9th Parliament · 2nd Session
The President (Senator the Hon. T. Givens) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
-In view of the fact that the Senate permitted the Supply Bill to go through without debate on the understanding that honorable senators would have an opportunity of ventilating grievances on the Budget, will the Leader of the Senate make arrangements for the Budget papers to be presented here in time to allow, at least, three weeks’ debate before the end of the session?
– It is hoped that the Budget will he presented in another place next week. If so, honorable senators will have ample time for discussion.
– Recently I directed attention to a report that an actress was appearing at a Melbourne theatre wearing in her head-dress birds of paradise plumes, and the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs promised to have the matter investigated. Is he yet in a position to supply any information?
– The matter was brought under the notice of the Minister for Trade and Customs, who, in turn, suggested that I might conduct personal investigations on my first available free evening; but as the business of the Senate has rendered it impossible for me to do so, I am not yet in a position to reply to the honorable senator. I hope, however, to be able to make a statement on this question next week.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
Zealand by the Nauru Commission during the last year of operations?
– The information is being obtained, and will be supplied to the honorable senator as early as practicable.
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– Until it is known whether it will be necessary to retire officers as being in excess of requirements, and to what extent retirements must be effected, the Government will not be in a position to commit itself to any particular course of action in effecting retirement.
Debate resumed from 19th July (vide page 1320), on motion by Senator Wilson -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– It is not my intention to traverse the ground covered in my second-reading speech, but I feel it necessary to reply briefly to some of the statements made in the course of the debate. There is, of course, a difference of opinion as to the wisdom of continuing the Line, but by placing it on a sound business footing we hope to insure its usefulness as a public utility. Some honorable senators have urged that the writing down of the capital value of the ships has been too drastic. I submit that if we err at all it should be on the side of undervaluation in order that the Line may be in a position to offer reasonable freights, pay working expenses and earn interest upon its capital value. I emphasize that the transfer of the Line by the management to a Board is not a sale in any sense of the term. The vessels will not be passed over to outside ownership. The Board will be the creation of Parliament, and as such will be subject to parliamentary control. It is absurd to suggest that the Line is to be handed over to a Board to “ boom or burst.” Parliament will have control, and I am certain that the position will be amply safeguarded. The Bill provides that the Board shall issue 5 per cent. debentures in payment for the ships. In normal times, this is the ordinary rate of interest provided for in any business undertaking. The Board, being constituted as a business concern, will be required to face all the usual business risks. There will be no power to sell any of the assets without the consent of the Treasurer, and as the Minister is answerable to Parliament we shall retain effective control. There will be no authority for the Board to increase the capital without the consent of Parliament, and we shall have what is, I think, an innovation, namely, properly audited balance-sheets presented to Parliament at least once a year.
– That is provided for in the Commonwealth Bank Act.
– But under somewhat different conditions.
– All Government enterprises are required to present annual financial statements of their operations.
– But as the honorable senator knows, they have been belated. In this respect, the Commonwealth Shipping Line has also been an offender, for we have not been supplied with balance-sheets for two or three years. We say that as the Board will be in active competition with private enterprise, it should also be subjected to taxation charges. It is better to put the position on a strictly business footing. If, as critics of this proposal claim, the Line will continue to lose money for the people, then there need be no complaint about the taxation of profits, because if it earns no profits there will be no taxation. Senator Gardiner also said that if certain of the vessels were to be sold it would be better to keep them in commission, because then there would be a better chance of disposing of them. I agree that we would get a better price for vessels in such circumstances, and we are endeavouring to find business for our ships. However, we simply cannot run boats for the pleasure of joy-riding. The smaller vessels of the Line, being unsuitable for. the work they are called upon to perform, are unprofitable owing to the excessive overhead charges. My information is that the commissioning of the idle ships would involve the Line in very much greater losses than the policy of keeping them at their moorings. If we could run them at a cost not greater than is incurred by keeping them idle, we would be glad to have them employed.
– Why not putone on the Adelaide to Port Lincoln run?
– Unfortunately, they are not suitable. Neither are they suitable for the Tasmanian trade. We want a certain type of ship for certain work. Unfortunately, the Commonwealth does not possess a ship which is suitable for that trade; otherwise it would say to the Tasmanian Government, “ This is such a good thing that the Commonwealth is prepared to give you a ship almost at your own price. You can cater for Tasmania in your own way, and we will finance you.”
– We want the Commonwealth to take the responsibility.
– I quite appreciated that fact when the honorable senator was speaking last night. The Commonwealth Shipping Line eannot compete against foreigners in the tramp trade on account of the greater cost incurred in running its vessels, and the fact that, while other tramp ships would be able to finance their way to their home ports, ours would be compelled to return to Australia in ballast. Senator Gardiner referred to the valuations which have been arrived at. I assure the honorable senator that the writing down was not a haphazard process, performed by an officer of the Public Service. C. W. Kellock and Co., London, who are regarded as the greatest shipbrokers in the world, and who had no connexion with the Commonwealth Shipping Line, valued the undertaking. I feel sure that honor- able senators will recognise that the work wassatisfactorily done. It is the opinion of the officers connected with this Line that a sale of the vessels would probably realize a little more than the valuation. Honorable senators should remember that these are abnormal times; we have never experienced their like in the history of shipping, and I hope that we shall not do so inthe future. That fact is an advantage in some respects, because it wall enable the Board to commenceoperations on what one might term “ the ground floor.” Therefore, we look for the very best results. Senator Gardiner stressed the value of this Commonwealth Shipping Line to the Australian producers. Iconcur in that view. I unquestionably believe that it hasperformed excellent work for Australia. An honorable senator from Tasmania said that the Commonwealth had not done anything for that State. I draw his attention to the fact that the intervention of the Commonwealth Shipping Line was responsible for a reduction in freights to Tasmania by 30s. per ton.
– It saved the fruitgrowers this year 6d.a case in the freight on their fruit.
– That was a very big item. The Government have adopted a bold policy in placing the Commonwealth Shipping Line on a proper footing.
– The advantages derived by Tasmania from the Commonwealth Shipping Line have been nullified by the operation of the Navigation Act.
– Senator Gardiner referred to the figures quoted by the present Prime Minister in 1921. Without an explanation, it is difficult to understand those figures in the light of the present figures. In Mr. Bruce’s figures, account was not taken of the building of the two “F” class steamers. Taking into account the difference between the presentday value of those two vessels and the price which is being paid by the CommonwealthGovernment to Cockatoo Island for their construction, a loss is shown of approximately £1,200,000. The Government realize that a loss of approximately £500,000 will be made on the construction of the vessel which was started last week. Some people may say, “ Why do you proceed with
Why not scrap it ? “ The Government delved into all the details, and, in view of the fact that all the parts had been manufactured and were ready for assembling, decided to proceed with the construction of the vessel. The Government considered further that the work which was being done at Cockatoo Island was of such value to Australia that it was necessary to adopt a bold policy. The Government are justified also in their decision tobuild the ship by reason of the fact that it will have the greater amount of refrigerating space that is required to-day. At present-day values shipbuilding is not a payable proposition. We can, however, turn Cockatoo Island into a huge repairing shop, build those ships that are required in the Commonwealth, and keep the dockyard at the very highest state of efficiency,sothat it will fee available if required in time ofwar. On the 13 “ E “ vessels there has been a loss of £2,300,000; on the “ D’s “ a lossof £899,000. That makes a total difference of £4,511,000. I am sure that Senator Gardiner’s ambition to have the Cockatoo Island Dockyard placed on a proper footing and worked successfully is equal to my own. In the last two years I have watched carefully the operations of Cockatoo Island. Compared with what it was two years ago the state of efficiency there to-day is as different as chalk is from cheese. In the past the permission of the Minister had to be obtained in regard to every detail, and the management could not get on with its work. Three experts are now to be appointed. They will be told, “ This is your responsibility. Australia wants to preserve this industry, and we put you to the test of doing it.” Senator Needham advocated strongly that there should be on the Board a representative of theworkers in the industry. This is not to be a Board in the ordinary sense of the term. If it were, it should have on it representatives of all parties. It is intended to have on the Board a shipping expert, a works expert, and a financial representative. The Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) has given an undertaking that directly the Board is appointed he will convene a conference between it and the representatives of the men, over which be will preside, to endeavour to formulate a working scheme that will insure industrial peace and the happiness of the men.
– Does not the Minister realize that the best brains are to be found amongst the workers?
– I realize that the workers possess their fair share of brains. I realize, also, that a man must possess the necessary qualifications to perform any given work. If he does, there is nothing to debar him from occupying any position. It ought not to be a question of whether a man belongs to this or to that party; qualifications should count when any appointment is made. Efficiency will never be obtained unless that practice is adopted. The Government desire to make this Line a success, and they want the men to be happy. No shipping line in the world offers the advantages that are given by the Commonwealth Shipping Line to-day. The captain of a ship is entitled to five days a month off in return for the Sundays worked, with an accumulation of sixty days a year. No other line in the world confers on its servants benefits of that character. Similar conditions apply to the crews. I am certain that the taxpayers and the Parliament of this country expect their men to be given good terms and conditions. The Government desire, therefore, that the men shall be made happy and contented.
– Some of the passengers have complained about the treatment that has. been meted out to them.
– It is very difficult to satisfy some people. On each vessel there is usually a huge travelling public of 700 persons, and some will always complain. Senator Gardiner referred to clauses 13 and 14, which transfer from the Commonwealth to the Board all the right, title, and interest in and to the Commonwealth Shipping Line. Parliament created this Line, and by handing it over in trust, they are not losing control. Parliament could veto the whole transaction to-morrow. Nothing of any vital importance could be accomplished without the consent of the Treasurer, who represents Parliament. Honorable senators may rest assured that every provision has been made for the protection of our rights. Senator Findley referred to the proposed sale of the Williamstown Dock. The
Government contemplate a successful sale of the Williamstown yards. No vessel of over 6,500 tons could be docked at these yards, and they would be of no use for the class of vessel which the Government propose to retain. I hope we shall also be able to retain trading boats where required.Senator Needham yesterday mentioned the need of shipping facilities for Geraldton, in Western Australia.
– Before the Minister leaves the matter of the Williamstown Dock, I wish to ask whether repairs to Comnnonwealth vessels have not been effected at that dock?
– Then why could not future repairs be effected there?
– It is preferable to have one dock managed efficiently and economically, rather than continue two unpayable propositions. The position is that we can maintain the Cockatoo Island Dockyard efficiently, but not the parochial yard at Williamstown.
– That is a “suggestion that the work has not been economically carried out at Williamstown. The facts are against that.
– It is a question of efficiency versus inefficiency. I am not, by any means, reflecting on the capability of the men at Williamstown Dockyards. AtCockatoo Island there is £2,250,000 worth of up-to-date equipment. The Williamstown Dock is a miniature; merely a boy in the family. In reply to Senator Needham, I wish to say that only last year the management of the Commonwealth Shipping Line offered to place a vessel at the disposal of Geraldton if 500 tons of cargo were guaranteed. If the Board is assured of trade, they will be only too pleased to place shipping facilities at the disposal of ports, whether Albany, Geraldton, or Port Melbourne.
– That policy is not adopted by the present management.
– That is so. Senator Needham also stated that the Government intended to sell this socialistic venture “ lock, stock, and barrel.”
– I said that the Government had condemned it lock, stock, and barrel.
– The honorable senator’s statement reminds me of Paddy’s, gun, which wanted a new lock, stock, and barrel. The proposed Board will give efficient administration. I wish to see an excellent body of men appointed, as the success of the concern will depend onthe management. They should be ready to discuss vital matters of administration with the men, and have consideration for the human element. These matters will be considered when the Board is appointed. When the Bill is in Committee, I shall be pleased to give honorable senators any further information they require. They must realizethat it is useless for the Government to continue their control of a huge concern like the Commonwealth Shipping Line at the present stage of uncertainty, and at the risk of tremendous loss.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clause 1 (Short title).
– When a previous Bill was taken through Committee the right was taken from honorable senators to amend the title. I resent any trespass upon the rights of this Senate, as I believe that we have the right, not only to amend, but to discuss titles in Committee. I wish to know from the Minister in charge why this measure is to be known as “ the Commonwealth Shipping Act ? “ Under its provisions the Commonwealth Shipping Line will be transferred to a Board, and, therefore, I do not see why the name “ Commonwealth “ should be retained.
– This undertaking will still be the Commonwealth Shipping Line. The Board are to be the trustees for the Commonwealth. Wo are throwing the responsibility of the management of the Line directly on the shoulders of a Board, answerable to Parliament.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 2 agreed to.
Clause 3 (Definitions).
.- This clause states that “ the Board “ means the Board of Directors appointed under this Bill. The Minister should incorporate in the Bill the number of members to be appointed to the Board.
– Clause 6 provides for three or five members.
– Perhaps I had better leave that matter till later, but it is one aspect that should be discussed.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 4 and 5 agreed to.
Clause 6- (1.) For the purposes of this Act there shall be a Board of Directors consisting of not less than three nor more than five members. (2.) The members of the Board shall be appointed by the Governor-General, and shall hold office during good behaviour for the period for which they were appointed, and shall be eligible for re-appointment.
– This clause is important. It was discussed by Senator Findley, and I regret that the Minister, in reply, owing, perhaps, to the time being limited, did not give it full consideration. We have ample scope to discuss it in Committee. I approach this question free from any desire to have merely Union or Labour representation, as such, on the Board. I wish to discuss it from the point of view that men with the best brains for business should be included in the management, and to remind the Committee that from the ranks of the workers some of the ablest men in the community have been recruited. They are the men who do the real work. Let me take as an illustration the conduct of the business of this Senate. On the Government benches is Senator Pearce, a man who came from the union ranks; the President, Senator Givens, was also taken from union ranks, as was the Chairman of Committees, Senator Newland. On the Public Works Committee are Senator Eeid and Senator Lynch, who were once unionists. All have displayed their abilities in this Senate; but, if the same principle existed in respect of the Senate that it is proposed to apply to the Board of Control, the Commonwealth would be deprived of the valuable services of these honorable senators. In legislating we say that we require the best brains on a Board of Directors. The workers comprise 80 per cent. of the community; those who are said to be “ in position “ comprise the rest of the community, and when well-paid jobs are created or vacated this section usually obtains them. What “ in position “ stands for I really do not know. Certain people say that it is the capacity to obtain wealth.
– Is not the senator destroying his former argument?
– Very likely, if it can be destroyed by referring to those who say they constitute an elevated class. Senator Wilson was determined that the claims of unionists should not enter into the question of the appointment of the Board. The unions should be considered, because they include the brains and machinery which, successfully or otherwise, manage any large undertaking. In the management of the Cockatoo Island Dockyard, would it not be a distinct advantage to have on the Board men of this calibre? There will always be industrial trouble while men who lack merit obtain more than they deserve and others with merit get less than they deserve. It would be well to have on the Board a competent man who is really in sympathy with the men with whom he has to deal. That sympathy unfortunately, is, at present, sadly lacking in the industrial arena generally. The party feeling which sometimes reaches a high pitch in this Chamber,but which I always endeavour to quell asmuch as possible - becomes accentuated outside. The Labour man has the “ boot put into him “ from start to finish. Ability is not recognised when a man has been guilty of the awful offence of belonging to the Labour party. If the Minister (Senator Wilson) has any doubt about what I say, I am in a position to give him a concrete case. Any improvement brought about in the conditions of the workers results in the uplift of the general community. Education among the working classes is world-wide nowadays, and it is a mistaken policy to refrain from putting to the best use the knowledge that the working people possess.
In addition to the members of this Chamber, who sprang from the ranks of Labour, and are now occupying important positions, I might mention the fact that the ex-Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) was once a Labour man ; andso also was the Chairman of Committees in the House of Representatives (Mr. Bamford). The High Commissioner, for Australia (Sir Joseph Cook) commenced his career in the ranks of the workers, but the party opposite would never have utilized his undoubted ability if he had remained a coal-miner. I should imagine that the Board itself would desire to have the benefit of the advice of capable men, who directly represent the working section.
– I heartily support the remarks of Senator Gardiner. I have always, as a general principle, opposed the appointment of Boards, believing that the best results are to be obtained from one brainy man, who should be given absolute control, and held responsible for the success of the undertaking of which he is placed in charge. A multiplicity of Boards has come into existence, and a few lucky individuals seem to find their way upon the majority of them. Very often these people make a hopeless muddle of the work they undertake. They cannot even issue notes and postage stamps without blundering. When I had a rest from my parliamentary duties some time ago, the Government were good enough to appoint me to a position on the Board of Trade. I was naturally pleased; but as soon as I was given the position the Board ceased meeting. It could not obtain a quorum. As soon as I was returned to this august Chamber, the Board met, but I was not invited to attend. I take it that the Chairman of the Shipping Board will be the gentleman who has conducted the Commonwealth Shipping Line up to the present. He would certainly make an able chairman. He does not pretend to know much about the Cockatoo Island Dockyard. In the manager of that yard, however, we have one of the ablest men to be found in Australia. He has reconstructed the yard, which is now a model workshop, and he has converted the establishment into a paying proposition. If he is not to be appointed to the Board, he ought to be. I take it that the present financial expert will also be selected as a member. In addition to the three I have mentioned, representation should be given to the workmen. Wherever that experiment has been tried, it baa proved successful. The Bureau of Research at the Sydney Trades Hall is as efficient as any body of the kind in any part of the world. The officers of the Bureau are experts, and the press recognises their cleverness, which goes to prove that workmen are efficient in such matters. Their statistics are most valuable. . I move -
That after the word “ members,” sub-clause lj the following words be inserted: - “and shall include a representative of the industrial unions whose members are employed on the ships held or acquired by the Board.”
Senator GRANT (New South Wales) [11 .560. - J dx> not favour the creation of a Board. It would he very much better to appoint a governor or administrator of the Commonwealth Shipping Line, a6 was done in the case of . the Commonwealth Bank. We should then have a responsible officer to whom we could look for the proper administration of the. Line. With a Board, it would be most difficult, if not impossible, to place responsibility on the right shoulders. Apparently, the Government have decided to have a Board., but have not made up their minds whether it should comprise three or five members.” I have no doubt that at least five, and probably more, will be appointed. It is astonishing how the personnel of such, bodies increases. As there is no hope of circumventing the proposal for a Board, I maintain that tha men engaged in the construction and operation of the ship should be directly represented. The constructional unions should nominate one member and the operating unions another. It is idle to assume that all the necessary administrative, financial, and other qualifications are to he found in men who have had little or no practical experience of ship construction and working. The adoption of my suggestion would lead to economy and more satisfactory results generally in connexion with the construction and repairing of the vessels, and would, at the same time, result in the smoother working of the Line. I wish to give notice of a further amendment as follows : -
That, at the end of Bub-clause (2), the following proviso bo inserted : - “ Provided that one of the members of the Board shall be recommended by the unions representing the constructional section, and one by the operating section of the employees.”
By the constructional section, I mean the engineers, boiler-makers, painters, &fc; The ‘Operatives would include the seamen, members of the Merchant Service Guild, and the Australian Institute of Marine Engineers, as well as radio telegraphists and cooks and stewards. The inclusion of a representative of those sections would not add largely to the expenses of the Board.
– Should not the primary producers and passengers also have representatives?
– The members nominated by the Government will doubtless attend to the interests of the passengers. I am particularly anxious that those engaged in the constructional and operating work shall have representation.
– I am not favorable to the appointment of a Board, as I believe the ships can be properly managed by one man possessing the necessary qualifications for the position. At the inception of this enterprise the Government had had no experience in the shipping business, but the Line was as efficiently controlled by one official as were some of the oldest and best shipping lines that were managed by Boards, and this notwithstanding that the manager was not clothed with the drastic powers to be given to the proposed Board. The Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) stated that if the Lino were placed under the control of a Board it would be free from political influence, but I do not think it can be said that political influence has ever interfered with the management of the Line. The Commonwealth Line is in a sense a business proposition, but it is not endeavouring to make big dividends for the benefit of its shareholders, as private shipping companies are. . In my immature days I was under the impression that some of those who enjoyed the largest incomes were necessarily the most competent, and overshadowed every one else in the community; but after coming in contact with! such gentlemen at the conference table I concluded . that they were not giants of: commerce, but everyday human beings. The number to be appointed to the Board is not mentioned, neither is the remuneration stipulated. Are the members of tha Board to be Australians? Some of tha powers of the Board are set out in the Bill, from which it would appear that it will have the authority to handle this tremendous asset, which is the property of the people, just as it pleases.
– (Senator Newland). - The Committee is now considering the amendment moved by- Senator McDougall.
– I am discussing the clause which provides for the appointment of a Board, and am therefore in order in dealing with the principle involved.
– When the amendment is disposed of, the honorable senator will have an opportunity to address himself to the clause.
– I am hoping that the whole clause will be deleted. The Australian people are shareholders in this enterprise, and as a shareholder I have the right to discuss a proposition in which I am directly interested. I am not opposed to the Line being under the control of an efficient manager, as it has been in the past, but I do not think a Board is likely to render better service to the shareholders. If, however, the Government insist on appointing a Board its personnel should include representatives of those sections which are most vitally concerned, because that would tend to a more harmonious relationship between those engaged on the vessels. It is not a new principle to allow workers to have a voice in the control of industries. The idea is being carried out in some big institutions^ different parts of the world, and, from information received,- I understand it is proving eminently satisfactory. I say, in all seriousness, that the Government, in their own interests and in the interests of the people, should give representation on the Board to the workers. This would lessen trouble, and probably eliminate altogether that friction which, on several occasions, has been responsible for considerable delay in the working of some of the Commonwealth ships. The Board will be able to do almost anything in connexion with the ships and their employees. Having that power, it is possible that at times the Board may adopt a course that would result in serious inconvenience to the people of tho Commonwealth, and lead to serious trouble amongst those engaged in the ships. Senator Gardiner said that the workers represent at least 80 per cent, of the population. I go further, and say that they represent about 90 per cent. As shareholders in this big concern, they are entitled to at least one representative on the B?ard. Is there anything unfair in that request? I think it is too modest. Personally, I should like to see the Board wiped out; but, as that will not be possible, I shall be satisfied if the industrial section of the community has one representative on it. As a shareholder in the enterprise, he will be as anxious for success as - perhaps more anxious than - some of the other members who may be appointed. It is likely that if they come from the business world their one purpose will be to make the Line pay, no matter in what way that object is achieved. We have seen fortunes made by so-called business men who, so to speak, have extracted the last ounce of blood from their sweated employees; men have had to work inordinately long hours for totally inadequate wages, and when they have reached a certain age have been cast aside.
– The honorable senator has exhausted his time.
– Honorable senators opposite will not be surprised when I say that I cannot accept the amendment. The Board will cot be a Board in the ordinary sense of the term at all. Rather will it be a Board of coordinating managers, and for the present it will consist of three, not five, persons. If, later, the Government find it advisable to increase the personnel, the position will be reconsidered. If the amendment were’ carried for the appointment of a representative of industrial organizations, we might have a similar demand for representation on behalf of the primary producers.
– We would agree to that.
– And, then, why not representation for the wool-growers?
– Because they are included in the primary producers.
– The amendment would result in overloading the Board, and I ask honorable senators to reject it.
– Notwithstanding the Minister’s op- position to the amendment, I urge that it is worthy of serious consideration. “Representation of workers on the management- of industrial concerns is one of the principles which I have always advocated. I have always endeavoured to direct unionists along what I considered to be right lines. I believe that they should obey constituted authority. I have always been anxious to do what I could to eliminate those bitter industrial troubles that occur so frequently between employers and employees. The time has come when we should realize the human element in the workers to a greater extent than has been done in the past. The existence of harmonious relations between workers and their employers is one of the greatest safeguards of industrial peace. I do not stand for the absolute control by the workers of the industries in which they are engaged. That course, I think, is quite impracticable; but I earnestly urge that serious consideration be given to this proposal. “Workers should be encouraged by the knowledge that they have something more than a mechanical interest in their occupation. I am certain that if the amendment be agreed to it will lead to harmony in the working of the Line. I shall be satisfied with one representative from the industrial organizations, so long as he does represent the workers. We all know of the difficulties that have arisen between the Seamen’s Union and the steam-ship companies, and we hear it suggested that this proposal would lead to job control. That is not at all probable, because the representative of the workers would be in a minority on the Board, and would be outvoted every time. One of the most potent causes of industrial unrest is the monotony of toil. It is essential, therefore, that the worker should have a real interest in his job. The operation of this principle in various industrial undertakings in England has been most successful. It has conduced to harmony and better industrial relations, and in many trades has eliminated causes of industrial unrest. I appeal to honorable senators to give this pet idea of mine a trial, lt cannot possibly do any harm. On the contrary, if it is adopted, we shall have industrial peace in connexion with the operations of the Commonwealth Shipping Line.
– There are two proposals before the Committee, one submitted by Senator McDougall, and the other by Senator Grant. This is an advantage, inasmuch as anything which I may say concerning Senator McDougall’s amendment will apply also to that moved by Senator Grant. Stripped pf all its make-believe find embellishments, the amendment suggests that employees of the Line will be subjected to some form of injustice, either now or in the immediate future. But this is a Government venture. The Board will be a business concern, for which this Parliament and succeeding Governments will be responsible. Therefore, employees of the Line .will stand in an entirely different position from employees in a private company. No Government could attempt to run this Shipping Line and at the same time be guilty of injustice to its employees without that injustice finding an echo in Parliament. It is not so with employees of private business concerns. They may be ground down with injustices, and perhaps may never be in a position to give expression to their complaints in the same way that employees of the Commonwealth Government Shipping Line will be able to do. Parliament in the ultimate resort will be responsible, because the Board will be a creature of Parliament. If the Board is guilty of any injustice towards its employees, the Government of the day will be responsible, and the ballot-box will soon settle them if they do not remedy the injustice. We are living in times of change. I am reminded that a Labour Government created this enterprise, and also the Commonwealth Bank. But when the latter project was being discussed in this Chamber, the last word of political wisdom then expressed was that a Governor should be appointed. There was no suggestion then that, as an alternative, there should be an adviser or assistant to look after the interests of the employees of the Bank. Labour supporters of the proposal were then silent. If this innovation is necessary now, it was no less necessary then. Now, if one may judge by their attitude towards the appointment of the proposed Shipping Board, they have changed their minds. It is, df course, quite right and proper, that, if they honestly believe that the’ course they now advocate is right, they should! be allowed to change their minds. But I notice that, if anybody else changes hia mind,, it is a case of get the basket, the sawdust,, and the guillotine ready for hist head.
– There is no ana-logy at all between the two enterprises.
– I hare no objection whatever to honorable senators changing their minds. There is nothing so war changeable as change, anc therefore; I concede, to honorable, senators just the same amount of freedom that I ask for myself. There was no suggestion by the principal members of. the party to introduce this innovation:, .whence does- it come?’
– The practice adopted was to appoint managers. We are supporting that principle now.
– This new idea nas been’ put forward’ lately. I candidly confess that to me this has a strong Moscow taint; we get from it a whiff of red snow. The Whitley report, which was’ presented to the Imperial Parliament, recommended that the workmen should be given representation upon boards; relating to the industries in which they were engaged). The idea was that those; representatives’ of. the workers- should’ be charged with the duty of looking after the. economic welfare of the industry which they represented - that and nothing’ more. I do- not object to that in the least. The Soviet Government acted under the instructions of Lenin, who said, “ Take the industries ; they belong to you.” The leaders of the Labour movement in- Australia recognise that it. is not possible at present for the workers to- take to themselves the indus-tries of this country. They therefore desire to take the first step in that direction! -by having the employees represented on the management of the different industries. I should not object to the employees having representation if sucha course were practicable; I do not think the practice would be workable for the simple- reason that if employees’, a» such, in any grade of society are given power beyond that to which they are entitled’,, they use it to their own advantage and to the disadvantage of other sections of the community. The Commonwealth. Shipping Line is owned by the people of
Australia. What proportion of the community is: constituted of the men aboard the ships ? They are a very small decimal fraction of the total population. Where do- the other workers come in; who constitute a very high percentage of the total’ number? Are. they not to be given representation? Senator Grant is- working along logical lines: when he says; that if the employees aboard the ships are en-titled to representation, so also are the men who build the ships. But where* d»> those who dig the ore- and mak© the? iron come in 1 When one f alse step- is: taken it leads to another, until eventually one finds oneself in an- irrecoverable position-. There are others who ought to have representation on this. Board if that, practice is adopted. What about the- gold, miners, the product of whose labour is sent to the other parts of the world? What- will the. miners in the base metal field say if they find that excessive freights are being, charged ‘because. o£ the mismanagement of this Line? Will they not have a grievance? Then there are the farmers. They work on a very small margin. Clocks and watches were newer intended to be used by the f aimers,, Aslong as their bodily strength endures, they have, to continue working in order to. keepin. idleness, the- city loafers. If their efforts were appreciated, it would not be so bad;, but they one not. They are bending their backs: early and late, carrying on the industries, of the country. What about the farm labourers,? Should they have representation? If all these interests are given -representation, the Board will be a hydra-headed monster, and that willi make effective management impossible. I agree with what was done in Russia up to a certain point, hu* I totally disagree with the later development. when everything- was turned upside down. There’ is an- old saying, “ There is no tyranny so tyrannical as the tyranny of the slave when he gets on top.”- That does not justify the wild career that has been embarked upon in> Russia, and has been held up as an- example to- this young democracy. We ought to go down on our knees and thank God that the men who battled in the past obtained for US’ the charter of liberty which we. enjoy to-day. We have greater freedom than any country, not even excepting Russia. I ask honorable senators opposite, do the workers employed in Labour newspapers have representation on the boards of management? Not in one case. Yet honorable’ senators opposite propose that that practice shall be adopted in regard to the Commonwealth Line of Steamers. Were the workers who erected the Trades Hall, Perth, given representation on the board of management when that building was erected by contract? Not on your life! Not a suggestion of it. Our honorable friends opposite, however, think that what is not good enough for themselves ought to be good enough, for the Commonwealth Shipping Line. I advise them to practise what they preach.
– The honorable senators? time has expired.
– It is time we returned from Moscow to Melbourne. Yesterday afternoon I had occasion to tell Senator Lynch tha* we usually enjoy his lectures^ We have enjoyed one to-day, and I presume that we shall enjoy many more. Senator Lynch is* certainly entertaining,. but he is no’ always instructive. I have known the honorable senator for a long time, and’ is usually logical. I can see no logic, however, in the’ arguments he has1 used in opposition to the amendment. I certainly think that he has attempted to ridicule a suggestion which has been made with a view to im-
E roving this measure. Why is Senatorynch perturbed because- we suggest that there shall be a representative of the
Workers on this Board’? I do not want to naive th* Board established. Sena-tor Lynch referred to- the action of a Labour Government in connexion with the establishment of the Commonwealth B’ank. He said that those who supported that Government did not clamour for the appointment of a representative1 of the workers on the Board of Management. That is quite true. A Board was’ not created. We said, “ This is one man’s job; let One man carry it out.” I am prepared to support the Government now if they will say that this is a one man’s job. Bud; when they propose to appoint a Board of three, and when the Honorary Minister (Senator’ Wilson.) tells us there isi going to be a financial expert, a shipping expert, and some1 other expert, it is time f or us to suggest that those- who- sail the ships shall, also have representation. We have no idea of going to- the. ridiculous length suggested by Senator Lynch1; we simply want to have on the Board’ one representative of the workers of this country. After all, the workers will have to bear their proportion- of the1 cost of running the Line. If a financial expert is appointed to the Board, there should’ be on it also- some one to represent the men who are down in the stokeholds, and those who work on deck, as well1 as those who built the vessel’.
– I remind the honorable senator that,, while he objects to the Board1, there is a large section of the community who object to the continuation of the Commonwealth Shipping. Line-
– There ist not on the’ part- of the community that objection to« the Commonwealth Shipping Line that the honorable- senator imagines. That was proved at the last elections, when eleven- additional Labour men advocating the continuation of the Commonwealth Government Line were elected to this Cham>ber.
– Would’ the advocacy of that’, undertaking influence- the” vote- at all%
– The> electors re<turned to this- Parliament mem who espoused the cause of the Commonwealth Shipping Line, and rejected those who condemned it. The- honorable senator, himself, represents a party which was rejected’ at the polls. The polling at the last election reflected the opinion of the electors of this country. I am anxious to assist the Minister in the passing of this Bill, but I wish it to leave* this Chamber embodying certain improvements. With that object in view, I support the amendment of Senator McDougall.
.- In reply to- Senator Lynch, I wish to say that no matter how we may differ on various questions, honorable senators will agree that he takes care to ‘ prevent us from being at all bored. His speech, although interesting, was so, contrary to his professions of a lifetime that I feel compelled to reply. He stated’ that the Labour party obtained from- Russia their idea of the control of industry by the workers. We are contending-, not that each branch of industry should’ be represented on the Board, but, rather, the great majority of the community. When I stated this morning that the most capable men for appointment to the Board would come from the workers, Senator Kingsmill, by interjection, asked whether I did not think I was destroying my argument. I then failed to catch his meaning; but, now, after listening to Senator Lynch, I think I do. Senator Lynch spoke of lifting men from the ranks of the workers, where they obtain intelligence and education, to higher positions, where they will be of use to the rest of the community. That seems, on the face of it, quite a satisfactory procedure. But it is not the practice that should be followed. Men should be appointed to the Board on their merits. It is the earnest desire of this party to appoint a Board representing all sections of the community, so as to insure the success of the Commonwealth Shipping Line. We put forward this proposal, not for the purpose of antagonizing Labour and Capital, but in the belief that the 95 per cent. of the people constituting that section which is usually overlooked by Senator Wilson’s party have more ability than the 5 per cent. he represents.
Question - That the words proposed to be inserted be so inserted (Senator McDougall’s amendment) - put. The Committee divided.
Majority … … 8
Question so resolved in the negative.
Amendment (by Senator Grant) put -
That the following proviso be added to subclause (2) : - “ Provided that one of the members of the Board shall be recommended by the unions representing the constructional section and one by the operating section of the employees.
The Committee divided.
Majority … 8
Question so resolved in the negative.
Amendment (by Senator Wilson) proposed -
That the following new sub-clause be added : - “ (9). In the absence of the chairman from any meeting, the members of the Board present at the meeting shall elect one of their number to act as chairman at the meeting.”
– I wish to know what this new subclause really means. The Minister informed us that the Board would consist of three members.
– The same provision applies to any business board.
SenatorFINDLEY. - Then, in the absence of the chairman, one of the two remaining members will be the acting chairman, with a double-barrelled vote. This power should not be given.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.30 p.m.
SenatorFINDLEY. - Clause 6 is clear and specific. It provides that there shall be a Board of Directors, consisting of not less than three nor more than five members. It further states that the GovernorGeneral may appoint one of the members to be chairman. We may take it that the word “ may “ means “ shall,” and that the chairman will be appointed by the Governor-General in Council. Further on the clause states that, at meetings of the Board, the chairman shall have a deliberative vote, and, in the event of an equality of voting, a second or casting vote. If, in a Board of three, one member were in favour of a certain course of action, and another member against it, the vote of the chairman would decide the issue. There is to be a quorum of two, and I understand that it is now proposed to give the acting chairman a deliberative as well as a casting vote. There would be great danger in that. I suggest that when there are only two members of the Board present, and when they are not in agreement on a particular matter, the question should stand over for further consideration. Millions of pounds have been invested in the Commonwealth Shipping Line, and the rights of the people must be protected. Public interests would not be adequately safeguarded under the proposed new subclause if it means that the acting chairman, at a meeting of two, would have both a deliberative and a casting vote.
– If the Board decided, instead of paying a subsidy of ?53,000 a year to Burns, Philp and Company for providing a mail service between Australia and the Pacific Islands, to run steamers themselves in opposition to private enterprise, and if the Government objected to the proposal, what would be the position ?
– I take it that the Board will be prepared to cater for any trade, irrespective of present circumstances. It will not consider itself bound to assistBurns, Philp and Company, or anybody else; but it will seek to conduct the Commonwealth Government Line on a business basis. I look forward to the time when we shall see this Line undertaking some of the mail contracts.
.- I hope that the Minister (Senator Wilson) will not overlook Senator Findley’s point. I understand that the Minister’s amendment would give the acting chairman a deliberative as well as a casting vote. In the event of only two members being present, and fail ing to agree on any particular matter, it should be allowed to stand over for a meeting of the full Board. On a Board in which the quorum consists of two members, one member has no right to two votes on any important question.
– I remind honorable senators that, even when the chairman is present, the quorum will be two, and, in the absence of the chairman, the acting chairman will take his place. The matters arising might be of sufficient importance to demand immediate attention in order that the business of the Line should not be held up. Surely any two members out of three should be of sufficient to constitute a quorum. In all matters, as in the case of other Boards, a member of the Shipping Board will be answerable in due course to the full Board for any action he may take. The new sub-clause would meet extreme circumstances, such as the illness of one of the members of the Board.
– It seems to me that more than two members should be required to constitute a quorum. The clause provides that the Board shall consist of not less than three, nor more than five, members. It is evidently contemplated that at some time there may be five members. If the attendance of two members must be obtained there should be no difficulty in securing the attendance of three.
– The third man might be ill.
– He would not be ill for an indefinite period. The amendment would place too much power in the hands of one man. There should be at least three members present. In sub-clause 8 I desire to move that the words “ a second or casting vote “ be left out with a view to insert other words.
– (Senator Newland). - The Committee is now dealing with the proposed new sub-clause 9.
– Am I not entitled to submit an amendment to subclause 8?
– (Senator Newland). - The Committee is now dealing with a proposed new sub-clause 9, and unless the Minister (Senator Wilson) withdraws his amendment the honorable senator will not be in order in submitting an amendment to sub-clause 8.
– After the Minister’s amendment is disposed of I shall have an opportunity of moving my amendment when the question “ That the clause as amendedbe agreed to “ is put.
– No. The honorable senator would have to move at a later stage for the recommittal of the clause.
– As the Government are submitting this amendment some time after the Bill has been drafted it is apparently an afterthought. The amendment provides that when only two members of the Board are present one shall be appointed deputy chairman, and theclause itself provides that the chairman shall have a deliberative as well as a casting vote. If the Minister will assure me that the deputy chairman will not bo. clothed with the same authority as the chairman appointed by the Governor-General I shall not press my objection. This is a dangerous power to place in the hands of a deputy chairman. Matters of great importance may be dealt with by the Board in the absence of the chairman, and that strengthens my opposition to the proposed new sub-clause.
– Will not important questions be reserved for the consideration of the full Board?
– A Board consisting of two may have to decide a matter of policy involving millions. In the event of an equality of voting, the question should be decided in the negative, and further consideration reserved until the chairman was present.
– But that might in volve a loss of millions.
– And it might save considerable unnecessary expenditure. The responsibility rests, not upon the. Board, but upon those who support the Bill in its present form. It is our duty, as custodians of the public purse, to see that the work of the Board is carried on in a business-like way. I do not think it a reasonable proposal to place such extensive powers in the hands of a deputy chairman, on whose vote the disposal of the whole fleet might depend.
– The consent of the Treasurer would have to be obtained.
– I admit that I do not wish to delay the passage of this measure, but am anxious to safeguard the interests of the people who are the owners of the Commonwealth Government Line.
– I was not aware that we were dealing with the clause in subclauses. Even if the Minister’s amendment is agreed to, surely I shall have the right to move for the deletion of any portion of a sub-clause when you, Mr. Chairman, put the question, “ That the clause as amended be agreed to.” There is a higher authority than the Board: that is Parliament, and even you, sir, in your position as Chairman, have not a deliberative and a casting vote.
– If there were only one man in control he would have all the power.
– Yes ; but if one man is to have two votes we might as well have only one man in control. I trust I shall have an opportunity of moving for the deletion of the words in sub-clause8 which give the acting chairman a casting as well as a deliberative vote.
Question - That the proposed new subclause be added - put. The Committee divided.
Majority . . 7
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Amendment agreed to.
. - I desire to move -
That the words “ a second or casting vote,” sub-clause 8, be left out.
– The Committee having passed a subsequent sub-clause, I rule that the honorable senator will not now be in order in proposing to amend clause 8.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 7 agreed to.
There shall be paid to each director such remuneration and travelling allowance as the Governor-General fixes.
– The remuneration to be paid to the members of the Board should be fixed, not by the Governor-General, but by Parliament. Parliament fixes the allowance paid to the Governor-General and to members of Parliament. I move -
That the words “Governor-General fixes” be left out.
Question - put. The Committee divided.
Majority . . 8
Question so resolved in the negative.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 9 agreed to.
Clause 10 -
The Board shall, in addition to any other powers conferred by this Act, have power -
to carry on the general business of a ship-owner, and any business incidental thereto ;
to acquire and hold ships;
to act as agents for ship-owners;
– This clause confers upon the Board certain powers. I desire to move an amend ment to authorize the Board to acquire any ships owned by the States for the purpose of continuing the trade in which the ships have been engaged.
– I point out to the honorable senator that the authority to do what he suggests is contained in certain paragraphs of the clause.
– That being so, Mr. Chairman, I shall not persist with my proposed amendment, but I should like to explain that the Tasmanian Government have a number of steamers engaged in the carriage of produce to north-west coast ports. The running of these vessels involves the State in a loss of about £12,000 a year, largely owing to the excessive overhead charges. It has occurred to me that if they could be acquired by the Board a substantial saving in working costs might be made. Apart from that I should like to see thewhole of the State steam-ship services controlled by one authority, if arrangements could be made with the States interested, with the object of cheapening the cost of transport.
– If the honorable senator will put his case before me I shall have pleasure in bringing it under the notice of the Board to be appointed. Under this clause the Board will have the necessary authority to act.
– I should like to take advantage of the opportunity afforded by this clause to ask the Minister (Senator Wilson) if he considers it gives power to the Board to act as advisers to the Commonwealth Government on shipping matters? I do so because there are certain matters which I regard as omissions, and which I think the Commonwealth Government might very well take into consideration. The purpose of the Bill is to seriously curtail, in the opinion of honorable senators opposite, but beneficially curtail, in my opinion, the operations of the Commonwealth Shipping Line. It is expected that the Board will keep what may be termed the capital ships of the Line and sell the smaller vessels. The Line, I take it, was brought into existence to meet the necessities of the war, and to encourage Australian trade. One of the principal functions now should be to encourage the development of our trade with Eastern Asia. If the smaller ships are sold, as suggested, it will be impossible for the larger vessels to trade with those ports. I should like to know whether it would be within the province of the Board to advise the Government in the matter of subsidizing freights. It is important, in the interests of our trade, that this should be done. I may be permitted to give one or two instances to explain what I mean. One of our principal exports to Eastern Asia is flour. I do not wish to see an ounce of wheat shifted overseas - it should all go as flour. We are up against serious competition from America. The freight from Vancouver or San Francisco to Shanghai is 21s. per ton, compared, with 42s. 6d. per ton from Sydney to Shanghai, which is practically the same steaming distance. This difference of £1 ls. 6d. per ton on flour, which, of course, is sold on narrow margins, is enough to put the Australian flour absolutely out of the market. I think honorable senators will see that if the smaller ships of the Line are sold, the Board should have power to advise the Government as to some remedy. It is of the utmost importance to Australia that our exporters of primary products should hd on the same level as competitors in other countries. Undoubtedly our rivals for the Eastern trade are subsidizing their shipping, and if we are to fight them on even terms the same policy should be adopted in this country.
– Unquestionably the Government would look to the Board for advice on a matter like that suggested by the honorable senator, and would be guided by their advice.
– Loath though I am to delay the passage of the Bill, even for a few minutes, I should like to have from the Minister some statement as to the purpose ‘ of paragraph e, which authorizes the Board to act as agents for shipowners. I do not mind confessing that I think there is a good deal of truth in the warning - “ Fear the Greeks, even when they bring gifts.” When I see this Government establishing a Shipping Line I am naturally inclined to wonder what they are after, especially when I note that the Board is to have control of the whole of the assets, and, under paragraph e, will bc empowered to act as agents for ship-owners. It is possible that they may transfer the Commonwealth fleet to a combine and -act as agents.
– It might be a very profitable occupation for the Board.
– I am afraid that might be the purpose ‘in view. I would rather have the vessels of the Commonwealth Line run at a loss in the interests of the producers than conducted profitably in the interests of a combine.
– I can assure the honorable senator that Parliament will be in control of the shipping business. Paragraph e will be operative in the case of certain companies that may have business interests here, and may be representing the Commonwealth Line in some other portion of the world. In that case it would be a reciprocal arrangement. There is nothing in the honorable senator’s suggestion that the Board might hand the Commonwealth ships over to a combine. Parliament would take very good care that that was not done.
– I should like an assurance from the Minister that the clause will provide for carcass trade between ‘ North Queensland ports and the southern capitals of the Commonwealth, and that sufficient refrigerating space will be mads available.’
– That is entirely covered by the clause. If Queensland has the business the Board will be quite ready and prepared to handle it.
– Clause 10 proposes to give the Board the power -
Conflict is likely to arise because of that provision. I suppose that the Treasurer will follow the dictates of the Government. A subsidy of £53,000 a year is being paid to Burns, Philp and Company for the carriage of mails between Australia and the Pacific Islands. The Orient Company is being subsidized to the extent of £135,000 a year for the carriage of mails between Australia and
Great Britain. The Board may decide to participate in the Pacific Islands trade, and to possess a sufficient number of vessels to enable it to run a fortnightly instead of a monthly service between. Australia and London. The Government do not believe in the application of the principles of Socialism. We fail to understand their action in retaining the Commonwealth Line of Steamers. If they wanted to destroy that piece of Socialism, and the Board desired to extend it in the manner that I have indicated, a dead-lock would be reached. Who would be supreme - the Government or the Board?
– If a deadlock were reached between the Board and the Government, I should say that Parliament would settle it.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 11 (Appointment of officers).
– There are officers who have been in the service of the Commonwealth Shipping Line since its inception, and others who have had very lengthy service. Has consideration been given to the claims that those men will have in regard to permanency of employment? The Government should instruct the Board that, where satisfactory service has been given, the employment of the men shall be continued; otherwise the mon may not get the consideration to which they are justly entitled.
– All the legitimate and just claims of the men will be considered by the Board.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 12 (Management of Line).
.- The Honorary Minister (Senator Wilson) a few minutes ago assured SenatorThompson that where there was trade the Board would be prepared to do the business. In Tasmania that has not been the case so far as the Line is concerned. Outside companies have established services between the north-west coast and Great Britain and other overseas ports. This week another company has entered into that trade, and there are now three lines of overseas ships calling at ports along that coast. That trade was available to the Commonwealth Shipping Line had it been prepared to meet the wishes of the people. It will find the greatest difficulty now in obtaining a footing. The people of Tasmania are shareholders in this business, and they are most anxious that it shall be made a success. Had the people been cared for by the Commonwealth Shipping Line in the manner in which the private companies are caring for them, it would have been well established in that trade. It will be part of the duty of the Board to see that the people’s wishes are met. The Commonwealth .Shipping Line asked one company for a guarantee of 1,000 tons of cargo; and although the company gave the guarantee, when any other company offered any cargo above the 1,000 tons, it was not allowed as a set-off. ,
– In justice to honorable senators, to the Commonwealth Shipping Line, and to the Government, I must give a statement of the facts -
The Line has done more for Tasmania than for any other State, and received less encouragement in return. The Line berthed direct tonnage from the United Kingdom when, no other company did so. Tasmanian importers, instead of supporting this service, agreed to confine their shipments to other companies, and undertook to pay them 10s. per ton upon cargo diverted to other steamers, including Commonwealth Line steamers. In spite of this the Commonwealth Line service was maintained. Every available vessel of the Line has loaded fruit in Tasmania during each season. The quantify lifted during the present year was 269,033 cases, and during the previous season 107,782 cases, i.e., 17 per cent, and 14 per cent, respectively of the total shipments. The freight rate on apples by the Line for the 1923 season was reduced from 5s. to 4s. per case. This resulted in other Lines reducing their rate to 4s. 6d. The’ Tasmanian growers had stated that unless the rate for 1923 was reduced to 4s. they were not prepared to export more than 200,000 cases. The total quantity shipped in 1923 as a result of the reductions was 1,561,633 cases, of which 269,033 were carried by the Line at 4s. per case, and 1,292,600 by other Lines at 4s. 6d. per case. In January last the Commonwealth Line abolished the surcharge of 20s. per ton on cargo from the United Kingdom to Tasmania, and in this was followed by the other Lines. It also reduced all freights from United Kingdom by a further 10s. per ton. and the other Lines followed with a similar’ reduction. At the same time freight rates to the United Kingdom were also considerably reduced, and in this again the other Lines followed. The Line’s arrangement with the Conference especially stipulates definitely for the needs of Tasmanian portsbeing met if necessary by a joint arrangement for the provision of a regular service from United Kingdom to Tasmanian ports.
I inform Senator Hays that the Commonwealth Shipping Line cannot pay its way and justify itself to the taxpayers of Austr alia if it is to be used only for the purpose of reducing the freights of other lines. I assure the honorable senator that the Commonwealth Shipping Line is ready, anxious, and willing to do the Tasmanian business at the very lowest freights, and to give every facility possible.
.- Clause10 proposes to clothe the Board with very extensive powers. The Senate is now considering the question of the management of the Line. I take it that we expect that the Board will, in the very near future, set itself out to capture the whole of the Inter-State trade. The Board will meet with fierce competition if it sets out to capture the whole of the Inter-State trade, and it will require to take over, on equitable terms, vessels which are at present engaged in that trade. That is one of the reasons why I support the measure. I anticipate that the Board will waste no time in nationalizing shipping interests, as far as Australia is concerned.
.- I cannot allow the Minister in charge of the Bill (Senator Wilson) to convey the impression - I do not say wilfully - that I have made statements that are not in accordance with fact. The Minister replied to my remarks concerning the Tasmanian trade, but he considered only the southern and Launceston trade.
– This clause deals with the management of the Line. I have allowed more than usual latitude in this discussion, and any further remarks must relate to the question whether the management of the Line shall be vested in the Board.
– I bow to your ruling, Mr. Chairman, but if I am unable to reply to the Minister’s remarks a wrong impression will be left. My remarks were confined strictly to the north-west coast, particularly to Burnie and Devonport.
– I remind the honorable senator that this clause has re ference to a specific subject - the management of the Line.
Clause agreed to.
.- I move -
That after the word “ Act,” line 3, the words” and subject to the provisions hereinbefore contained “ be inserted.
– That is provided for in the following clause.
– The trouble is that they will not necessarily be read together, and the final clause will be the governing factor. When land, particularly freehold, is transferred to a person no conditions can be attached. I am a little doubtful as tothe precise effect of clauses 13 and 14, and I wish to safeguard the position by insertingthe words I have mentioned.
– The amendment is unnecessary. The clause, as it reads, carries out the purpose of the amendment. If these words were inserted in clause 13 they would need tobe incorporated in several following clauses. The honorable senator has told only half the story.
– The clauses which follow do not affect the powerto dispose of the land, &c.
– I can see no improvement in the amendment. The draftsman assures me that my contention is correct.
– I supporttheviewofthe Minister. We should keep a sharp eye on the legal fraternity. They persistently endeavour to introduce legal phrases into documents, evidently to secure employment for themselves at the expense of the ordinary laymen. The wording of the clause is clear and distinct, and the average person will know exactly what is intended. The legal profession clothe a will with ambiguity to provide occupation for themselves at excessive fees. I have a recollection of the will of a sailor who was pressed for time, which stated - “All to mother.” It was held to be legal. The phraseology of the clause is concise and to the point, and if Senator Elliott’s amendment is accepted, it will mean the alteration of almost every clause. Bills should be drafted in language easily understood by the ordinary layman.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 14 (Transfer of Cockatoo and Schnapper Islands to Board).
– Has the Minister inquired as to the location of Schnapper Island?
– Evidently the honorable senator does not know Port Jackson quite as well as he professes to do. Schnapper Island is a small island or rock adjacent to Cockatoo Island.
– I strongly oppose this clause because it. provides for the transference of Commonwealth property to the Board, and the consequent loss of Commonwealth control. I know of no reason why we should deliberately hand over this property to the Board, in such unmistakable language that the Board will have greater power over it than the Government will have. I know that the property cannot be disposed of without the consent of the Treasurer; but I object to the clause because if conflict occurred the Board, legally, would have a stronger hold of this property than would the Commonwealth.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 15 (Debentures in respect of transferred property).
.- I ask the Minister whether interest at current rates onthe debentures. will be included in this Bill.
– The rate of interest will be set out in the agreement.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 16 and 17 agreed to.
Clause 18 -
Subject to the consent of Parliament, the Board shall have power to raise additional capitalby the issue of debentures, or in such other manner and subject to such conditions usare prescribed.
– I move -
That the words “consent of Parliament.” be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “ approval by resolution of both Houses of the Parliament.”
That will make it unnecessary to introduce a Bill to obtain the consent of both Houses of Parliament.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 19 agreed to.
Clause 20 (Operations of Board subject to rates and taxes).
– I intend to divide the Committee on this clause.Under its provisions, the Commonwealth Government will give away to other bodies the right to tax Commonwealth instrumentalities. There is a strong public feeling in certain quarters that if money is to be taken out of the Government purse, a good big dip should be made. I do not see the force of placing our property at the disposal of taxing bodies that have no interest in the Commonwealth. When a valuer inspects property, he reasons - “ This is private property,and should be valued low, but this is Commonwealth land, and can bear a high valuation.”
– The Board would object if that occurred.
– What would the objection be worth when the decision rests with the Court which is a state instrumentality ? This will give to other bodies the right to tax Commonwealth property. The sovereignParliament has no authority to dispose of that right. I realize that a State Government or a municipality would regard it as a hardship to be prevented from taxing a Commonwealth utility ; but, as I object to the principle of the clause, I hope that it will be struck out.
– I am in entire agreement with Senator Gardiner.Under the new income tax legislation in New South Wales, income from property is subjected to an impost of1s. 6d. in the £1, and property is also taxed in proportion to the value of the improvements effected by the Water and Sewerage Board. If New South Wales decided to tax land values in accordance with the principles of Henry George, it would mean a serious depletion of the revenue of the Commonwealth Shipping Line. I am not prepared to set aside the terms of the Constitution which expressly state that Commonwealth property shall be free from taxation.
Question - That the clause stand as printed - put.The Committee divided.
Majority . . . . 5
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 21 and 22 agreed to.
Clause 23 (Regulations) .
Clause agreed to.
Schedule and title agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments.
The following paper was presented: -
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired for defence purposes at Carnarvon, Western Australia.
Motion (by Senator Pearce) pro posed -
That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn until 3 p.m. on Tuesday next.
– I cannot complain of this motion, because the Minister (Senator Pearce) gave notice of it last week; but I am surprised at the adoption of this course. Honorable senators from other States who desire to go to their homes, as they are entitled to do, will have very little time, seeing that the Senate is to meet again next Tuesday. The action of the Minister is not calculated to expedite the business of the Senate. If the Government drew up a programme in keeping with the time at our disposal, it could be dealt with without an extra day of sitting. It is a wrong policy to endeavour to rush through the Senate a volume of business that it is humanly impossible to deal with properly within the time fixed. I should advise the Cabinet during the week-end to come to some decision as to the measures they desire to pass this session, and to take both branches of the Legislature into their confidence, instead of having a scramble to deal with as many Bills as possible. If the Government attempt to put through a dozen measures in a week they will find that there are enough new members of the Senate to prevent them from achieving their purpose. If the Minister informs honorable senators what legislation he thinks can reasonably be passed, I feel sure that we shall endeavour to assist him.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Senator Pearce) proposed -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
.- I desire to reply in a few words to a statement read by the Minister in charge of the Commonwealth Shipping Bill (Senator Wilson). No doubt the statement was supplied to him from an official source; but I made it quite clear in my remarks that I was referring to the northwestern portion of Tasmania, whereas the statement of the Minister had reference to the whole State.
– Order! The honorable senator is not in order in referring in the Senate to a debate that took place in Committee. Apart from that, I would remind him that there is barely time for him to make an explanation, because, under the Sessional Orders, at 4 o’clock I must put the question, which cannot be debated, “That the Senate do now adjourn.”
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 3.59 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 20 July 1923, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1923/19230720_senate_9_104/>.