4th Parliament · 3rd Session
The President took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– When a matter was be ing debated yesterday, on a motion by Senator Givens, he stated that’ he was quoting from an uncorrected Hansard, proof, and Senator Millen challenged the correctness of the statement that he was reading, Baying that it did not correspond with the statement in his own proof. I may mention that I was not supplied with my Hansard proofs until very late, and that I corrected them. Subsequently, on sending for the proofs to verify a statement which had been made, the one I had corrected was returned to me with my correction written on a slip, and I handed the proof, while the debate was in progress, to Senator Givens. He naturally thought that it was the Hansard reporter’s proof, and quoted it as uncorrected. The correction I had made was the insertion of the words “ distrust of the magistracy.” Senator Millen said that the words should be, “ I said it had been amply justified,” while the words which had been inserted made the remark read, “ I said distrust of the magistracy had been amply justified.”I wish to say that in -making the correction I put in words which obviously were left out of the report. I did not in any way attempt to cook or fake the report, but simply put in words to convey the meaning which I intended to convey in the statement originally made.
Senator PEARCE laid upon the table the following papers -
Lands Acquisition Act 1906. - Lands acquired under -
At Mount Gambier, South Australia - For Defence purposes.
At Toora, Victoria - For Postal purposes.
– I desire to ask the Vice-President of the Executive Council whether, in arranging Government business, he will endeavour to bring on the motion dealing with the New South Wales redistribution scheme as early as possible in view of the importance of an early decision being arrived at?
– I have already done so. It will come on to-morrow morning.
asked the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
SenatorPEARCE. - Before replying categoriea’l )y to these questions, i>t- is desired’ to give a short precis of the case -
The regulations- dealing, with the granting of sick lea.ve. to the permanent forces are practically the. same as those, which obtain in the Commonwealtih Public Service - that is, a man with! less, than, five years’ service may, under ordinaxy circumstances, be granted, sick leave for one month on full pay, three months, on half pay, and six months on third pay.
Staff Sergeant-Major. Leech reported sick on 4th October, 191 1. He- was granted’ leave for one month on full’ pay from that date. As he was. not fit to resume duty on the expiration of that leave, he was granted an extension of leave until the 30th’ November on half pay.
Nothing further was heard of the case at Head -quarters until the following, February, wheni proceedings, of a. Medical- Board were received. This Medical Board- reported that Staff Sergeant-Major Leecto was suffering from malamia. and was medical-lv. unfit, for further ser.vice. in the permanent forces..
The proceedings were not in. order,, and the Director-General, of Medical Services returned the papers to the Medical Board for further particulars.
The papers, were not again received, at Headquarters until the 26th’ April-; but, as there was a divergence of opinion between the medical officer attending the man, and the Medical Bonird”, it was again necessary to return, the proceedings to Western Australia.
Consequent1 on this the Medical Board again examined Staff Sergeant-Major Leech, and now found his condition had’ srreatly improved, and that he was then fit for further service; but, as the ma’arial condition was liable to recur; recommended that he be transferred to another district.
The retention of Staff Sergeant-Major Leech in- the service was approved, and he resumed duty on the- 27th June, and was transferred’ at the expense of the Department to Tasmania.
Under the regulations Staff SergeantMajorLeech was, as stated above,, eligible to be granted sick leave -
One month on full pay ;
Three months on half pay ;
Six months on third pay.
He was granted’ -
One month, on full pay ;
Three months on half pay ;
The balance on third pay- in accordance with- the Regulations, but, with tlie exception of the- one month’s salary on. full pay, and one month on half pay, this was not- actually paid until’ he resumed duty.
Inquiries are now being made to ascertain who was responsible for this delay.
The- categorical replies are as- follow -
asked the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are -
asked the Minister representing the Minister of Home Affairs, upon notice -
Whether he intends sending persons to Kalgoorlie for employment on the Transcontinental Railway without first ascertaining whether there is a sufficiency of manual and clerical workers there to fill the vacant positions in connexion with the railway?
– The answer to the honorable senator’s question is -
No manual labourers have been sent over to Western Australia in connexion with the railway, and at present there is no intention of sending any. Inquiries are being made in that State in regard to suitable clerical workers ; so far only one has been sent from another State.
The railway is being built for the Commonwealth, and the citizens of any particular State have no preferential claim for employment on the railway.
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are -
asked the VicePresident of the Executive Council, upon notice -
When is it expected the report of the Royal Commission on the Sugar Industry will be tabled ?
– It is hoped that the report will be received within a week or two.
asked the Minister representing the Minister of External Affairs, upon notice -
Has the Government appointed, or does it now contemplate appointing, a School Inspector for the schools in the Northern Territory?
– The answer to the honorable senator’s question is -
Applications have been invited for the position of Inspector and Superior teacher in the Northern Territory. A considerable number of well-qualified applicants, have submitted their names, and a selection will shortly be made. The duties connected with the position will not be limited to the comparatively small task of inspecting the existing schools, but will consist mainly in conducting classes in higher branches of study than those usually taught in State schools, the object being to give opportunities fur a good secondary education to the children in that remote part of the Commonwealth.
Bill received from the House of Representatives, and (on motion by Senator McGregor) read a first time.
–Is it intended to take the notice of motion standing in the name of Senator Vardon as formal business?
– Not formal.
– Can I move, sir, that the notice of motion be an Order of the Day for to-morrow?
– Yes, but the honorable member can move the motion today if he chooses.
– Can I move it at once, sir?
– When I call on the business for the day, the honorable senator can move the motion.
– I beg to move -
– On a point of order, sir, does not the fact that I twice said “ Not formal “ bar the honorable senator from moving the motion?
– The only thing that an honorable senator does by calling “ Not formal,”is to say that the motion is “open for discussion. If a motion is taken as formal business, it is not open for discussion.
– I move-
That one week’s leave of absence be granted to Senator Shannon on account of urgent private business.
– I called “ Not formal “ to this motion, because I have always been under the impression that there is no standing order which necessitates an honorable senator to apply for leave of absence for a less periodthan two months. I should like to have it settled, whether it is necessary for an honorable senator, if he should find private business detaining him, to request leave of absence for a week. If that is not necessary, it is just as well for us to know. It looks to me as if it is a kind of cheap political advertisement for Senator Shannon to make an application of this kind when other honorable senators, on both sides of the chamber, have stayed away without making such a request. I protest against the Senate being made a kind of political advertising arena.
– I wish to point out to Senator Rae that the Constitution contains a provision which reads as follows -
The place of asenator shall become vacant if for two consecutive months of any session of the Parliament, he, without the permission of the Senate, fails to attend the Senate.
An honorable senator can request another honorable senator to move that he be granted leave of absence for any time which takes him beyond the period which is mentioned in that section of the Constitution.
– Two months.
– I agree with Senator Rae, that an unusual course is being taken. It may be quite proper, and I am not saying that it is not, but it is the first time within my recollection that an honorable senator has requested to be excused from attendance for such a short period. I do not know the reason for the course which Senator Shannon is taking. All. that I can say is that it is quite unusual. Yesterday we found that we had been pursuing a course which was quite contrary to the Standing Orders, and, if, in the matter of leave of absence, we have been doing wrong, it is only right and proper that the Senate should know, so that the proper course may be taken in the future.
If it is unnecessary that Senator Vardon should move in- this direction, and he is actuated by some private reason, and not by a desire- to comply with, the procedure of the Senate we: should know where, we standi. If it is- necessary, that leave- of absence for so short a period should be formally obtained in this way that should be defimitely stated.
– I am sorry that the mover of-‘ this motion did not. give some information as to his reason’ for. submitting- it. To, show that I am in no way biased in the. matter, and do not object to the leave of absence asked for,. 1 have very much pleasure in. moving -
That the- word “ week’s “ be left out, with a wiew to. insert ia lieu thereof the word “ year’s.”
I think that- the Senate will, be able to manage: very well, even- if the amendment be carried.
– In my opinion the amendment proposed is a frivolous one, and as suchI decline to accept it.
– Shall I dissent from your ruling, sir?
– The honorable, senator, may do so if. he thinks it necessary.
– I wish only to state that the moving, of- the motion is- merely an. act of courtesy on my part. Senator Shannon, came to me, and. said that, prior to his election to the Senate, he had. an engagement on the west coast of South Australia, which, he felt bound to carry out, and he asked me if I would move for a. week’sleave of absence for him. I told him that that was not necessary, and that he could remain absent for that period from the Senate- without obtaining- leave. He said’ that he preferred to make application for leave, and I said that if he desired it I would’ make the application for him. That is the whole history of the motion-. It is submitted merely as an act- of courtesy, and’ I am surprised that when anhonorable senator desires to secure leave of absence in this- way any one should object, especially when it- does not injure any one else, or prevent any other hon>orable senator from- asking- for a week’s leave of absence or declining to- do so. When Senator Shannon- felt that he- would prefer to’ have his> absence accounted: for in this- way, I’ did not see that it was- my place-, or the place- of any. one else, tostand in his way. The request was cour teously made to- nae, and,, as. a matter of courtesy, 1 have- complied with it, and have nothing further to say about it.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
.-I move -
That this Bill be now read a. second time.
This measure is only, another step- in the direction of- making provision for the interests of those who, as the result of accidents, are rendered incapable of. providing for- themselves on those dependent uporr them- in the- course- of their ordinary- calling. It will1 apply only to the public servants of the. Commonwealth, and to them to. a limited extent. The legislation, ptor posed is based on the Workmen’s Comperosation Act passed recently by the Imperial8 Parliament, and on. the Seamen’s Compensation Act passed by this Parliament.
– When the honorable senator speaks of the Imperial’ Act, does he refer to an Act providing compensationin the case of accidents to employes of the Imperial Government or to the Workmen’s Compensation- Act?
– I refer to the ordinary Workmen’s Compensation Act. Later on I may explain the difference between this Bill and the Act passed- by the Imperial Parliament. From the inauguration of the Commonwealth up to. the present time nothing has been done to>make provision for employesof the Commonr wealth- whoi may have met with accidentsin the course of their employment. Fronitime to time appeals have been made whenaccidents such as those contemplated in- thisBill have occurred, and Bills have been introduced and. passed to> provide for those extraordinary cases.. No uniform, or definite legislation dealing with, the matter has, however, been considered up to the present time. I am sure, that every honorable senator and every citizen of the Common- , wealth desires that when those who are employed in the Commonwealth service meet with accidents they, and their dependents* should be provided for in some manner.. We are all agreed that that is right and1 proper. The Government have introduced this Bill in order to make that provision. There is- a difference of opinion amongst citizens of the Commonwealth and members of Parliament as to what has been done in the different States in providing for workmen’s compensation. The representatives of different States have claimed that the particular State they represent must have the credit of having been the first to make provision for workmen’s compensation.I say that South Australia was the first State in the Commonwealth to introduce and carry a Workmen’s Compensation Bill.
– It is all very well for the honorable senator to say that-
– I ‘say it because I come from South Australia, and I was in the South Australian Parliament when the Bill was carried. I should, therefore, know something about it. The next measure of the kind was carried in 1902 by Western Australia. Then, in 1905 and 1910, Queensland, New South Wales, and Tasmania passed legislation of this description. So far as Victoria is concerned, no Bill dealing with workmen’s compensation has yet been carried in that State. Such a Bill has been introduced on various occasions in the Victorian Parliament, but there has never been a Labour Government in Victoria, and, consequently, it has not been possible to carry beneficent legislation of this kind in that State. In the other States, through the action of Labour Governments or the influence of the Labour party, or at the instance of a truly Liberal Administration, and not such a Liberal party as we have in the Commonwealth under Fusion conditions, measures of this kind have been passed. In the circumstances, we may hail with some gratification the action of this Labour Government in introducing this legislation. The Bill is submitted in the usual form. There are a number of clauses covering the short title, the date of commencement by proclamation, and definitions of the different phrases used in the Bill. Honorable senators will see that the definition clauses go so far as to include even a mother-in-law. It is proposed to include an adopted child and a mother-in-law as amongst the persons who may be considered to be dependants, and entitled to be recipients of the proposed compensation.
– We might make the Bill apply to an adopted child, but I am not sure about the mother-in-law.
– We can deal with that matter when we get into Committee. Every necessary provision is made with respect to the terms of payment. That is a matter that can be seriously discussed in Committee. Every provision is made, not only for the protection of an individual who meets with an accident, but also for the security of the Commonwealth, that is to be responsible for the proposed payments. Examinations by duly qualified medical men are provided for. To the eleven clauses of the Bill there are added two schedules providing for rates of payment and the manner of application. I am satisfied that no honorable senator who seriously studies the measure will be able to discover any very great objection to it. If suggestions of a beneficial character are offered, the Government, as on all other occasions, will be prepared to listen to them, and to adopt the course most in the interests of the worker and of the Commonwealth.
Debate (on motion by Senator Millen) adjourned.
In Committee (Consideration of House of Representatives’ message) :
Clause 41 -
Nothing in this Act shall be deemed to affect the existing provisions of any Act of the Parliament of a State which require or relate to the delivery to any specified Public or other Library of the State of copies of books published in the State.
House of Representatives’ Amendment. - Add at end of clause, “ or to affect the power of the Parliament of a State to make laws requiring or relating to such delivery.”
– When this Bill, was before the Senate we carried an amendment to provide that the number of copies of a copyrighted work that had previously been supplied to State Parliaments should still be supplied to them by the owners of the copyright. The House of Representatives has further amended the clause by inserting a provision that State Parliaments shall continue to have the unlimited power to legislate with respect to the delivery of these copies. I think there will be no danger in accepting the amendment. We believe that we should, to as small an extent as possible, interfere with State rights, and if the State Parliaments desire to legislate in this matter as they have done in the past, we think there is no objection to their doing so. I move -
That the amendment be agreed to.
– I wish to ask whether the amendment has any relation whatever to the subject of copyright ? Does it come within the scope of this Bill, or does it relate to the particular powers possessed by State Parliaments enabling them to require certain books or publications printed within their jurisdiction to be supplied? I should like to know whether the amendment comes within the dominion of copyright at all, or whether it is an attempt to give to the State Parliaments a power which they undoubtedly enjoy, irrespective of our legislation on the subject of copyright.
. -I endeavoured to explain the matter as clearly as possible in my first statement. I indicated that we made an amendment upon the Bill as introduced into the Senate, providing that no alteration should be made in the number of copies required to be supplied to a State Legislature. This amendment of the House of Representatives simply means that, so far as a copyright connected with a particular State is concerned, the Legislature of that State will not be prevented from legislating with respect to the supply of copies of copyrighted matter to the State Parliament or a State institution. If we have the power, under a Copyright Bill, to provide that copies shall be supplied to the Commonwealth Parliament, or to any other public body, then, I say, we have the right to make provision that a State Legislature may retain the power with respect to copyrighted matter published in the State to require copies to be supplied to the State Parliament or public bodies within the State. That is a limitation of the Bill which 1 think every honorable senator ought to understand.
– We have not power to prevent the States from doing this or to regulate the matter.
Motion agreed to.
Resolution reported; report adopted.
In Committee (Consideration of House of Representatives’ message resumed from 6th November, vide page 5064) :
Clause 99 -
The acts specified in Column 1 hereunder shall be offences against discipline, and a seaman or apprentice committing any one of them shall be liable to a punishment not exceeding the punishment set opposite to the offence in Column 2 hereunder : - Column 1. *Offences.*
Absence without leave from duty, such absence not amounting to desertion or not treated as such by the master.
House of Representatives’ Amendment. - After the word “ desertion “ in column 1, insert “ failure or refusal without reasonable cause to join the ship or proceed to sea in the ship.”
Upon which Senator Pearce had moved -
That the amendment be agreed to.
Upon which Senator Guthrie had moved -
That the amendment be amended by adding the following -words : - “ where it is shown to the satisfaction of the superintendent that a seaman lawfully engaged has wilfully or through misconduct failed to join his ship the superintendent shall report the matter to the Minister, and the Minister may direct that any of the seaman’s certificates of discharge shall be withheld for such period as he may think fit; and while a seaman’s certificate of discharge is so withheld the Minister may refuse to furnish copies of any of his certificates of discharge or certified extracts of any particulars of service or character.”
Senator DE LARGIE (Western Australia [3.14]. - I think that a great mistake would be made in the interests of the seamen if we were to alter, in any shape or
Forfeiture of all accrued wages not exceeding
Twenty pounds, or a penalty of Twenty pounds.
Forfeiture of two days’ wages with an additional forfeiture of two days’ wages for every twenty-four hours of absence; or a penalty of Twenty pounds. form, the clause as proposed to be amended by the House of Representatives.
Senator Rae. - Shame !
– If Senator Rae nnderstood the subject a little better he would not make such an interjection. He is in the habit of making interjections on matters to which he has not given sufficient attention. I can claim to have given attention to this subject.
– Has the honorable senator been a seaman?
– No, I have not; nor have I been so often “at sea “ in discussing questions as the honorable senator has. The only ports in Australia as to which we need make exacting conditions are those with which there is a considerable amount of oversea trade. I refer to ports such as Newcastle, and Bunbury in Western Australia, whose timber trade is largely foreign.
– What about Geelong and Port Pirie?
– They are not so important. Certainly Newcastle is by far a larger port than all the others which have been mentioned combined. Senator Guthrie has several times asserted that crimping does not enter into the consideration of the clause. But, as a matter of fact, crimping is part and parcel of the matter against which we are trying to provide.
– We have provided against crimping.
– We may have provided for it elsewhere in the Bill, but this clause also deals with the question of desertion.
– We are not discussing desertion. I agree with the clause as far as it relates to desertion. We are dealing with failure to join. That is not desertion.
– The first offence mentioned in column 1 is desertion.
– The part of the clause which the House of Representatives has amended deals with an offence closely allied with desertion, namely -
Absence without leave from duty, such absence not amounting to desertion, or not treated as such by the master.
The House of Representatives propose to add after “ Desertion “ the words - “ Failure or refusal without reasonable cause to join the ship or proceed to sea in the ship.”
– Suppose a man had never actually joined a ship; he could not desert her then.
– Unless we are prepared to deal with men who are parties to crimping we shall make a very grave error. The evidence taken by the Royal Commission at Newcastle showed that both men and captains of ships are parties to abuses which amount to frauds on shipowners. There are persons who enter into agreements with dishonest captains under which men, having a considerable sum of money due to them in wages, are induced to desert, whereupon the crimp and the captain divide the wages between them. Unless we have something to prevent that sort of thing, we shall have men continually refusing to proceed to sea.
– How could a man who has not joined a ship have arrears of wages owing to him? The provision before us refers to one who has not joined a ship.
– It is possible for a man who has signed on to come within the scope of this clause. We are not providing only for men who have actually been to sea in a ship. We need to provide for the case of unsophisticated foreign seamen who may not be acquainted with the practices of crimps at Newcastle, or with the ways of unscrupulous captains who are quite prepared to get quit of a man, no matter how much in wages may . be due to him.
– We could provide against that by a clause to the effect that no unclaimed wages should go into the captain’s hands in any circumstances.
– In New South Wales the sort of thing that I have described has been going on for years.
– This clause wilt not stop it.
– The Bill will stop it, but not the part with which we are dealing..
– This clause will help.
– Not an inch.
– If Senator Guthrie can show that an additional safeguard can be provided, I shall be prepared! to vote for it.
– I have shown that.
– I think not. At any rate, I am prepared to accept the clause as proposed to be amended, believing that it is sufficient.
– It is too much.
– I think that anything less would be too little. The evil’ has been going on for a considerable time, and nothing has been done to prevent it inthe past. Consequently, we require a stringent provision to put an end to it.
– [3- 2 5 j- - Some honorable senators do not seem to realize what is meant by the amendment. We have already dealt effectually with crimping by stopping advance notes. A person giving an advance note is, under this measure, liable to a penalty of ^50. The crimp is not going to use his influenceover men unless there is money in it ; and the only possible way in which he can getmoney is by obtaining the advance note of a seaman before he goes to sea.
– What about the wages due?
– The crimp cannot get the wages due to the seaman.
– That is rot !
– If there are wagesdue to a seaman, he gets them before thesuperintendent. The crimp does not get them. The crimp has lived in the past on the advance notes which seamen might get on joining a new ship.
– And on wages due.
– Crimps have absolutely no control over wages due.
– I think I heard Senator Guthrie say years ago, when we were dealing with this Bill, that the crimp frequently shared in the wages due to a seaman.
– No, in forfeited wages. A ship came into Newcastle with a crew on board. A crimp went on board that ship, and gave the seamen all sorts of inducements to desert. They forfeited their wages on leaving. But the crimp did not get them. The forfeited wages should have gone into the Treasury.
– Where did they go?
– Probably the master retained them. Under the law they ought to have been deposited with the superintendent of the mercantile marine. The crimp simply wanted to get the men out of the ship for the purpose of shipping them on another vessel, where he would get advance ‘ notes for them. By this Bill we have made it absolutely illegal for any owner or master to issue an advance note, or to pay the men money before it is earned. Consequently the crimp’s occupation is entirely gone. He no longer has a leg to stand on.
– What about the seaman who signs on in England or in a foreign country ?
– We have no control over such men. We have already dealt with desertion, making the penalty for that offence the forfeiture of all accrued wages, not exceeding £20, or a fine not exceeding the same amount. It is now proposed by the House of Representatives to make it an offence to fail or refuse without reasonable cause to join a ship or to proceed to sea iri her. I have no objection to the insertion of the words, because I think that they ought to go in.
– The honorable senator has moved an amendment, which we are now considering.
– I intend to ask leave presently to withdraw my amendment temporarily, in order to allow the words to be inserted.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.I think it would be better for that to be done straightaway.
– Very well, but I intend to object to the amount of the penalty.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
– I understood at the last sitting that the Minister was prepared to consider a proposal which was then made, and to come down with another proposal, or to indicate what he was prepared to do in regard to the penalty. I should like to know now what his attitude is.
– At the last sitting of the Committee I indicated that I had given this matter consideration. I said that I had consulted with the Minister of Trade and Customs, the AttorneyGeneral, and the advisers of the Government, and that we could not see our way to adopt the modification proposed, but we were prepared to accept a reduction of the penalty from ^20 to £10.
– I thought that you had been considering the matter since then.
– For the information of Senator Guthrie, who persists in contradicting me in regard to the question of wages, I want to quote some evidence given before the Navigation Commission, of which he was a member, in support of my contention. Mr. David Joseph Williams, manager of the Union Steam-ship Company at Newcastle, swore that he had -
Heard a shipmaster at Newcastle say he had not paid any man for three years; he had made things warm enough for them on board iti order to get them away.
– Exactly; that is what I say.
– The honorable senator forgets a number of things that he says.
– No, you take the wrong meaning from them.
– Another witness, Mr. James McVane, sub-inspector of police at Newcastle, swore -
There is no chance of a man getting a ship unless he goes through the hands of the boardinghouse masters; there are none but “stiffs” and loafers about the shipping offices; captains share the money for supplying seamen, and also the wages due to deserters.
That evidence is pretty strong, and in support of what I said. Still, Senator Guthrie will get up and declaim that crimping and such thing*- have nothing, to do. with the marttei wider discussion. It. is unnecessary to. raaike f urther corruraent.
– There’ is no objection to inserting the words, for the purpose of maintaining discipline.. The; only difference, between Senator- Guthjcie and the. Minister; is as to the amount of the- penalty… The clause provides, for a penalty of £20, which, the Ministers proposes, to. reduce to, £10., while Senator Guthrie wants to substitute sorrier thing else. I think that we had: better get, dow,n to the simple facts, of the case.
Motion agreed to-.
House- ofRepresentatives’ Amendment. - In Column z, af.ter “ Twenty- pounds,” second, occurring,, insert new line, ‘” Penalty of Twenty pounds.”’
Motion (by Senator Pearce) proposed’ -
That the amendment be amended- by leaving out the wordl “‘Twenty,” with a view to insert in lieui theieof the word “ Ten.”
– -Does not that- mean* a maximum ?
– I intend- to oppose a penalty of , £10, because it is altogether excessive. The Minister would be well advised- if he consented to have, at any rate, this part of the Bill’ btought more into line- with present-day thought. I do- not wish to, hold up the measure, but I shall1 feel’ compelled to do all’ that I can to impede its- progress, notwithstanding all the- good provisions- it eontains, if excessive penalties are insisted’ upon. I do not Know why such obstinacy is shown in backing up what suits the shipowners, and is: not ir* the interests, of the seamen.
– It is-.
– Senator de Largie has lectured me upon the small knowledge I have of this matter. I d’o not think that he has displayed, any great amount of knowledge in his criticism’.. We have had quoted to us. evidence to the effect that forfeited wages are divided amongst the crimps- and the dishonest- masters, of the ships., The more money we forfeit, the more they will have- to. divide- up. Icannot see how we will improve the posir tibn of. the seaman: bymaking the: penalty high.
– If the master has an interest with the crimp who- supplies the seamen, is it not to the advantage of the master- to get as, many, men as possible to leave the ship, at the- last moment,, if he to get ros. for. every, mam whos leaves ?
– I. quite see the reason, of that, but I cannot see. how the fining; of a seaman, who refuses to join, a ship, is, going to, help to, penalize the dishonest, crimp or the master.
– It- will not give the. seaman an opportunity to. go away..
– I think it will, because: it is- evident that you cannot get. any money out of the average seaman, and, therefore,, it means gaoling him. The question is, to what extent will the penalty act as a deterrent? It appears to, me that it is an attempt to penalize crimping at the wrong, end-..
– We have done the other as well.
– Yes, where you fine the crimp; but. has any provision been made that all forfeited moneys should be paid, over to a public, authority,, so that there, may be no possibility of a dishonest master whacking them up with somebody else?
– The sea-man- has to initial all statements in the log that an, adrVance has been made, to him..
– That- seems to cut. the, ground from under, the feet of those vvho> pointed out the possibility of a dividing up between the dishonest, master and- the professional crimp. I do. not think that the. arguments, relating to, camping apply to. this clause, in view of other provisions, in, the’ Bill., I have stated all along that my principal objection to these heavy penalties* is that they amount, to the infliction of a. practical injustice- of a very severe, character, because of the unsympathetic disposition of the magistracy. The sailor does not get a square deal., O.ur. newspapers fairly teem with instances, of the most, unjust decisions against seamen.. They are unjust in the eyes of the whole public, and are frequently denounced by. the press as unjust, but with, the consoling remark that it cannot be helped,, as itisithe law. A seaman,, who is not. a registered: voter in. Australia, has not. a political pull. He cannot get a. direct hearing in a Parlia.ment, and consequently no one takes very much, notice of the injustice he suffers, i’ have been looked upon, by honorable senators opposite as. a singular character ber cause I. have criticised adversely the raagisrtrates. who inflict these fines., I speak advisedly, because I have experienced their haushness and unsympathetic character, not only in dealings I have had with them,, but also in. taking up the cases of other- persons. I have found that the grossest injustice has often been inflicted. That is owing to the environment from which the average magistrate cannot get away. .
– Is£10 to be the absolute fine, or simply a maximum?
– Ten pounds is to be the maximum, and under the Acts Interpretation Act the fine imposed may be, say, £5 or 5s.
– I am not going to trust to any man getting off with a minimum fine. I always take it that the maximum may be inflicted, and that it is the harsh and unsympathetic magistrate who will go the whole hog ; and I wish to put it out of his power to inflict a heavy penalty.
– It might be deserved. SenatorRAE. - In ninety-nine cases out of a hundred, I think, it would not be deserved. I am prepared to trust the magistrates up to 40s. worth of discretion. The average worker, I repeat, does not get a square deal from the magistracy.
– You do not object to the principle ?
– No. I think it is in order to discuss, on this clause, the difficulty of keeping agreements in all cases when they are not entered into by both parties from an equal stand-point. We continually hear from our honorable friends opposite and their press as to the sacredness of contract, and the blessings of freedom of contract, but they ignore the fact that there is no free contract unless both parties stand on an equal footing ; unless they are equally free from economic circumstances to complete the contract, or not to make it. I have a very lenient feeling towards a man who enters into a contract only under the force of circumstances. While believing that all contracts or promises, whether verbal or written, should be kept, as far as practicable, we should not apply hard and fast penalties to those who, from force of circumstances break a contract by refusing to join their ship. This penal legislation is a relic of the Dark Ages, and is altogether out of place in the Commonwealth. I feel that I have a good case. We know that the abolition of imprisonment for debt was practically a farce, because the magistrates imprisoned a person for contempt of Court when he did not obey an order to pay a. debt. No imprisonment is provided in this clause for a man refusing to join his ship, but he will be imprisoned for not being able to pay the fine inflicted, and imprisonment bears some relation to the pecuniary penalty. I have seen savage sentences inflicted by the magistrates time after time; and, therefore, I intend to raise my voice against them on every opportunity, and, if necessary, so far as my voice will go, to hold up the Bill. My voice will never go for a penalty of more than a couple of pounds.
– I think that Senator Rae has forgotten that the penalty is to be imposed only when a man does not join his ship without reasonable cause. If a man were ill, or a death had taken place in his family, that would undoubtedly be considered a reasonable cause. Suppose that at the last minute, and without reasonable cause, not one man, but the whole lot, declined to complete the agreement. That would entail great loss upon the shipowner. Surely Senator Rae may assume that every magistrate will give every consideration to a reasonable cause.
– Would not the shipowner have a remedy under the common law, or the law of conspiracy, against an attempt to hold up a ship?
– When a ship is ready to leave port, delay is a serious matter. I believe that a Bench would have a kindly feeling towards a man who was in bad health, or who had had a death in his family, and, therefore, stayed ashore. I cannot understand Senator Rae thinking that all magistrates are rogues.
– Not rogues, but unsympathetic.
– I think that the average magistrate is a sympathetic man.
– It is only a paraphrase for charging the magistrates with injustice.
– I ask Senator Rae to remember that £10 is the maximum penalty. In my opinion, it is not too much to inflict for the inconvenience to which the sailor puts the ship.
.- I wish to point out to Senator Rae that it is somewhat late in the day to start on this poor, unfortunate amendment, a general tilt against the magistracy. It seems to me that he is several months too late. He ought to have started on the first measure imposing a penalty that came before the Senate. Why should he pick out this particular amendment, when we have been passing measures day after day providing for penalties which may be imposed, which he has accepted without a murmur? 1 think 1 can satisfy him that this amendment is necessary in the interests of the seamen. We want to discourage seamen from, after signing an agreement, refusing to proceed to sea without reasonable cause. That is the point.
– That is what I will not trust the magistrates to adjudicate upon.
– These matters will rest not only with magistrates. The honorable senator has entirely disregarded all that I said last week on this subject. If” there is a complaint of bad food, the seaman has his remedy, and the magistrate will not decide that question. If there is a complaint that a ship is unseaworthy, a remedy is provided for the seaman, and the matter is not referred to a magistrate. It is decided, just as the other matter is decided, by the Minister and his experts. If a seaman has a reasonable cause for refusing to go to sea it is not left to the magistrate, that the honorable senator talks about, to decide the matter. If he can prove either of the complaints to which I have referred, he will have a reasonable cause for his refusal to go to sea, and no magistrate will be able to impose a penalty upon him.
– Presumably every other complaint would be a reasonable cause.
– Nothing of the kind. The honorable senator has evidently made up his mind that no matter what may be said he will not change his opinion. It is therefore useless to appeal to his reason any further, and the remainder of my remarks will be made without any special reference to him. Any one who reads the report of the Royal Commission, which Senator Guthrie signed, will come to the conclusion that one of the chief factors in making the practice of crimping payable, was desertion by seamen. By desertion, seamen played into the hands of the crimp. In this Bill, following the recommendations of the Royal Commission, we have recognised that seamen have suffered from a number of disabilities that, as has been said, life on board a ship was made such a hell to the men that they were induced to desert and abandon their wages. We have, in accordance with the recommendations of the Commission, inserted provisions in this Bill to protect seamen in this regard, and to give them facilities for bringing such disabilities before the proper authorities, in order that they may be remedied.
As Senator Lynch pointed out on Friday last, what we want the seamen to do is not to protest by deserting, but to take advantage of the provisions of this Bill, and to have their disabilities remedied in a legal way. We want to discourage seamen from deserting. It is the last thing we want them to do, if we are to have good conditions prevailing in our ships, because, if they desert, the authorities will never hear of their desertion, and therefore will never be given an opportunity to rectify abuses.
– And the public will know nothing of them.
– That is so; and, further, desertion will give the crimp an opportunity tq ply his nefarious trade.
– I rise to a point of order. A short time ago I was called to order for dealing with the ^question of desertion. I ask whether the question of desertion is before the Committee at the present time?
– . The Minister was only incidentally referring to the matter of desertion as it bears upon the particular amendment before the Committee. I rule that he was entitled to make that incidental reference, But that he would not be in order in discussing the question of desertion at length.
– I am endeavouring to show that it is necessary in the interests of the seaman himself that this penalty should be imposed to provide against the breaking of his agreement. If he has a reasonable cause for refusing to join his ship, a proper course of action is provided for him’ in this Bill. If that he not so, Senator Guthrie must share the responsibility of the omission, because we have adopted the recommendations of the Royal Commission which he signed. We are giving those recommendations the force of law in this Bill. We desire that seamen shall have recourse to the usual means to secure their rights, and not, by deserting, continue to make others subject to the conditions which were the grounds for their desertion.
– This is not desertion.
– Refusal to proceed to sea is practically desertion without having done service under an agreement. I saythat if a seaman has a reasonable cause for refusing to proceed to sea, we do not wish him to desert, but, on the contrary, desire to discourage him from deserting, and to encourage him to take advantage of the legal remedies provided under this Bill.
We wish ‘him to ‘disclose the cause of his dissatisfaction, and let the Minister deal with it, and remove it, not merely in his own interests, ‘but inthe interests of seamen generally. There was evidence given before the Navigation Commission that it was the practice of masters, very ‘often in collusion with crimps, to encourage men to break their agreements. A reference to the evidence given by a man named ‘0’ Sullivan appears at page 15 of the Commission’s report. I am not dealing now with the question of desertion and leaving wages in the hands of the master of a vessel, but with the supply ‘of seamen. I quote the following from the report of the Navigation Commission -
For instance, it was sworn by several witnesses that this £1 per head was shared with the master of the” ship, vide O’Sullivan’s evidence : - 21289.Is ‘his your signature to that letter addressed to Captain McNeeley, dated 31st December, 1904? - Yes. 21290. The letter states : - “Sir, - I would like you to excuse me taking the liberty of writing to you concerning your business in supplying you with men, sailor’s wages are£3 ros. per month, my terms, £1 per man, and I return ids. from each £1. Hoping I will have the pleasure of doing your business, I remain, at your services, John O’Sullivan, boarding master, Newcastle.” Attached to that letter is this card: - “J. O’Sullivan and Bridges, boarding masters. Gentlemen sailors attended to. Aucher Frere’s pianos, pills, and salts for use of boarders.” Did you send that letter and card to the captain? - Yes. 21291. Did he agree to your terms? - Yes. 21292. Did he take the 10s. ?- Yes. 21293A. How many men did you supply? -
Those were not men who were deserting, but men who were shipped to take the place of men who had deserted.
– Where did the money come from ?
– It came from the ship-owners, because the captain would be entitled to charge that against the shipowners as an expense incurred at the port of Newcastle for the supply of seamen. He could charge the ship-owners at the tate of £i per man, and make 10s. profit on each man supplied in that way. I continue the quotation - 21293D. Is it the usual practice in Newcastle to do this? - Everybody else does it; Andie-w Wafer does it.
This coldblooded avowal of participation in a nefarious criminal traffic excited no surprise in the shipping community at Newcastle, where long usage had rendered tnose concerned familiar with that and much more of the same kind.
Senator Guthrie tells : as that the oooupaiio» of the crimp will be gone under this Bill, and, so far as regular engagements ‘entered in%o ‘with crimps for the supply -of seamen are concerned, it will be gone. But if we do not provide a penalty for the breaking of an agreement, ; as proposed in this clause, one loop-no’le wfll’l be left for the operations of the crimp. Where engagements have been entered into, . and the crew have been supplied, -and just on the point of sailing men refuse to go ‘to sea, the crimp will be . at hand and will say to the master-, “ I -have men . ready, and I can supply* you with half-a-dozen.” There will then be no engagement before a superintendent ; the ship will leave, probably never to return to Australia ; men will be put on by the crimp, who will get’ his fee ; and the men will go away. The opportunity for the crimp will be created by the refusal of men to go to sea, and, be it remembered^ by the refusal of men who have been properly sig.ned-on before a superintendent, of men who, but for the protection of this measure, would have suffered from the crimp. By doing away with any penalty for the breaking of their engagements by seamen, an opportunity will be afforded the crimp : to re-introduce the practice of crimping ; and, therefore, I say that this provision is most necessary in the interests of the seamen themselves.
– Where is the inducement for a master to get rid of half-a-dozen men and take on another half-a-dozen in their place?
– The inducement would be a profit of 10s. . per head. I make that statement on the authority ‘of Senator Guthrie.
– The honorable senator does ntit.
– I make the statement on the authority of evidence secured by Senator Guthrie.
– The honorable senator is mixing this up with the old conditions.
– I am not. I say that if this proposal is not accepted, an opportunity will be afforded the crimjp -to carry on his business. When men desert, the crimp is always on the watch, and he will be prepared to supply half-a-dozen men to a master at ros. or£1 per head, as the case may be, in order that he may get his ship away.
– I should like to know where the money is to come from.
– It will come from the owners of the ship, because it will be a legitimate charge by the master against the owners.
– And he will get the wages of the men who desert.
– It has been proved by sworn evidence given before the Navigation Commission that it was a common thing for the masters to make 10s. per head out of this practice of crimping.
– Out of the wages.
– Out of the advance notes.
– There isno question, either of wages or advance notes, involved in this clause. The master charges the expense against the owners as an expense incurred on their behalf, and he afterwards recovers from them. If a master pays for the supply of eight seamen, does. Senator Rae believe that he would pay that money out of his own salary ?
– What advantage would it be to the seaman to leave and make way for others?
– I wish that Senator Rae would read the references in the Navigation Commission’s report to the matter of crimping. He would find that crimps supplied seamen, and went round to other ships and induced men to desert, and so made a double profit by their transactions.
– What do the seamen get?
– They get nothing.
– We are going to fine the men who get nothing.
– No; we are going to fine, the seaman because we wish him to take his. legal remedy. If the food is bad, the ship unseaworthy, or the seaman illtreated, lie can make his complaint, and the Minister, and not a magistrate, will deal with it.
– What does that mean? The Minister will not investigate a. case?
– It means the experts, appointed by the Minister. If I were administering the measure, it would be of no use for me to inspect a ship to decide whether she was unseaworthy, though I mighty be able to pass an opinion as to the quality of the food supplied. Let me remind’ honorable senators that we do not propose to impose penalties only on one side. In clause 87 we provide that if a master engages 2 seaman, and then, refuses to take him to sea, which is the converse of the position we are now discussing, the seaman is entitled to not less than one month’s wages as compensation.
– That is not an equality of penalty.
– In the case of ships engaged in the coasting trade it is practically an equality of penalty. The honorable senator loses sight of the fact that the penalty of £10 proposed is the maximum, and the penalty imposed may be halfacrown. I do not propose to take up further time in dealing with the matter. Statementshave been made which indicate that some honorable senators think that this proposal is made in the interests of ship-owners, but, as far as I am concerned, it is submitted, not in the interests of ship-owners, but in the interests of the seamen themselves.
– I think the Minister has made out a strong and almost overwhelming case in favour of his position.
– Of course, all the members of the Opposition will vote for this proposal.
– I quite expected that, interjection. The honorable senator has been flogging his own joss so long that I cannot complain if I get. a little, flogging also. It is evident from the Bill, and from the explanation of the Minister, that very large powers are necessarily intrusted to the Minister who will have the administration of this measure.T Senator Rae’s objection, if I understand3 it, is, first of all, to the penalty; and in that matter, probably for good reasons, the Minister of Defence has met the honorable senator half-way. However, he is not yet satisfied, because in some cases a Bench of magistrates may have to deal with the matter, and may impose the maximum penalty ; and as the majority of magistrates are, in his opinion, possessed of the evil spirit of class bias, such a power should not be placed in their hands. The argument is a weapon of instantaneous self-destruction, which the honorable senator has manufactured for himself. I have no doubt that, from Senator Rae’s point of view, the member of the present Government who will have the. administration of this measure worthily represents a certain class in the community. He may be assumed to have a certain, bias in a direction strongly favored by Senator Rae. It is, however, quite an imaginable proposition; and some of us hope that it will be early realized that there will be a Minister administering the measure who, from Senator Rae’s point of view, will represent what he would call the entirely opposite class. What will happen then? According to the honorable senator’s argument, it would appear that he desires that the Bill should be left open to the very abuse - adopting his point of view - to which he so strongly objects. I have said that the honorable senator’s argument is self -destructive ; and, in his dealing with the matter, I have been reminded of the pig crossing the stream - that if it gets over, only does so with its throat cut.
– I can sympathize to some extent with what Senator Rae. has said, because I believe he has had a rather exceptional experience of magisterial justice. For the sake of the profession, I may say that I can cite instances of magistrates who have been possessed of sufficient backbone to refuse to administer an Act in the way desired by the responsible Minister. i can recall instances in Western Australia where magistrates absolutely refused to take the direction, or accept the dictation, of Ministers who thought it advisable to strain the law in a way which would involve the severe oppression of certain people. There is, after all, nothing to choose between a magistrate who fails to justly administer a law and a Minister who desires to strain it beyond its reasonable limits for political and party purposes. I do hot see how the position could be improved unless we could always have a Labour Minister administering the Bill, and one in whom Senator Rae would have the utmost confidence. We might, under such conditions, secure a near approach to ideal justice. But, seeing that there are imperfections on both sides - through administration and through magisterial law - there does not seem to be much choice between the two. If the magistracy as a whole fail to interpret the law fairly and justly, that is not a reflection on the law, but on the system of administration. The only remedy is either to remove the offending magistrate, or to improve the magistracy, and that can be done by the Government of the day. The Minister proposes to reduce the penalty to £10. Senator Rae has referred to the proposal as being made chiefly in the interests of the ship-owners. But it is quite conceivable that a case will arise where seamen . may find it to their advantage to refuse to join a ship, and where it might suit them to pay a purely nominal fine. Suppose that a ship is just ready to go to sea, having her full number of passengers on board, and her complement of crew, with the exception of one or two; suppose that a few of the men, after signing on, take it into their heads to refuse to join. In the case of a steam-ship, that would mean that those who were leftwould have thrown upon their shoulders an extra strain.
– Property interests against flesh and blood all the time.
– I am speaking as one who has had practical experience of life at sea, not merely for a- few, but for a number, of years. I know that men who work on steam-ships are called upon to work up to their full bodily strength. If some of the men fall sick, it simply means that extra strain is put upon the others who do the work. I have seen, not once, but hundreds of times, men come up from the stokehold, with all appetite gone, and not voice enough to ask for a drink- of water. Men who leave a ship, therefore, do an injustice to their fellow men. I remember occasions when we were obliged to work six-hour shifts, because some of our men fell sick. I heard a bit of growling about it at times. A man who refuses to join a ship without reasonable cause acts a selfish part.
– Would the honorable senator compel a man to work if he is not able?
– No one would do that ; but I am pointing out that, as work is carried out on board a ship, each watch is working against another, and each man has to do his share of the work. If there are sick men on board, extra strain is thrown on those who do the work. If we leave the field clear for any person to leave a ship at the last moment, so as to compel her to go to sea short-handed, we inflict hardship on those who have to work the ship under such conditions. I have known men to leave ships simply because they thought they could not work with the men. who were on board.
– Under this provision, men will be liable to a fine of £10 if they refuse to work with a lot of “cronks.”
– They can give twenty-four hours’ notice. While I was a member of the Seamen’s Union, a man who left his ship was suspended, and suspension might mean the loss of more than £10 to a man.
– That rule was proposed by myself.
– It will be seen, from, what I have stated, that a man who leaves a ship at a critical moment acts a selfish part, and imposes a penalty upon his fellow workmen. Before a seaman joins a ship in any capacity, an agreement is entered into between him and the ship-owner. That agreement is in the nature of a security for the men themselves. If, after an agreement is signed, half-a-dozen men take it into their heads to desert, for the simple reason that they believe the ship to be unsea worthy, there are ample provisions in this measure for ascertaining whether or not their belief is well founded. Expert evidence will be taken, and if it is found that the ship is unseaworthy, not only will the men not be fined, but the ship will be detained. That is a fair adjustment, and works on lines which, as I have already pointed out, have been approved by the Seamen’s Union in the past.
– The penalty imposed by the Seamen’s Union is suspension.
– Suspension means depriving a man of his livelihood. It pre vents him being employed as a seaman for a certain length of time. .
You take my life When you do take the means whereby I live.
Seamen recognise that there is an element of justice in that rule. Of course, if a seaman has a reasonable excuse for refusing to join a ship, he can state it, in which case the only person to determine the matter is the Minister. If the seaman has not a reasonable excuse, he ought to pay the penalty.
.- One point of view has been missed throughout the argument on this clause. A steamer, which is ready to go to sea, may have fifty or a hundred passengers on board. Are not their interests to be taken into consideration ? Are they to be put to expense and inconvenience because a few firemen or seamen may refuse to join the ship? The Minister has distinctly explained that a seaman may refuse to go to sea, if he has a reasonable and just cause. But if he has not, he ought to be punished. Senator Rae has referred to the action of magistrates. I do not know why he has had such an experience of them. My experience, which extends over a good many years, is different from his. I remember that at one time I was in the town of Bathurst, where I knew no one, and was in rather a difficulty about money. I went to the police magistrate, and explained my circumstances; he assisted me with the greatest courtesy, and saw that I got fair play. Surely, because some bench of magistrates has had to deal with Senator Rae, and dealt with him in a manner that he believes to be unjust, we ought not to condemn them all.
– I simply spoke from my experience and knowledge of magistrates.
– The honorable senator spoke of what had personally affected him, but I do not think that all magistrates are as bad as he tried to make out. I am satisfied that if a seaman offered a reasonable excuse for refusing to go to sea, a magistrate would not fine him. I knew of a case where men refused to go to sea, and the captain* was compelled to take twelve or fourteen scratch men on board as firemen. The result was that when the ship got into the English Channel, the men were found to be unfit for their work. There was nearly a mutiny amongst the firemen because all the work had to be done by the good men.
– How does the honorable senator know that the others were not able?
– Because I was a witness of the whole entente. I saw the firemen who had been properly engaged brought up before the captain, and I heard what they had to say. I quite agree with Senator Lynch that if a man signs an agreement fairly and squarely, and refuses to carry it out, he may be doing a great injustice to his fellow workmen. If the penalty proposed were a minimum of £5 or £10, I should be against it, but a discretion is left to the magistrates, and I believe that most Benches would deal with a case according to the circumstances. It would be very rarely, except in an aggravated case, that the full penalty would be imposed. After hearing the explanations of Senator Lynch and the Minister, I shall vote for the clause as amended by the House of Representatives.
– I did intend to vote with the Government on this matter, but, after listening to Senator Lynch and the honorable senator who has just resumed his seat, I have decided to vote on the other side. It appears to me that the only reason for imposing this penalty on men is the inconvenience which would be caused by seamen refusing to join a ship. If we are going to impose penalties on men who are not able to go to work simply because of the inconvenience to others, where is the practice going to end ? Would the penalty be imposed on men who strike without what is considered to be a legitimate excuse ?
– I should like to ask the Minister to reply to that question, because it will affect my vote.
– The honorable senator has already pledged his vote.
– When I was in Great Britain, a large number of vessels were unable to proceed to sea because of a strike in the shipping trade. Could each of the men who struck have been fined £10 under this measure if it had been in force in Great Britain? If so, a grave injustice will be inflicted on workers. In ‘my opinion it is far more important to the workers of this country that they should stand together in a matter of that kind than that the interests of shipping companies should be considered. I know that that remark exhibits a standard of morality which some of my colleagues would not admit, but, at all events, it is my standard ; and when it comes to be a question of doing something for the benefit of the workers for all future time, I hold that the principle that should apply is that of the greatest benefit to the greatest number. I fear that there is some danger that a provision of this kind will be brought into operation to penalize men who go on strike. It appears to me that honorable senators have been dealing with seamen as though they were beings distinct from ourselves. Let us consider their case as though their interests were ours. Is there one of us who would like to work under a provision of this kind? If I agreed to sail in a ship to-morrow, and if, after I went down to the wharf and saw her, I preferred to remain in Australia, why should I be penalized for doing so? Why should a man be compelled to leave the country against his will? Suppose a seaman has a presentiment that the ship for which he has signed on will go down, or that an accident will happen, why should we. compel him to go to his grave?
– Suppose the honorable senator were going to Western Australia, and, when he got down to the wharf, he found that the men on board the steamer refused to go ?
– I do not want to get away from the real point at issue. The penalty is altogether unreasonable, but I should be quite prepared to vote for a moderate amount with a view of conforming to the old custom under which the employer has always been put in a different class from his employe. The penalty inflicted on the employer is always different from that inflicted on the employe. It is always inflicted on one. side.
– In this case there is a penalty provided on both sides.
– That may be. I want to treat sailors as free men, with the right to leave their ship the moment they feel that it is to their interest to leave. If we concede, as we do, that twenty-four hours is sufficient notice for a seaman to give, I think that the forfeiture of twentyfour hours’ wages should be a sufficient penalty to impose upon a seaman who refused to join his ship.
– I have heard the Minister and Senators de Largie and Lynch quote evidence given before the Navigation Commission. With this evidence in their possession, why did they not think of providing for this penalty when the Bill, was before the Senate previously? Senator Gould has explained why the matter was forgotten. He has told us that the shipowners have represented to the Government that there must be a penalty provided for men who hold up their ships. The Government were practically induced by the ship-owners, for their own safeguard, to make this amendment in another place. I do not intend to vote for the infliction of a penalty upon seamen, because I am too familiar with the disabilities under which they work. I have seen them too often sent to sea in coffins, when they never expected to return. I have seen instances where men have refused to go to sea. Under this amendment, they will be penalized to the extent of £10. Why did not the Government, I repeat, think of this matter when the Bill was last before the Senate? They thought it right then that there should be no pecuniary penalty provided, and I want to know why it is not right now.
– There has been a lot of criticism of <my remarks, and the Minister has determined to abandon me as a sort of water-logged hulk.. I did not care to raise the point which Senator Gardiner has raised about a strike, because I thought that I might be regarded as an extremist in such matters; but now that the .point has been raised, I say that any member of the Labour party who votes for this provision will be a “ scab.”
– What ?
– A “ scab.” Does not the honorable senator know what that means ?
– Withdraw it.
– 1 have not called any one in particular a scab. I suppose that I can use the term generally?
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.The honorable senator should confine himself to the discussion of the amendment.
– I want to give reasons.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Personalities are not reasons.
– It is an offensive term to use. .
– It is a most insulting term.
– Well, I will say that a member of the Labour party who votes for the provision is not acting up to the ideals of unionism.
– Do you not think that there are men here just as good as you are?
– From a Labour standpoint, what better cause could there be, if there was a strike on another ship, for the men on a ship to change their minds ?
– A seaman who is in port and goes on strike is a deserter, and the honorable senator has agreed to the imposition of a penalty -of £20 for a case of that kind.
– I can assure the Minister that I am very sorry that I overlooked the provision.
– It is contained in the first part of this clause.
– We can recommit the clause, and deal with the penalty.
– It seems that I have unintentionally” “ black-legged “ on my own crowd by voting for a penalty for desertion ; but an offence committed in ignorance frees an offender from moral guilt. At any rate, we should not repeat the offence. I certainly think that, in this age of industrial unrest, if there is a justifiable cause for men refusing to go to work, it is when they know that by doing so they will lose the respect of every member of their class. I am really surprised that a Labour Government have not had the courage to put in a provision exempt ing seamen from the operation of these penalties, at any rate, in the case of a strike, even though they might stick, in their own stubborn way, to the penalties in other respects. -Senator Lynch has made -a long speech, in which he tried to give -weight to his arguments by quoting Eis personal experience, and wished to pit that against mine., as it were. I was not putting forward my personal experience of seafaring life, but I was pitting my opinion of magistrates against those who are prepared to trust them to an unlimited extent, as is done in this measure. I am not complaining of my personal experience of magistrates, because, in the long run, I have beaten them out of sight. I have no personal grievance. I have not been before a magistrate for twenty years, -and I am now a member of that privileged class. I contend that if such a state of affairs as Senator Lynch depicted arose, that a body of men would render themselves liable to very severe work if they went to sea shorthanded, they would have a reasonable cause, which could not be disputed, £6 refuse to go on board. Certainly no case could be made out against men who refused to proceed with their duty in the event of the ship being so short-handed that it would throw upon them duties beyond their physical strength to carry through. We know that this provision applies to the case of a man who, at the initiation of a voyage, refuses to join a ship.
– Without giving his employer any reason.
– Not necessarily without giving his employer any reason, but for doing it without reasonable cause, in the opinion of the magistrate. The argument has been put forward that there are good magistrates. I haw never denied that. I admit that some magistrates may be the most admirable nien in the world. I was only talking of the average magistrate; and my experience of him goes a long way further than .any cases in which I have been personally involved. I have been thinking more particularly of paid magistrates. Innumerable instances have been reported in the daily press where the penalties meted out to seamen have been far and away ‘beyond all reason as compared with the penalties inflicted for similar offences committed by ordinary landsmen. The sailor has proverbially been badly treated in the Courts, and I put it down to the fact that he has no political friends. Now, if this Bill makes the position an ideal one, is it likely that there will be a very large number of seamen availing themselves of the opportunity to leave their ship without a reasonable cause? If such cases are very frequent, it will be an impeachment of the measure, and it will show that the conditions surrounding seafaring life are still so bad that the temptation not to fulfil an agreement is paramount in many instances. If the Bill succeeds in bringing about ideal conditions, there will be no great difficulty arising from men coming under the conditions of this clause. The object of the measure is to make the conditions of the seaman so good that he will be just as ready to go to sea as men are ready to take employment on land.
– Do you not see that it is an injustice to ask men to go to sea when some men are absent?
– A ship should not be allowed to go to sea until there is a sufficient crew aboard. We cannot get away from the fact that if some men were to leave a ship unreasonably, that must, if it brings about the undermanning of a ship, be a reasonable cause why the others should not proceed on their voyage.
– But they get no opportunity to leave. Sometimes it is not discovered that men have gone until the ship is well out at sea.
– In that case, there would be a poor chance of sheeting home an offence. The maximum penalty imposed on the ship-owner for refusing to complete his agreement is, by the admission of the Minister, not so much in any case as is the reduced maximum which he proposes in this amendment to inflict on the seaman. Where is the fairness of a proposal introduced by a Labour Government, and amended very largely at the dictation of the ship-owners’ interest in another House, and made the worse by those amendments ?
– You are talking a lot of nonsense.
– Senator Lynch is very fond of accusing others of talking nonsense.
– You are going too far in saying that it has been done at the dictation of the ship-owners’ interest.
– We all know the influence which ship-owners do bring to bear. A number of the amendments introduced in the other House were never brought for ward until the ship-owners had sent their circulars to honorable members asking them to do so.
– But have they not some interest?
– I do not say that they have not. They have, it appears, an interest which can even undermine a Labour majority.
– Have they not a right to have their interest considered, and to have a fair thing done?
– Certainly they have a right to have their interest considered, but not necessarily their views adopted. Undue consideration has been given to their representations, and, as a result, the Bill has come back a lot worse than it was before it left here. If I have defaulted in my duty in some particulars through not paying close attention to the clauses, I shall make up for my default in those cases where I do pay attention. I shall fight against this penalty to the extent of dividing the Committee, because I believe that a maximum fine of £2 would be more practicable and more effective.
– You will punish the men?
– I do not like the proposal at all.
– But still you are prepared to punish them?
– I think that there should be a clause exempting the sailors in a case where other men engaged in the same industry are on strike.
– You would do away with the agreement?
– 1 guarantee that Senator Lynch, if he is throwing off at me, would not dare, on his return to Western Australia, to keep outside a strike in which wharf labourers were engaged, or refuse to offer them pecuniary assistance from the union.
– I have been through too many strikes.
– So have I, Utterances made here under Conservative influences are not the same as those made at Labour gatherings. Honorable senators who say that I am talking nonsense might keep a little of their vehemence for opposing the other side, instead of barracking for proposals which are shown to be objectionable and reactionary by the unanimous support given them by the Opposition.
– I cannot see my way to support the amendment now proposed by the Government fixing the penalty at £10. I think the penalty should be wholly abolished. Each one of us knows that the whole difficulty between shipowners and their men has been due to the inhuman treatment by shipping companies of their employes. In making this statement, I have splendid testimony, not only from the records of the mercantile marine of Great Britain, but in the report of the Navigation Commission. What do they say about it? -
Men do not leave their employment without cause if reasonably treated, well-paid, and properly fed.
I say advisedly that, in that one sentence, we have the whole gist of the trouble between ship-owners and their men. We know perfectly well that, in ordinary times - and unfortunately times are nearly always ordinary, and sometimes very ordinary - when a man wants a job, he finds he has to compete with perhaps dozens of others. At the present moment labour is probably more fully employed in Australia than it has ever before been in the history of the country. That may be owing to the presence of several Labour Governments in the Commonwealth. That may be a mere coincidence, but the fact remains that at present seamen, like other workers, have little difficulty in finding employment. But in the ordinary course of events a seaman has just as much trouble in getting a job as has an ordinary landsman, and the shipping companies have not been slow to take advantage of his position. The result has been that sailors throughout the world have become a sort of industrial outlaws. They have been subjected to treatment which landsmen would not tolerate for a single moment, and which no Legislature would permit to be dealt out to landsmen. I do not knowwhy that has been the case. Some one has said that it has been because the seaman has had no political friends. There may be something in that, but I trust that the seaman has some political friends in this Parliament. I know that he has many friends in the Commonwealth, and that the great mass of the people of Australia are as anxious that the seaman should get fair play as that a landsman should be treated fairly. To get to the root of desertion, failure to join a ship, . and all the other difficulties, we have to examine the treat- ment dealt out by shipping companies to seamen. The Navigation Commission’s report refers to cases which, if they appeared in a novel, would not be credited, because they are so much outside the run of ordinary human experience. The unfortunate seaman seems to be fair game for the shipping companies, crimps, boardinghousekeepers, and every individual who thinks that he or she can with impunity plunder him. So far as I am concerned, I shall attempt to do something which will compel ship-owners to treat their men as they ought to be treated. I say, with the authors of the Navigation Commission’s report, that men do not leave their employment without cause if they are reasonably treated, well paid, and properly fed. Here is another sentence from the report which I commend to honorable senators on both sides -
If the owner knew that unless he treated his crew properly they could leave at the first opportunity he would see that they had no just cause for complaint.
That being the case, I do not see why we should impose any penalty upon men for refusing to join their ship. If their treatment is all that it ought to be, the wages good, and the conditions satisfactory, instead of having this great trouble with their men the shipping companies would be able to get any number of employes. I do not think that Senator Lynch meant to be an apologist for the shipping companies, but that was practically the attitude he took up. He told us of the hard work in the stoke-hold, and I have not the slightest doubt that it is extremely hard work.
– No one knows it better than does the honorable senator referred to, because’ he did the work..
– I quite understand that. Senator Lynch evidently did the work, and knows what it is. He told us that he was called on on various occasions to work extra hours because of the failure of some men to do their work properly, and on occasions when men who, I suppose, were disgusted with the work and the conditions, had left the ship.
– Was that fair to Senator Lynch?
– It was not; but we must go back to the origin of the difficulty. Where is it to be found ? It is to be found in the fact, in the first instance, that the shipping companies do not provide a sufficient number of men to man the :stoke-hold. The number supplied is strictly limited to ;a number barely sufficient to do the work. I say the obligation ought to be thrust upon shipping companies to provide a sufficient .number of -men to sarry out the work of their ships. It should not be sufficient to say at the port of sailing that they complied with the Act. There should always be a margin provided for, because, in the case .of such work as we are now considering, there is always the liability, and, indeed, a likelihood, that some -men will fall out through sheer physical- inability to continue their work. But it appears that no provision is made by shipping companies for that contingency, and they are under no liability even to be satisfied that the men they employ are competent. All that they require to do is to provide a certain number of men to do certain work. If half of those men fail through lack of experience or physical weakness, the other half are expected to do the work. I say that the moment a man drops out the remaining men should be at liberty to at once cease work”, and the responsibility for having a reserve of men to replace those who fall out should rest upon the shipping companies. I shall be told -that all this means a great deal of difficulty. Of course it does, because life on board a ship is like no other kind of life. There is all the more reason on that account why we should do everything in our power to safeguard the interests of the men who have to do the actual work on board ship. In the past it has been pointed out here time and again that the life of a seaman has ‘been the life of a dog, a life which no man, who could find anything better to do, would think of adopting. If we are so interested in the sailing of ships and constant intercourse between nations, we should see that in the future the conditions on board ship shall be good. And then men, instead of deserting, or failing to join their ships after signing agreements, will be only too anxious to join them and do their work. We never hear of men deserting from Government employment.
– Oh, yes, we do.
– Very seldom. Men seldom desert from our railway service. Very few of our Post Office employes desert and leave their wages ‘ behind them, risking fines, imprisonment, and other difficulties and dangers. And why? It is because they are well off, fairly treated, and the conditions of their employment are good. This Parliament should compel ship-owners to provide good conditions and fair wages for their employes.
– Is not that what we are trying to do under this Bill?
– We are trying to do it in a kind of way. .1 do not expect that we shall pass a perfect Bill. How could we?
– Are we not trying to serve the interests of the men as well as the interests of the owners?
– I say absolutely no. It is proposed .to inflict a penalty of j£io upon a man who, without reasonable cause, fails to join .his ship, or proceed to sea. That is a very severe penalty. What is the average wage of a seaman ?
– The average) wage of a foreign-going seaman is £5 per month.
– Then the penalty amounts to more than three months’ wages.
-Colonel Sir Albert Gould. - That is not the average wage on most of the ships thai will come under this Bill.
– The Bill will apply to foreign-going seamen.
– What is the average wage of Australian seamen?
– £8 per month.
– Then the penalty in their case amounts to more than a month’s wages if they fail to join their ship without reasonable cause. The words “reasonable cause” are all very well in an Act of Parliament, but when it comes to discovering what is the meaning of the words, we know perfectly well that the average seaman might have a dozen reasons for failing to join his ship and carry out his agreement, and he will think each one of them reasonable. The difficulty is that he will have to prove that they are reasonable before a Court. That may involve the employment of a solicitor, and the taking up of a great deal of valuable time. It will mean putting the seaman to all sorts of inconvenience, and that being the case, rather than give any reason, he will probably let things slide. He will forfeit his wages, or even incur the obligation to pay a fine rather than go to sea. If we wish to get rid of the whole of this business, we should take the broad hint given us by the Navigation Commission. The members of that Commission actually invite men to desert. They excuse therm for deserting, and say that they are perfectly justified in deserting if they are not fairly treated. Let me read again what they say; -
If the owner knew that unless he treated his crew properly they would leave at the first opportunity he would see that they had no just cause for complaint.
That ought to be sufficient.
– If they have a reasonable cause of complaint, they will not be .punished under this provision.
– The owners would take care that their men- were well fed. and well treated if they knew they could leave a ship at any moment. Even with the adoption of modern ideas regarding seamen, the position of these unfortunate men is far from being what it ought to be.
– Is the food scale provided for in the Bill insufficient?
– I have not read the scale, and I do not know whether the men will be fed according to the scale or not.
– If they are not they will incur no penalty under this provision.
– Here is another statement which is made by the Royal Commission -
To find himself, after months of incessant toil and hardship, the victim of a conspiracy between the master of the ship and the crimps to rob him of his wages is not calculated to raise his standard of morality, or to make him regard the sea as*1 a desirable calling. None but the most improvident, the most careless, the least ambitious, and the most worthless, or- the most unfortunate, tolerate these conditions for any length of time. If in all ships the treatment was as in those we have spoken of, the British seaman of a desirable class would -soon become extinct. As. it is, there is every reason to believe that the conditions described are sufficiently prevalent to constitute a menace to the most important industry of the Empire. It is most significant’ that desertions from this and other causes seem more prevalent from British than from foreign vessels.
That is surely a very strong indictment levelled at our British mercantile marine.
– The conditions on British ships are better than on foreign ships.
– Desertions would appear to be more numerous in the case of British ships than in foreign ships. My opinion of workmen, whether on land or at sea, is that where the conditions of their employment’ are good, they stick. The great object of every Legislature should be to make the conditions of employment so favorable that working men, instead of taking the first opportunity to run away from their employment, will be glad to stay and do the work they are engaged to do. I would again impress upon the Committee the desirability of doing everything in our power to compel ship-owners to treat their men fairly and squarely, as human beings ought to be treated. If they did that, there would be very little cause for legislation such as we are now engaged upon.
– I think the matter has been very fully discussed, and the only question to be considered now is what punishment shall be imposed upon men who fail to join their ships. I have proposed that we should follow the procedure adopted by the Board of Trade for the punishment of men who. miss their passage, or who fail to join their ship.
– The honorable sena? tor knows that that does not apply in this case, because the Imperial Act provides for advance notes, and they are not. provided for in this Bill.
– The matter, of the advance note is dealt with in a different section altogether of the Merchant Shipping Act.
– It affects this matter very much.
– It does not affect this matter at all.
– The honorable senator used to think that it did.
– I did not. I have explained that it is the first subsection of section 65 of the Merchant Shipping Act of 1906. that deals with advance notes, and the punishment where they are abused. We have to consider what punishment will act as a deterrent in the case of this offence. The Government propose that a fine of £10 should be imposed. This means that if a man fails to join his ship, either with or without a reasonable cause, he may be arrested and thrown into gaol. Unless he can find bail, he has to remain there until such time as he can be brought before a magistrate. Under this Bill we are relieving the owner or master from the trouble of prosecuting the men. We say that: if there is no reasonable excuse for a man leaving a ship, the superintendent shall, bring him before the Court.,
-Colonel Sir Albert Gould. - How does the honorable senator propose to deal with the matter ?
– Just as the Merchant Shipping Act does in Great Britain. The provisions of the Merchant Shipping Act regarding this matter are even more tyrannical than those of this Bill.
– Under my proposal, the superintendent would deal with the matter, and forward the facts to the Minister, who would withhold the seaman’s certificate for such a time as he deemed fit.
– The man’s certificate might be suspended for twelve months, and that would mean a loss of more than £to to him.
– I say that the superintendent is the proper person to deal with a matter of this kind. As a rule, superintendents of mercantile marine, who are in the habit of dealing with seamen every day, are well fitted to discharge such duties. An ordinary magistrate has not the same acquaintance with maritime law as has a marine superintendent. I appeal to those honorable senators who are continually praising British law to consider whether what is good enough for Great Britain in this respect is not good enough for the Commonwealth ? The matter with which we are now dealing was a new offence in the British Act of 1854. It was not included in the Act of 1894. It was again provided for in the Act of 1906, which was based on the report of three special Committees, which dealt entirely with merchant shipping. I ask the Committee not to agree to a proposal that involves fine and imprisonment, because imprisonment must necessarily follow unless a man can find bail, which in the case of a seaman would be very difficult. A question has been raised in regard to men being taken out of ships by crimps. But, as I have said before, if the provisions of this Bill are properly carried out, there will be no crimping. The crimp in the past has only thriven by means of advance notes.
– That is nonsense; what about wages?
– Does the honorable senator think that the master “of a ship is going to give up the wages of seamen when he has them in his own hands? The advance-note system is entirely responsible for robbery by crimping. If honorable senators had the sea experience that I have had they would know that such was the case.
– Is it not a long time since the honorable senator was at sea ?
– I have had experience of crimping in all parts of the world. I have been acquainted with ships and seamen all my life, and, since I left . the sea, I have been continually mixed up with shipping questions.
– The honorable senator knows as much about seamanship now as I do about mining.
– I know something about the conditions that obtain on board ship. Senator de Largie has set himself up as an authority, not only on mining, but also on shipping, his ‘acquaintance with which is very limited. I am very anxious to see this Bill put through, but I consider that it is worth while having a good fight to prevent the fine of £10 being inflicted on men for refusing to join a ship. I again say that the superintendent is the proper person to deal with such cases. He would act fairly, and he would have to report to the Minister, who in his turn would be responsible to Parliament.
-Colonel Sir Albert Gould. - And be amenable to political pressure.
– I do not ask for political pressure.
-Colonel Sir Albert Gould. - That is what the honorable senator wants to get.
– What the Minister does has to be done in the face of Parliament, and, if he improperly suspends a man’s certificate, there might be a noconfidence motion, and the Minister might be removed. That is the difference between reference to the Minister and to a magistrate.
– This is a very simple matter, notwithstanding all the words that have been used with respect to it. The proposal now made is that a seaman, who refuses to join his ship without reasonable cause, shall be liable to a penalty not exceeding ^10. We are all prepared to pay due deference to Senator Guthrie’s knowledge of maritime law and seafaring matters. But I should like to ask him what the Seamen’s Union themselves did in a case identical with that now under consideration? They actually sat in judg- merit upon the case of some men who refused to join their ship, and punished them by suspension. That was done in the case of the Koombana, in Western Australia.
– The men were not fined for that at all.
– Then, why were they fined ? With what were they charged ?
– They were charged with disobeying union officials.
– It is, at any rate, admitted by Senator Guthrie that the Seamen’s Union have recognised the manifest injustice of aseaman who fails to join his ship without reasonable cause.
– We have all admitted that.
– The union instituted a penalty of suspension.
– Each case was dealt with on its merits.
– What did the suspension amount to? The men were not permitted to follow their usual occupation for six months. That meant, in the case of firemen, a loss to them of£60. The proposal of the Government is that a seaman who refuses to join his ship without reasonable cause shall be fined not more than ; £10. Why should Senator Guthrie strain at a gnat of a fine of £10, when he is prepared to swallow the camel of £60, which is what the penalty exacted vby the Seamen’s Union, in some cases, amounted to?
– The point is that, under this Bill, an offender may be made a criminal.
– But the Seamen’s Union also exact the penalty. We have been too long splitting straws over this matter. The offence in question is recognised by the Seamen’s Union to be worthy of punishment, and I, therefore, think it is only reasonable to describe it in an, Act of Parliament as an offence.
Senator STEWART (Queensland) 15.25]. - After considering this matter, I have come to the conclusion that, if I did >the right thing, I should vote against any penalty at all. I fail to see why a seaman, because he breaks an agreement, should be hauled before the Court and practically manufactured into a criminal ; or why a shipping company, if a man breaks an agreement with it, should not iproceed against him, in the ordinary way, for civil damages. I believe that a breach of an agreement ought to be taken out of the category of quasi criminal offences.
– Why have an agreement at all ?
– If the honorable senator reads the report of the Royal Commission, he will see that’ Parliament is given a direct hint that, if there were no agreement, it would be much better for the seamen. I am not worrying about the shipping companies; they are able perfectly well to look after themselves.
– The honorable senator only looks after tramway companies.
– I may do that also, and may see that the men who are employed by such companies get a fair deal. That I have done.
– The honorable senator has done a lot.
– If they do not get a fair deal, it is because there is not asufficent number of men, like myself, who are interested in their cause. If there were more men of my calibre and position, such things as took place recently would not occur. So that, instead of the VicePresident of the Executive Council throwing sneers at me, he ought to pray that, if private enterprise is to continue, it should be in the hands of people of my way of thinking, rather than in the hands of those who take an opposite view of things. To come back to the question at issue, I think that it is a proper thing to take the offences dealt with in this clause out of the sphere of semi-criminal powers, and put the shipping companies in the position that, if a seaman breaks his agreement, he shall be sued in the ordinary way, under the common law. Believing that to be the proper procedure, I intend to vote, not only against the proposal of the Government, but also against any penalty whatsoever.
– I should like to hear what the honorable senator would say if he had to work six-hour shifts in the tropics.
– The obligation ought to be imposed upon the shipping companies to provide such a number of men known to be competent as would leave a margin for sickness, or inability, or physical weakness, to do work in the tropics. No such obligation rests upon shipping companies at present, and, unfortunately, we are doing nothing to impose any. The whole of my argument simply echoes what the Royal Commission have said, that if the shipping companies would only make the conditions on board ship what they ought to be, they would have no difficulty in getting men, and. their men would, not desert. They would be only too anxious to retain their employment if conditions were what they ought to be. The central point in connexion with this matter, upon- which we ought to keep our eyes fixed, is that of doing nothing to make the companies lax or unfair in their treatment of their men. I have come to the conclusion to vote, not only against the Government’s fine of £10, but also against Senator Guthrie’s proposal to deprive a man of his discharge.
– You are going to leave the- words in and provide no penalty.
– I shall vote to strike them out if I get an opportunity. (The more we discuss this matter the more light we get. It cannot be stated too often that all the trouble which ship-owners have with their men springs from the fact that they do not treat them fairly. In the old days, sugar-growers, when they had kanakas^ could not get white men to work for them. Why? Because they treated white men as they treated kanakas. The ship-owners are in the same position ‘to-day as the sugargrowers were in then ? I am not referring to Australian shipping companies, because; fortunately; public opinion is against, that sort of treatment on our coast. It is notorious that British shipping companies look upon< their seamen, as the- scum of the earth, and treat them as they think such individuals ought to be treated ; and, in addition,, they place them very often in competition with cheap coloured seamen. The whole conduct of the British mercantile’ marine is- a disgrace to the Empire. It is a long record of brutal extortion and sweating, and we in the Commonwealth ought not to countenance that sort of thing, even in the slightest degree. I appeal to the Committee to take a common-sense view of this question, and remove this offence from the criminal or semi-criminal sphere; and deal with seamen just as we would do with- an ordinary landsman who fails to implement an agreement he has made.
– The conditions are not the same, because sailors who do not join hold up the vessel for a time.
– Of course, the conditions are not the same, and that is why I insist upon seamen getting good pay, adequate accommodation, and healthsustaining food. Senator Guthrie seems to think that a seaman would get fair play between the superintendent, and the Go vernment. I ask him to think for a moment of what might happen under a* Conservative Government, over which the shipping companies would have a great pulL Some member or members of the Government might have an interest in one or other of- the shipping corporations,, or a number of members of Parliament might be interested in the industry. Just imagine what chance of fair treatment a seaman, would have under such conditions. Would the Minister be at all likely to immediately give a discharge to a man who had put a shipping company to some inconvenience, or would he not be more likely to hold it up probably for as long a period as the Seamen’s Union did to one man recently ? I think that the period for which he was suspended was six months.
– That was not for quitting a ship.
– What was it for?
– It was for disobedience to the officials of the union, for obstructing them, which is another thing altogether.
– This puts quite another phase on the situation. It was not for any wrong committed against the shipping companies, but because the man had refused to obey some order of the- union. He may have deserved expulsion from the union; I do not know anything at all about the matter.
– It evidently has nothing, to do with this amendment.
– No; and that isthe point I wish to emphasize. I should* like to hear” Senator Guthrie again in connexion with this discharge business. With’ a Conservative Government it might meanthat a man would be permanently deprived: of the kind of work to which he had beer* accustomed, and I am not prepared to expose a man to a danger of that kind. Of course, I realize that, with a Labour Government in power, a man would get a fair show. The Navigation Commission hinted that it would be a very good thing if the. penalty for desertion were completely abolished, and I believe that it was right.. I consider that, if men were free to leaveat any moment, the shipping companieswould take very good care that they had’ every inducement to remain. As. it is,- the shipping companies can immediately invoke the law, with all its pains and penalties, im conveniences and injustices, against the seaman. For that reason the ship-owner takes very little or no care to see that the seaman is treated -as a human being ought to be treated. I should like to support the amendment ‘of . Senator Guthrie, because he has a much more accurate . knowledge of the whole subject than I have. I know that he also speaks in a very great measure for the seamen, and probably what he advocates is something which they would be prepared to approve of.
– Of two evils choose the lesser.
– I am not very sure which is the lesser evil. A fine ranging from 5s. to £5 or £10 might be a very much lighter penalty than the withholding of a man’s certificate.
– It would depend upon the discharge. If it is a bad one, a man would like them to keep it for ever.
– There might be a private mark on the discharge. I do not believe in withholding the discharges of men or fining them. Unless the honorable senator throws . more light on his amendment than I can see now, I shall vote both against the Government and against himself.
– There has been a very considerable amount of time wasted on this clause, and, to my mind, in an irrelevant discussion. I believe that Senator Stewart is earnestly endeavouring to do the best he possibly can for the’ seaman. I do not doubt that Senators Guthrie and Rae are trying to do exactly the same thing. We ought to look at a question of this kind from a broad view-point. We ought not to look at it altogether from the point of view of the seaman.
– Is there no more important individual in the community than the ship-owner or the seaman ? What about the passenger ? Did Senator Rae ever hear of the interest of passengers being considered ?
– I have been one myself.
– Here we have a Bill brought down by past Governments, and promoted by this Government, which is the outcome of consideration by a Royal Commission and every other intelligent body whose opinion could be brought to bear .
– This provision was not in the Bill previously.
SenatorMcGREGOR. - Senator Guthrie is not the only intelligent individual in Australia. ‘Senator Stewart is not the only seer in the Commonwealth. I do not claim that theGovernmenthave all the wisdom on the face of the earth, but I do claim that they have endeavoured to get a’ll the information they possibly could from every source.
– They never got any information from their own supporters, anyhow. They never take any notice of them.,
– It all depends upon what sort of supporters they are. There are intelligent supporters.
– There areparty hacks, and that is the sort you like.
– There are supporters of a different description.
– The Government get the information, and then lose it.
– I am not going into a discussion of that description, ‘because itwould be out of order. This is a Bill which is promoted in the interest of the general community, in the interest of the seamen particularly, and also in the interest of the ship-owners.
– No; in the interest of navigation.
– Navigation is a matter of great interest to the wholecommunity. Senator Stewart has given us a very long oration on the hardships, and everything else, which have been endured by seamen, but this is a Bill -for the purpose of relieving seamen from hardships. He has stated that the Navigation Commission pointed out that if seamen were treated well in respect of food, working hours, accommodation, and everything else, they would be more contented. The purpose of this Bill is to give better conditions in connexion with food, accommodation, and space.
– You need not surround those benefits with a lot of penal clauses.
– We want to put everybody in a position to do their duty without fear or favour. Senator Stewart has talked about men deserting ships, but this amendment has nothing to do with desertion. It applies, not to men who have been in service on a ship continuously, or for any period, but to men who have . engaged to go on board a ship, and carry out their duties on a certain voyage. It applies to men who havejoined a ship, and entered into an agreement to work there for the future.
– That is the argument of the man who “ shanghaies.”
– The opponents of this provision are those who are supporting the “ shanghaier. “
– The honorable senator knows as well as I do that it is when men refuse to go on board a ship, and carry out their duties, that the crimp comes in, and supplies men to fill their places.
– When there is an advance note, but you know that the advance note is being done away with in this Bill.
- Senator Stewart is under a misapprehension. This clause is not intended for men who have had the experience of bad food on a vessel, or for men who have been overworked, or for men who have had insufficient accommodation, but for men who have joined a ship under the conditions set down in the Bill. I want him to bear that in mind. It is not even for men who under the conditions which will be established by this Bill have sailed in a ship, but for men who have agreed to join a ship at a certain port, and at the last minute, when she is about to sail, step ashore for some fancied or other reason, which they should have discovered before they engaged. They should make inquiries before they sign articles to go on board a ship.
– They have no chance.
– The honorable senator knows very well that every man has a chance to learn something about a ship if he wishes to do so. He need not try to throw dust in my eyes, because I know as much about the business as he does.
– The honorable senator does not know half as much.
– I should like to back my knowledge, even in that respect, against that of the honorable senator.
– It would take a man a week to find a ship in Sydney Harbor.
– It would not take a man who had engaged on a ship a week to find her. He would know all about her, because he is the man interested. Senator Stewart says that the man who steps ashore from a ship at the last minute and leaves her shorthanded should have no responsibility, and that if two or three men do that kind of thing nothing should be done to them for breaking their agreement.
– Hang them.
– I do not wish to hang anybody. Suppose that at Port Ade laide three or four men were engaged to go on board one of the Inter-State vessels, and just before the sailing of the vessel,they stepped ashore, and the vessel went to sea.
– She should not be allowed to go to sea.
– How are the authorities to know that men have deserted’ the ship ? Does the honorable senator know anything at all about a ship? A ship is not like a market garden. You cannot see all over it at once. You can tell if fruit? pickers are continuing their work or have left it, but we are dealing with a ship, and not a garden, and a ship is a very different thing. ‘ Seamen could go ashore without being noticed. Senator Guthrie knows that very well, and he knows also that a ship might go to sea before the desertion of men was discovered. We will say that the Inter- State vessel to which I have referred! goes to sea short of three or four hands,, and, when she gets into the Australian! Bight, a storm arises, and it requires a fulh complement of seamen to manage the ship under such conditions. What would honorable senators who object to this proposal do then? Would they send for one of Senator Findley’s dirigibles to bring three or four seamen on board from Port Adelaide? The ridiculousness of the position which some honorable senators set up should be apparent to the simplest person in the Commonwealth.
– The honorable senator is fighting well for the shipowners.
– I am not speaking for the ship-owners. I have no more interest in them than has Senator McDougall ; but I remind him that, only yesterday, Senator Stewart pointed out emphatically that capital has as much right to protection as labour. We have as much right to consider the protection of the shipping industry, and we have a greater right to see that we safeguard the lives and property of passengers who travel by ships in. our waters. They are the people I am considering in this matter. If three or, four men step ashore from a ship, and she is lost in a storm in the Australian Bight, because there are not sufficient sear men on board to handle her, and hundreds of men and women are lost, who will be responsible? Will it not be the men who in this Senate are not prepared to pass such legislation as would make the means to* secure the safety of people travelling on our ships as perfect as they can be made?
– The honorable senator’s £10 fine will not get us out of that ^trouble.
– Its effect will be to deter men from breaking their engagements. I am not one of those who permit their prejudice or their bigotry to overwhelm their common sense. I say that we have a right to make this -Navigation Bill as perfect as we can, and we must consider the safety of the passengers and cargoes of ships sailing around our coast, leaving out the question of the application of the Bill to foreign ships altogether. If, by imposing a penalty upon men who are not prepared to carry out their obligations, we can do something in that direction, we ought not to hesitate to impose such a penalty. I have no sympathy with the man who, whether on land or at sea, enters into an engagement, and at the last minute declines to fulfil it without a reasonable excuse. This Bill provides that if a man has a reasonable excuse for refusing to join his ship, he will be exempt from any penalty; and the man who has no reasonable excuse for breaking his agreement will never have my sympathy, whether he works on land or at sea.
– I had hoped that the honorable senator would give the Committee some information in reply to the questions which were put to him; but, instead of doing so, he has given us a picture of a storm in the Australian Bight.
– Which would be easily possible of realization.
– Quite possible, and very dreadful. The Vice-President of the Executive Council proposes to prevent the occurrence of a dreadful catastrophe of that kind by imposing upon a seaman a fine not exceeding £10.
– With the object of securing for ships a full complement of men.
– The honorable senator is apparently aware of the grave dangers which ships may run if we reduce the penalty proposed by the Government. But I want to know from him what constitutes a reasonable cause for a seaman failing to join his vessel after he has entered into an agreement to do so? I agree with Senator Stewart that the sea man should be treated in this matter in the same way as the ship-owner. If any injury is caused to a ship-owner because a man fails to keep his agreement, the shipowner has his remedy by the institution of a civil case. Suppose I agree to join a ship in some capacity, and when I go and have a look at her, find that Senator St. Ledger is the captain, that Senator Chataway is first mate, or that Senator Gould is cook, or that Senator McGregor is purser, I venture to say that, in such circumstances, I should feel justified in refusing to go in the ship ; but a magistrate hearing the case might riot think so, and he might fine me in the maximum penalty, because a good opportunity might have been missed to get’ rid of the lot of us. I quite recognise all the inconvenience to which ship-owners, masters and passengers may be put; but, beyond all that, there is the individual right of a man to say whether he will go to sea or not. It may be that to-day I am offered a position on board a ship, and agree to accept it. The ship may be going to sea to-morrow, and before she leaves I am offered a much better position to remain on land. If I do so I should, under the proposed amendment, be penalized for breaking my agreement. The shipping companies have their remedies at law, and why should we put the seaman in the position of a criminal liable to arrest, to fine and imprisonment. I take the case of a carpenter or a shearer, and if such men break their agreement, they are summoned, and the charge is heard against them in the usual way.
– If they do not pay the fine imposed upon them they will have to- go to gaol. The case is exactly the same as under this provision.
– No; the case is entirely different. A seaman may be in a port in which he has ho friends to come to his assistance if he is arrested and thrown into gaol on such a charge. I go with Senator Stewart in this matter all the way, except that I am prepared to support the penalty recommended by Senator Guthrie.
– The honorable senator is prepared to take the man’s livelihood away?
– I am prepared to accept Senator Guthrie’s proposal, not because I consider it logical, but because I regard it as the lesser of two evils.
– What are they?
– One is- that a man may be thrown into gaol and then fined an amount which he may be unable to pay, and the other is that he may have his certificates suspended for a certain period.
– Have we not done the same kind of thing in connexion with our electoral law, under which we impose a fine of£2 upon a man who does not, in certain circumstances, transfer his name from one roll to- another ?
– If Senator Chataway is possessed of a good memory, he will know that I have always been opposed to heavy penalties.
– The gaols of Australia are full of men who hold the same view.
– Since the adoption of modern methods of punishment, there has not been the same necessity as previously existed for the gaols of Australia. It is a remarkable fact that since the Labour party came into existence in 1891, owing to the making of penalties more moderate, and- the providing of better and more reasonable conditions, we find that, in New South Wales, with an increased population,, there are not half as many people in. the prisons of the State as there were previously. This is. due to the adoption of more humanitarian methods of dealing with people. The old Conservative idea of penalizing men for this thing and that is rapidly giving place to more humanitarian methods. Senator de Largie can never be accused of supporting progressive movements of that kind ; the honorable senator is altogether too dense.
– This is a Labour proposal in a Labour Bill.
– I shall deal with the measure as a Labour Bill presently. We have been informed by the VicePresident of the Executive Council that this Bill was considered by the Navigation Commission, but I remind him that this provision never appeared in it until after it was returned to the Senate from another place. According to Senator Gould, it has been inserted at the request of the ship-owners.
– I did not say so;
– On their representation.
– Yes ; the honorable senator told us yesterday afternoon that it was inserted on the representation of the ship-owners.
-Colonel Sir Albert Gould. - No; I did not-..
– The honorable senator’s statement yesterday afternoon left that impression upon my mind, and apparently it left the same impression on the mind of Senator McDougall.
-Colonel Sir Albert Gould. - The honorable senator misunderstood what I said. I may have pointed out that serious loss might be incurred- by shipowners if such a provision, were not inserted in the Bill.
– Did not the honorable senator point out that persons interested in the shipping industry had represented that the omission of such a provision would lead to serious loss?
-Colonel. Sir Albert Gould. - If I did, there was no harm in doing, so.
– It was stated in a circular, of which we all received a copy.
– I shall leave the matter there, as I have no- wish to make any statement about the accuracy of which I am not absolutely sure. The fact remains that this provision never found its way into the Bill until, as the result of influence from somewhere, it was inserted in another place. . When- the Bill wasdrafted it did not include such a provision, and yet the Government, at the time, had the report of the Navigation Commission in their possession.
– That applies to the 178 amendments which have been made in the Bill. Does the honorable senator suggest that we should refuse to accept any of them because they were not in the Bill before ?
– Certainly not. I recognise the right of another place to make amendments in the Bill, and I am prepared to support every amendmentwhich I consider an improvement upon the measure. We are dealing with one now which, in my opinion, imposes a great disability upon thousands of men, many of whom voted to send me here, and whom I was sent here to represent.
– Honorable senators equally disinterested take the opposite view.
– We have to deal with these matters as we see them. When this Bill was introduced in the Senate it contained no such provision. Apparently it was not then recommended toy the Navigation Commission, and such a penalty was .not considered necessary. Now it is sought to make provision for this penalty, and, as one representing people vitally interested, I am not satisfied with the measure.
– Or with anything else.
– I do not think that is a fair statement to make. I am perfectly satisfied with some things. I am satisfied that my honorable friends opposite should continue to occupy the Opposition benches. I hope they will remain there until a seat is provided for them outside this Parliament altogether. I am voting in this matter against the big companies and combines, and the big shipping concerns, that are preying upon the people, mot only of the Commonwealth, but of every other country. The people of the Commonwealth have to pay nearly double what they ought to pay to ship-owners for the sea carriage of goods ; yet we have the Government, with the assistance of honorable senators opposite, submitting such a proposal as this.
– The honorable senator wishes to compel the people to pay still more for the carriage of goods.
– With Senator Stewart, I consider that the ship-owners are quite capable of looking after themselves, and .the logical position is that .put “by Senator Stewart when he said that if the conditions of .seamen are made such that they will be content to work in ships, there will be no refusal of men to join their ships and proceed to sea in them.
– Are we not trying to bring that about by this Bill ?
– Because this Bill goes a long way in that direction that is no reason why we should impose a penalty upon men who have to work in ships.
– No; upon men who will not work in ships, although they have agreed to do so.
– I think that the honorable senator should move an amendment after what he has said.
– In view of the number of interjections from the other side it is very difficult for me to remember anything I have said.
– The honorable senator has -still twenty minutes in which to speak.
– I am anxious -to assist ‘the Government in getting this measure through. This is only the second ‘time I have spoken upon the Bill since it ;has been before the Senate, and I rose now because no notice whatever was taken by the Vice-President of the Executive Council of the questions I put to him. I asked the honorable senator to say what would be considered a reasonable cause for refusing to join a vessel. I ask now whether a strike in the industry would be .considered a sufficient cause? If a strike in the shipping industry took place to-morrow, and I was employed on board a vessel which :was to .sail .to-morrow, and, -walking ashore, joined my fellow unionists, and refused ‘to work on the ship, I should become liable under this provision to a fine of £10. I am not prepared to inflict upon other men a penalty which I would not inflict upon myself. When I asked that question, the Minister, in his reply, never mentioned the matter. So that the imputation that I am talking against the clock is scarcely a fair one in the circumstances.
– I saw the honorable senator looking at the clock.
– I was wondering whether I would have sufficient time to impress upon the Minister the importance of dealing with this matter in the way in which we suggest. This is one of the biggest Bills we have ever had to deal with, and I have refrained heretofore from discussing the subject, because it is one about which I know very little.. But we are dealing here with a matter which can be as easily understood by a man who has had no sea experience as by a seaman, and I want the Vice-President of the Executive Council to tell me whether a seaman leaving a ship because of a strike in the shipping industry would not .be liable under this provision to a fine of £10.
– Would it not be possible to separate navigation from strikes ?
– It is not possible to separate the interests of the shipowners from those of the men who have to work in vessels.
– The honorable senator has supported Bills which made strikes illegal.
– I hope that all strikes will be declared illegal; but, when striking is the only method left to men, they may be morally justified in doing an illegal thing in the interests of their fellow men.
– Under this Bill, a seaman can leave a ship by giving twenty-four hours’ notice.
– If a man can give twenty-four hours’ notice to leave his occupation, the penalty for leaving without notice should not be more than the equivalent of twenty-four hours’ pay. That is a perfectly sound position to take up.
– Would the honorable senator support that principle all round ?
– Yes, and it is a good one. If I wish to leave my house, I can give my landlord a week’s notice or pay a week’s rent. He, on his part, can give me a week’s notice. If I am working for an employer who is paying me by the week, I can give him a week’s notice.
– A seaman under this Bill has only to give twenty-four hours’ notice.
– Exactly, and I would have the penalty proportionate to the amount of notice required.
– This provision refers to a time when the twenty-four hours’ notice cannot be given.
– A man is not going to step ashore without a sufficient reason. I have had a fair amount of experience of working amongst men, and I say without hesitation that no man will give up his occupation unless he has, in his own mind, a sufficient reason. It is said, however, that because of the inconvenience to which people will be put by sailors leaving vessels it is necessary to inflict a heavy penalty. But by doing so we may be inflicting the greatest possible injustice. If I am a seaman, and, because my child is ill, I refuse to go to sea, ought I to be liable to a penalty of £o? .*
– That would be regarded as a reasonable cause.
– In all probability, a magistrate would say, “ Oh, it is only a seaman,” and would inflict the full penalty of j£io. It is simply a matter of what is considered to be a reasonable amount of notice. That has been settled by fixing twenty-four hours.
– If a man does not give twenty-four hours’ notice, should he not be punished for leaving at a second’s notice ?
– In that case, as. fine commensurate with the failure to give twenty-four hours’ notice would be sufficient.
– One day’s wagesfor hanging up a ship !
– One man cannot; hang up a ship.
– A ship cannot goto sea unless she has a full crew on board.
– I recognise that,, but, at the same time, men ought not tobe unjustly penalized. I have great sympathy for men who have to go to sea at allFrom what I have seen of the conditionsunder which men work and live at sea, I say that they are shocking. That is the case even on mail boats, which are subsidized by the Commonwealth. When I have been on board ship, men have seemed to be working from daylight to dark. I donot know when they got any rest at all. ! saw them eating their meals in the passages.
– The honorable senator should blame Mr. Justice Higgins for that; he has given an award affecting, the seamen.
– I saw one man, run up from the stoke-hold mad, through: the conditions under which he had been, working, and jump overboard. I suppose that, under this Bill, he would be fined for desertion. The subject needs to be considered, not only from the point of view of the shipping companies, but from that of the men who have to work on board ship.
– And the interests of the passengers who have to travel.
– It is altogether beside the question to say that the mattes cannot be dealt with by means of a reasonably small penalty. Of course, £io> to a man who is in the habit of writing his cheque, and never bothers until hisbanker reminds him that his overdraft hasgone too far, is a mere bagatelle; but to a man who has to depend upon his day’s labour for the support of himself and hisfamily it is an enormous sum of money.
– Ten pounds is themaximum penalty. A fine of 5s. might be inflicted.
– But if we leavethe maximum at j£io, an unfortunate manmight be fined that amount.
– Suppose a casewhere a man deserved to be fined £20-
– I cannot imagine that the Vice-President of the Executive Council needs reminding that a man ought never to be fined £20 for following what he conscientiously believes to be a right course. If a man conscientiously believes that he ought not to go on board a vessel, he has a perfect right to refuse to go, and these heavy penalties, to my mind, are altogether beyond reason.
– I ought to have been fined , £20 when I was not.
– I can quite imagine that the Vice-President of the Executive Council, when a young man, committed so many offences for which he was not fined that he now wishes to balance matters by imposing fines which other people will have to pay. Why should we not place seamen in the same position as men who work on land?
– This Bill will place seamen in a better position than they have ever been in the past. Why not let it pass, then ?
– I recognise that the Bill is a great improvement on anything we have had before.
-Colonel Sir Albert Gould. - Then why is the honorable senator “ stone- walling “it?
– That statement is unfair. I have done more to enable the measure to pass than any honorable senator present.
– Will ‘the honorable senator show his sincerity now?
– That is all very fine, in view of the fact that I have not been speaking twenty minutes, and have not spoken on any other clause. The Minister ought not to be so petulant. He was not in such a hurry last night to get the Bill passed. He was only in a hurry to go to the Government House ball.
– Is the honorable senator “ stone-walling “ ?
– No, I am not. If the Minister will agree to accept Senator Guthrie’s amendment, I will sit down at once. But I should first like to have an answer to my question whether, if a seaman refuses to go to sea because there is a strike, he will be liable to a penalty of £10?
– My reply is that I refuse to answer hypothetical questions.
– Then I have to ask the Minister whether he will accept a further amendment, to be placed in a suitable part of the Bill, exempting men who are engaged in a strike? Am I to take his silence for consent? If so, I will resume my seat.
– I wish to say a word or two in regard to Senator Stewart’s position.
– Is the honorable senator going to withdraw some of the things that he has said?
– Not a word, except that, if I have said anything that I ought not to have said, I am sorry.
– To call ‘ people “ scabs “ because they vote for this provision is not fair.
– The amendment that has been foreshadowed by Senator Guthrie would, in my opinion, be superior to the amendment of the Government; but I wish to know whether I shall be in order in giving notice of a further amendment.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.The honorable senator will have ample opportunities of moving another amendment after this one has been disposed of.
– Will there be an opportunity of moving another amendment to reduce the fine?
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.There will be an opportunity, whether the present amendment is accepted or defeated.
– It sometimes happens, under parliamentary procedure, that questions are put in such a way that honorable senators are precluded from moving further amendments. I wish to reduce the amount of the fine.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.The question is that the words “ twenty pounds “ be left out. If that amendment be agreed to, it will be open for any other honorable senator to move a futher amendment to fill in the blank.
– I think that a fine of £2 would be sufficient.
Assent to the following Bills reported-: -
Tasmania Grant Bill.
Service and Execution of Process Bill.
Invalid and Old-age Pensions Appropriation Bill.
Referendum (Constitution Alteration) Bill. Trade Marks Bill.
.- I move -
That, in the opinion of this Senate, it is desirable that the Government should, as early as possible, establish a fleet of Commonwealthowned Overseas and Inter-State steamers, commencing with the linking-up of Tasmania, as an integral part of the Commonwealth, with the mainland, by means of a line of steamships.
One of the principal reasons which actuated me in placing this motion on the notice-paper was that at the Labour Conference held in Hobart this year a new plank was added to the Federal Labour platform. The plank was carried unanimously, and reads as follows: -
That a Commonwealth-owned and controlled fleet, with full provision for the carriage of perishables and other produce, be established.
As is well known to honorable senators on each side of the chamber, we, as a party, have a peculiar habit of giving effect to our platform as speedily as possible. Our planks are not mere election placards, but are framed because we believe that there is vital need of the legislation which they indicate. In view of the latest addition to our platform, I desire to draw attention to the need, when commencing our fleet of Inter-State steamers, of connecting Tasmania with the mainland.
– I take it that the honorable senator will tell us the cost later.
– I intend to give an estimate of the cost, and also to state what, in my opinion, are the business prospects in establishing such a line. I do not ask the Senate to carry this motion as a mere favour. I ask honorable senators on both sides to carry the motion as a business proposition, pure and simple ; and if it cannot be justified on business grounds, I shall be quite content to ask leave to withdraw it. I think that I shall be able to show that a line of steamers will be entirely self-supporting, and a very desirable service for the Commonwealth itself.
I realize that, in adding this new plank to the platform, the Labour party will probably be accused of doing something which is rather unprecedented. It has been said that there is no need for the Labour party to interfere with our shipping. It has also been said that it is an innovation for a Government to engage in sea transit. Now that is not the case. I have here some information from the Italian Consul, who states tha* .recently the Italian Government bought out the companies running between Italy and Sicily, between Italy and Sardinia and on the lakes of Italy. I find that previously they possessed a line of sixteen’ vessels, with an aggregate gross tonnage of 25,000 tons, which they were running mainly in conjunction with their railways. I have a list of the vessels, and I notice that the largest approaches 4,000 tons, and that the smallest is about 400 tons. These vessels, I understand from the Italian Consul, are not only paying, .but are a very successful adjunct to the railway systems ot Italy.
– They are mostly ferry-boats.
– Although they are mostly ferry-boats, still they perform a very useful work. The Brazilian Government have a vessel .engaged in the coasting trade; and many of the English railway companies have established a line of steamers, which they run in connexion .with their railways.
– The Canadian Pacific Railway Company does, too.
– And the American railway companies do.
– Yes, and very successfully, too. Perhaps some evidence I have here will be more valuable to honorable senators than the expression of my own opinion. I have an extract from a report on the storage and handling of grain in Europe, United States of America, and Canada, by Sir Thomas R. Price, K.C.M.G., who reported to the South’ African Government as to the desirability of establishing special communication by water between that country and the British Isles. I shall quote a few paragraphs from the report -
The report is rather lengthy, but the extracts I have quoted serve to show that some of the nations of the world are seriously undertaking the governmental control of sea and ocean carriage.
-Colonel Sir Albert Gould. - But all these cases you cite are those of private companies.
– That may be so; but I would remind the honorable senator that the Italian Government have established a line of steamers, and probably the South African Government will undertake to establish a line, too.
– They have not done so yet..
– And in these cases private companies own and. operate the railways in the interests of the public.
– The positions are fairly analogous. At the present time we own and operate our railways. It will be quite as legitimate for us to establish a link between these railways by means of sea transit as it was in the case of English companies.
– It is of no use to bring products to the seaboard if they are going to be hampered there.
– No. I intend now to discuss the position of Tasmania, as a part of the Commonwealth. With this, plank in our platform it may be taken, for granted that we shall start a line of steamers, because it is a certainty that theLabour party are going to remain in office.
– For a few months longer.
– No, for many years longer. Tasmania occupies a rather unique position, as it is the only State which’ is separated from the mainland by water. This Parliament, in its wisdom, thought fit to link up Western Australia with the eastern States by means of a transcontinental railway, to a certain extent for the purpose of defence, but principally for the purpose of communication. Considering that we are about to establish InterState steamers, it is quite logical to ask that a start should be made with the little State of Tasmania. At present there is no prospect of a remedy. The position must become ever increasingly acute, and we in Tasmania realize more and more that our products cannot be satisfactorily sent to market on the mainland, that our people will be charged ever increasing fares and freights, and that the combine between two steam-ship companies will press more heavily each year upon the people of the State. ‘
Logically, therefore, the only remedy we can see is the establishment of a steamship communication by the Commonwealth Government. In a previous speech I dwelt at some length on the unsatisfactory position of Tasmania. I showed then that we were paying about 50 per cent, more on cargo freights from Tasmania in comparison with what we paid a few years ago. I also demonstrated that our passenger rates have gone up steadily, and that at present the charge per mile between Launceston and
Melbourne is the heaviest imposed by any steam-ship company trading round Australia.
The profits of the steam-ship companies controlling the Tasmanian trade have been materially increasing. I could not give a stronger instance of that fact than by mentioning that when Huddart, Parker, and Company was recently floated into -a limited company there was, owing to the business being so profitable, such a rush for shares that, within three or four days after their issue, shares were sold at a premium of 50 per cent., and people could not possibly obtain shares anywhere. A gentleman in Hobart has stated that he applied for a large number of shares, for which he was quite willing to pay cash, and, although he applied very early, he could not obtain a share after repeated efforts. This information I had personally from the applicant. The new issue was mainly secured by the existing proprietors. Undoubtedly the profits of Huddart, Parker, and Company have been steadily increasing. Take light produce, for instance. A few years ago it was conveyed from Launceston to the mainland at 12s. 6d. per ton, but to-day ‘the price is 18s., showing a rise of 50 per cent. That increase has to be borne by the producers of Tasmania, and the burden upon them is ever increasing.
– To be fair, you ought to say what the increase in the expenditure has been.
– I am going to deal with that matter presently. I hope to show the company’s receipts and expenditure, so far as the passenger traffic is concerned. It will be remembered that the representatives of Tasmania in the Senate raised a protest against the Commonwealth Government letting a mail contract to the combine between the two shipping companies. I wish to state briefly what occurred on that occasion. The Commonwealth Government desired to convenience not only the people of Tasmania, but the people of the mainland, by providing them with a better service. Accordingly they approached the steam-ship companies, who are running a tub which is forty years old, and which, although it has been a good boat in its time, is now absolutely inadequate and unsuitable. I refer to the s.s. Rotomahana. Although the Federal Government asked for another “Loongana to be put on, the terms asked were such that they were forced, in justice to themselves and the people of the Commonwealth, to turn down the proposals. The shipping companies asked that if they put on another boat equal to the Loongana their present subsidy should be increased by ^2,000 a year. They were receiving ,£1.3,000 a year for carrying out a mail contract. That is a very handsome subsidy, but they asked that it should be increased to ^15,000. Further, they asked - and this is, I think, the part of the request to which the Government objected - that the Commonwealth Government should give them a seven years’ contract, and tie the people of Australia and Tasmania up to their freights and fares for that term without being able to get out of the arrangement if we should eventually put on our own boats. Rightly, to my mind, the Government refused the demand, particularly as the shipping companies offered only to run four trips a week, namely, two via Burnie, and two direct from Launceston to Melbourne and back. That was a very slight improvement on the present service, in which the companies run three boats, two doing the Launceston trip and one doing the Burnie trip.
– There are five trips a week at present.
– Yes ; and all that the shipping companies offered to do was to run four trips a week, and for doing that they asked for a seven years’ contract and an increased subsidy. I take it that, in view of the new plank in our platform, the Government would have acted entirely against the interests of the people of Tasmania and the mainland had they accepted the proposals from the shipping companies. They let a contract for two years, and it is quite open’ to them to make any arrangement they think fit at the end of that term.
It is because of that fact that I ask the Senate to carry this motion, so that the Government may be in a position to order boats suitable for our own requirements. On more than one occasion the question has been raised as to whether the Government have constitutional power to establish a line of steamers. I think that, in the last debate on this subject, Senator Findley, representing the Government, said it was a matter for the Tasmanian Government, and not for the Commonwealth Government. The honorable senator did not quote any constitutional authority in support of his statement, but he gave it as his opinion that this Parliament has not the power to establish such boats.
– I do not think the Minister went so far as that. He did not put it on constitutional, but on political, grounds.
– If I understood the Minister aright, he said that under the Constitution the Commonwealth Government have not the power to establish such a service.
– I expressed the opinion, as a layman, that the Constitution does not give us the power to enter into the shipping industry. I did not say that it was a matter for the Tasmanian Government, but that the Tasmanian Government could undertake the work.
– I am a representative of Tasmania who holds the view that it is a matter for the Commonwealth Government, and I expect to be able to show that it would pay the Commonwealth Government handsomely to undertake it. I think we have a claim, as part of the Commonwealth, to be linked up with the mainland by means of our own boats.
– The present AttorneyGeneral gave an opinion that the Commonwealth Government could undertake the service.
– That is so. I have here the opinion of the Attorney-General, and, though it is not customary to quote such opinions, this opinion has already appeared publicly in the Tasmanian press, and there should, therefore, be no objection to my quoting it here. The honorable and learned gentleman gave an opinion on the question as follows -
The question whether the Commonwealth has constitutional power to conduct an Inter-State mail and trade service between Tasmania and the mainland has been referred to me for advice by direction of the Postmaster-General.
There is no Commonwealth legislation in existence to authorize the establishment of a mail and trade service by the Commonwealth between Tasmania and the mainland, and in the absence of such legislation I doubt whether it would be practicable to establish such a service.
But, in my opinion, the Commonwealth Parliament clearly has power to legislate for the establishment and carrying on of such a service by the Commonwealth or any authority under the Commonwealth.
That is a very clear and definite expression of opinion. We can, in the circumstances, dismiss that aspect of the question. If the referenda proposals are carried, we shall undoubtedly have the necessary power, but, on the opinion which I have just quoted from the present Attorney-
General, there is nothing to prevent us, even as the Constitution stands to-day, from embarking on such an enterprise.
I wish to show now how it could be financed, and that will not, I think, require much elucidation. The Commonwealth Government is paying a subsidy of £13,000 a year to the companies at present carrying on the service. At 3J per cent.-
– We cannot get money at that rate now.
– Yes, we can ; the honorable senator forgets that there is a Labour Government in power.
– Where could we get it?
– From the notes fund.
– It is possible to exhaust that fund.
– I am aware that it is, but I am dealing with things as they are, and not with possibilities. To-day, we have money to lend to the States, and it would be quite a reasonable thing for the Commonwealth to lend itself the money necessary for this purpose at say 4 per cent.
– The Commonwealth Government are doing that already.
– It is very wise and prudent finance, too.
– We could not borrow money at 4 per cent. now.
– The honorable member is endeavouring to side-track me. We can get money at 4 per cent, from our notes issue.
– The honorable senator might estimate the interest at 5 per cent., and we should then have a profitable trading concern.
– I shall adhere to a 4 per cent, basis, as I think that is a fairly sound financial proposition. Now, ,£13,000 capitalized at 4 per cent, would amount to ^£300,000, and leave ,£1,000 for a sinking fund. What would it cost to establish these boats? The Loongana is a boat of 2,500 tons, and she cost £80,000 to build. At the present time, that vessel would cost £1 25,000 to build, because of the rise in the cost of shipbuilding. It may be said to have been phenomenal, since within a short period there has been an advance of 25 per cent. Two vessels of the type of the Loongana would cost, at the present time, delivered in Australia, £250,000. That could be easily financed with the amount we. at present pay as a mail subsidy.
The Commonwealth would be in just the same position,, and we would have a profitable service; which would benefit, materially the people of the Commonwealth. I wish now to show what a profitable service it is. I can quote the opinion of a Hobart resident who has- made a study of shipping statistics. He says -
Taking the year 191 1, there were 41,503 people who arrived in this State,, and 45,064 people went out of the State. Last year there were approximately 3,000 passengers who were’ landed’ at Hobart from England, and South- Africa1 for transhipment to the other States,, so that if you take that 3,000 from the figures I have given you, you will have a total Inter-State passenger traffic of 84,167. If you average the fares paid for their passages at £2 per head, it gives a total of ,£160,000 for passenger fares that went to the shipping companies. Those figures refer to the whole of the traffic to Tasmania, and not merely the Launceston-Melbourne traffic. Mr. Williams,, another Hobart gentleman, who is, I think,, rather inclined to overestimate’ matters, says -
When the’ companies spoke about the service not paying, I do not think that could be said with regard to the Launceston to Melbourne service-, because the subsidy, I believe, is j£i 1,0001 a year to Launceston-, and £2,000 to the West Coast. That comes out at about £73.5 per trip; that is, from Launceston to Melbourne and back to Launceston. T think it a fair average to say there are 200 passengers per trip. T turned up the newspaper this morning, and there were 157 passengers travelled across on the last trip.
I have some figures which I have had taken out specially to show the average passenger traffic between Launceston and Melbourne, and to give the Senate some idea of the profits which the steam-ship companies concerned must be making. It is commonly reported in Tasmania, and. the report has not been officially contradicted, that the Loongana, which cost £80,000, has paid for herself already; that the company have been more than paid for her cost by what they have made out of her running. I should like to mention that the Australasian United Steam Navigation Company’s steamer Wyreema, which is a vessel of 6,000, tons, cost . £154,000, and the Levuka, another 6,000-tons boat, engaged in; the Fijian trade, was obtained for £140,000. For the ,£300,000 I have mentioned, we could obtain two boats of over 4,000- tons each.
– 1 think the boats the honorable senator is referring to are only 15-knot boats.
– That is so* and we would require boats that could do from 18 to 19 knots. The boats I have mentioned are not exactly the style of boats that we require: We should require an improved Loongana for our purposes. Honorable senators; who know anything about what is1 occurring in Tasmania will probably have noticed from the newspapers that the Launceston Marine Board have introduced a scheme’ in connexion with which they propose to spend no less, than £500,000 in removing- the bends in the River Tamar, cutting a straight channel, establishing a deep-water port, and deepening the river, so that ships of 6,000 tons may go at. low tide right up to. the Launceston wharf. Some honorable senators have contended that the Tamar is not capable of carrying the traffic for which we desire to provide^, but they will recognise that that is an’ objection which will be removed. The Launceston Marine- Board are taking steps now to have a Bill passed through the State- Parliament in order that they may proceed with their scheme as expeditiously as possible.
I should like, for the information! of honorable senators, to let therm know the trade which is being done by the Loongana. I have said that I regard the statement of Mr. Williams as perhaps overdrawn, but I have obtained information on the subject from a reliable source. I find that the Loongana’ s lowest passenger-list for twelve months was 310 passengers in one week. The highest list - the Christmas week - was 1,900 passengers.
– That is for three trips each way.
– That is so. It is interesting to note the receipts for these trips. In the case of the lowest list, quoted, 223 were first saloon passengers and 87 second saloon passengers; and the total amount received in passenger fares for that week was ,£752 5s. In the case of the highest list quoted, 1,216 were first, and 688 second saloon passengers; and the total receipts for the week amounted to £3,824. That was the high-water mark for the year. I have consulted with a person who knows what he is talking about in connexion with this matter, and if I cannot give my authority it is for a very good reason ; and I am informed that the average passenger list per week, all the year round, may be fairly put down at 500. If we assume that 300 are first, and 200 second class passengers, this will give a total ‘receipt for the week of £1,370. Senator Lt.-Colonel Sir Albert Gould. - What are the fares each way?
– The return fares run from ,£2 12s. 6d. to .£3 2s. 6d. saloon, and ;£i 12s. fid. steerage. It will be admitted that these are most exorbitant fares for what is really a ferry service. On these figures, it is clear that the average receipts of the Loongana per month from passengers alone amount to ,£5,480.
– The Loongana does not carry much cargo.
– She carries a fair amount of cargo. Now let us consider the expense to the company of running the boat. I put the expenses down in the following way : - £360 per week for coal ; £150 for food; £175 for wages; ^275 for other .expenses ; and £125 for interest; or a total of £[1,085 per week, or of £4,340 per month. I think it will be admitted that if I have erred at all it is on the liberal side. The figures I have given place the expense of running the vessel at £4,340 per month, whilst the receipts from passenger traffic alone are shown to amount to £[5,480 per month. So that, on .the passenger traffic alone, the vessel is returning a very handsome profit to the company.
– There are other ex.penses, such as advertising, agents, and so on.
– I have included those expenses. I have allowed £275 for “other expenses.” I have had an estimate from a shipping authority, who has a high reputation in shipping circles in Tasmania, showing that the Loongana can be run for £3,000 per month, and in the figures I have given, I have allowed for an expenditure of £4,340. But even with my estimate, I have shown that the ‘receipts from1 passenger fares alone show a handsome profit. It is generally admited that the shipping companies have a veritable goldmine in the Loongana, and the MelbourneLaunceston service. Undoubtedly, the profits in the service are very large, and the people are penalized by the imposition of heavy fares and freights.
– I think that Senator Guthrie, who is an authority, has said that the freights in the service are the cheapest in the <world.
– No; I referred to the freights between Hobart and Sydney. The honorable senator should not misrepresent me.
– That is an entirely different service. I think I have said enough to show that if this service were taken in hand by the Government, it would represent a valuable adjunct to our railways. We have a tourist traffic with Tasmania that is practically in its infancy. That tourist traffic is increasing every year, although the accommodation provided ‘has not improved. For the last twenty years we have practically been in the hands of two shipping companies, and to whom should we look for relief if not to the< Commonwealth Government? In order to give honorable senators some idea of the importance of the .port of Launceston, I have collected information which shows that for the year ending 31st December, 1911, the outward tonnage of steamers leaving the port was 213,465 tons, and of sailing vessels 293, making a total of 213,758. The inward traffic for the same period was 242,806 tons. I find that in the three years prior to 1909, Launceston topped the record of railway stations in Tasmania; in 1905-6, by 33.575 tons; in 1906-7, by 20,097 tons; and in 1908-9, by 34,968 tons. From 1902 to 1911, the goods traffic increased by 29.85 per cent., and the passenger traffic, which is the chief traffic, as Senator Sayers will admit, increased from 1904-5 to 1910-11 by 74.32 per cent. This year, the total -number of passengers carried to and from Launceston was 210,463, and in 1910-n, the number was 337,429. In view of these facts - the growing importance of our trade, the rapidly increasing rates and fares to which we are subjected, and the isolation of Tasmania - I contend that I have made out a case for the establishment of a Commonwealthowned line of steamers. I am going to ask the Senate, in debating this motion, to endeavour to realize that if we are to make a start in connexion with controlling steamship traffic, we should, in the first instance, take into consideration the State mostneeding such communication. That State is, undoubtedly, Tasmania.
– Why, then, does not Tasmania start a line of steamers?
– I think that there is a very good and vital reason why Tasmania ‘does not take that -course, namely, that it is a matter that concerns ‘Victoria and New South -Wales, and also the rest of the Commonwealth.
– The honorable senator said that Tasmania needed the service most.
– Undoubtedly, because, by reason of our isolation, we feel the defects of the present situation most. But the mainland States also require this accommodation to a great extent. At the present time, a Select Committee is sitting in Tasmania to inquire into the steam-ship traffic. But that Committee, which has been appointed by the State Parliament, is dealing particularly with the HobartSydney and Hobart-Brisbane service. I believe that the idea - I have it on fairly good authority - is to endeavour to induce the State Government to establish vessels to .trade, not only from Hobart to Sydney, but to continue right up to Brisbane, and give us a direct service with Queensland ports. If the State Government does that, well and good. I believe that the avenues of trade are such that the service will be very profitable. But that is in a different category altogether from the service which I am now advocating, which is a matter concerning the means of communication of an integral part of the Commonwealth. .
If the Commonwealth is going to establish steamers, undoubtedly, Tasmania can put in the best claim for consideration. It is for that reason that I have taken this course. I trust that the subject will be thoroughly ventilated. I shall be glad to hear the opinions of honorable senators opposite. It is rather a big subject. The subsidies that the Commonwealth is already paying to private companies would be more than sufficient to pay interest on a line of steamers that would furnish us with a reproductive service.
– What is the subsidy that we pay?
– We are paying £13,000. In other words, we pay interest on ,£300,000, and that amount would give us two vessels of 4,000 tons, fit for trading between Launceston and Melbourne.
– Does the honorable senator consider that, if the opposition of the private companies continued, we should be able to get all the traffic on which he counts ?
– I am of opinion that no private company could compete successfully with vessels owned and run by the Commonwealth.
– The private companies would be able torun their vessels more cheaply, in all probability.
– I believe that the venture would be profitable from the outset, and that it would largely increase the traffic between the mainland and. Tasmania. We should largely develop the cargo traffic, for the simple reason that, one boat travelling between Launceston and Melbourne and back on the same day is not able to load cargo to advantage. With two boats running in the summer, there would be more time for loading cargo, and consequently more produce would be shipped to the mainland. On account of the very short time that the Loongana remains in port, she is handicapped in this respect. But, under the system that I advocate, producers would1 be able to ship more regularly, and we should establish a trade that would be worth many thousands of pounds a year toTasmania.
I do not wish to labour the question. Ihave dealt with it as it presents itself to my mind ; and I trust that honorable senatorson both sides will consider it fairly, and see the advantage of taking this further step in the direction of practical Socialism.. If the States composing the Commonwealth of Australia can spend £150,000,000 on railways, surely we can logically spend £250,000, or a little more, on steam-ships. There is no reason why we should not. I am one of those who believe, in commonwith other public men, that in a few years’ time we shall have to have our own oversea vessels, as well as our own InterState boats, manned by our own seamen, worked under Australian conditions, and1 flying the Australian flag. That would be a magnificent advertisement for us on the seas of the world ; and we should not onlygain the benefits of cheaper freights and fares, but should be able to bring out a regular stream of desirable immigrants onmore favorable terms than has been possible before.
The Hon. George Graham, the Victorian Minister of Agriculture, has repeatedly declared in public that he believes that the only solution of many of our transport troubles will be the establishment of a Commonwealth line of steamers. A Commission has already inquired intothe matter, and I am sure that honorable senators, who have read its report, have-
Hone so with a good deal of interest. It points out that, for about £[4,000,000, we can have eight up-to-date vessels, wellequipped, with all the latest conveniences for travelling. At the present time, we are paying a considerable subsidy to the Orient Steam-ship Company. I forget the amount, for the moment.
– About £[125,000 a year.
– That would pay interest on a good service owned by the Commonwealth.
– Has any honorable senator any idea of what the large vessels have to pay on going through the Suez Canal ?
– I am aware that they have to pay heavy dues; but, at the same time, the Orient Steam-ship Company is paying something like 16 per cent, in dividends; so that it is doing very well, notwithstanding the canal dues. The establishment of a service of our own would bring to an end many of the grave problems which confront our exporters to-day in connexion with shipping space. In the butter trade, we have learnt how certain merchants have commandeered the available space by making arrangements with the shipping companies, and have consequently been able to tax the producers to an inordinate extent. We have had the spectacle of many of our industries being absolutely controlled by a few merchants, in conjunction with the shipping companies. In consequence, many of the producers have been looking confidently to the Commonwealth for a solution of the difficulties under which they labour in regard to oversea exportation. 1 trust that I shall have the support of honorable senators on both sides of the Senate in connexion with the advocacy .of this progressive plank that was recently added to the Labour platform. Even those who do not agree with our platform generally should recognise that, as Australia is an island continent, steam-ship communication is of vital importance to us. It is as important as internal communication by means of railways. The only way in which we can grapple with the great problem of transport is to establish such a line of boats as will enable us to relieve our people from the many grave disadvantages under which they are now suffering.
Debate (on motion by Senator Findley) adjourned.
– I move -
That a Select Committee be appointed to inquire and report concerning the claims of postal and telegraph officers in South Australia for the preservation of their existing and accruing rights on transfer of the Department to the Commonwealth ; that the Committee have power to call for persons and papers.
I am sorry that there should be any necessity for moving a motion of this kind, and for asking for the appointment of a Select Committee to inquire into the subject with which it deals. The fact is that there has been continuous dissatisfaction amongst members of the Post and Telegraph Association of South Australia. That dissatisfaction has existed for a number of years, and has been strongly marked since the year 1904. Up till that time the officershad received the same salaries as they received prior to the foundation of the Commonwealth. But they consider that theclassification of 1904 morally, if not? legally, robbed them of a considerable portion of their income. The Federal Convention, when it drafted the Constitution,, certainly intended to conserve all the accrued and accruing rights of public servants. I could quote from a number of speeches made at the Convention from whichit is abundantly clear that it was intended’ that public servants should not be put under/ any disadvantage on entering the Commonwealth Service. I do not think it is necessary that I should quote those speechesagain, inasmuch as I made use of some of them last year, when the report of thePostal Commission was under consideration.
– What the Federal” Convention said has nothing to do with this Parliament, unless a provision was embodied: in the Constitution.
– I will come to that point directly. The position was that the.votes of the public servants were wantedfor the carrying of the Commonwealth Bill. The members of the Convention were anxious that those votes should be secured’ for Federation. In order to obtain that end, a- promise was made - because, naturally, members of the Public Servicewere anxious to know how they would standunder Federation - that their position would.’ not be prejudiced in any way whatever.-
Undoubtedly, great pains were taken in the Convention to assure them on the point. Section . 84 of the Constitution shows conclusively what the mind of the Convention was. The third paragraph of the section reads -
Any such officer who is retained in the service of the Commonwealth shall preserve all his existing and accuring rights, and shall be entitled to retire from office at the time, and on the pension or retiring allowance, which would be permitted by the law of the State if his service with the Commonwealth were a continuation of his service with the State. Such pension or retiring allowance shall be paid to him by the Commonwealth; but the State shall pay to the Commonwealth a part thereof, to be calculated on the proportion which his term of service with the Statebears to his whole term of service, and for the purpose of the calculation his salary shall be taken to be that paid to him by the State at the time of the transfer.
The fourth paragraph of the section reads -
Any officer who is, at the establishment of the Commonwealth, in the Public Service of a State, and who is, by consent of the Governor of the State, with the advice of the Executive Council . thereof, transferred to the Public Service of the Commonwealth, shall have the same rights as if he had been an officer of a Department transferred to the Commonwealth and were tetained in the service of the Commonwealth.
That section was put into the Constitution for the express purpose of securing to the public servants of the various States their rights after they were transferred to the Commonwealth. In the Public Service Act passed by the Commonwealth Parliament there is a section to the very same effect. Section 60 deals with the transfer of officers from State Services, and reads -
I think it will be admitted that the Commonwealth Parliament inserted that section in the Public Service Act with the idea that it was carrying out the provision of the Constitution itself, and with the desire to preserve the rights of transferred servants. Moreover, when the Public Service Bill was introduced, Sir William Lyne, who was in charge of -it, ‘referred to this matter very distinctly. He said, in moving the second reading of the measure -
I wish to emphasize the fact that in clause 51 and 52 of this Bill - which are now section 60 of the Act - and in section 84 of the Commonwealth Constitution, there is a provision to make it quite certain that no trouble shall arise in regard to transferred officers, and that all the rights which accrue to those officers which have been . taken over from the various States will be respected.
Nothing could have been plainer than that. Evidently, what Sir William Lyne had in his mind was the wish to respect the assurance given to the public servants in regard to their position. That position, however, was violated by the classification of 1904. Claims were then ruthlessly disregarded. The classification ignored all the undertakings of the Convention, and of section 84 of the Constitution. There are about 100 postmasters in South Australia whose incomes were detrimentally affected to the extent of from £5 to£150 per annum, the average being no less than£34. There were between eighty and ninety officers who were entitled to increments, who were called upon to lose from £20 to£30 per annum. Some of them had long service behind them. I shall quote a few cases from the list of the officers to show that this was the fact. The late John Bastard, who died some years ago, had behind him, at the time of the classification, a service of forty-eight years, and he was called upon to lose in emolument£152 a year, or 32 per cent. of his income. J. Skinner had behind him a serviceof thirty-eight years, and he was called upon to lose a year in emolument, which was equal to 32 per cent. of his income. And so it goes on, until it comes down to those who lost about£5 a year. It runs down from£157 a year to about £5. The officers themselves sum up the position in their reply to the Public Service Commissioner, with regard to the classification -
The anxiety of the National Convention to protect transferred officers from loss found expression in clause 84 of the Constitution. The Commonwealth Parliament when it enacted clause 60 of the Commonwealth Public Service Act of 1902 legislated in conformity with the obligation thus imposed on it by the Convention, and there is absolutely no room for doubt that both bodies believed that they had most effectively protected every interest of transferred officers. To yet further protect the rights of individual officers, and to secure purity of administration, the ‘Federal Legislature delegated its powers in Service matters to a Commissioner, who was to be a man of the highest integrity and ability, and immune from political influence.
That. Commissioner was directed (clause 60) to guard the honour of the new nation by ful11 ing the pledges, of its sponsors to the public servants, and in all other matters to deal justly with them. The officers accepted the guarantee of good faith provided by the Federal Constitution, and were re-assured by its confirmation at the hands of the Federal Parliament. But the Commissioner’s illiberal administration of a liberal Act in this and other respects has dragged the honour of the nation in the mire.
In another paragraph they say -
This shocking treatment of South Australian officers arose, not because the law directed it; not because- justice demanded it; not because the Parliament desired it or the people approved of it; but because the Commissioner willed it.
Of’ course,, it may be said that this created anomalies in- the Public Service, and no. doubt the Commonwealth could not take over civil servants from six States, where the conditions had been different all through, without, there being some anomalies, which, of course, would have to remain so long as those affected by them lived. This was admitted at the time of the Federal Convention by Sir Edmund Barton, who said -
We have to provide for the enormous changes in the social life of Australia which are to take place, and if we do things that give rise to the cry of injustice we not only imperil this Constitution, but we throw a strain on it which not all the efforts of the Commonwealth will remove. These rights, however, will gradually die out under the Commonwealth, and there can be no continuation of them, because there are only one or two Colonies where these contracts, as I prefer to call them, exist.
He was right, I think, in making that remark - and it will be very easy to earmark officers, say, from New South Wales or Western Australia, and say that they are subject to these existing contracts.
The position of these officers was acknowledged all through. It was acknowledged that, in taking over the Service, there might be some anomalies to be provided for, but that they would simply continue during the life-time of the officers concerned, and that afterwards the conditions of the Public Service might be uniform throughout the Commonwealth. The Post and Telegraph Association in South Austrafia hoped for a good deal from the adoption of the report of the Postal Commission as regards future management, and so on; but the most important part of the report, in their judgment, has not been adopted, and that is with regard to the working of the Service. The officers- cannot apply to the High Court in this matter, that body having declared that the Federal Parliament is a competent authority to vary or abolish such rights. If it is to be settled at all, it will have to be settled by this Parliament. There was a1 request made to the ex-Postmaster-General, Mr. Thomas, to refer the three matters - emoluments, increments, and age of retirement - to arbitral tion, seeing that, apparently, there was no other way of getting the claims adjudicated upon and’ a satisfactory settlement made. The case for the officers is set out as follows: -
That was the case which the officers placed’ before the Minister. The matter could not be dealt with under the Public Service Arbitration. Act, because in a letter to the
Postmaster-General, dated 7th December, 1911, they say -
From inquiries made, we .gather that it is doubtful whether the accrued and accruing rights questions come within the scope of the Public Service Arbitration Bill now before the Federal Parliament. If the Court has jurisdiction on these matters, however, they appear to be prejudged by the provision that awards may be disallowed by Parliament if they conflict with the Commonwealth law or regulations.
Then the matter was under consideration between the Service and the Ministers for a considerable time, and later, in reply to a deputation, Mr. Thomas, who was PostmasterGeneral, said - . . . ‘He was very pleased to meet the representatives, and to have a talk with them. He could only say that, so far as the first matter was concerned (that of the postmasters’ emoluments), they could have this friendly suit. Mr. Batchelor, M.P., would be acting for him for a fortnight, during which he (Mr. Thomas) would be away, and they could make arrangements with him as far as arbitration was concerned. They could rely on him to deal with -the mat tei.
Mr. Lucy. That will refer to three things - emoluments, increments, and age of retirement.
The Postmaster-General replied that he had not said anything about the last, but it could be inserted.
Mr. Virgo asked whether the arbitration referred to nil State rights?
The Postmaster-General said that what he had stated was that it referred to those who had these emoluments prior to Federation, and had had them taken away.
Mr. Hiscock said the question of their right to remain in the service beyond the age of 65 was a State right.
The Postmaster-General said that was not raised at the time. Apparently, there was no age limit at the time of Federation.
Mr. Hiscock said there was a clause in the Act which permitted an officer to remain, indefinitely if competent.
The Postmaster-General said that after Federation the State had made the retiring age 70. But he had no objection to submitting the point to arbitration.
The idea they had was that the matter might be arbitrated upon, so that a just decision could be come to. It will be seen that there was here a distinct promise to arbitrate, but afterwards the Minister backed down from this position. It seems to me that some sinister influence induced “him to change his mind in regard to that subject. After further negotiations, we come to the report of a deputation to Mr. Thomas on the 17th February of last year -
Mr. Hiscock …. Now, you offered us arbitration on three points when you were in Adelaide - on the postmasters’ emoluments question, on the increment question, and on the question of age retirement. Since you returned to Melbourne, we have had a telegram from you moditying that to some extent. Can you now let us see where we stand with reference to those points? Because, if the questions are to be submitted to arbitration, we need not deal with them now. .
Mr. Thomas said
On those matters, I would like you to see the Attorney-General.
Mr. Thomas is shifting his ground, and putting the responsibility on to the shoulders of somebody else.
As far as I am concerned, and as far as the Government is concerned, we are prepared to submit every question it is possible to arbitration. If, however, there are any questions which cannot constitutionally be submitted to arbitration, then we are willing to have a friendly suit; but, in regard to every question which can be submitted to arbitration, we are willing to submit it. On these matters I would be very glad for you to see the Attorney-General, and deal with him. Everything we can legally and constitutionally submit to arbitration will be submitted. In regard to “the other questions, we cannot submit them to. arbitration, as it is not in our power to do so.
Mr. Macdonald. Your statement in the telegram does not amount to any modification of your previous unconditional offer, because you remember you said : “ Keep the lawyers out of it. We only want justice.”
Mr. Thomas. I cannot say what the law is ot is not. Mv wish and the wish of the Government is to have the whole thing settled ; all, if possible, by arbitration. Where there are constitutional questions which cannot be settled by arbitration, it is impossible for us to say what will be done. But in regard to any point which can possibly be referred to arbitration, the Government are quite prepared, willing and anxious to have it referred. We cannot say anything about those questions which cannot be referred to arbitration. While you are here, you must see the Attorney-General on these points, and you can deal with him. As far as the Government is concerned, we are only too anxious, but we cannot go behind the law and the Constitution. As far as I am personally concerned, I am one of those who are against the lawyers every time ; but,3 at the same time, we have a Constitution, and I am not in a position to say that we can go behind the Constitution.
That was the position so far as the PostmasterGeneral was concerned. On 18th February of last year there was an interview with the Attorney-General, and the questions were put to him. According to a report of the interview -
Mr. Hiscock stated the position in which South Australian officers stood with regard to postmasters’ emoluments, increments under State law, and the right of officers to remain in the Service till incapacitated, irrespective of age.
Mr. Macdonald supported and claimed that, though State Acts had been superseded by Federal legislation and the Commissioner’s classification, the Commonwealth Public Service Act of 1902, section 60, kept alive certain rights enjoyed bv transferred officers under State control. Section 60 was practically a repetition of section 84 of the Constitution, and he quoted the words of Sir William Lyne when moving the second reading of the Public Service Bill in the House of Representatives. Sir William Lyne had said : “ I wish to emphasize the point that, under clauses 51 and 52 of this Bill (clause 60 of the Act), and under section 84 of the Constitution, there is a provision to make it absolutely certain that no trouble shall arise with regard to transferred officers, and that all rights that accrue to those officers who are taken over from the State will be respected.”
The Attorney-General, in the course of his reply, indicated that the three points mentioned by the delegates - “ emoluments, increments, and retiring age “ - could not be submitted to arbitration, but must be decided by the Courts. He quoted the case of Cousens v. The Commonwealth, “ in which the Court lays down the position very clearly, and decides that section 84 of the Constitution, preserving accruing and accrued rights, is subject to Commonwealth legislation, and it is not a right that is immutable, but that it is subject to legislation by a competent body.
Of course, it will be admitted that this Parliament had the right to pass whatever legislation it chose; but it does not seem to me to have taken away the obligation to respect definite obligations. The AttorneyGeneral continued -
Of course, opinions by various AttorneysGeneral supporting this view were quoted by the Attorney-General, all of which, he said, went to show that the points mentioned could not constitutionally be submitted to arbitration.
Mr. Macdonald. The Federal Convention, in dealing with the question of the rights of transferred officers, was faced with the possibility that, if the transferred officers were left open to possibly unjust treatment by their new employer, they- would vote against Federation. Those very words were used by one member of the Convention. The various members of the Convention referred to what had been done in a particular case in Victoria, and another case mentioned in India, when the servants of one company or one service went over with the business to another service. In each of these cases it was stated that the rights of the officers were so preserved that they could not suffer loss; and clause 84 of the Constitution was designed by the Convention for their protection. I take that to be the whole tenor of the debate. It was designed to prevent the officers who were to be transferred being unjustly treated or losing anything under their new employer. That is the way we viewed it, and that is the way we accepted Federation.
Honorable senators will see how strongly the officers feel with regard to these points. Then the Attorney-General said -
I quite agree with you, but would like to point out the difference between a private employ^ who has a contract with an employer and a public officer who is working under a Statute, both being transferred, is that the one has a contract which is not at all subject to anything except the terms of that contract and its interpretation in a Court of law, while the other is working under a Statute which can be annulled, modified, or amended by a competent authority.
When they are handed over or transferred to another public body either to a State or to the Commonwealth, that qualification upon their rights continues, and that other body, that otherLegislature, whatever it may be, has the right to take away every privilege and every right which he possessed. 1 wish to call attention to that statement of the Attorney-General that “that other body, 1 ‘ whatever it may be, has the right to take away every privilege and every right which an officer possessed. 1 will not concede that the Parliament has the right to do that, but I will concede that it has the power to do it, and that the power may have been exercised. The Attorney-General continued -
That does not happen at all in the case of a person who has a private contract. If you have a private contract with me that I must pay you, say> ?l? a week for life, it does not matter how much the thing is transferred. It is like the case of an apprentice transferred by one employer to another - if the transfer is properly done, then all the apprentice’s rights continue to the transferree, and the new employer has upon him all the burden that the original employer had. The transfer does not alter it, nor can he alter it without consent. I only want to point out to you that the analogy of a private employer is quite different from that of the State employer. The South Australian Legislature could, if it liked, of course, simply say that all its employes should have ^600 a year, or, on the other hand, only ^50 a year, and) there would be an end of it so far as the law is concerned, but not, of course, so far as other things are concerned.
I do not like the attitude taken up there. The Attorney-General may be quite right with regard to the power of Parliament to deal with this matter in any way it thinks* fit, but to say that a public body like a Parliament is in a different position to a private employer, and that it can cut a contract which a private employer could not do, seems to me to be taking up a somewhat immoral position. I have quoted the words of Mr. Justice Barton, in which he said that he looked upon this business as a contract. The public servants of South Australia look upon it as a contract, and whilst they may not be able to deny the supreme power of Parliament in the matter, still, I think Parliament should be as true to a contract as any private employer may be compelled to be. Mr. Macdonald said -
Had that view of the case been put before the Service prior to Federation there is no doubt whatever that it would very seriously have affected its vote with regard to it. That decision practically makes clause 84 of the Constitution so much’ waste-paper, so far as we axe concerned.
The Attorney-General then : said -
That is perfectly right. Theonly point is that the interpreter of the Constitution is the Court. I am only giving you what the Court says, and its reading of what is declared to be the law. As to whether the thing is right or wrong is a matter upon which we can all have our opinions.
I am sure that any one who looks into this matter with a view to discover whether it is right or wrong must come to the conclusion that these officers have not had a fair deal. We know the opinion of the Service, because I have clearly stated it. I do not know what is the opinion of the present Government, or whetherthey are prepared to take the matter up . and agree to my motion. I hope they will. I be- lieve that this would tend tosettle the matter once and for . all. It is of no use for us to try to hide behind the Constitution. There is nothing . ‘in the case that warrants that. The mind of the members of the Federal Convention was perfectly clear. ‘They -told these officers, no matter in what State they might be, “ If you go over to the Commonwealth your accrued and accruing rights and privileges will be preserved to you. You will be no worse off under the Federation than you are in your own State.” Parliament has, I think, the same responsibility and moral obligation as any private employer. We are face to face with this fact : We have . a body of public servants smarting under a sense of injustice. They have been trying in every way to secure a hearing and fair treatment. It is not good for the Commonwealth Public Service, as a whole, or for these officers in particular, that they should remain under a sense of unfair treatment.
– If their case was a clear one,” does the honorable senator not think that it would have been settled long ago?
– I think I have made it clear.
– If the honorable senator has, he is the only person who has been able to do so.
– I think that the statement of these officers has been put clearly enough. First of all, Parliament passed a Public Service Act, in which it handed over its judicial powers to a Public Service Commissioner. He gave certain decisions with regard to public servants, which neither section 84 of the Constitution nor section 60 of the Public Service Act warranted him in giving. From that time these officers have been fighting for justice. They could not go to the Court, because the Court held that Parliament had the power to do away with -the whole thing if it so desired, and Parliament handed its power over to the Public Service Commissioner, and that settled the matter.
– Is that not a contradiction ? The honorable senator says that they could not go to the Court, and in the next moment he says that if they go to the Court they will get no remedy.
– I say that this is a matter which could not be settled by the Arbitration Court under the Act which’ we passed last year. It is not a question of conditions or salary, which, so far as I know, are the only matters which could be referred by public servants to the Arbitration Court under the Act of last year.
– Is it not a question of whether the South Australian officers are given as good terms and conditions as similar officers in the other States?
-No; as they had before Federation.
– They were assured that they would suffer nothing by a transfer to the Commonwealth. I have admitted that if the same salaries were paid there would be anomalies, and Mr. Justice Barton said that those anomalies would continue during the life of these officers, but would gradually disappear.
– Would the honorable senator tell us what was said by the Royal Commission that inquired into the matter ?
– I quoted that last year.
– Perhaps the honorable senator will quote it again.
– I have not the report of the Commission referred to here. I believe they took up the position that the responsibilitywas upon Parliament, that Parliament had done certain things, and they could therefore make no recommendation. I think that last year I quoted the passage from the report of the Commission dealing with the matter.
– They went very much further than the honorable senator has said.
– Iam asking for the appointment of a Select Committee to take evidence on both sides, and bring up a recommendation to this Parliament for a solution of the difficulty. I submit the motion, because I do not think that it is good for the Service that it should contain a number of men smarting under what they believe to be an injustice. If the Select Committee were appointed, and reported against them, I take it that that would settle the matter’ once and for all. They were promised arbitration, . but the Minister backed down from that, and so far as I can see they have no other course open to them but to ask that a Select Committee should inquire into the whole matter, and make a recommendation to Parliament. These officers were quite willing, should the matter be referred to arbitration, to abide the result if they were satisfied with regard to the arbitrator. I think they would be willing to abide by the finding of such a Select Committee as I ask for. I hope that I shall have the support of the Government in the matter, and that they will agree to the appointment of a Committee to investigate the facts with a view to a satisfactory settlement of the whole question.
Debate (on motion by Senator Findley) adjourned.
Senate adjourned at 9.34 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 7 November 1912, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1912/19121107_SENATE_4_67/>.