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Tuesday, 24 July 1906

Mr MALONEY (Melbourne) . - I must certainly compliment the honorable member for Barrier, who, with characteristic determination, has given a close study to a question that will before long receive in Australia far more attention than is being given to it at the present time. Some of the arguments raised in opposition to his amendment that a Commonwealth line of mail steamers should be obtained ar£ certainly strange. Scarcely any honorable member would advocate the selling of the railways of the States, or the transfer of our telephone or telegraphic system to private control. Speaking subject to correction, I believe that something like £150,000,000 has been expended on the railways of the States, and, compared with that sum, the £3,500,000 necessary to provide the Commonwealth with a national line of mail steamers is a very small amount. The producers in the centre of Australia may possibly be given differential rates on the railways to assist them in getting their produce to the sea-board, and it is, to ov the least, singular that we cannot extend the principle to the carriage of that produce to the motherland - the centre of the English-speaking race. I read a statement a few days ago in the Age that the private telegraph company in the United

States of America had robbed the unfortunates who suffered by the earthquake at San Francisco, and also their friends in other parts of the world, of upwards of £200,000. After that I do not think that any one would have the temerity to say that we should hand over our telephone or telegraphic system to a private company. There is one point for which the Government will receive the encomiums of the House, and that is that white labour only is to be used on these ships. I have spoken in this Parliament, and in the State Parliament of Victoria on several occasions, against the great injury that is being done to British naval supremacy by the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company. That company has done more to weaken the British mercantile marine than has any other company whose vessels leave British ports. It is stated in Mr. Ernest Williams' book, Made in Germany - a work that has become almost a classic - that the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company would take German goods, tranship them at the port of London, and bring them out to Australia at 50 per cent, less than it would charge to carry English goods. So much public opprobrium was cast upon the company by reason of that conduct after the publication of Mr. Williams' book, that for its own sake it ceased the practice. But consider the company's treatment of the lascars. On its vessels only 36 cubic feet space are allowed for each man. No one will say that it is possible for a human being to live healthily when the accommodation provided for him measures only 6 feet long, 3 feet wide, and 2 feet high - a space only a little bigger than a decentsized coffin. The British Board of Trade, I believe, has fined the company repeatedly by not permitting it to utilize as much cargo room as the tonnage of its vessels would allow. This was done in order to insure that more room should be given to the unfortunate lascars who were crowded into practically rabbit hutches in the way I have described. What do we owe to the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company ? I do not feel under the slightest bond of regard to it, but I do feel a great amount of respect for the Orient Steam Navigation Company, because it has worked its ships with white labour, and by so doing, has tended to promote, instead of lowering the British naval supremacy. The Peninsular and Oriental

Steam Navigation. Company receives more money from the British Government by way of subsidy than the Nordeutscher Lloyd Company or the Hamburg-American line receives from the German Government. It shows its gratitude by carrying German goods for 50 per cent, less than it charges for the carriage of British .goods. Lest honorable members should think I am very severe in dealing with this company, I should like to quote some of the remarks which were made concerning its conduct in the House of Commons, as reported in the London Times of 12th May, 1900. Mr. John Dillon, M.P., said that -

A British sailor should not be subjected to the competition of men who would work for half his wages and live on half his food. The Government encouraged the greatest steam-ship company to break the law.

It was the Peninsular and Oriental Company to which he referred, and at that time one of the directors qf the company was a member of the Balfour Government. On the same occasion Mr. Havelock Wilson said that he - di.i not object to lascars being employed, but they should be so on the same terms with regard to wages, accommodation, and food as British seamen.

That is what the party' with which I am associated has always maintained. We do not fear competition with, any race in the world, provided the competition is on equal terms, and that coloured men, if employed, receive the same wages as are paid to white men. Sir Howard Vincent, a conservative member of the House of Commons, referred to the same matter in these terms -

Formerly lascars were employed only in the engine-room, but now they were employed on deck, the proportion in one case being sixty-one lascars; only twenty-nine, or less than half, were employed in the engine-room. Australian Governments, notably Queensland - and this is to the credit of Queensland - had taken a serious view of the matter, and had refused to give contracts to vessels carrying lascars.

Mr. HenryLabouchere, then member for Northampton, said that the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company - had broken the law in a criminal manner, employing the men under conditions that fostered disease and shortened life.

Mr. LloydGeorge, who is a member of the present Ministry in England - noticed that while on the American lines, and the Castle and Union lines, go per cent, of the seamen were British, on tramps 30 per cent.,,on the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company's vessels only 25 per cent, wereBritish.

Mr. Weirasked if there were any labour conditions in thecontract. If there were not there ought to be, as when the British flag flew over South Africa, he supposed that the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company would have at. their disposal the labour of Matabeles, Bechuanas, Swazis, and other native tribes, and these men would work for 4d. a day, and with a . little training cut out the lascars.

Admiral Field, a conservative, expressed, the opinion that the 'conduct of the Government with regard to the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company was deserving of strong condemnation, and though he would not vote against hisparty, still he would not support the Government on this question. He spokefrom the point of view of the naval supremacy of Great Britain. He said that we could not expect lascars to fight England's battles at sea, and that, if theBritish mercantile marine were not manned7 by British sailors, Great Britain would beplaced in a position of great danger, because landsmen could not serve in time of" need, since they would not have the necessary training. Mr. Ritchie, who wasthen Chancellor of the Exchequer - and I ask those who would defend the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company to remember that one of Mr. Ritchie's owncolleagues in the Balfour Government was a director of the company - said -

If the law had not been complied with it was not for the want of strong remonstrances. The Government had called attention to thefact that the space supplied to Iascar seamen was not the space provided for British seamen, and that the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company were not acting in accordance with the Merchant Shipping Act. In thisway the Peninsular and Oriental Company had' already been heavily fined.

Mr Wilks - Does the honorable member say that Mr. Ritchie was a member of the Balfour Government at the time hemade that statement? I thought he resigned.

Mr MALONEY - He had not resigned" at that time. He was Chancellor of the Exchequer. He added that -

He agreed that such a company should be beyond reproach, and had made his opinionsknown to them more than once in strong terms, that they ought to give their Iascar sailors thespace required by the Merchant Shipping Act. He had gone further, and informed them, although the Board of Trade had been unwilling* to prosecute in the hope that its remonstrances might induce them to comply with the English law, the time might come when he would consider it his duty to order a prosecution if the law were not complied with...... And he hoped that in future they would not have the annual recurrence of these complaints.

That is the kind of shipping company that the honorable member for Parramatta is defending, and that he puts forward as an example against those of us who are in favour of nationalizing the mail service. I remember an occasion when the honorable member took the chair at a meeting of Labour members which was called to try to do something for the unemployed. I wonder that his voice and his ability - because no one would deny his ability - are not used in the interests of the white race. I cannot see how the honorable member can object to a national line of steam-ships. That great good man, the right honorable member for Adelaide, had great difficulty in South Australia in dealing with shipping companies on whose vessels lascars were carried ; and he has sent me a return showing that in 1893 no less than 667 Asiatics were dumped down in Australia against our laws. These men were brought in vessels from the northern ports, and the vessels, on commencing their return journey, were short of that number in their Asiatic crews. The State of New South Wales, to its eternal discredit, did not help the right honorable member for Adelaide in his efforts, but, on the otherhand, threw every obstacle in his way ; and the honorable member also had difficulty in getting some of the other States to assist him in the matter. No one can deny that there is a shipping combine - to prove the fact one has only to refer to the remarks of the late Mr. Seddon, as quoted toy the honorable member for Barrier. I have heard, both inside and outside the House, that there is a system whereby the shipping companies at our various ports allow percentages ; in other words,they use their power to keep out fair competition. It has been stated to men by a man who ships goods daily that it costs more to send cargo from Melbourne to Brisbane than to bring it from London to Australia. That could never happen if we had a national line. We should not then have the Peninsular and Oriental Company charging the foreigner - though I must say I respect Germany as a great nation - 50 per cent, less than is charged to people of the British race, although the latter are responsible for the large subsidies it receives. One argument quoted by the honorable member for Parramatta was very absurd. He stated that some one, who was opposed to a national line of steamers, gave as one reason that there might be quarrels if two or three clergymen happened to be travelling on the same vessel. It has been stated that the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company always have a Church of England clergyman on board their vessels; but I can say that, when travelling on the steamers of that company, I found clergymen of different denominations conducting services at different periods of the day without any friction whatever. It is certainly ridiculous to argue that, because we have no State religion, we ought not to have a national line of steamers. If the other arguments of the gentleman quoted are as convincing as the one I have just indicated, I cannot give him much credit for intelligence. In connexion with private shipping companies, I might quote the great Gladstone, who, on one occasion, was asked whether he thought such companies would carry an enemy to the shores of Great Britain if the latter were involved in a European war, and who replied, " I believe, for the sake of lucre, they would, if. possible, carry the enemy into the gates of heaven." That was the great Gladstone's opinion of shipping companies ; and that is my opinion ofthe Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company. ' Every continental nation which assists shipping companies insists that only men of its own nationality, shall be employed; and we ought to take a similar stand, though I am willing to accept the white man as against the coloured. On the question of railways, I could not pin the honorable member for Parramatta to any definite expression of opinion. I have 'here a letter which shows the cost of travelling on a private railway in Tasmania, on which I had the privilege of making a journey a few months ago with the honorable member for Darwin. On that line the charges are 4d. per mile first class, and 3d. per mile second class ; and, really, the sheep trucks in comparison are fairly decent.

Mr King O'Malley - T - There are no cushions, but simply plank seats, like those provided for convicts.

Mr MALONEY - I ought to say, however, that backed up by the Van Diemen's Land Company, this private railway carries certain kinds ofores at a considerably cheaper rate than that at which similar material is carried in Victoria. I cannot understand how any man, who believes in nationalized railways, can have the slightest hesitation in voting for the amendment. Those who support it may not win this time, but Iam certain that we shall win in the future. One argument in favour of a national line of steamers is that we could then convey to this country desirable European settlers.

Mr Hutchison - We could give cheap passages.

Mr Wilks - The honorable member for Melbourne talks about winning next time - does he observe that this contract is for ten years?

Mr MALONEY - There may be some means of ending that contract. Will the honorable member for Dalley, bold as he is, venture to say what will be the political events of the next five years? The people ought to have the larger and greater power of the referendum.

Mr Hutchison - The power to take over the ships is already in the agreement.

Mr MALONEY - If weonce have the referendum, we shall obtain everything we want. I take second place to no one in the desire to see Australia populated, but I wish to see the country filled with our white brethren. If the various States will not pass just land laws, the Commonwealth ought to have the dominant power to create a fair and equitable land system, whereby our own people may be enabled to settle; and then the country might be opened to our white European brethren from any part ofthe world. I will go farther, and say that there ought to be a nationalized line of ships running between all the various ports of the . States. It is all very well to say that the shipping companies lose year after year ; but, in the confusion of combined interests, it is well nigh impossible to ascertain the real profit and loss. If I be present, I shall vote for the amendment, and, if absent, I shall pair in its favour.

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