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Wednesday, 17 June 1914

Senator GARDINER (New South Wales) . - I must congratulate particularly the Tasmanian representatives upon their activity and their keenness in watching the interests of their part of the great Australian Commonwealth. A discussion of the matter at this time should be welcomed by every member of the Senate, no matter what his party views may be. It is one which affects not only Tasmania but the States of the mainland as well.

Senator Ready - We have a great trade with Sydney, the principal port in the honorable senator's State.

Senator GARDINER - So far as the trade with Sydney is concerned, the people of New South Wales feel a kind of pride in the fact that they did not shut their port to the produce of Tasmania, even for the purpose of benefiting their own State. The authorities in the other States, with a view to the development of their own particular interests, closed up their ports to the producers across the water in Tasmania. On the Sydney side, we felt that although we might lose some revenue, which might be devoted to encouraging our own producers, the Tasmanian producers should have free access to our markets in Sydney, and in other parts of New South Wales. We gave this advantage to the producers of Tasmania before it was brought about as the result of Federation. We have to ask ourselves now whether all that we did is to go for nothing because a shipping combine chooses to increase fares and freights to such an extent as to take us as far back as we should have been if we had in New South Wales adopted the blind system of attempting to keep trade for ourselves by imposing burdens upon the production of the other States. Any obstacle to trade which imposes a penalty on seller or buyer should be removed. Thanks to the efforts of Senators Ready, Long, O'Keefe, and others who assisted them in the matter, a provision was introduced into the contract with the Union Steam-ship Company to prevent any increase in freights and fares without the consent of the Government. That precaution was taken in framing the contract, and the Government are in a position, under the provision referred to, to conserve the producing interests of Tasmania, and the interests of consumers in the Commonwealth, by declining to permit exorbitant fares and freights to be charged. Tasmania is becoming the summer resort of people from every part of the Commonwealth. Thousands of people, who enjoy the more comfortable winter climate of New South Wales, visit Tasmania to enjoy the salubrious summer climate of that island.

Senator O'Keefe - If the fares were reasonable, hundreds of people would go from Tasmania to New South Wales during the winter.

Senator GARDINER - I was going to point out that Sydney has the advantage over Hobart as a winter resort. The interchange of visitors tends to mutual benefit, and these things should be seriously considered when a request is made to permit a combine to exploit the consumers of the mainland and the producers of the island.

Senator Ready - Many Sydney business men complain bitterly of the steam-ship combine in the Tasmanian trade.

Senator GARDINER - Not only do they justly complain, but when we point out to our political opponents that the Beef Trust, which has worked such havoc in America - which has doubled the price of meat in Chicago during the past few years - threatens to act in a similar fashion in the Commonwealth, they exclaim, " Oh, we are perfectly safe. We control our railways over which the commodities in which the trust is interested will have to be transported." But in the present instance I would remind my honorable friends that a steam-ship company absolutely controls communication between Tasmania and the mainland. When we speak of the Beef Trust most of us imagine that that corporation deals only with beef, mutton, and pork; but when we read about the operations of the trust in America we learn that the fruit-growers there are up against all the illegal charges which it can force upon them. For instance, a car containing fruit, and running from California for a distance of, say, 800 miles, will have to pay $80 or $90 for icing charges. These are the illegal charges levied by the trust, which increase the cost of fruit to the consumer. I have not the slightest doubt that the same practice will be resorted to between Tasmania and Australia unless the Government take action. In the next Parliament we know that Tasmania will occupy an entirely different position from that which it occupies in this Parliament. Hitherto it has spoken in this Senate with a voice equal to that of any other State; but in view of the recent decision of the GovernorGeneral we are up against the fact that after the coming election, so far as State representation is concerned, we can say good-bye to it. The two big States of the Commonwealth, from the stand-point of population, will control this Parliament after the next election. I hope that they will control it through a party which will have some consideration for the smaller States. Indeed, I hope that even in the dying hours of this Parliament the present Government will bring their influence to bear on the shipping companies with a view, not only of preventing any further increase in freights and fares, but of obtaining a reduction in the exorbitant rates which are already being charged.

Senator McGregor - How can they do that, seeing that the shipping companies subscribe to their funds ?

Senator GARDINER - In the remarkable work of Charles Edward Russell on the Beef Trust, that is one of the features of legislation to which he points. He urges that this combine should be prevented by law from helping political parties with its funds.

Senator Oakes - A member of the Labour party in another place has stated that that party views with perfect equanimity the growth of the combine.

Senator GARDINER - We view its growth with perfect equanimity if we can get the laws of the Commonwealth to deal with it. I know that Senator Oakes is probably guilty of misquoting as usual.

Senator Oakes - I am quoting the utterance of the Hon. W. M. Hughes.

Senator GARDINER - Unf or tu nately , the honorable senator purported to quote his utterance before, but we have since had the complete statement which Mr. Hughes made. Senator Oakes stated that Mr. Hughes had said that a huge concern can produce more cheaply than can a small one. But that does not necessarily imply that it will sell more cheaply. The honorable senator, however, at once assumes that it does. No danger need be apprehended from this combine if it does not possess an influence which it ought not to wield. If the Union Steam-ship Company seeks to increase fares and freights between Tasmania and the mainland, wo shall not only have to enact laws to prevent it doing so, but we shall have to prevent it subsidizing political parties, no matter under what name they may trade.

Senator Oakes - Hear, hear! I suppose that the honorable senator will include the Australian Workers Union.

Senator GARDINER - The Australian Workers Union is a recognised powerful organization of working men. What have those men secured? A wage which is barely a living wage, and nothing more. Has the Australian Workers Union ever attempted to tyrannize over the people by charging exorbitant prices for anything? Have its members endeavoured to charge an exorbitant price for their labour?

Senator Oakes - They put it pretty stiffly on the members of the union, who have to pay levies, whether they like it or not.

Senator GARDINER - That interjection must be answered ; and, as a member of that union, I say that the sum which

I am contributing to it this year is only £1. I am also paying a levy of 10s. towards the establishment of a Labour newspaper. During the past twelve years I have not paid in membership fees, levies, &c., more than £15, and I have been a fully paid-up member each year.

Senator Oakes - The honorable senator has to take the Worker, whether he likes it or not.

Senator GARDINER - I feel sure that the honorable senator would not make such an absurd interjection if he only knew the facts. The truth is that a shearer pays only £1 a year for his ticket, and that entitles him to a copy of the Worker every week. If the honorable senator says that that is an exorbitant charge--

Senator Pearce - It is absolutely the cheapest newspaper in Australia.

Senator GARDINER - I can quite understand my honorable friends - who have always objected to working men receiving a fair wage - attempting to institute a comparison between workers' organizations and the trusts and combines which have depleted the workers' earnings to such an extent in all parts of the world. We claim that the workers have never obtained more than barely enough to live upon. I know of no country in the world where the wage-earner gets a fair reward for his labour.

Senator Oakes - The honorable senator's party was the first to bring the workers into the political field, anyhow.

Senator GARDINER - Since I have been in political life we have advanced their earnings by 25 per cent., and we have given them comforts against which the honorable senator's party has fought consistently.

The PRESIDENT - Order! The honorable senator's time has expired.

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