrats.
– I did not say that either. I said “those who represented the democracy in this Chamber.”
– Then I withdraw the statement ; but I am going to make another statement, which I shall not qualify, that there are honorable senators posing as moralists, as the protectors of the rights and pockets of the people, and urging that it is wrong for us to attempt to increase our wages ; but if this Bill becomes law I undertake to say that so soon as the first pay day comes round the full amount of the cheque will be placed to the credit of their banking accounts. If they are honest in their opposition, if they have that real anxiety for honest political lifewhich they say they have, then they have no right to accept the extra wages. If the Bill passes it will be the right and the duty of other honorable senators to find out from an authoritative source if those honorable senators who are opposed to the increase of the allowance eventually draw the full amount.
– We will ask the honorable senator’s opinion before we do anything.
– The honorable senator might ask the opinion of worse people. I have said all I wanted to say. I desired simply to justify my position on the floor of this Chamber in comparison with the position I took up upon another occasion. The question has been decided by the people. When they accepted the Constitution Bill, they gave their representatives in Parliament the power to do what we are doing now. This Bill therefore is no insult to the people. We are not taking advantage of them, and the howl that has been made has only emanated from one particular corner of the Commonwealth.
– I desire to make a personal explanation. When I was addressing the Senate, Senator Pearce - I am sure it was a lapse of memory on his part - interjected that I had slandered the Labour Party in an address made by me at Geelong, and reported in the Argus. I have looked up the report, which contains not one word derogatory to the Labour Party, and only one slight incidental reference to them. I am sorry the honorable senator is not present now, but I trust he will see that he was “wrong; and, if he does, I am sure that he will be generous enough to make a correction.
– When Senator Findley was speaking I ventured an interjection with regard to an article appearing in the labour paper, the Call, to which the honorable senator referred. I interjected that probably that article was the honorable senator’s own work. If his views are in accord with the sentiments of the article, I do not see why he should have been so indignant or have worked himself into such a red-hot fury.
– Because the insinuation was that I was doing something underhand in opposition to my party. When that insinuation is thrown out, I hurl back a denial of it. I will do more than that - I will take the consequences by-and-by.
– It was wonderful how calmly Senator Findley took the other remarks that were made against the party of which he is a member. Not one word came from him when that accusation was made against the Labour Party by
Senator Fraser. He seemed, however, to be highly indignant when he was charged with probably having something to do with an article which was in accord with his own views as stated” in this Chamber. However, as Senator Needham said, there is only one way by which those who are opposing the measure can prove their sincerity. The opposition to the Bill does not end on the floor of the Senate. If they wish to impress the sincerity of their opposition on other honorable senators, they will refuse to accept one penny of the increased allowance which the Bill authorizes. That is the only way in which they can induce me to accept any of their professions of sincerity. It is no use for them to howl on the floor of thisChamber, and then, after the Bill becomes law, to accept the extra money with the rest of the members of this Parliament. That kind of cheapclaptrap and pandering will not satisfy me. I will believe that a man is sincerely and honestly opposed to the. Bill when he carries that sincerity to its logical conclusion. The only proof of it will be that he refuses to accept the extra allowance.
Question - That this Bill be now read a third time - put. The Senate divided.
Majority … … 6
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
In Committee (Consideration resumed from 16th August, vide page 2067) :
Postponed clause 81 -
Upon which Senator Chataway had moved, by way of amendment -
That all the words. after the word “banker,” line 14, be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “ may recover from the drawer in a Court of competent jurisdiction any amount expressed in the cheque over and above the original sum so drawn.”
– Since this clause was last under consideration, an important banking journal has been published. I have read carefully the remarks in it on clause 81, and I think my amendment will meet the views of the banking people as expressed by that paper, as well as those of the general public.
– This amendment is one that could be very well accepted bythe Committee. The object of the clause is to provide that, when there has been negligence on the part of the drawer, if that negligence has been the cause of a cheque . being fraudulently altered to a larger amount, and the banker has bona fide and without negligence honoured the cheque for the larger amount, the banker shall not bear the loss. As the clause now stands, it leaves the banker in such circumstances to debit the drawer with the difference. The amendment proposes to throw upon the banker the onus of nroving the negligence of the drawer, and of proving also the other facts which have led to the fraudulent alteration, before he can recover the amount from the drawer. I think that the object which Senator Chataway has in view in throwing the onus upon the banker, instead of leaving the matter in his hands to decide at his own pleasure, is one with which we can sympathize. In ordinary 1 circumstances, individuals, and especially those in a small way of business, are not very anxious to go into Court to contest with a large financial institution their respective liabilities in a matter of this kind. On the other hand, it is a comparatively easy matter for a bank to institute necessary proceedings if it thinks it can prove that the drawer of the cheque was neglectful of his proper responsibilities. For these reasons I see no objection to the amendment of the clause in the way proposed.
Senator Major O’LOGHLIN (South Australia) [4.16]. - I shall support the amendment, which I think will improve the clause, since it throws the onus of proof in legal proceedings upon the bank, instead of upon the customer. But the more I look at the details of this clause, the more I am convinced that it is both unnecessary and dangerous, and I shall vote against it, even though it should be amended in the way proposed. If I had any doubt on the matter, it has been removed by further study given to the measure, and parties larly by some remarks which were made by Senator Gould on the last occasion when the Bill was before the Committee. When the honorable senator was referring to the injustice which would be suffered if the law were left as it is, I asked him, by interjection, who had suffered from it in England up to the present time. The honorable senator, in reply, explained that the customers of banks in England were very different from those here, inasmuch as the people using cheques in England were generally educated men who were quite able to look after themselves. It may_ be inferred from that that in the opinion of the honorable senator a considerable number of persons engaged in business in Australia are not so well educated, or so well versed in commercial law, and that they may therefore make mistakes which would not be due to negligence, but which would render them liable to proceedings at law. I would ask honorable senators whom they think it is most necessary and desirable we should protect by this clause. Is it the banking institutions with their trained staffs and experts in commercial law, or is it the general public, and particularly those who have not had the advantage of special training, and who may be liable through ignorance and not negligence to draw a cheque in such a way that it may be altered? From whatever point of view it is looked at, I think that honorable senators should reject this clause. In my opinion, this is an exceedingly valuable Bill, ana - the uniformity it will secure is most desirable. I point out, however, that this particular clause will not secure uniformity. Although attempts have been made to show that it will only make clear what is already common law, I believe that it will establish a new and a dangerous principle.
– Is the honorable senator aware that a similar provision is contained in the Queensland and Tasmanian Acts ?
– That has come out many times during the discussion on the Bill, but it only proves that this clause will not secure uniformity. Its effect will be to bring four States of the Commonwealth, in which such a provision has not been passed, into line with two States, which I hold are wrong in this matter, and will also put us out of touch with Imperial legislation on the subject. That is one of my principal reasons for opposing the clause. 1
– Since this clause was last under consideration I have given considerable attention to it. I have communicated with the Chamber of Commerce in Brisbane, and with banking authorities on the subject, and have carefully considered the suggestions they have made. I listened with interest and attention to the Minister of Home Affairs, in moving the second reading of the Bill, and to the arguments he has offered in support of the clause. I have been much impressed by the last remarks he has made. To my mind, they . afford the strongest reasons why the Committee should favorably consider the proposal. The clause as it stands amounts to this only : That in the hard case between two innocent persons, the banker and the drawer of a cheque, the banker, if he desires to have any protection, must prove his case up to the hilt. The clause differs in some respects from the Queensland section, and throws a greater onus upon the banker. I have pointed out that in this matter we have a delicate duty to perform in deciding _where the onus should equitably go as between the banker and customer, and the person who takes advantage of any negligence on the part of a drawer of a cheque, to commit a fraud as between the two first parties. It seems to me that the clause is very carefully framed, and clearly throws upon the banker the onus of proving to the hilt the several conditions set forth. If we are going to be absolutely impartial, I think we should do absolute justice between the two parties by passing the clause in the form in which the Government submitted it.
– Can the honorable senator say that the banks have not sufficient protection already?
– The clause would operate as a sort of danger signal between the banks, the drawers of cheques, and the banks’ customers. As such it does not go quite as far as do the Queensland and Tasmanian sections. However it throws a slightly graver obligation on the banker. It makes it clear that in a case where two innocent parties might suffer the banker must go into Court and prove to the satisfaction of a jury affirmatively all the conditions set out in the clause, and until he does so he will not get protection. This question has arisen in consequence of the decision in the case of Marshall v. The Colonial Bank. That was a very hard case.
– Would it not have been just as hard if Marshall had been compelled to make the money good ?
– The fraudulent person in that case ought to have been in gaol.
– Marshall was not the fraudulent person.
– No, he was an innocent party, and so was the bank.
– But was not Marshall a very negligent person?
– No; Marshall in that case drew his cheque in the ordinary way, and the question was whether drawing the cheque in that form was in itself negligence, or evidence of_ negligence. The High Court of Australia and . the Privy Council pointed out that there was no obligation on the part of the drawer of the cheque to do any more than an ordinary man would do in drawing a cheque in the ordinary way. A third party getting hold of the cheque so altered it that it was made an instrument of fraud, and the question was, who should suffer. The Courts decided in that case that the drawer of the cheque, by drawing it in the ordinary way, was not guilty of negligence, nor was that proof of negligence.
– Does not this clause propose to alter that state of the law?
– No. The persons affected will go into Court to have the matter decided, and under this clause the banker will not go into Court unless he is prepared to prove affirmatively the conditions set forth. It has been objected by opponents of the clause that notwithstanding the decision in the case of Marshall v. The Colonial Bank,the Bills of Exchange Act has not been altered in Great Britain, or in some of the States of the Commonwealth. I should like to say that I think it will be generally admitted that for every £1,000 that passes currency through cheques in Australia, not more than £10 passes in the same way in Great Britain. Cheques are recognised throughout Australia as an almost universal and most convenient form of exchange. They are more largely used as a medium of exchange in the Commonwealth than in the United States, or, I think, in any other country in the world. In view of the decision in the case of Marshall v. The Colonial Batik, it is natural to suppose that Australian bankers, knowing the extent to which cheques are used as a medium of currency in this country, will take especial care to prevent the perpetration of fraud. That, very probably, is the reason why in Australia bankers at once drew attention to it. I think that the Committee, if it is desirous to do absolute justice, will allow the clause to stand as it is printed.
.- In Australia it is a very general practice for men to transact their business by means of cheques. Of course, the drawer of a cheque as well as the banker has a responsibility. If, through negligence, the drawer enables the holder of a cheque to alter the amount he is responsible. Each party should be held responsible for his own misdeed, but I hold that if we empower a banker to pay a cheque which may have been drawn somewhat carelessly we shall confer upon the banker an enormous power which, if taken advantage of, might bring wholesale ruin to customers. I have done a large business both as a bank director and as a drawer of cheques. Every man ought to be most careful when he is drawing a cheque. In the first place, he should use his own cheque-book. At the same time a responsibility rests upon the banker. Whenever a man wishes to open an account the banker should teach him how to draw a cheque, and give him a properly . drawn-out cheque, together with printed instructions as to how a cheque should be drawn. If a banker does not warn his customer, and the latter is perhaps careless in drawing out his cheques, who is responsible ?
– If a customer is in the habit of drawing a cheque negligently the banker will draw his attention to the fact.
– I have seen an enormous number of cheques which were drawn in a most reckless way. It is a wonder to me that more wrong-doing is not carried on when a man employs figures only in filling the body of his cheque. I write the body of a cheque from beginning to end without a stop, and do not employ any figures. I do not give an opportunity to any person to put a figure in front of ” £10” or “£100.” It is a custom with some persons to order their banker to pay a man £1,000 or £100, but I always write the amount in words, without a stop. The clause, even as proposed to be amended, is surrounded with danger. I do not know what suggestion to make for its improvement. I prefer the amendment to the clause. T admit that it was a diabolical swindle which was practised upon the Colonial Bank of . Australasia, but it is almost impossible to prevent cases of swindling if persons are determined to defraud a bank. A man with a large credit balance is always liable to be defrauded. There may be collusion on the part of two persons to get a man with a large balance to draw out a cheque for a small amount, and if they succeed they may ruin that man in one act. If a banker has any doubt about a cheque drawn by a man who does not usually draw a cheque for a large sum he should stay his hand.
– If there are funds to meet the cheque he dare not stay his hand.
– I know “better than that.
– I have had a cheque returned with the words “ Signature unlike “ written on it.
– In the case of a trust estate the position is different.
– We want to provide against the recurrence of such a case as Marshall’s.
– Where one trustee writes a cheque and purposely leaves room for swindling to take place, and gets his co-trustees to sign the cheque, he can alter the writing at his leisure. No amount of ingenuity can guard against a swindle of that kind. If we allow a banker to pay a cheque without being under a liability he will become careless. It is only right that he should feel a responsibility in regard to every cheque which he pays.
– To my mind, the amendment will be a distinct improvement of the clause, and I shallvote for it. But even with the amendment,. I consider that we are going out of our way to do what Senator Gould said the other day, and that is to throw the aegis of our protection over the banker. I do riot consider that he is in great need of that special protection. In other countries it has been distinctly refused to him.
– In Great Britain. The bankers got up an agitation with a view to obtain this protection ; but it was refused by the Imperial Parliament. The Committee should take warning by the remarks of Senator Fraser. What he indicated might very easily happen by collusion between a fraudulent person and a person behind the bank’s counter.
– That could not happen, because it has to be done in good faith.
– It would not be possible to prove that there was anything else but good faith on the part of the man behind the counter.
– If the alteration of the cheque could be discovered by diligence, the bank would be liable.
– A bank has already the protection of the common law, which the best authorities in Great Britain consider is ample for the purpose. In all the States, until very recently, it has been considered ample for the protection of the banks. Only Tasmania and Queensland offer to the banks any protection similar to that which is proposed in this Bill.
– The fraud of an official would be the fraud of the bank, and it would have to pay.
– Yes; if the fraud could be proved. But this provision would relieve the banker from liability. If a man added the letter “ y “ to the word “ eight,” then the man behind the counter would say, “ This cheque is perfectly good, I will pay it.” He might have acted in collusion with, the man who presented the cheque, although there was really no negligence on the part of the drawer. As a rule, a banking chamber is now surrounded with counters. When a man goes into a bank with a cheque, he goes to one side of the banking chamber and hands the cheque to an official, who, if it is good, puts a mark on it to indicate that it is good. Then the holder of the cheque walks to another counter and presents it to the paying teller, who, when he observes that it is marked as good, pays it without question. Not very long ago a case occurred in which a cheque was altered from £8 to £80. When the cheque for £8 was presented to the ledger-keeper, he looked upthe account of the drawer, and saw that there were funds to meet the cheque, and marked it as good. There was a crush in the banking chamber, and the bank officials were not watching the holder of the cheque, who very cleverly added the letter “y” to the word “eight,” and the figure “o” to the figure “8,” walked across to the paying teller, presented the cheque marked as good, and received the £80.
– The bank would suffer in that case.
– Through the negligence of the banker, or through the system, the customer would be defrauded of £72. The common law affords sufficient protection to a banker. I hold that the customers are equally entitled to protection at our hands. I intend to vote for the amendment of Senator Chataway, and if a division is called for, against the clause.
.- It seems to be the opinion of Senators O’ Loghlin and Givens that some of us on this side of the Chamber want to give undue protection to the banker. I do not desire to do anything of the kind. The banker does an enormous amount of good to the public. He is a very great convenience and advantage. He has to carry on his business promptly, and, of course, he has to incur a great many risks. But he ought to be excepted from all risks where it can be done without doing an injustice to the customer. It appears to me that with the amendment that Senator Chataway has proposed, and which the Government has accepted, the clause will be as perfect as we can make it.’ The decision in Marshall’s case came as a shock to every one of us. I think that every honorable senator if he had been on a jury would have held that in that case the bank ought not to have suffered.
– The clause would not alter that decision.
– I think it would. But, in that case, there was no authority upon which the Court could rely to show that the bankers were relieved from liability.
– Does the honorable senator think that Marshall should have suffered?
– I do. To the mind of every layman it must appear that there was negligence.
– The Court held differently.
– The point had hardly ever been decided in the annals of English law, and both the Courts which dealt with the matter considered that they; were justified in finding that there was no evidence to go to a jury. But if a man draws a cheque negligently he is guilty of negligence; and now that the onus is thrown upon the banker of proving everything I can see no objection to the clause. If a fraud has been committed owing to> the negligence of a drawer the banker should be relieved, but if the banker allows himself to be deceived, though there, has been no negligence on the part of the drawer, the bank should bear theloss.
– As the matter presents itselfto my mind, the clause merely indicates what the common law already is as decided in the case referred to. No negligence was shown in Marshall’s case. If there had been negligence the banker would, under the existing law, have been relieved. This clause, if there were no negligence, would not relieve the banker. Therefore the clause is ifI may so express it, a danger signal by means of which a. person may be induced to be more careful than he would otherwise be. I think that Senator Chataway’s amendment is extremely desirable, because, in the event of a dispute and of alleged negligence, the onus of proceeding to seek the aid of the law is thrown upon the party most capable of adopting such means. But the clause does not alter the law in the, slightest degree. It merely puts up a dangersignal in order that people may be warned to be more” careful.
– The Bankers’ Journal holds a different opinion.
– Bankers are usually extremely astute persons, but they are sometimes extremely simple persons and if the bankers think, as expressed by their Journal, that this clause will give, them any protection’ that they have not now, they are mistaken. I have not had a great deal of experience of writing cheques, but I formerly had a habit of commencing to fill in a cheque too near’ the right’ hand of the line. My banker called my attention to this habit, and I at once saw the danger. Now if, in consequence of my former habit, a fraud had been committed, I should have felt, as an honest man, that my negligence was the cause of it. I have now, I may explain, taken steps to draw my cheques for the small sums for which I write them with even greater care than I suppose Senator Fraser does. I do not think that the ingenuity of man could now get inside a cheque that I write. The clause will give an additional safeguard to the customer and the bank, and I shall support it.
– It appears to me that a considerable numiber of honorable senators lose sight of the relation which exists between the banker and his customer. We will say that a customer deposits £100 in a bank for safe keeping, and draws upon it by means of cheques. It seems to me that an obligation rests upon him to draw his cheques in such a way as to make any alteration extremely difficult. If he does not, and if loss is incurred, it ought to be borne by him. If he draws his cheque negligently he ought to suffer. Say that a cheque is presented at a bank, and that the amount which the drawer originally wrote was £8. But suppose that, owing to the negligence of the drawer, it has been possible for a dishonest person to add the letter “ y “ after the word “ eight,” and ‘ the figure “ o “ after the figure “ 8_.” Say that the cheque is presented to the bank teller, and ihat he recognises the signature and pays the £80. There are many banks where the customer goes straight up to the counter and presents his cheque without having to hand it to a ledger-keeper to be examined, as is ithe case in Melbourne. In such a case as I have instanced the drawer would find that he was £72 out. He would discover that his cheque for £8 had been altered. Who ought to be responsible in a case of that kind? I suppose that the matter would have to be fought out in a Court of law. The cheque would be produced, and experts would have to determine whether it had been drawn carelessly or otherwise- My contention is that in the case that I have instanced the bank ought not to be held liable. There are other instances in which it might be much more difficult to alter a cheque,’ and where the alteration would be more easily discovered. Buf the funda mental rule regarding cheques ought to be that the drawer should exercise every care. If a banker chooses to issue instructions to his customer he does that out of goodwill. There is no obligation upon him. It is the duty of a person who opens a banking account to know how to write a cheque. I think that the clause is perfectly fair as between banks and their customers. For that reason I shall support it.
– The fraud in the case that has been cited, where the bearer of a cheque availed himself of the opportunity to alter it between the time when a responsible official of the bank certified it to be correct, and the time when he converted it into cash, might have been discovered. In such a case I hold that the bank is distinctly liable, because it has allowed the cheque to pass out of its hands, and to be fraudulently converted by the cunning of the bearer into more cash than it originally represented. That, however, is an extreme case, and in common law the bank ought to be liable. I should not have spoken if it had not appeared that the clause was in jeopardy. My reason for supporting the clause is that every person in the community should be called upon to bear the responsibility of his own negligence. If we so alter the clause as to throw what I may call “ the money value “ of the negligence of one person on to another, the first thing that other person will do, if he has any regard for his own interests, will be to safeguard himself against such a contingency. If we do not safeguard the bank, the bank will immediately set about securing itself, as it has done in Western Australia, against any fraudulent action of the kind. In that case, it will be the other customers of the bank who will suffer, either through the rate of interest being reduced, or through a higher charge being made for keeping their accounts. Consequently the negligent act of any person in the community would saddle others who look after their accounts carefully with the cash value of that negligence, which is clearly an illogical and unreasonable issue. Why should not banks be entitled to the same protection under the law as anybody else? Some bank shareholders are not very affluent, and in any case there is no reason why the responsibility for a person’s negligent act should be passed oh to any other section of the community - a result which the rejection of the clause would undoubtedly bring about. I hope that a State Bank will be very soon established. In fact, there is one already in Western Au’stralia, whose funds are drawn upon by cheque. Supposing that a cheque was drawn upon that bank, and the trustee was as negligent as Marshall was, it would simply mean that the other taxpayers of the State would be called upon to pay for his negligence.
– In Marshall’s case, the High Court held that” the. cheque was most carefully drawn.
– In any case, every person should be held responsible for his own negligent act. A cheque, after all, is merely a vehicle by which a person’s substance is conveyed from the custody of one citizen to that of another. The essence of a cheque is that it is an order upon the person who holds the goods or substance of another to transfer those goods from his care to the care of somebody else to whom the first owner owes a debt, or to the owner’s own custody. Suppose that the banks do not come into the question at all. Reduce the issue to a consideration of goods and chattels. If a person whose goods are in the possession of another citizen sends for them bv means of a faulty conveyance, or if the agent whom he has instructed to convey them to another person acts negligently, then in the circumstances the man who issued the instructions, or fixed upon that particular mode of conveying them, should alone be held responsible. A cheque serves the same purpose. I shall support the clause as it stands, notwithstanding the fact that there is no precedent for it in the English law.
– The Committee should remember that we are not legislating particularly in the interests of banks or bank depositors, but in the interests of the whole community. We are providing a machinery measure to cover to a great extent commercial transactions. If we” are not very careful, we shall be very likely to inflict great hardship on the community as a whole, in our desire - or it may be prejudice - to tighten the bonds round the banks. Every man with a deposit in a bank is concerned in th’e law which we are now dealing with. It is not merely for the protection of banks. A bank can very easily protect itself, but the result would be necessarily to impose hardships on its customers. What happens in ordinary banking (transactions? A man with more money than he cares to keep in the house takes it to a bank, which accepts it as an ordinary or fixed deposit.. He is allowed by the bank to withdraw that money without the trouble of going personally for it. The bank, in the first place, takes a very great risk of forgery in banking transactions by means of cheques. It has to be responsible for knowing and recognising the signatures of its customers, and for honoring them when presented. Bankers are not specifically paid for that responsibility, although they have made a charge lately for keeping accounts. If we strike the clause out. as we are asked todo, so as to make things more difficult for banks, then they must, for their own protection, imposemore arduous conditions on their customers, and the consequences will come back on the public.
– What sort of conditions?
– They can require their customers to come for their money themselves. That would be only a matter of contract between a banker and his client. I am rather sorry that we have not adopted in this clause the wording of the Tasmanian Act, which requires the negligence to be “ gross negligence.” In this clause, we clear the bank only with regard to simple negligence. A man may draw a cheque for most carefully, but it is a matter of very easy manipulation to turn that £8 into £80. We should have an eye both to the customer as well as the banker, but if by withholding that fair amount of legislative protection which they should be given, we throw upon the banks the necessity of safeguarding themselves, the precautions which they may adopt will possibly be more oppressive to their customers.
– An almost analogous case in legislation is the law regarding the liability of innkeepers on a guest’s goods. At common law, the innkeeper had a lien upon all the goods that might be brought in bv the guest. As years went by, that was felt tobe rather a severe interpretation of the law, and to be a restriction of the proper arrangement between guests and innkeepers. The law was subsequently modified, and declared in. such a way that if the hotel keeper wished to protect himself against that liability, there were certain conditions under which he would be protected.But it was further provided that, in order to get’ the benefit of that protection against the common law, he must publish it in the rooms of the hotel which the guests used. That is our licensing law throughout the whole of the States to-day. It will, therefore, be seen that, as trade and commerce developed, the common law as between guests and innkeepers had to be modified. I absolutely agree with Senator Trenwith, as expressing the layman’s point of view, that this clause is practically no more than a danger signal. It gives no more advantage as between banker and customer than is given in the various States Licensing Acts, which say in effect, “We will relax the severity of the common law for the benefit of the hotelkeeper, but he must publish the conditions upon which that severity will be relaxed.” This clause is the public manifestation of that relaxation of severity in this case. As between two perfectly innocent persons whom this legislation is going to affect, the advantage given to the banker is no more than was given to the innkeeper. The clause will simply be a publication to everybody - customer and banker - throughout the Commonwealth that this is to be the law, and to be taken as a warning. It shows that we are seeking to do absolute justice. I think we can do it with safety by adopting the
– I have listened with considerable pleasure to some of the speeches made, although I noticed that the majority appeared to be against my views. Senator St. Ledger told the Committee that he had a communication from the Brisbane Chamber of Commerce. I have one from the Sydney Chamber of Commerce - a body composed of merchants and others, which is as follows : -
In connexion with the Bills of Exchange Bill now before Parliament, I am instructed by the Council of this Chamber to state the measure generally meets with their approval. Some question arose as to clause 81 regarding altered cheques. The Council consider this a fair and reasonable clause, and instructed me to write and convey their opinion to you for use in Parliament if needed. - I have, &c. henry C. Mitchell, Secretary.
I am also desired by the representatives of the bankers in Melbourne, through one of their committee, to say that the clause has their approval.
– What about their customers, the people who draw the cheques ?
– I propose to make a few remarks toshow the danger of allowing persons to draw cheques who are not very well acquainted with the procedure.
Before the Bank of England allows a man to open a current account he has to be introduced by two responsiblepersons, and to undertake, whether he is in business or not, to have always a credit balance of £300, so that they may have some guarantee of the respectability of the persons who open accounts with them. I am in a position to tell the Committee that many rogues use banks for roguish purposes, and banks cannot always detect them. The banks here have a habit of accepting as a depositor any person who is apparently respectable, and who comes in to open an account, depositing, say,£20 or upwards. Consequently, we in Australia run a great deal more risk than they do at Home. If honorable senators read the clause carefully, they will see that, as Senator Gould has already shown, before the banker can charge the liability to his customer, the following things have to occur :
Honorable senators will admit that many safeguards are provided before recourse can be had against the customer. We know that comparatively few customers are negligent in the drawing of cheques. I direct attention to a singular case that occurred in London. A man is asked to contribute to some charitable purpose, and he says, “ Here is myblank cheque. You are authorized to fill it up for any amount you think reasonable up to£1,000.” If the cheque is filled up for £5,000, and paid by the bank, who should be held responsible? Was there any negligence on the part of the drawer in having drawn a cheque in blank?
– In that case, under the existing law, the Court would hold that the drawer was liable.
– A former Bishop of London was starting a Bishop of London’s Fund, and he wrote to a certain noble lord and asked him for a contribution. The noble lord signed a cheque in blank, and answered, “I. authorize you to fill up the cheque for what you think is reasonable.”
The Bishop of London was a good man, and desired very much that the fund he was starting should be successful. He considered that the nobleman was a very wealthy man, and that it would not be unreasonable that he should contribute a substantial amount as compared with the contributions of less wealthy people. He filled up the cheque for£20,000, and it was paid by the bank. When the noble lord received his bank pass-book, and saw the amount for which the cheque had been filled up, we may believe that he made a mental resolve never to send a blank cheque to a parson again.
– He was lucky to have anything at all left after giving a blank cheque to a bishop.
– There was no negligence in that case. There was deliberate and voluntary intention.
– A member of Parliament, speaking to me on this subject, said, “I would always go against the bankers in these cases, because they can afford to lose.” That is, I think, rather an absurd reason for punishing them. It should be stated that there are customers of banks who recognise their negligence. I can give an instance of a genuinely honest man whose cheque was paid for a larger sum than that for which he had drawn it. He was a Queensland storekeeper, who had implicit confidence in his bankers. He did not trouble us often for his pass-book, but on one occasion he wrote for it. It was made up and sent to him, and when he saw that the cheque had been paid for a larger amount than he drew it for he wrote saving that he would be obliged if we sent him the cheque, because it did not correspond with the butt in his cheque-book. Several months had elapsed from the time when the cheque was cashed, and it was recognised that chemicals had been applied to it. One word was taken out and another inserted by which a larger amount was paid than the customer intended. When this was discovered we offered to pay the difference, but the customer wrote to say that he admitted contributory negligence, and did not wish any bank officials to pay for his negligence. Like an honest man, he sent us a chequefor the amount which had been paid.
– Was it held to be negligence because he did not ask for his pass-bookoftener?
– Undoubtedly it was contributory negligence. We are asking; merely that we should have this danger signal held up, so that persons may be convinced of the necessity for being very careful in the filling up of cheques. If a man: is foolish enough to leave a blank before a certain amount in a cheque which permits of fraudulent alteration, the banker should not be responsible for the negligence. As to the bank having recourse against the customer, that is like shutting the door after the horse is stolen, as he might not be worth powder and shot.
– If he did not have a substantialsum to his credit, there would not be much advantage in fraudulently altering his cheque.
– Perhaps not. The fact that in Queensland and Tasmania the hardship of the decision in Marshall v. The Colonial Bank has been recognised shows that commercial people in those Stages have looked into the matter since the judgment was given, and the other States might very well have followed their example.
– Should we not rather be guided by the exampleof the Imperial ‘Government and the four States Governments that have seen no necessity for an alteration of the law?
– Probably the other States were expecting that the Federal Parliament would pass a uniform law for the Commonwealth. I speak on these matters with a great deal of practical knowledge, as I have been connected with banks since 1860. My experience is that bankers take every reasonable precaution to protect their constituents. It is only within the last fewyears that they commenced making a small charge of 5s. per half-year for keeping accounts. That is a very legitimate charge, seeing that theysupply and send passbooks backwards and forwards without charging postage, . and give customerschequebooks for the value of the Government stamps on the cheques.
– A grocer gives his customers string and paper bags free.
– I think that I have heard that in some cases they charge for the weight of the bag in selling a pound of any article.
– Has the honorable senator any experience of such a case as that mentioned by Senator Givens, where the cheque was altered after it had left the certifying officer’s hands ?
– In the case mentioned I am inclined to think that the bank was guilty of contributory negligence. Bankers think now that the ledger-keeper should be behind the teller, so that there should be no opportunity afforded for the alteration of a cheque before it goes to the teller from the ledger-keeper. A much’ more important case than that referred to by Senator Givens occurred in Melbourne many years ago. A man drew a cheque in a running hand for ,£1,000, had it initialed for payment as correct, and then went out of sight somewhere, and putting an “ f “ before the letter “o” in the word “one,” made the amount read ,£4,000, and the bank paid over that amount. I forget who bore the loss in that instance, but I suspect it was a case of compromise. Honorable senators may recollect the celebrated Miranda case, which occurred over forty years ago now. A man who called himself Miranda arrived here from England with a great flourish of trumpets, and produced a credit from Barings, the well-known London bankers, for £25,000. He went to the Joint Stock Bank, put the money there, and began making inquiries. He professed to be looking out for investments, and after a time, having got the ,£25,000 to his credit, he transferred part of it to Melbourne. When he came out here he drew the balance of the money in gold, and in. that case the bank lost the .£25,000. There was no cable communication with the old country at that time, and the fact that the credit was a forgery was not discovered until some months after the money had been paid. That was certainly one of the cleverest frauds perpetrated upon the banks in Australia. I have mentioned” these cases to show the dangers which the banks run, and that, although bankers are usually extremely careful, the banks are sometimes hit very hard. I feel it my duty to do what I reasonably can to protect them from frauds of any kind. I shall vote against the amendment, and should it not be carried, I shall support the clause. I have been surprised that the Government should have accepted the amendment.
Senator Major O’LOGHLIN (South Australia) [5.25]. - I have just one word to say, and particularly in reference to the case mentioned so often in the course of this debate. It is my desire that the law should be preserved as it was laid down by the highest Court of Great Britain and of Australia in the case of Mars/tall v. The Colonial Bank. I hold that no injustice is done to the banks by the decision of the High Court of Australia and the Judiciary of the Privy Council in that case. It might be hard lines that the banks, after exercising due diligence, should be mulct for paying a cheque for a greater amount than that for which it was drawn, but the injustice, if any, would have been much greater if the customer had been placed in that position. Senator Trenwith contends that the clause involves no alteration of the existing law, and should be regarded merely as a danger signal. I say that it does alter the law, and I am supported in that view by an article in a journal published in the interests of banking and insurance institutions, copies of which have been sent to every member of the Committee.
– The article in that journal, to which the honorable senator refers, was written in a weak moment.
– The people who act in the interests of these commercial institutions, do not have many weak moments. The publication to which I refer deals fully with the question involved in this clause, and contains a tirade against members of the Senate who have had the temerity to say anything in opposition to it. With respect to the argument that four of the States of the Commonwealth have seen no necessity to alter the law in this respect, they say that there was no such necessity until quite recently, when its alteration was rendered necessary owing to the astounding decision in the case of Marshall v. The Colonial Bank. Is it not evident from this that they consider that this clause does alter the existing law.
– In their opinion.
– Their opinion on such a matter is authoritative. Recently in dealing with the question of the taxation by the States of Federal salaries) to which I allude only by way of illustration, Senator Symon and other eminent authorities held that it was wrong for us to seek to alter by a Bill what was a decision of the High Court. It was said that on that matter we proposed to say that what the High. Court had decided was wrong. In this case, we are being asked to decide that what both the High Court and the Privy Council have decided is wrong. I am satisfied to leave the law as it stands. According to the Bankers’ Review what was. decided in the case of Marshall v. The Colonial Bank was not that there had been negligence, but that there had not been sufficient negligence to justify the action of the bank. If the object is to alter the law in that respect, then it will do a gross injustice to those customers of a bank who have not the requisite knowledge to prevent the possibility of a fraud being committed. I hope that those who are willing to leave the matter as it was settled by the Courts will vote for the striking out of the clause, and then the banks will still have ample protection. If, however, we deprive ignorant customers of the protection which the decision of the Courts gave, we shall take a very unwise step, and one which may involve in absolute ruin an uneducated man who has a large credit balance. We ought to be very careful before we take any step to alter the law as it was laid down by two eminent tribunals.
– I was rather surprised at Senator St. Ledger mentioning that he had received a letter from the Brisbane Chamber of Commerce when he did not quote its contents. Senator Walker, who has had an opportunity to read the letter, has not mentioned its contents. I have received a letterfrom the Brisbane Chamber of Commerce, and also a letter from the bankers in that city. I sent to them a copy of the Bill, and asked what they thought of it They replied in general terms stating that they were very well satisfied. I took it that they did not specially pin their faith to a particular clause. Senator Macf arlane has received a letter in which the Melbourne Chamber of Commerce states in general terms that, in their opinion, the banks were getting rather too much protection. I do not think that the opinion of those bodies is necessary to guide us to a conclusion. , A number of honorable senators seem to assume that the attempt to amend the clause is an attempt to take away from bankers all protection ; in other words to make bankers liable to be penalized by any person who opens an account with a bank, draws a cheque negligently, and gets another person to fraudulently alter it. The amendment does not propose to do anything of the sort. It merely proposes to give the banker preciselythe same protection as is given in the clause itself. The only effect of the amendment will be that instead of making the banker the judge of whether there has been negligence or not, he will have to take the customer into Court, and prove that the cheque was negligently drawn, fraudulently altered, and that it was cashed in good faith. Under the amendment the banker’s protection will be perfect. I do not attach much importance to the argument that bankers do not like going into a Court. It is quite true that they do not like to take that step, but if a man chooses to remain out of a Court rather than protect his own interests, then he is entitled to suffer. I believe that the clause, as proposed to be amended, will give full protection to the banker, in fact a great deal more protection than he has had in four States, and at the same time it will hold out a certain amount of protection to the customer against a bank which is inclined to stand absolutely on its own rights. I trust that the amendment will be carried.
– I think that there is one reason why the clause with the amendment should remain in the Bill. If the clause were struck out it would still be within the power of a bank to make it a condition of accepting a deposit from a customer that he should abide by certain restrictions. In Western Australiathat has been done. The conditions which the customers ought to observe are pasted on every pass-book. Before a deposit is accepted the customer is made clearly to understand that if a cheque should be fraudulently altered, and paid by the bank in good faith, one condition of the contract is that the bank shall have the right to debit that amount to the account. Even if the clause were struck out of the Bill, that condition of the contract would operate. The customer voluntarily accepts the condition, and has to stand the consequences.
– Does he sign the condition?
– There is no signature given.
– Then it is not binding upon him.
– I believe that it is binding on the customer, although the point has not yet been decided.
– The amendment will not alter the position, because the banks can make a contract in just the same way.
– In the future, if the bank makes a contract it will be subject to the provisions of the Bill. Furthermore, if a cheque should be fraudulently altered, and when the amount was debited to the account, the customer should dispute their action, the bank would have to proceed against him in a Court. It will not be possible for a bank to contract itself out of the Federal law.
Amendment agreed to.
.- Possibly, the clause, as amended, may commend itself more to honorable senators if we put in a provision which has been suggested by the editor of the Bankers’ Review, and that is to make it compulsory on every bank to see that each cheque-book which it issues contains instructions as to how a cheque should be drawn. I move -
That the following new sub-clause be added - “ 2. Every cheque-book issued by a bank after the commencement of this Act shall have printed on or attached to the cover thereof concise instructions or directions as to the manner in which cheques should be drawn so as not to facilitate fraud or imposition.”
That, I think, will be an improvement to the clause.
– That is done now in many cases.
– It has been stated by several honorable senators that there is a number of ignorant farmers and other persons who are not handy with the pen, and do not understand how to properly draw a cheque. If that is the case, we shall do well to compel every banker to supply printed instructions with every cheque-book he issues to a customer.
– That is done in South Australia now.
– I am not aware that it is done. I have bought cheque-books at the Bank of New South Wales in Melbourne; but no instructions are given to the customer.
– Why should this duty he imposed on the banker and not on every other tradesman?
– Surely my honorable friend does not contend that any other kind of business is analogous to the business of a banker?
– I cannot agree with my honorable friend.
– It is only within the last few moments that I have had an opportunity of seeing the amendment. The question is whether as it stands it will carry out the object which Senator Dobson has in view. I take it that what he wants to do is to throw upon a bank an obligation to help to instruct its customers to protect itself against what might be the consequence of non-attendance to the previous provisions of the clause ; that is to protect themselves against the loss that would be occasioned to them by their own negligence in drawing their cheques. I do not ‘know if there is a precedent for the amendment. The Tasmanian Act of 1906 throws upon the banks the obligation of printing in their cheque books the exact section, which reads as follows -
Where a bank in good faith and without negligence pays a cheque drawn on the bank by a customer of the bank, and the cheque has been drawn by the customer, with gross negligence, and such gross negligence has afforded facility for any fraudulent alteration in the amount thereof, and the cheque has been so fraudulently altered, the bank shall not be responsible or incur any liability by reason of having paid the cheque.
The second part of the section says -
The foregoing portion of this section shall be printed on or attached to the cover of every cheque-book issued by a bank after the passing of this Act.
The framers of the Act which was passed after Marshall’s case was decided, evidently had in view the same object as has Senator Dobson, but they provided that the first part of the provision should be printed in every cheque-book. Whether or not that would be of much assistance to customers to whom special reference has been made to-day by Senator O’Loghlin, and others, as persons not very competent or skilled in business transactions, I cannot say. But I am inclined to think that a person who would be likely to be guilty of negligence in drawing a cheque would not be assisted or guided very much by having the provision placed in the cheque-book. He would not read the section, or, if he did, possibly he would not gather the full import of it, or understand why it was printed for his perusal. Again, who will be this judge of the “concise instructions or directions?” From the one difficulty we go to the other difficulty. If we leave it to the discretion of the banks, we leave it to them to determine how concise or intelligible the notification shall be.
– Would not the banks hold a meeting to determine the form of words to be used?
– I cannot say. I am simply pointing out how our intentions might be frustrated by the fact that instructions might be printed which would be either too numerous or too few to have any real value.
– We might put in the words, “ to be approved by the AttorneyGeneral.”
– I do not say that there is much in the principle of the honorable senator’s proposal to object to, but it behoves us, even if we do not object to it, to express our intention in such a way that it will be fruitful in results which we are seeking to obtain. It is for that reason that I point out that if we leave the proposal in the form in which it is now, the instructions might be either too diffuse, or too concise, or too numerous, or too few to achieve the desired results. Of course, this is not a party measure in any sense of the term, nor is this amendment to be discussed on party lines. I welcome the expression of- the sense of the Committee, and am anxious to give effect to what honorable senators conceive to be a proper thing to do in regulating the relationships between banks and their customers. I am merely pointing out the dangers which we may be incurring in our well-intentioned efforts to protect even the most unsophisticated customer of a bank.
– I sympathize with the motive that Senator Dobson has in mind. Tt would be a very proper thing if instructions intelligible to all customers of a bank were printed on every cheque-book issued. But the Minister of Home. Affairs has shown how impracticable the proposal would be unless definite and uniform instructions were adopted. Senator Dobson has interjected that the form adopted might be approved by the Attorney-General. The suggestion is a good one. Another course might also be taken. Of course, I am speaking entirely in the interests of the customers of the banks. It will be recognised that the interests of the bankers are very well represented in the Senate, and their case has been very forcibly put. Only a verv few are directing their attention specially to the protection of customers. Would it not be possible to have a sample cheque printed in each cheque-book, so as to show’ a customer how a cheque should be written out? That would be the best safeguard.
.- I had* thought of proposing some such method as Senator McGregor has suggested. An example which a person could understand at a glance is always better than a description. Perhaps- it might be possible to print a cheque properly drawn and one improperly drawn on the cover of every cheque-book. But I think that the case will be met by inserting the words “ as approved by the Attorney-General.” I” therefore desire to amend my amendment by inserting after the word “ directions “ the words “ as approved by the AttorneyGeneral.”
Amendment, by leave, amended accordingly.
– It appears to me that it would be better to print the section of the Bill relating to this matter on cheque-books, than to adopt an indefinite form of words. I am inclined to think that very few people would fail to see the significance of the section if it were imperative that it should be printed in each cheque-book. If it so happened that some were so obtuse as not to grasp the significance of the section, it is reasonable to assume that some of their better informed or more intelligent neighbours would make them acquainted with its meaning. It would become a matter of notoriety, and would’ be talked about just as were the notifications which were printed in our cheque-books some time ago, informing us that owing to the increased cost of keeping current accounts, the banks would charge ten shillings per annum. Senator Dobson has suggested that the form of words to be printed in - the cheque-books should be approved by the Attorney-General. Does that mean that the Attorney-General would have to approve of the form now for all time, or that he would be able to approve of a new form from time to time? It seems to me to be a difficult thing to provide for in a statute.
– It is a simple thing. The bankers would meet, determine a form of words, and send it to the AttorneyGeneral.
– It is a common thing to say in legislation “ subject to regulations “ ; but those regulations have to be drawn by persons responsible to Parliament. . Senator Dobson’s proposal entails upon persons not responsible to Parliament certain obligations in reference to printing a notification upon cheque-books, which notification has to be approved by the AttorneyGeneral. At any rate, we should have to give power to vary the form of instructions, because some such case’ as Marshall’s might arise which might require the alteration-. The proposal is so indefinite that I do not like to put it into a statute. It does not commend itself to my judgment. I prefer to legislate definitely, and if anything is to be printed on cheque-books, I should prefer that the section itself should be adopted for the purpose.
.That this clause is an exceedingly bad one is proved conclusively by the fact that even those who are in favour of it are cudgelling their brains to devise safeguards which will minimize the evils which are nearly sure to arise if it becomes law. We have had Senator Chataway exercising his mind as to how to minimize injustices which he thinks will arise under it. Now we have Senator Dobson, another supporter of the clause, trying to surround it with safeguards.
– It is a very proper clause.
– Then why does the honorable senator require to put in safeguards ?
– It does not show that a provision is bad because one may desire to insert safeguards in it.
-Before I put firesaving materials in my house, I am aware that there is a danger of fire. These numerous safeguards which are proposed convince me that the proper thing to do is to wipe the clause out altogether. Any honorable senator who lives for the next twenty years will be sure to see many cases of manifest injustice arise under the clause, which will make him ashamed of having voted to make it law. I have said all I want to say about it. Others can debate it as long as they please, and try to devise hundreds of safeguards, but the only proper course is to throw the whole clause out. I intend to call for a division on the clause, and to vote against it.
-Colonel GOULD (New South Wales) [6.1]. - It would be a mistake to insert in a Bill of this character a direction that instructions of the character indicated in the amendment should be prepared, and approved by the AttorneyGeneral. It would be throwing upon the Attorney-General of the day a responsibility that Parliament should never attempt to throw upon him. We have practically agreed to put in theclause provisions to protect bankers against certain fraudulent acts. The amendment now proposed is to insert the following as a newsub-clause-
Every cheque-book issued bya Bank after the commencement of this Act shall haveprinted on or attached to the cover thereof concise instructions or directions approved by the AttorneyGeneral as to the manner in which cheques should be drawn so as not to facilitate fraud or imposition.
Is it reasonable to provide that the AttorneyGeneral shall take the responsibility of telling the whole Australian community what they must do in order to avoid fraud or imposition in the drawing of cheques? It is a pure matter of business as between the banker and his constituents. The Committee might adopt the course that was followed in Tasmania, if they think it wo.uld be of value to direct special attention to the clause itself, leaving the people themselves to form their own judgment as to what it is best to do in the circumstances.
– Is it not of more value to teach them how to draw a cheque properly ?
.- Is it our duty to teach all the people of the Commonwealth the manifest way in which they ought to conduct their own business? It is really a suggestion of grandfatherly legislation to throw upon Parliament or Ministers the responsibility of teaching the people how to manage their own affairs. It would be monstrous to accept the proposal. If it is to be done in one instance, why not in all ? Why not say to the people, “ You are so simple and childlike that you cannot be trusted to manage your own affairs, and, therefore, we will ask the Attorney-General to teach you what to do “. ? Would that not be coming down to an absurdity ?
– It was the Bankers Review that suggested this sub-clause.
.- I do not care who suggested it. It appeals to my common-sense as an improper provision to adopt.
– They would saddle . the Attorney-General with the responsibility.
.- If a mistake occurred and fraud took place, it would be urged that the Attorney-General had approved of the directions and was therefore to blame. Surely enough responsibility is already cast upon Ministers without this. I shall not vote for the amendment, although ‘ I recognise that Senator Dobson is actuated by the best possible intentions, because he wishes to safeguard both the banks and the people themselves. This, however, is not the right direction to take. I have had handed to me a copy of the Tasmanian Act, which says -
The foregoing portion of this section shall be printed on or attached to the cover of every cheque-book issued by a bank after the passing of this Act.
I see no objection to embodying a similar proviso in this clause. It would call the attention of the. people to the wording of the law itself, and leave it to them to take the necessary action to prevent any difficulty arising through the fraudulent alteration of cheques.
– If it takes the Judges a month to interpret a section in an Act of Parliament, how can the honorable senator expect a comparatively illiterate man to construe this clause correctly ?
– Is it the duty of the Attorney-General to teach everybody what to do if he wants to draw a cheque ?
– The Attorney-General would not have to do so.
.- The honorable senator’s proposal is that the banks should draw up the instructions, but they would have to be approved by the AttorneyGeneral.
– That would be only a matter of form.
– Then whereis the advantage of requiring the Attorney-General’s approval? Why not leave the banks to attach any instructions they see fit? If we are to adopt any such provision we cannot do better than provide for placing a copy of the clause itself on every cheque-book, so that people may have an opportunity of seeing what the law on the subject is. Then if they want any further information, the responsibility of obtaining it will be cast on the people who can ask their banker what to do in order to avoid fraud. By that course a great deal more responsibility would be thrown upon the banker than by the amendment as now worded.
.I am by no means converted by Senator Gould’s opinions. He has used the language of very grave exaggeration. One or two honorable senators and myself considered this question most carefully. We came to the conclusion that in the case of a man who did not know how to draw a cheque it would be absolutely useless to print this technical clause upon the cheque book. I suggested, however, to Senator Trenwith that if he and others, including Senator Gould, thought it wise to take that course, we should have both the clause itself and the instructions I am proposing printed on the cheque-book. Then Senator Gould said, “ It is absurd to cast upon the Attorney-General such a grave responsibility.” What responsibility would there be on the Attorney-General ? Does anybody imagine that the bankers of Australia, meeting together, could not in ten minutes draw up instructions in clear and concise language? As the Minister of Home Affairs, however, objected that those instructions might be too long or too short, or not concise enough, I put in the safeguard of the approval of the Attorney-General. I cannot imagine that the bankers could not for their own protection, and for the protection of their customers, draw up two or three short sentences of directions, with an explanatory cheque form on the other side of the cheque-book. We do not want to bring in the Attorney-General. It was not my suggestion, and I only adopted it to meet the Minister’s criticism. My amendment was suggested by the editor of the Bankers’ Review, and has no doubt been approved by some of the banks themselves. Possibly Senator Gould does not know that some of the banks print these instructions already. Seeing that all the f rauds we know of have arisen through cheques being carelessly drawn, what better safeguard could we devise than to try to educate the public up to the proper way in which cheques should be drawn? How can we do that better than by having on the face of the chequebook plain and simple directions?
– After the discussion that has taken place, I think Senator Dobson will see that there is even more reason than I advanced at the outset why he should reconsider his amendment. As Senator Trenwith pointed out, instructions that would cover the circumstances of to-day might not be sufficient some time hence. Senator Dobson answered that objection by saying that the banks, if they altered their instructions, would have to submit them to the Attorney-General of the day. But, under this amendment, there would be no obligation on the banks to bring their instructions up to date if future developments rendered them stale and useless. The banks could simply plead that the instructions which many years before had received the sanction of the Attorney-General were a compliance with the law on their part. Senator Gould has pointed out that it would be preferable, if any such course at all is to be followed, to adopt the Tasmanian system, and make provision that the clause itself shall be published on the chequebook.The individual would then read the law himself, and take whatever action he thought fit.I do not think it would be better, as Senator Dobson suggests, to print both the clause and the directions. After what the honorable senator has said, and in view of the fact that his amendment is suggested by the Bankers’ Review, it is more than likely that we can rely upon the banks, apart from any legislation at all, to issue their cheque-books containing such instructions as they think necessary. If they choose to do that, well and good. If they choose to have also a reprint of the clause, well and good. But we ought not to attempt to impose upon them any obligation to issue the indefinite instructions proposed in the amendment. In the circumstances we may safely rely upon the ordinary course of business between banker and customer to produce a practice which we should be otherwise futilely attempting to enact by adopting the amendment.
– Would the addition of the amendment affect the liability of the banker ?
– Not at all.
.- Does not the Minister intend to move that the clause itself be printed on the chequebook ?
– Then the honorable senator is inconsistent. He pointed out all kinds of objections to the amendment. He said the banks could not be trusted to draw up simple directions to their customers. He adopted Senator Trenwith’s view that the banks could not be trusted to alter the instructions properly from time to time and that the Attorney-General’s approval would again have to be sought. Then he went right in the other direction by saying that the banks can be trusted to do everything, and that no directions whatever are wanted. If he does not call that inconsistent, I do.
– Senator Dobson, if he had listened to me, would not have made the mistake of asserting that I said that we could not trust the banks to draw up simple instructions. I said that it would be left entirely to the banks themselves to determine how few or how many instructions had to be drawn, and what form they should take. We should be making a statutory provision throwing an obligation on them and leaving it’ to them to determine whether or not they had fulfilled it. I added that, without throwing any obligation upon them by this law, it could be safely assumed, after what Senator Dobson said, that the banks would accept the responsibility of issuing instructions themselves, and, in that case, they would be the only judges - and the best judges - of whether they had done the right thing. I said : If they chose to issue instructions, well and good ; if they did not, well and good. Once they issue instructions on their own responsibility they alone must be the judges. If we make a statutory provision that they must put certain instructions in their pass- books, and do not determine what those instructions must be, honorable senators must see how absurd and futile it will be for us to impose that obligation upon them, and leave to them the choice as to the way in which they shall fulfil it.
Question - That the clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill - put. The Committee divided.
Majority … 12
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Postponed clause 98 (Computation of time).
– I move -
That the following new sub-clause be added : - “ (5) Where, in pursuance of the law of the Commonwealth or of a State, any portion of a day is declared to be a bank half-holiday in the Commonwealth or in a State or in a part of the Commonwealth or of. a State, the day, so “far as regards the portion declared to be a bank half-holiday, shall be a non-business day in the Commonwealth or in the State or part as the case requires, and any payment, presentment, notice, noting, acceptance, act, or thing which should be made, given, or done on the day in ‘relation to a bill, cheque, or note, may be made, given, or done either on the portion of the day not included in the bank half-holiday or on the next following business day.”
When the Committee arrived at the consideration of this clause, I asked that it should be postponed for the purpose of adding a new sub-clause 5. Since then the proposed new sub-clause has been printed and circulated amongst honorable senators. They will see that it provides for what are known as bank half -holidays. As it stands, the clause provides for the computation of time, and. provision is made that when certain acts to be done in respect of bills of exchange, cheques, or promissory notes fall on a non-business day, the day shall be excluded from the computation of the time. In sub-clause 3 for the purposes of this measure “ non-business days “ mean -
Where in pursuance of the law of the Commonwealth or of a State any day as declared to be a bank holiday in the Commonwealth ot in a State or in a part of the Commonwealth or of a State, that day shall for the purposes of this Act be a bank holiday in the Commonwealth or in the State or in the part of the Commonwealth or of the State as the case requires. and so it is treated as a non-business day, and comes under the operation of sub-clause 2, in which we propose to provide that -
When the day on which any payment, presentment, notice, noting, protest, acceptance, act, or thing should be made, given, or done in connexion with a bill, cheque, or note falls on a non-business day, it may be made, given, or done on the business day next following.
There are certain parts of the Commonwealth in which occasionally banks are closed under the law of a State for a half- day only. Honorable senators will perhaps have seen a notice in a State Government Gazette that a day therein named, say the 24th proximo, in certain towns which arenamed in the notice, shall be a bank holiday from 12 o’clock noon. The clause as it stands would not provide for such a case. In Victoria there is a provision which deals with what are known as bank half -holidays, and the amendment I have moved is intended to provide that in cases where a bank half -holiday is notified, the same provision shall apply with regard to thenecessary act which should be done on that day being done on the next succeeding business day. Honorable senators will see a marginal reference to the amendment asprinted “ Cf. Vic. No. 1534 s. 4.” I may say that the amendment is not a verbatim, reprint of the Victorian Act, but the principles contained in the Victorian Act areembodied in this new sub-clause. The reason why we have departed from the verbiage and form of the Victorian Act is to bring the proposed new sub-clause into conformity with the verbiage of sub-clause 4 . of the clause in the Bill, which I have already quoted. The amendment is intended to enable persons handling documents of this kind when a bank half-holiday takes place to do the act which is necessary in respect of them during the business portion of the day which is declared a bank half -holiday, or, in the alternative, on the next succeeding; business day. It is only a supplementary provision to sub-clause 4, and makes the law complete with regard to bank halfholidays as well as bank holidays.
– Presuming that a bill is dueon the 4th of the month, and that day is declared a bank half-holiday, would a bank be at liberty to dishonour the bill if it were not met on that day?
– Not under the amendment.
– Is the honorablesenator quite clear about that? .
– Of course he has until 3 o’clock in which to take action.
– Under the amendment he would have the option of performing the necessary act during the business portion of the bank half-holiday or ons the next succeeding business day.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
– I lay ion the table -
Statement embodying the Tariff, showing the rates previously in force under the Tariff of 1902, and amending Tariffs, together with the recommendations of the Tariff Commission, and the importations and duty payments for the year 1906.
These papers are furnished in pursuance of a promise made to honorable senators, and supply further information on the subject of the Tariff, which will prove of a useful character.
Silting suspended from 6.2Q to 7.4.5 p.m.
Debate resumed from 18th July (vide page 688), on motion by Senator Henderson -
That this Senate is of opinion, that, in the best interests of the Commonwealth, the Government should purchase and control a fleet of mail steamers^ capable of maintaining a fortnightly nail service between Australia and Great Britain.
– In advocating the very practical proposal .which stands in the name of Senator Henderson!, and which is calculated to get us out of the dilemma in which :we have been for a considerable time, I feel quite sure that the Government will not say that the Labour Party have not given to them every possible assistance to secure a mail contract on the old lines. I believe that I can fairly say that our support in that direction has been generous. It will be generally admitted, I think, that we have miserably failed to bring about the desired object. Last year we entered into a contract which the majority of us considered was very favorable to the Commonwealth, and we all remember how it came to be cancelled. “ The influence of the shipping trust, which practically controls ocean transport between Australia and the United Kingdom, was so powerful as to prevent the contractors from obtaining sufficient capital to carry out the contract. No doubt the contractors, when they realized how influential the shipping trust was, recognised the hopelessness of being able to carry on the business of a shipping company, even if they should succeed in raising the necessary capital. It is only right that we should consider this question in all its aspects. It must be evident to every one that the difficulty will not come to an end when we have entered into another contract, because the same hostile influence will operate in the future as in the past. By that time the shipping combine will be firmly established, and better able to monopolize the ocean traffic. I believe that that will go on until a stage is reached when the people of Australia will rebel, and say that its trade and commerce should not be dominated by a trust of that kind. If we haul down our flag before the influence of this gigantic trust, the position of the Government and the people of the Commonwealth will, sooner or later, become intolerable. Every year the influence of the shipping ring is extending. The fact that it has been able to prevent a new competitor from entering the field is very significant. In submitting this motion, we are not asking the Government to make a new experiment. It has been tried elsewhere by much smaller concerns than the Commonwealth of Australia. It has been tried by railway companies in the old country, States owning railways on the Continent of Europe, and railway companies in Canada. In connexion with their great carrying enterprise, the Canadian Pacific Railway Company have cargo steamers operating, not only on the Pacific Ocean, but also on the Atlantic Ocean. Several companies in England have their own steamers plying between the United Kingdom and the Continent of Europe. There is a fast line of steamers owned by a railway company that run between Holyhead and Dublin. The same thing obtains in the west of Scotland. For many years steamers owned by the North British and the Caledonian Railway Companies have been engaged in the carrying trade on the Firth of Clyde, plying right out to the islands. Between Folkestone and Boulogne, and also between Dover and Calais, English railway companies are running very fast turbine steamers, which connect with continental railways. Therefore, in establishing a line of mail steamers, the Commonwealth will not be embarking upon a new experiment. In support of the proposal, I intend to quote the opinion of a gentleman whom the Commonwealth. Government have sent to- the United Kingdom to collect reliable information on certain subjects. I refer to Commander Colquhoun, who has had a large experience, riot only in the naval service, but also iri the mercantile marine, and whose opinion on a question of this kind should carry some weight with honorable senators. In 1903 the Senate appointed a Select Committee, over which Senator Keating presided, to report on the subject of supplying better means of communication between Tasmania and the mainland. Commander Colquhoun gave the following evidence - 241. In your opinion, what improvements are capable of being made with advantage, if any, in the line between Tasmania and the mainland? If it is not improper for me to express an opinion, I may say that I am quite in sympathy with the feeling that appears to be prevalent that the mail and passenger service between Launceston and Melbourne ought to be in the hands of the Commonwealth Government. I think such a service is the complement of the Australian railway service. I do not think the establishment of such a service by the Commonwealth would interfere with the general carrying trade between Australia and Tasmania. 24a. You regard that service as distinct from any of the other Inter-State services? - Quite. I think it is simply a part of the railway system. I have very little doubt that if the railways on the mainland and in Tasmania were in the hands of private companies, those companies would own the Bass Straits trade. 243. Do you know if that is the practice in other parts of the world? - It is. Practically all the fast passenger steamers trading between the continent of Europe and England are in the hands of the railway companies. I think I am correct in saying that the mail steamers between Holyhead and Kingston are in the hands of the railway companies- The same remark applies to steamers between Calais and Dover, and between Folkestone and Boulogne. They are all owned by the railway companies.
In discussing a project of this kind, we must be guided to a considerable extent by the opinions of experts, and as Commander Colquhoun- has had considerable experience, not only in naval affairs, but also in the mercantile marine, I think his evidence should go a long way to prove that Senator Henderson has submitted a practical proposal, and not a far-fetched one. I desire to refer to the existing services and the unfair system of rebates which obtains, and to show how that system is detrimental to the interests of -Australia. We can legislate against the application of the system on the Australian coast - in fact, we have passed a law for that purpose - -but we cannot interfere with the companies which are trading between the United Kingdom and Australia. All that we can do at the present time is to bring new competitors into the field, or, as Senator Henderson proposes, to establish a line of mail steamers of our own. We cannot legislate with regard to a trust which has its head-quarters in the old country. On several occasions the rebate system has been shown to be very detrimental to our commercial life. It has operated so unfairly that in the past we have had politicians swallowing their principles and admitting that the only way in which it could be fought properly was by the establishment of a line of Government steamers. At one time the late Senator Reid, who was a prominent member of the ‘Melbourne Chamber of Commerce, advocated the very principle which is embodied in this motion.
– At the time he was President of the Associated Chambers of Commerce of Australasia.
– The late Senator Reid said that the merchants of Australia were placed so much at the mercy of the shipping ring that the only way in which the commerce of Australia could be relieved, was by the establishment of a line of Government steamers, because, in his opinion, there was no other solution of the difficulty. Besides the rebate system the existing shipping companies have a system of charging passenger rates which act very unfairly as between the States. A passenger” coming from London to Fremantle pays quite as much for his passage as he would do if he came from London to Brisbane. In other words, he has to pay quite as much as if he travelled 3,000 miles more. That is a very unfair principle, and one which if we had a Government line of steamers would not be tolerated. But even a greater injustice is practised on the people of Western Australia in the matter of freights between the Unite’d Kingdom and Australia. The freight between London and Sydney amounts to nearly 50s. per ton, whilst between London and Fremantle, the freightage is 65s. per ton, or 15s. per ton more. This is all the more remarkable when we remember that in some instances the freight between America and Fremantle is about 30s. per ton. As a matter of fact, the White Star line, whose vessels ply between Liverpool and the United States, and also between the old country and Australia, will actually bring freight first from America to Liverpool, and then tranship from the old country and bring it to Australia for half the amount which they charge for bringing it direct from the old country to Australia. It must be admitted that if we had a line of Government steamers such manifestly unfair anomalies would be prevented. I should like to read an extract from’ evi- dence given by the .late Mr. Dyamond, of Fremantle, who was a member of the Legislative Assembly of Western Australia, and chairman of a Royal Commission which inquired into the question of ocean freights on behalf of the Western Australian Government. He gave evidence before a Commonwealth Royal Commission in Western Australia, and I take the following passage from his evidence : -
As the result of practical experience, I became aware of the fact that Australian freighters were paying far more for freight than they should do. There exists in London a ring of brokers-, some of whom are partly ship-owners, and most of whom have no interests in ships. This ring of brokers control not only the Western Australian trade, but the Australian trade generally. There is a section of this ring at work in Western Australia known as the Western Australian Shipping Association. They draw dividends from the freight trade, which is controlled in London, and one cannot secure an ounce of freight unless with the consent of the ring.
This, ring, he went on to say, levies a profit of 8s. 4d. per ton on freight ‘coming here -
This 8s. 4d. per ton I consider a tremendous tax upon the people of Western Australia. ‘ There are no boats outside the ring coming here..
So that it will be seen that there is a complete trust. He went on to say -
I think there is no other way out of the difficulty than that the Commonwealth Government should run a line of State-owned ships between England and Australia. So long as the Government does not take the matter into, their own hands, so long will the Australian people be plundered by the shipping ring.
Those were strong terms. I am not quoting from the evidence of a member of the Labour Party, because Mr. Dyamond was by no means a supporter of the party to which I belong. He was engaged in business in Fremantle, and had a life-long experience of shipping matters. When such a man expresses himself in such strong terms to a Royal Commission under oath it will be realized that there must be a great deal in his contention. Another witness who gave evidence was Mr. Bateman, of Fremantle, who, in a small way, is a ship-owner himself. His evidence went to support that of Mr. Dyamond, that the only way out of the difficulty created by the shipping ring, was for the Commonwealth Government to establish a line of steamers. He said that he saw no other remedy. The shipping companies, he said, were combined. They had their headquarters in London, and had extended their operations and influence so much that they actually had a branch association in Western
Australia. He pointed out that many years ago this Western Australian shipping ring had fought the bigger ring and chartered vessels to bring out cargo from the United Kingdom ; but when the London shipping, ring found that it was being defeated it agreed to combine with the Western Australian Shipping Association, so that now they are practically’ one. As . a result of this move the Western Australian shipping ring, which I might term a pup of the older ring, secures 8s. 4d. per ton on every ton of freight landed in Western Australia. Of course the public has to pay this charge. This evidence shows that the people of Australia are completely at the mercy of the shipping ring, and that there is no way out of the difficulty except that expressed! in the motion.
– Suppose the shipping companies deal with us mercifully, it would be all right, would it not?
– That is the very thing that they will not do.
– Does the honorable senator contend that the freight oh weo! and wheat is not reasonable?
– I think it is most unreasonable.- The freight which the companies are now endeavouring to secure on butter is exorbitant. The present rate for the carriage of butter from Australia to London is £3 10s. per ton. The shipping companies intend to increase that charge to ^5 5s. per ton at the end of the present contract. That increase is neither reasonable nor fair. We know that the companies are making a fairly good profit at the present rate. The trade must be remunerative or they would not be able to employ the great floating palaces which they are putting on the line.
– If the honorable senator looks at the history of the Orient Steam Navigation Company he can hardly say that it is making a good thing out of the trade. ‘
– What is its history ?
– No dividends year after year.
– How is it then that Mr. Anderson, when examined as a witness before the Commonwealth Royal Commission, and when asked to show his books to prove his statement that the company made no profit, declined to do so? These companies are not philanthropists. They do not engage in the trade of running their ships at a loss. If they did not make a profit they would not remain In the business.
– They want to make a profit.
– They are in the trade solely for the profit which they can make out of it, and the fact that they are putting on such fine steamers is the very best proof that they are making a good profit.
– At what price does the honorable senator think Tasmanian fruit would be carried to London if we had a Commonwealth line of steamers ?
– I do not know whether there is. any necessity to alter the present rates.
– We pay the highest freights of all - from 2s. 6d. to 3s. 3d. a case.
– I wish to make an addition to the motion. I move as an amendment -
That the following words be added : - “ such steamers to be constructed so as to be suitable for defence purposes as fast cruisers.”
– I think that that idea has been exploded. The honorable senator will find that what he proposes cannot be done.
– I think I shall be able to quote evidence in support of the amendment for which Senator Dobson will have a certain amount of respect. For a considerable time past no topic in Commonwealth affairs has been so much discussed as the establishment of an Australian Navy. But I am afraid that those who have beenadvocating that policy have not given sufficient attention to the question of the capital that would have to be invested to create such a navy as we require. That, to my mind, is the vital point. I take it that there would be no use in our attempting to build battleships of a type which is practically obsolete. If we launch into this business at all we shall have to be prepared to build ships of the most modern type. Now, modern battleships of the Dreadnought pattern cost £1,500,000 sterling to build. We can, therefore, form an idea of how short a distance we can afford to go in the matter of building the ships required to constitute an Austraiian Navy.
– What would the upkeep be?
– That would be another matter. I am speaking solelv of the cost of building a modern battleship.It is altogether outside our ability to think of having a navy consisting of vessels of that type. Indeed, it does not appear to me to be reasonable to think that we require such ships. No doubt if we could have them we should occupy a more secure position, but so far as we can trust the opinions of experts we need not be afraid of having to encounter great battleships in Australian waters.The type of war vessel with which we are more likely to be harassed are those of the cruiser type, or even merchant vessels armed and used for the time being to prey upon our coasts. To give honorable senators some idea of how quickly warships become obsolete, twenty-eight vessels of the British Navy were sold two years ago at the Chatham dockyards. Thirteen of them were less than eighteen years old. The total cost of the whole twenty-eight was nearly£3,000,000. They were sold at auction by the Admiralty for less than £100,000. Honorable senators can imagine how quickly, we could spend money if we attempted to keep our war vessels up-to-date, and what an enormous expense it would entail on our small population. These facts prove beyond doubt that it is entirely beyond our financial resources to keep an up-to-date navy in Australia. A merchant ship twenty years old may be a very useful vessel, but a war vessel of that age is practically useless. Bearing that in mind, the only practicable course for us to pursue is to make use of our fast cruisers in the merchant service. By so doing, we should have some income, and when those ships became obsolete as fast cruisers, we could dispose of them to any one who wanted to use them in the merchant service, and buy still faster cruisers, so keeping our service uptodate. In that way we should have the fastest possible service of steamers plying between the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth. That is the only feasible policy for us to follow. In support of my contention that fast cruisers are all that we should require for naval defence, I desire to quote the authority of some of the experts. It is a risky and thankless task to criticise the members of a skilled profession such as’ that of the Navy. I would rather have experts of that kind on my side, and I am fortunate that that is so in this instance. I have gone through the opinions of the experts who have ad- vised the Commonwealth Government, and also the States Governments in the past, from the time of Sir Peter Scratchley to Captain Creswell. The unanimity of those experts as to the kind of naval warfare we shall have to face, and the class of ships that will be sent against, us, if ever we are attacked, is wonderful. They say that any vessels that attack us will be either merchantmen adapted for the work for the time being, or fast cruisers. In his report for 1905, Captain Creswell says- -
With no local sea defence, the most ordinary merchant steamer, extemporized as a cruiser, would have the whole of our Coastal shipping at his command. The number of these vessels that might be launched at us it is hard to say, but it is probable they would be numerous. They are cheap. Their departure from an enemy’s, even from neutral, ports is to be counted upon, and we may be certain that, besides the regular cruisers of the enemy, there would be many of these. Each would require one or more covering ships from our side, and weaken our side in the Naval war by the dispersion of vessels it would cause.
Honorable senators will therefore see that a fast cruiser constructed so as to be convertible into a war vessel would be ample for our protection so far as we can see at present, according to the very best authorities.
– Would not the honorable senator advocate the building of a few torpedo boats or submarines?
– I do not saythat we should use our fast cruisers for harbor defence, but they would be sufficient to cope with the kind of vessel that would be sent into our waters. They would be suitable also as troop ships for carrying our land forces from one part of Australia to another.
– We could raid Japan with them.
– I should not like to attempt to raid Japan or any other country. All that we could reasonably expect would be to cope with the kind of warship that would be sent to harass our shipping. Commander Colquhoun, to whom I have already referred, gave his views to the Select Committee appointed to inquire into the bettering of communication between Tasmania and the mainland. He said that the steamers he would like to see running between Melbourne and Launceston in the Bass Strait trade could be so constructed without any great interference” with their trading capacity as to be a means of defence also. In the. re port of his evidence, the following appears -
Have you given any consideration to the possibility of such steamers being used for defencepurposes? - Yes; I think it would be possible to have a steamer built that would answer all therequirements for passenger traffic and mail carriage, and at the same time she could be designed so as, in the event of war, to carry armament for its own protection and be used as. a fast cruiser.
Do you think the provision of such characteristics as that would make the cost of the steamervery much more than you have estimated? - I dc* not know that it would increase the cost of the hull very materially, but you would have to add to the estimate of the cost of the steamer the cost of her armaments. I think that in the event of any attack being made upon Australia, if England were engaged in war with another Power, Tasmania would be a most likely point of attack. At such a time these steamers would! be invaluable for the transport of troops from the Continent to Tasmania. You would have in> them vessels faster Ulan anything likely to be steaming after them at sea - faster than anycruiser likely to come here ; in fact, faster than. any cruiser in the world, if it came to a real! practical demonstration of speed.
Commander Colquhoun was referring toturbine steamers built on the most modernlines, with great speed capacity. Later om he gave this evidence -
You do not think that the fact of using’ suchsteamers in the passenger and mail service would! interfere with their usefulness for defence purposes? - I think you could combine the two in» a” vessel suitable for conversion - a vessel that would ordinarily carry passengers and that would carry armaments in the event of war.
I wish to quote another authority in Captain Creswell, who occupies the very highest position in our Australian Naval! Forces. He said -
I have read the evidence through, and am substantially in accord with Commander L. J. Colquhoun. There is no reason on earth why a Government should not carry passengers and” conduct a passenger traffic by sea just as weir as by land. A fast steamer is an addition to thedefence of any coast. The faster the better. If, in addition, she is capable on occasion of” carrying a large number of troops she is a. valuable acquisition in this particular instance.. 1 agree with Commander Colquhoun that a turbine steamer is well suited, but he will find thathe is over-estimating their coal expenditure. The last Brasseys Annual, 1902, page 159, and’ following to 165,’ gives data of the King Edward.. a Clyde turbine passenger steamer, and demonstrating her superiority in speed and lighter coal’ consumption over other ordinarily-eng’ined steam, vessels. For high speeds (and a high-speed service is desired) for the Tasmanian crossing, turbines ‘ are economical ; it is in low speeds that they a-re wasteful. In engine space turbinessave over 30 per cent. The tyne of .vessel I would recommend would, in hull, resemble the Dublin and Holyhead boats, with an ordinary sea’-speed of at least 22 knots.’
Honorable senators will recognise that that is a pretty high speed.
There is no reason why passenger traffic should be disturbed in war-time. Every reason why it should not. A high-speed passenger traffic would be safe in war, and a passenger ship of high speed would show the wisdom of her provision. The present low-speed traffic is an anachronism, and would not be continued in war. The chances of capture might not be great, but passengers would not embark in a vessel that had little chance of escaping if chased by a cruiser. The traffic would fall in war, and there would be no place in defence for a slow and useless ship when passenger traffic ceased. Should it be necessary to take the fast passenger steamer off the passenger line for defence work, her speed would make her of valuable service as a scout or shadowing an enemy’s squadron, hanging on their heels, reporting their movements, and always able to command a speed which few, if any, cruisers, couldcome near, and none dare use, with its better coal consumption, away from a coal base. Ability to carry a large number of men on occasion would add to her value in defence. There is an idea in military minds that Tasmania might be captured and used as a base of operations against Australia. Two conditions are necessary for the success of such an operation - (i) That Tasmania shall be inhabited by people friendly to the invaders, who would cause them no trouble while making their preparations - in fact, aid them ; (2) that the enemy shall completely blockade Bass Strait, and so seal itthat reinforcements in driblets in boats and small craft could not cross over to their aid from Australia. Both these are impossible conditions. In 1794-5we took and held Corsica as a base of operations against the South of France and Napoleon’s armies in Genoa and North Italy. The native population rose against us, and French reinforcements in detachments slipped over so constantly in small craft - even in rowing boats - across the 90 or 100 miles from the mainland, that in a very short time we were besieged in Bastia and Calbi and St. Fiorenzo and compelled in the face of overwhelming forces to evacuate the island. The capture of Tasmania as a base would fail from the same causes, and is in my opinion a myth. We could keep on passing over reinforcements in a way that no blockade could prevent, and in numbers’ that no probable invader could resist. Briefly - a fast steamer would insure a greater traffic and comparative freedom from interruption in war.
I have quoted sufficient to show that the amendment I have suggested would make these steamers of much more practical use to Australia than if they were constructed solely for the merchant service. As many of our politicians are contemplating the establishment of an Australian Navy in the near future, I recommend to their consideration this proposal, by which we could have the most up-to-date steamers, suitable according to experts to meet any kind of naval force likely to attack our shores, and thoroughly equipped at the same time as up-to-date turbine steamers for traffic be tween Australia and the United Kingdom. There is a constant demand for the fastest steamers possible. Only the very fastest are now recognised as up-to-date. With the turbine vessels of high speed suggested by the Select Committee, we should have cruisers of the very fastest type that could be made use of in war time. In that way we should fulfil a requirement that every one will admit must be met.
– Such vessels would cost about . £750,000 each.
SenatorDE LARGIE.- The honorable senator is mistaken. The Royal Commission’s estimate of the cost, based upon the best evidence that could be secured from the old country, is only something like £300,000 for a vessel of 12,000 tons gross register, fitted with turbine engines, which would be one of the most modern steamers afloat. -I have no doubt that honorable senators who sit in opposition to the Government in this Chamber will put forward the well-known objection that the proposal is of a socialistic nature. I should like to point out to them that, in connexion with defence and the carriage of mails, socialistic principles must, to some extent, be adopted, and it is only a question as to how far in that direction we are prepared to go. If it can be shown that we can combine commerce and defence in such a way as to make the very most of the money we have to spend, it is clear that this proposal is one which deserves consideration. It is of no use for us to shut our eyes to the fact that our commerce does not receive the consideration it deserves from the existing shipping companies carrying on trade with Australia. Our farmers and producers can have but very little hope of being able to secure satisfactory terms from the shipping trust, when the Commonwealth Government have had to admit defeat at their hands in connexion with the carriage of our mails. So far as I can see our farmers and producers must be prepared to pay whatever freights the shipping companies choose to impose unless we establish a line of steamers of our own. I expect that, as in the past, the argument will be trotted out that no Government can manage an industrial enterprise as economically as can a private company. In this connexion I should like to refer to some instances of successful Socialism in the direction of transport, which will go to show that Government management of these enterprises has been proved to be in every way more successful than that of private companies. Unfortunately, we are unable to refer to any examples of the successful management of State-owned vessels, but I unhesitatingly assert that Government ownership and management of railways has been shown to be more economical than that of private companies.
– That is because State railways never have a capital account.
– We know how the management of private railways works out in other countries, and I suppose that private railways would be worked in the same way here. We know that they have been a dismal failure in other countries, and that is perhaps the best argument I could advance in support of Government ownership and management.
– States railways have a capital account. The whole cost of construction is the capital.
– I have never seen one presented in Australia.
– The honorable senator mightsee it in the Queensland Railway Commissioner’s report every year.
– The successful management of a railway is not merely a question of dividends or profits. We must look at the business from every standpoint, and I contend that a private company that screws its workmen down to a starvation rate of wages, and compels them to work for unreasonable hours in order to secure dividends, does not show either good or successful administration. On the contrary, such conditions are the best proof of a lack of administrative ability in the conduct of industrial enterprises. I can confidently say that, as compared with railway men in perhaps any part of the world, those employed on the States railways of Australia are the best paid and work the shortest number of hours per day. If we compare the rates of wages and hours of work of those engaged on Government railways in Australia with the rates of wages and hours of work of those employed on private lines in other countries, we shall see at a glance that Government management is more successful than the management of private companies. I propose to make some quotations from a work by Mr. Clement Edwards, entitled, Railway Nationalization. It will be found that at page 108 the author quotes from evidence obtained by a Royal Commission, of which the Chairman was Sir Michael Hicks Beach, a well-known Conservative statesman in the old country. Some of the evi dence unearthed by the Commission referred to will give an idea of the scandalous state of affairs obtaining on some of the railways in the old country. Some of the railways referred to run through part of the old country in which I was born, and, as I know the long hours which railway servants had to work, and the extremely small wages they were paid in my boyhood, I am in a position to say that the state of affairs described in the evidence submitted to the Commission is not exaggerated. I find this statement made -
The evidence given by railway servants and by trade union representatives and others on their behalf went generally to show that long hours were to a large extent systematic, and that the calculation of the hours by the week or fortnight instead of by day leads to the regular and systematic recurrence of hours far in excess of a fair day’s work.
Sir Michael then cited the following instance, amongst others : -
On the Caledonian, weeks of go hours 5 min., 88 hours 50 min., and91 hours 35 min. were worked by goods drivers and guards.
On the North British, a driver and fireman worked18r hours 40 min. in 10 days, including days of 21 hours and 25 hours.
That reads more like a farce than anything else.
– It is remarkably like a farce.
– It was no farce for the poor fellows who had to work for 25 hours at a stretch before they were relieved.
– It was a tragedy for them.
– And it might have been a tragedy for others.
– The tragic side of the matter is seen in the many serious accidents which have occurred owing to men being worked for such long hours. The quotation proceeds -
Another driver and fireman worked 360 hours 50 min. in 21 days, the longest spell being 26 hours ; another driver and fireman worked a 5-day week of 102 hours 30 min., the longest spell being 33 hours 45 min., and the shortest 13 hours; another, 156 hours 20 min. in 9 days. Weeks are still producible of 92½,96, 98, and 99 hours of drivers and goods guards.
On the Great Western, one man’s average for 3 months was 77 hours per week. About 30 guards at Stourbridge worked weeks ranging from 70 to 90 hours 30 min. Specially long days were quoted on the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway of 17 hours 15 min., 19½ hours, 21 hours, 22¾ hours, and 20¾ hours.
These are some of the beautiful results of the management of railways in the United Kingdom by private enterprise. I should like now to give honorable senators some figures bearing on the cost of administration by which we may test the superior economy of Government administration of enterprises of this kind. These figures are from a comparison made by Mr. J. S. Jeans, a well-known man in public affairs in the old country, as Secretary to the Iron Masters’ Association of England. He has written several books on the iron trade, and he makes a comparison of the cost of Government railways, and of privately-owned lines, in different countries of Europe. This is the comparison -
From this table it will be seen that with the exception of two of the countries named, the advantage in the matter of the economical administration of railways is with the States’ lines, and in some cases the cost of private, administration is double that of Government management. These figures bear out my contention that greater economy can be practised by Government management. I find here a comparison of railway fares between English private lines and the States’ lines of Austria. On the London to Richmond line, a distance of9¾ miles, the fare is 9d., and the fare for the same distance on the Austrian State-owned line is 6d. The English fare from London to Gravesend, a distance of 24 miles, is 2s., and the Austrian fare for the same distance1s. From London to Brighton, 51 miles, the English fare is 4s. 2½d., and the Austrian fare for the same distance 2s. 6d. From London to Birmingham, 113 miles, the English fare is 9s. 5d., and the Austrian fare 5s. From London to York, 188 miles, the English fare is 15s. 8d., and the Austrian fare 7s. 6d.for the same distance. From London toManchester, 183½ miles, the English fare is 15s.5½d., and the Austrian fare 7s. 6d. From London to Edinburgh, 400 miles, the English fare is 32s. 8d., and the Austrian fare for the same distance is 16s. 3d. These are the fares for the same railway class. From London to Glasgow, a distance of over 400 miles, the fare is 33s., as against 16s. 3d. on the Government line in Austria.
– On our lines we must be extensively charged.
– I think I shall be able to show that the charges on Government lines in Australia are far and away less than the charges on privately-owned lines. Regarding the wages paid in the United Kingdom, I propose to quote some figures. In 1893 the Statistical Department of the Board of Trade published a report upon the wages paid in the United Kingdom to railway workmen, i.e., excluding station-masters, superintendents, managers, clerical staff, lads, &c, but including gangers and foremen. According to a summary 9,891 persons received over 40s. per week ; 6,598 persons received between 35s. and 40s. ; 15,045 persons received between 30s. and 35s. ; 38, 441 persons received between 25s. and 30s.; 76,770 persons received between 20s. and 25s. ; 111,086 persons received between 15s. and 20s. ; 6,595 persons received between 10s. and 15s. ; while 24 persons received up to 10s. It will be seen that of the total number of workers on the railways in the old country 71 per cent. are receiving between 15s. and 30s. per week. From the various guide and rate books which are issued in connexion with Government and private railways in Australia, I have prepared some figures, as I desire to compare like with like. In the first place let me take the privately-owned railway line between Midland and Walkaway. The secondclass return fare between those two points, a distance of 287 miles, is 52s. 9d ; while on the Government Railway between Perth and Albany, a distance of 340 miles, the fare is 52s. In other words, there is a difference of 20 per cent. in favour of the Government railway. On the Government railways we have excursion fares,but no such privilege is given on the privately-owned line. Between Perth and Albany the secondclass return excursion fare is 20s.
– That is very reasonable indeed.
– That, by the way, is owing to successful Socialism. Between Midland and Elsternwick, a distance of 101 miles, the second-class return fare on the privately-owned line is 18s.1d., while on the Government line between Perth and Bunbury, a distance of 115 miles, it is only11s. 4d., so that the fare is 82 per cent. higher on the privately-owned line than on the State line. On the privatelyowned line between Mundijong and a place called No. 6 Mill, a distance of 16 miles, the second-class return fare is 4s. 6d., while on the Government railway from Fremantle to Bayswater, a distance of 17 miles, it is only1s. 6d. I wish Senator Dobson were here to hear a few figures about successful Socialism in his State as against the awful state of affairs which prevails under private enterprise. On the privately-owned line between Burnie and Zeehan, a distance of 88 miles, the secondclass return fare is 22s., while on the Government line from Burnie to Hobart, a distance of 244 miles, it is only 21s 2d.
– In Tasmania the Government railways do not pay; there is a loss of £70,000 a year.
– On the privatelyowned line between Strahan and Queens- town, a distance of 26 miles, the secondclass return fare is 11s., while on the Government line between Launceston and Hobart, a distance of133 miles, it is 13s. I think I have quoted sufficient figures to show ‘that so far as transport is concerned the State is more successful than private enterprise. I anticipate that we shall meet with similar success when we establish a line of mail steamers. In Victoria the Government have shown that they can build railway engines for very much less than can private enterprise. We have had demonstrated to us at the Newport workshops that the Victorian Government are able to build locomotive engines at per ton, as against , £76 per ton at the Phoenix Foundry at Ballarat.
– That smashes up a lot of the Tariff then.
– It also smashes up a lot of the anti-socialistic nonsense to which the honorable senator has been giving expression.
– The honorable senator can take it both ways.
– I am quite prepared to take it both ways,. and I hope that the honorable senator will take the lesson to heart so far as Socialism is concerned. In the face of those results, I do not see how any anti-Socialist can maintain his position, and say that, so far as the cost of management is concerned, the Government is not far and away more successful than private enterprise. I. hope that the next. time Senator St. Ledger feels inclined to get on the “ stump “ to decry Socialism he will bear in mind some of the figures I have quoted. I believe that if he does he will feel ashamed to give expression to some of the nonsense to which anti-Socialists have; treated the people from time to time. I feel convinced that the only way to get over the difficulties with which we are brought face to face is by the establishment of a line of Government-owned steamers. There is no other way. Our primary producers are in a difficulty as regards the freight on butter and fruit to the old country. The all-powerful shipping ring is extending its influence in such a way that it has actually taken the Government of Australia into its hands, so far as the carriage of mails is concerned. That is a position which no community can tolerate. If we do not take steps to control the shipping ring, I am satisfied that it will control us. To a certain extent it is controlling the ocean traffic; and the one and only remedy is the establishment of a Governmentowned line of steamers.
– I remember that in the Legislative Assembly of Queensland a certain afternoon of each week was set apart for what’ was called private members’ business. I also remember that, in the absence of a comic opera or a farce on that afternoon, Parliament House was a most favorite resort with persons who had nothing to do, and wished to pass their time agreeably.
– That was when Mr. Dalrymple was there.
– I am not going, to put, the merit or the blame on any particular person. Judging from some of the motions which have been submitted byhonorable senators on Thursday nights, the Senate may become a favorite place of interest and amusement with the public of Melbourne. Of course, itis harmless, and. perhaps at times instructive to the public, and probably to us, too, to spend the even-‘ ing in that way. It seems to me that more or less of the business which is brought forward on Thursday evening is in the nature of a farce.
– Do not participate in it, then.
– I do not see why I should be deprived of my share of the fun, either as a spectator or as a participator. As a form of amusement, I think it is one of the most agreeable, and certainly one of the most innocent, which one could partake of either as a spectator or as a participator.
– And .as a clown politician the honorable senator is equal to the best of them.
– I do not want to applaud myself, or to take too much credit to myself if I do become a fairly good actor in the farce. I believe in lifting the veil and letting things stand forward plainly before the Chamber and the public. In my opinion, the Government are more or less conscious participators in the farce, because such a proposal, if it is to be regarded seriously, should emanate directly from them, and not from a private senator. What profit is it to the Senate or to the other House, or to the public, for us to discuss a motion of this kind, -when it comes from an irresponsible private senator, especially when it, academically, pledges us, as a Chamber, to the expenditure of some millions?
– Has the honorable senator no responsibility in the Chamber?
– I certainly would not undertake the responsibility of submitting a motion of this kind. I feel that if I were to submit a proposal of the kind I should be the glorious example of a man who was wholly unconscious of the howling farce in which he was participating.
– Does the honorable senator say that Senator Henderson is irresponsible ?
– He is irresponsible, inasmuch as- he cannot give the slightest practical effect to a” proposal of the kind. Such a proposal is absolute business, or it is nothing; and if it is absolute business it is the duty of the Government - I say this with all respect to Senator Henderson, who has brought the matter forward - to express their views with regard to it. Of course Senator Henderson is to be complimented because the discussion is more or less amusing and interesting, and it com- ‘mits nobody to anything or anything to anybody.
– That sounds all right !
– I hope that it not only sounds all right, but that there is a strong ring of common-sense in it. I am making these remarks with a view of eliciting an expression of opinion from the Government. What do they think of a proposal of this kind after the glorious fiasco they made with reference to the mail contract. When we have some of the brightest political intellects in Australia, to whom are intrusted the mere partial control of a mail service, making such a howling fiasco of such a simple matter, it must be a great encouragement for us to go the wholehog in the business ! The mail contract business should not only have been a warning to private senators, but to the Government, to be careful about entering into questions of this kind. But the attitude of the Government to the motion seems to be one of indifference or wholesale contempt, -which is as strong al condemnation of it as can be uttered by a senator on this side of the Chamber.
– Perhaps the Government are waiting to hear the honorable senator’s wisdom.
– If I do let fall pearls of wisdom I have no ability to endow any one with sufficient intelligence to understand what I say. A great deal has been said by Senator de Largie with regard to the State-owned railways of Australia. The argument which he has used - perhaps it is not correct to call it an argument - his statements, were more or less assumptions from start to finish. He attempted to prove - though his proofs, I must say with all respect to him, did not amount to much - that inasmuch as the State ownership of railways in Australia, and in some European countries, is more or less successful, therefore the control of sea transport by the Government would be absolutely certain to be equally successful.
– Quite as successful.
– Now Senator de Largie was instituting an argument from analogy. But in order to make an argument from analogy complete the analogy itself must be complete. You can only institute an argument from analogy when things are analogous. But so far as Australian S.tate-owned railways are concerned there is almost no analogy between them and ocean transport.
– They are perfectly analogous except as to the question of ownership.
– I can scarcely see any analogy whatever.
– That is not the fault of Senator Trenwith.
– When an argument is not understood I always remember that there are two parties to the nonunderstanding of it. It may not be understood either because the speaker has not made himself clear, or because those who hear him have failed to grasp his meaning. Honorable senators may take that for granted whenever I am speaking. The analogy instituted by Senator de Largie is incomplete for this reason. There are practically no competitors with our States railways throughout Australia. But in the case of ocean services it would be necessary to compete against all the world. Those who control our States railways can fix their own freight rates and passenger fares. No competitor can come in unless a ‘State Government chooses to permit him. I know that there are some instances where private companies have been permitted to construct railways. But a private competitor has to operate on such terms as a State allows. A State has absolute control over any competitor whom it may allow to engage in the work of land transport. Queensland is, I believe, the only ‘State in Australia having any considerable mileage of private railways which are doing a fair amount of traffic. But even in that case the State is particularly careful not to allow the private competitor to injure its own railways. At any moment it is within the power of the State Government, and it might be, in some circumstances, its duty to crush competition. But it is not so with the ocean. There the whole world is a competitor, and there is no power to suppress competition.
– Is there any competition on the ocean between Australia and the old country?
– Certainly there is. Unless it were so, freights would be higher than they are.
– Is there any competition between State and State? Is there not a combination of ship-owners who fix freights and fares?
– Quite so; but the matter must be looked at all round. If the ship-owners could make a combination so strong as to prevent all possibility of competition, or if they could form a ring which it was absolutely impossible to break down, freights and fares would be immensely higher than they are now.
– My motion does not attempt to establish such a state of things as that.
– My argument is that on the ocean we should have to face an element of competition, and that the honorable senator is asking the people of Australia to plank down £5,000,000 without knowing how his proposal would affect them.
– Not a bit of it.
– I am glad that the honorable senator is of so sanguine a nature. I am not in that matter of business. We have to start with the initial fact, from which we cannot get away, that to carry out the honorable senator’s idea we should have to ask the people of Australia to find something like £5,000,000 sterling.
– £3,000,000 of money would do it easily.
– Of course it is very easy to find , £3,000,000 ! If you say it quickly enough it does not sound much ! But the money has to be obtained first of all. I wish to bring this matter down to bed-rock. Where would Senator Henderson propose to get his £3,000,000 from?
– I will lend some of it.
– Well, if I had the investigation of the honorable senator’s banking account, I should probably be prepared to take his word to the full extent of his financial resources, but I am afraid that the public of Australia could not rely upon him to a great extent in a matter of this kind. I am sorry that it should be so because there is no man whom we would desire to see possessed of great wealth so much as Senator McGregor, because there are few men who would use wealth more wisely. Senator Pearce is strongly in favour of nationalizing various industries. Now when he or anyof those who think with him are replying in this debate, I want them to give me a straight-out answer to a question and an argument.
– Where is the argument?
– I am assuming that I am presenting an argument. If the honorable senator does not understand it, I am sorry. I wish to know where this £5,000,000 is to come from?
– From Baron Rothschild!
– Do honorable senators propose to stick him up with a revolver, or how do they hope to get it ?
– Promise him 10 per cent., and we shall get it.
– I understood that if there was one item of policy to which what I will call the Socialist section was pledged almost as a cardinal dogma of their political faith - a dogma which, if any. one of them attempted to dispute it, it would mean for him eternal political death-
– Off with his head !
– I verily believe that the party to which I have referred would cut off the political head of any man who ventured to doubt this great principle, for which they have fought since the beginning of Federation, namely, that there shall be no borrowing of money, no loan policy.
– That is not a correct statement.
– Then I am sorry that I have misunderstood so many prominent members of the honorable senator’s party, who, on their platform, have expended an enormous amount of lung power, and taken up an immense amount of time in insisting - almost swearing - against ever sanctioning a loan policy. What on earth can we do with a party whose representatives at one time pledge their political souls on the public platform against a loan policy, and at another put forward in this Chamber a proposition which will requirethe borrowing of £5,000,000?
– Is the honorable senator speaking on behalf of the party on his bench now? He is alone there.
– On a solemn occasion of this kind, when such grave issues are being discussed, everybody speaks for himself on his own personal responsibility, and that to my mind is the glorious central point of the whole farce which we are asked to participate in. I am conscious - that I am a participator in what is more or less a howling farce. I was dealing with a rather peculiar aspect of the question when I was met with a volley of interjections from the other side. It. has been my experience when I have flattered myself that I was speaking well, either to find my audience absolutely silent, or to be met with a volley of interjections. I am certainly facing a whole battery of interruptions to-night, especially when I touch the soft spot in the Socialist’s armour. There is to be noloan policy on their part.
– That is not correct.
– It is, according to all the Socialist leaders I heard throughout Queensland.
– Give us their names.
– Every one of them said it.
– We will not borrow money. We will take it.
– Either the several millions required will have to be taken, as Senator Stewart puts it, or else one great plank falls out of the socialistic platform. This borrowing is to begin to-morrow with Senator Henderson’s motion. We cannot take the money from men like the Rothschilds, unless we speak from behind the guns. When some of the Socialists talk about the nationalization of industries, the word” nationalization “ looks remarkably like robbery or ruin to somebody, although I do not mean to say that the members of the Socialist Party in this Chamber would lend themselves knowingly or intentionally to anything of the kind. Before the motion is passed, we ought to have a direct and clear explanation of where the money is to come from, and a more or less official declaration that the Socialists have abandoned the plank in their platform against borrowing. If I am to understand that from this day forward the Socialist Party intend to plunge on to the money market in this hazardous enterprise, I am rather glad of it to some extent, because I believe that Australia cannot be developed without the aid of a great deal of private money to assist the various enterprises which the State might very well undertake. From to-night we shall have to deal with the Socialist Party, so far as their financial policy is concerned, from an entirely different point of view. Heretofore the anti-Socialist Party, or what corresponded to it in the various State Parliaments, were said to bethe loanplungers, but they will have to stand aside in favour of this new party, which in its fresh vigour is going to out-Herod Herod in plunging on the money market. A great deal was said by Senator de Largie about the success of the State-owned railways. After all, there is another side to that glowing picture of State railway enterprise. I can speak with some knowledge of the glorious success of the rail-‘ ways in my own State, which is one of the greatest in Australia. The Queensland State railways have cost between £25, 000,000 and , £30,000,000. Probably, when the whole of the loan funds now available are spent, the Queensland railway bill will be very close on £30,000,000, During the whole course of railway construction in Queensland, on a capital sum of £25,000,000, only in the last two years in the whole history of the State have those railways paid.
– Whose fault is that?
– That interjection is no answer to the position I am now putting. What I have stated is a fact, although the State has been operating without a single competitor in a magnificent field for development. In the face of that, how can we ask the taxpayers of the whole of Australia to plank down anything from £3,000,000 to £5,000,000 for an enterprise in which they will have to face the competition of the whole world ? I believe that what I have stated about the Queensland railways applies to nearly every other State. On what grounds do honorable senators opposite intend to ask for millions of pounds for this new proposal, seeing that the State-owned railways nave been until the last four or five years a dead loss and burden to the taxpayers throughout the whole of Australia?
– Why not prove the statement by figures?
– I refer the honorable senator to the annual reports of the Railway Commissioner. I hope that Senator Needham does not think that I am misrepresenting the position. It is an absolute fact that, with the exception of the last two or three years, the Queensland Treasurer has every year been called upon to provide from the general revenue for over £100,000 to meet the deficit on the working of the railways of that State.” Senator Needham. - Why not give us the proof of that statement?
– I refer the honorable senator to the Queensland Railway Commissioner’s reports, and the Queensland Treasurer’s annual statements. It will be found that in that State the taxpayer has had to make good from the general revenue a deficit on the working of the railways on which a capital sum of £25,000,000 has been expended, although the Government in the working of the lines have had no competitors, and could impose their own terms.” When our friends the Socialists come to deal with proposals of this kind, I find that they never take into consideration the capital cost, interest, and profit and loss in carrying them out.
– The honorable senator should not make a mistake like that.
– I shall be glad if it is shown that this proposal is submitted as an exception to that general rule. Perhaps I have not done much damage to any aspect of the question, but I think I have given my honorable friends two or three things to think about. I hope that in future, when dealing with such questions, they will get out of the sanguine, optimistic way of looking at things, and come right down to bedrock by showing us how their schemes are going to pay, and where they will get the money from to carry them out.
– If I considered the motion before the Senate in the light of a farce, I should not waste the time of the country, or of this Chamber, for half-an-hour to take part in the farce, especially in view of the fact that if it be a farce, it is a somewhat expensive one for the country. I regard this motion very seriously, and as an earnest question. The two honorable senators who have so far supported it have dealt with it in earnest fashion. The mover of the motion, Senator Henderson, supplied the very figures for which Senator St. Ledger has just asked. The honorable senator might not have listened to them, or might not have been in the Chamber when they were given, but there is no doubt that the figures were supplied. Senator de Largie has to-night given us a mass of material bearing upon the motion. What is the answer of the champion of antiSocialism - the honorable senator who has taken upon himself the role of chief opponent of Socialism in this Chamber - to the facts, figures and arguments that have been brought forward? The honorable senator has not attempted in any way to rebut or question the figures brought forward by Senator Henderson as to the cost involved in the adoption of the motion, or the feasibility or paying capacity of the proposal. He has made no attempt to question the figures submitted by Senator de Largie, but for three-quarters of an hour we have been favoured in a. somewhat humorous fashion with a lot of rodomontade that I think the honorable senator himself will scarcely recognise when he comes to read the proofs of his speech to-morrow. Do honorable senators realize the difference between the position of Australia and that of other parts of the world, and particularly of Europe? Australia, although a continent in area, is an island separated from the other portions of the earth inhabited by white people by vast distances of sea. It is a producing country rather than a consuming country, and depends for its wealth on the products it exports oversea. These factors involve a third - that the chief instrument in Australia’s well-being is that the channel of communication between this country and the other countries of the world shall be kept open and free at any cost, and that the people of Australia shall have command of cheap means of communication and transport for themselves and their products.
– A lower Tariff would lead to goods coming in.
– Senator Walker will have plenty of opportunities later on to discuss the Tariff. The most important question for Australian producers is how to maintain the channel of communication to other countries free, and the cost of transport at the lowest possible rate. It is an undoubted fact, stated by honorable senators who have spoken in favour of the motion, and not challenged by the anti-Socialist honorable senator who has just resumed his seat, that there is at present a combination of those controlling the means ofcommunication which seriously threatens every producing industry in Australia. The carriage of cargo, whether of a perishable nature or not, and the transport of passengers, is in the hands of a steam-ship trust which controls the main lines of communication between Australia and European countries. We have seen that the trust is able to paralyze the action of the Commonwealth Government in connexion with the maintenance of mail communicationbetween Australia and the old country.
– If the honorable senator is serious, what proof has he of that statement?
– We have the proof that when the first tenders were called only the Orient Steam Navigation Company responded, and that at such a ridiculously high price that no Government dared come to Parliament and propose the acceptance of their tender, with the result that for months mail communication between Australia and Great Britain had to be main tained by casual vessels under the poundage system. That is my proof. There is the further proof that when the second tenders were called for the most successful tenderers were a syndicate comprising some of the greatest ship-building firms in Great Britain, and yet when that syndicate obtained the tender it was unable to carry out its undertaking. It was unable to raise the necessary capital, because of the combined action of the Steamship Trust of Great Britain against it on the Stock Exchange.
– Some of the tenderers were members of the alleged Combine.
– That is an assertion for which I do not think there is a scintilla of proof. So far as I can learn, the members of the syndicate were not steam-ship owners, but steam-ship builders, and it was the steam-ship owners who played their cards in such a way as to prevent the formation of the new company. I can ask honorable senators to say whether it is not a. fact that when the Government came forward with a proposal for the acceptance of the contract in question honorable senators who are found sitting alongside Senator St. Ledger admitted that the Government had made a good bargain, if not the best bargain that could have been made’. The outlook was most promising. Parliament, as well as the Government, believed that the contract would be a success, but they had reckoned without the Steam-ship Trust, and that Trust has for the second time frustrated the efforts of the Commonwealth Parliament, Government, and people to make satisfactory arrangements for the carriage of the mails. We can refer honorable senators to still later history. What is the history of the butter trade? Is it not a fact that to-day the Steam-ship Trust has the butter trade of Australia by the throat ? Is it not a fact that all the efforts of the.Butter Conferences recently held in Sydney and Melbourne have proved absolutely fruitless to obtain for our producers even the old terms for the carriage of butter to the Old Country ? The freight has been raised. We have heard to-night not only that the Steam-ship Trust has raised the freight on butter to £5 per ton, but that they have also raised the freight on fruit from Hobart to £5 per ton. I need not labour this question, but I do say that honorable senators who oppose the motion are bound to recognise that they cannot bring forward a better proposal.
There are only the two alternatives : Either we must go on our knees to the Steam-ship Trust, and accept whatever terms they choose to impose-
– Every State in the world has to do that, as well as us.
– What an admission !
– I agree with the honorable senator’s statement. Every State Government is in the same position. I am glad to have the admission that the States Governments of Australia and the Commonwealth Government must go upon their knees to beg of the Steam-ship Trust of Great Britain to carry our mails, produce, goods and passengers at any rates which, in their mercy and compassion, they may see fit to impose. That is the position. Have we not during the last fortnight seen a 10 per cent. increase in passenger fares insisted upon? This is at a time when the States Governments and the Commonwealth are proposing immigration policies. The Steam-ship Trust’s reply to these proposals is to increase passenger fares by 10 per cent. If a proposal were made to increase Tariff duties all round by 10 per cent., I can imagine how Senator Walker and others would shriek.Here, however, we have a more effective Tariff wall than the Commonwealth Government can raise by the imposition of Customs duties. An increase in the cost of transit is as effective a means of protection as any Tariff wall. The latest action of the Shipping Trust is calculated not only to prevent people coming to Australia, but to penalize our producers in their efforts to place their products on the markets of the world.
– The honorable senator will admit that a high Customs Tariff, by preventing the importation of goods, must reduce the freight which the steam-ship companies will be able to get.
– A high Customs Tariff will not prevent Australian produce from being exported.
– But the steam-ship companies must have freight both ways.
– A high Customs Tariff would not prevent our wool, gold, and wheat being sent to the Old Country, but the high tariff imposed by the steamship companies would do so. It would injure every farmer, pastoralist, and miner in Australia, because all engaged in those industries must depend absolutely upon the foreign markets. If wecould tear up and burn all the arguments used in Australia during the last five years on Socialism and anti-Socialism, and could blot out of existence all political parties that have adopted Socialism or anti-Socialism as a platform, and could people Australia with five millions of people without any political traditions, the very first thing they would do would be to see not only that the arteries of commerce in this island continent belonged to the people, and were controlled by the people, but that the equally important arteries of commerce across the sea should also be in their hands, that they might be maintained free and uninterrupted. Unfortunately, this has always been dealt with as a political question in this country, and although those who are opposed to such proposals as that which we are now discussing call themselves business men, they have allowed party bias to influence their action in dealing with such questions. I venture to say that if the Commonwealth were the private estate of those gentlemen, and they were planning their own business, they would not do what they” have done in political life. They would not place themselves in the hands of other persons, as they are prepared to place Australia in the hands of the Steam-ship Trust. For those reasons I regard this as a very serious question. Unless private senators are provided with such opportunities some public questions will never be ventilated. Are the Government alone to ventilate questions in the Parliament? Are we to admit that a committee of half-a-dozen men or more possess all the political ideas which are worth anything, and that the other members of this Parliament must do as those men say ? . I have a very different conception of my position as a member of Parliament and of the position which Parliament occupies in relation to the Government. I look upon the Government as being, not the dog, but the tailof the dog. In my opinion, the Parliament is infinitely more important than any Government. This provision for the consideration of private business is to enable the Senate to express its will on a question. Senator St. Ledger objected to Senator de Largie’s analogy of the railways as applied to the steam-ships. If he will allow me to say so, he somewhat misrepresented what was done. My honorable friend did not compare railway lines with steam-ship lines, but he compared State railways with privately-owned railways in Australia. That I submit is a true analogy. My honorable friend showed that in Australia the privately- owned lines charge higher fares and freights and do not treat their customers so liberally as do State railways. Senator St. Ledger says that the Queensland railways do not pay. Were those lines built to pay or to develop the State? In my opinion, they were built for the latter purpose, and the question of whether they do or do not pay is merely incidental to that purpose. If I ask whether State railways in Australia have succeeded in developing the country through which they were built there can be only one answer. They have succeeded admirably in that regard. On- the other point, let it always be remembered that the Government of any State could make its railways pay to-morrow if it adopted the same policy as is adopted by American companies, that is if it extracted a profit from the users. It is only a question of raising the fares and the freights, of putting the “screw” on the users, to make State railways pay. When the railways are owned by the people they are run, not for the benefit of a few shareholders) but in the interests of the whole community. The railways of Australia have been run, not for the purpose of making a profit, but for the purpose of serving the interests of the people. In the same way a line of mail steamers, if established, would be run in the interests ‘of the people of Australia, and, whether it made a profit or not, I venture to assert that it would better serve the interests of the people than do the privatelyowned lines which are conducted, not for the purpose of benefiting the people of Australia, but for the purpose of extracting a profit out of them for the benefit of shareholders. I am happy to say that in Australia State railways, regarded from any point of view, compare more than favorably with the privately-owned railways in any country. I believe that if the existing lines of coasting steam-ships were owned by the “Government we should experience similar results, becau.se in Australia the experience has been that wherever a State has taken up a function, no matter what it has been, it has proved more beneficial to the people, even in competition with private enterprise, than was the case when it was left to private enterprise alone. Senator de Largie has quoted the case of the Government railway workshops at Newport successfully competing with the Phoenix Foundry at Ballarat in the manufacture of locomotives. Again, in Western Australia, the Government were obtaining the pipes for numerous water schemes in different places from private enterprise at exorbitant figures, even though they had called for tenders. In order to bring down the. price they determined at last to start a State pipe ‘ works in open competition with private enterprise. With what result? The price has tumbled down, I think, to about one-half of what it was previously. In every instance where a State in Australia has undertaken an enterprise it has been to its advantage. In South Australia there was a time when the Conservative pastoralist, who generally is an anti-Socialist, was in the hands of private enterprise for the export of his produce. The Government stepped in and started an Export Department, with the result that to-day the farmer gets about 50 per cent, more profit on his frozen lambs and other produce than he used to get when he was in the hands of private enterprise, and to that extent he is a Socialist. I could cite many instances, but the same tale would have to be told every time. Whenever a proposal for a. fresh departure is mooted the bogy of Socialism is raised.. And if a labour member happens to make the proposal, that, in itself, is enough to bring upon it the condemnation of such persons as Senator St. Ledger.
– The point is that not one of the railways pays.
– The honorable senator cannot convince the people of his State that they ought to do away with the railways. Once they have been established not even the greatest Conservative in the State will agree to part with them’. The farmers are looked upon as Conservatives, but if it. were proposed to them to sell the State railways, what answer would they make? Let any one propose to the farmers of South Australia to close up the State Export Department, and see what their answer would be.
– Or ask them to close up the State Agricultural Bank.
– Exactly. Once the people have got a dose of Socialism, they hang on to it like grim death.
– The only State industry which has ever been closed has been Mr. Bent’s brickworks.
– I regret that in Australia we have not a Government with the stamina to tackle this question of ocean communication in a business-like .fashion. I regret exceedingly that the present Government will not tackle the subject, because I am satisfied that if they did, they would get the support of the people of Australia. The producer - whether he be the butter producer in Victoria, or the apple producer in Tasmania, or the wheat producer in other States - is feeling the pinch of the Combine. The Government are also feeling the pinch, because they cannot obtain a satisfactory mail contract. Yet they halt and palter with the question. I venture to say that it is not so large a question as some questions which State Governments have tackled. Senator St. Ledger mentioned that the scheme of Senator Henderson involved an expenditure of £3,000,000. The water scheme to Coolgardie cost more than that sum, and it was undertaken by a State with’ a population of only 150,000. Senator St! Ledger seems to think that the Commonwealth, with 4,000,000 people, cannot undertake a scheme such as that which Western Australia, with 150,000 people, carried out successfully.
– There was no competitor there.
– We should have no successful competitors once we had established a line of mail steamers. I trust that the motion will not only be carried, but that the Government will see their way to give effect to it.
Debate (on motion by Senator Needham) adjourned.
– I beg to ask the Senate for leave to amend ‘the motion standing in my name, so as to include some information which Senator Walker desires to get.
– Is it the will of the Senate that the honorable senator should have leave to amend his motion, as he has indicated ?
Honorable Senators. - Hear, hear.
Motion (by Senator Pearce) agreed to -
That there be prepared and laid upon the table of the Senate a return showing -
The weight of the following articles taken out of bond for the period of four weeks preceding 9th August, 1907; namely, plug tobacco,, cut tobacco, cigars, and cigarettes, tobacco unmanufactured, but entered to be locally manufactured into (a) tobacco, (4) cigars, (c) cigarettes. Showing the weight of each item separately.
The amount of duty paid on the items set out.
The average weight per month of the year preceding July, 1907, of the above , articles upon which duty was paid ; and also the average amount of duty paid.
The weight of plug tobacco upon which excise duty was paid for the four weeks prior to9th August, 1907, and the amount of excise paid.
The same particulars as regards cigars and cigarettes.
The average amount of excise duty paid per month of the year preceding July, 1907, on tobacco, cigars, and cigarettes separately ; and the weight of such articles upon which excise duty was paid.
The weight of the following articles remaining in bond on the 9th August, viz., imported manufactured tobacco, imported cigars, imported cigarettes, and unmanufactured imported leaf tobacco, and the amount of duty which would have been payable on same under the former Tariff, stating each item separately.
The weight of locally manufactured tobacco remaining in the factories, not excise paid, on the9th August, 1907, and the amount of excise which would have been payable on same under the former Tariff.
The weight of locally manufactured cigars and cigarettes remaining in the factories, not excise paid, on the 9th August, 1907, and the amount of excise which would have been payable under the former Tariff.
Motion (by Senator Best) proposed -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– This afternoon, when Senator McColl was speaking, I interjected that he had warned the women of Geelong against the Labour Party. I would not have referred again to the matter, only that he resented my statement in very warm terms, and, as I understood, said that I had slandered him. He afterwards referred to the matter, and said that he had looked up the newspapers, and that there was no justification for what I had said. . I only propose to read from the newspapers that part of what the honorable senator said which has a bearing on the subject, and to leave the Senate to judge whether I. misinterpreted him. From the Argus of 27th July, I quote the following extract from a telegram : -
Geelong, Friday. - At a meeting held in the Mechanics’ Institute to-night, in connexion with the annual conference of the Women’s National League, an interesting address was delivered by Senator McColl, on the subject of “ Women in Public Life.”
The report goes on to say -
The basis of the organization was loyalty to the Crown, the checking of Socialism, and the dignifying of the home. . . . We had lately had a revival of Socialism, which from being a theory was becoming a religion. It had been introduced by the Trades-hall and the Labour Party as a political movement, but they were finding now that the country was not prepared to take it up. Consequently they were beginning to quarrel with their late allies. Mr. Tom Mann, who was once employed by the Labour Party, had started a Sunday-school, and was travestying that which many people held most sacred. The country must look to liberal legislation, but all legislation had its limits. It could not give the equality that was sought by Socialists. Fitness must rule, and brains and energy must be rewarded. What Government should aim at was to give all a square deal. All could not hold trumps, and some one must win, but the Government would see that the game was played fairly. The nationalisation of industries was not required, but. their regulation was.
I find in the Geelong Advertiser, of 27th July, that Senator McColl is reported in these terms -
The Trades-hall party was starting to grow into the Labour Party, and the Labour Party was growing into the Socialistic Party. They found that Socialism was rearing its ugly head, and from a theory it had become a religion in the minds of some of its followers. They read of the baptizing of children into Socialism, and the travestying of those things they held most dear and revered. In Tom Mann’s Sundayschool the lessons were not learnt there that would have a lasting effect. The children were taught to follow Socialistic leaders like Tom Mann and not the Divine Master,who came as a little Child to show what little children should do. The advance guard of Socialists claimed equality of wealth and property, the abolition of private capital and the placing of everything in the hands of the State - nationalizing everything, and giving every one, no matter what was his capacity or his industry or energy, equal shares and an equal reward. Row were they going to do it ? They would have to do away with competition altogether. It was not that sortof legislation that had benefited mankind.
It was after reading those reports that I felt justified - and I still feel justified - in saying that Senator McColl warned the women of Geelong not to have anything to do with the Labour Party.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at10.4 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 22 August 1907, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1907/19070822_senate_3_38/>.