Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Friday, 15 September 1911

Senator GIVENS (Queensland) . - Apparently, under this clause, the law is not to apply generally to Australia. A ship is to be deemed to engage in the coastal trade if she takes on board passengers, or cargo, at any port in Australia. Certain important exemptions are, however, made, and I particularly object to the last exemption. Honorable senators will recollect that, in the Bill, in the form in which it was originally presented to the Senate, provision was made in the same direction, but in entirely different words. The change which has been effected in the wording of this clause will achieve the original object-

Senator Millen - It widens the scope of the clause.

Senator GIVENS - It will achieve the same object without any specific mention being made of that object. Now it is just as well that honorable senators should understand the position. In the Bill, as it was originally introduced, a specific exemption was made in favour of oversea steamers in the matter of carrying passengers to and from Western Australia and the eastern States. That exemption was inserted because Western Australia was isolated from the other portions of the Commonwealth, and because the coastal service was not regarded as being too satisfactory. Consequently it was recognised that residents of that State should be allowed the opportunity of travelling in the oversea vessels calling there. But I would point out that there are several other parts of Australia which are just as isolated from the remainder of the Commonwealth as is Western Australia. In this Bill we declare that Labour principles must be applied to our navigation, as well as to our other laws. We maintain that those principles are eminently fair and equitable. Consequently I hold that they should apply to every part of the Commonwealth. No portion of it should be exempted from their operation. My own opinion is that the coastal service, between here and Western Australia, is a fairly good one. The facilities offered by that service for the carriage of passengers and cargo are fairly satisfactory, although I do not attempt to defend the extortionate rates which are charged for those facilities. But the people can get no concession from the oversea vesselsinthe matter of fares and freights. Those vessels will not charge less than the coastal steamers. Now, as a matter of fact, the only two lines of steamers which will be affected by this clause are those of the Peninsular and Oriental and the Orient Companies. If we retain the last exemption in the clause we shall place the vessels belonging to the Peninsular and Oriental Company, which carry black labour, in just as good a position as that occupied by the steamers of the Orient Company, which have to comply with our laws in the matter of the labour conditions. Our coastal vessels have to pay fair wages and provide proper conditions to those whom they employ, from the captain down to the sculleryman.

Senator McGregor - There is no intention on the part of the Orient Company to carry passengers for less than our coastal vessels charge.

Senator GIVENS - I have already admitted that. We have laid down special conditions for our own shipping, and it is not fair to do that if we allow steamers which are not subject to any such conditions to come in and take the trade from them. Under this clause the latter would be able to get the cream of the passenger traffic all round Australia.

Senator Barker - And with a black crew on board, too.

Senator GIVENS - Exactly. There is nothing in this Bill to prevent the Peninsular and Oriental Company from reducing its fares and freights between Australian ports below those charged by our coastal vessels. It is unjust that, a person engaged in a particular trade, should be subjected to certain conditions, whilst another person, who is employed in the same trade, should not.

Senator Millen - If it be fair, then the whole clause is wrong.

Senator GIVENS - Of course it is. There is only one reason for the inclusion of this exemption. That reason was frankly on the face of the Bill in the form in which it was originally introduced. But since then it- has been covered up. There are certain portions of Queensland and the Northern Territory which are far more isolated than Is the greater portion of Western Australia. It was suggested, in connexion with the original Bill, that the last exemption in this clause should apply only until the transcontinental railway was built. That circumstance is conclusive proof that it was primarily intended to benefit the residents of the southern part of Western Australia. I hold that we should not depart from the principles of equity for the purpose of benefiting anybody. If those principles are to be set aside, let us wipe this Bill out altogether. It will not be worth a straw to the seamen and others engaged in the coastal trade of Australia if we allow oversea British ships to engage in the passenger trade between Western Australia and the eastern States under this exemption from its provisions. I move -

That the following words be omitted from the clause : - " Provided further that the GovernorGeneral may by order declare that the carrying of passengers between specified ports in Australia, by British ships, shall not be deemed engaging in the coasting trade."

Suggest corrections