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Wednesday, 13 July 1904

Mr HUTCHISON (Hindmarsh) - The honorable and learned member, who has just resumed his seat, has made out a very good case for Great Britain, but his arguments have very little to do with the question of the protection of Australian shipping. We have not a mercantile marine to compare with that of Great Britain, or of the United States, but it is time that we started to build up one. The proposals of the Government are likely to go some distance in that direction. We should be satisfied from the experience of other countries that it is high time that we protected the local trade of our ship-owners.

Mr Lonsdale - Did a similar policy do any good for the United States?

Mr HUTCHISON - I believe that it did. The right honorable member for Swan stated that he objected to any restriction whatever on the means of transit, and yet, when we turn to his amendment, we find that he proposes to impose a very serious restriction. He does not care how much we restrict foreign vessels, as long as we allow British oversea steam-ships to continue, as at present, to carry passengers between the different ports of the Commonwealth. I have been returned to this House to represent, not one particular part of Australia, but the Commonwealth as a whole, and I do not think any distinction should be made between the States other than that which might be made in an award of the Court. I am quite satisfied that the Court, when called upon to make an award, would take into consideration the conditions which prevailed in all parts of Australia. If it considered it necessary to refuse to extend a common rule to Western Australia it would certainly do so. We were asked by the right honorable member for Swan why it was proposed to insert these clauses in the Bill. Various reasons have been suggested and referred to in terms of deprecation, but the strongest reason is that it is necessary to protect not only Australian ship-owners, but the seamen of Australia. .I cannot see that any Court could possibly give awards allowing the present rates of wages on Australian coasting steamers to continue, if we allowed foreign and British vessels, carrying Lascar crews, to engage in our trade and pay any wage they pleased.

Mr Johnson - Those vessels do not engage in the Australian trade.

Mr HUTCHISON - The right honorable member for Swan has produced figures which show that they do.

Mr Lonsdale - To only a very small extent.

Mr HUTCHISON - When we find that out of 102,871 Inter-State passengers carried in one year in the coasting trade, these vessels carried 16,000, we must recognise that they engage in the trade to a very serious extent. If those 16,000 passengers had been carried by Australian-owned vessels, manned by Australian seamen, the mercantile trade of the Commonwealth would have been still further benefited. Great Britain, with her great mercantile marine, would have no cause for complaint if that proportion had also been carried by Australian vessels. The oversea shipowners pay wages as low as 16s. 8d. per month for coal -trimmers, and. how can we expect Australian ship-owners to continue to pay£6 10s. per month to men who perform the same class of work? It is proposed to compel Australian ship-owners to do something from which we are to allow foreign ship-owners to escape, but I am not going to be a party to any such invidious distinction. If there is to be any distinction whatever, it should be, as the right honorable member for Swan has said, in favour, first of all, of Australian shipowners, and, secondly, of British shipowners. The honorable member for New England asked whether a similar policy had benefited the United States. If legislation of this description, which has been passed there, had not been beneficial, it would have been repealed. The fact that it has not been repealed shows that it cannot have been detrimental to the interests of the United States.

Mr G B EDWARDS (SOUTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Ninety per cent. of the commerce of the United States was once carried in American bottoms, but now only about twenty per cent, is so carried.

Mr HUTCHISON - If we do not commence to protect our shipping, none of our produce will be carried in Australian bottoms. The honorable and learned member who last spoke quoted a passage which appeared in the Melbourne Age; but I should like to read a few words froman extract referring to a series of articles which was published in that newspaper. This is from its issue of the 6th August, 1902 : -

Some time ago a series of articles appeared in the Age, pointing out the great necessity which existed for protecting the mercantile marine of Australia from the unfair competition of oversea and foreign registered vessels. It will be readily recognised by any one conversant with the details of the shipping business that it is impossible for the Australian owners to profitably compete with foreign ships, when the former has to pay higher wages ; second, carries larger crews; and third, effects all its repairs here. Foreigners evidently recognise this clearly, as also the oversea British ships, which frequently compete in the coastal trade with their smaller and lower paid crews and cheaper repairs.

If that was the position in 1902, it is precisely the same to-day. The right honorable member for Swan has taken credit for having passed an arbitration measure in Western Australia. He was also willing to retain his portfolio as Minister in two Governments which 'introduced Federal Arbitration Bills. But since he joined the ranks of those who are opposing the present Ministry his views have changed. The Barton Government were of opinion that seamen should be under the provisions of an arbitration measure, though not in the manner now proposed, while the members of the Deakin Ministry held a similar opinion. The right honorable gentleman reminds me of a man who, having done one good action, is content to live for the rest of his life on the reputation for well-doing thus obtained. Although a great deal has been said about the injury which the adoption of the proposed clauses would inflict upon the producers of Australia, by increasing rates of freight to England and elsewhere, the right honorable member is chiefly concerned about the possibility of the passenger rates between Western Australia and the ports of the Eastern States being increased. I regret that the honorable members for Perth and Fremantle have made an attack upon a member of the party to which they belong - I refer to Senator Guthrie. The remarks of the honorable senator, to which exception has been taken, were part of a lecture which he delivered before the Australian Natives' Association in Adelaide some years ago, and had nothing to do with the Arbitration Bill. He has always been anxious for the establishment of a mercantile marine in Australia, and he rightly said, on the occasion referred to, that he believes in preserving the trade of Australia to the citizens of the Common wealth. He further stated that Port Adelaide, because of its geographical position, would in that event become one of the leading ports of the continent.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - He referred to the provisions now under discussion.

Mr HUTCHISON - No, he did not. He did not mention the Arbitration Bill further than to say that if there were to be such a Bill he would like its provisions to preserve the coastal trade of the Commonwealth to the citizens of Australia. He was speaking entirely in support of the building up of the ' mercantile marine of Australia, and honorable members were very unfair in the way in which they dealt with his remarks. The honorable member for Fremantle was particularly unfair, because he tried to connect with the address of Senator Guthrie the resignation from the Barton Ministry of the right honorable member for Adelaide. The honorable member for Perth has stated that the proposed new clauses would not have been introduced but for the activity of Senator Guthrie. But as a matter of fact, they have been demanded from a very large number of sources. If honorable members will refer to the index of the Votes and' Proceedings for the last session of this Parliament, they will find that petitions praying that the Bill be amended, so as to make it apply equally to all vessels engaged in the Australian coastal trade, whether Australian, oversea, or foreign, were presented from the Executive Officers of the Federated Seamen's Union of Australasia, the President and Members of the Executive of the Australasian Institute, Marine Engineers, the President and Executive Officers of the Federated Stewards' and Cooks' Union of Australasia, the President and Executive Officers of the South Australian, Victorian, and New South Wales Branches of the Federated Seamen's Union of Australasia, the President and . Executive Officers of the Port Adelaide District Trade and Labour Council, the President and others of the Amalgamated Society of Ironworkers of Victoria, the President and others of the Masters' and Engineers' Association of New South Wales, the President and others of the Sydney Labour Council of Sydney, New South Wales, the President and others of the Mercantile Marine Officers' Association of Victoria, the President and Executive Officers of the United Trades and Labour Coun

I cil of South Australia, the President and

Executive Officers of the Sydney Wharf Labourers' Union of New South Wales, the President and Executive Officers of the Coast Trade Masters' and Officers' Association of New South Wales, the President and Executive Officers of the Queensland Branch of the Federated Seamen's Union of Australasia, the Chairman, Executive Officers, and Trustees of the Port Adelaide Working-men's Association, the President, Executive Officers.1, and Committee of the Melbourne Wharf Labourers' Union, the President and Executive Officers of the Political Labour Council of Victoria, the President and Executive Officers of the Trades Hall Council, the President and others of the Lithgow District Smelters' and Workers' Industrial Union of Employes, the President and Executive Officers of the Coal Miners' Mutual Protective Association of the Western District, New South Wales, the President and members of the Eskbank Ironworkers' Association of Mill and Forge Workers, the President and Executive Officers of the Brisbane Labour Council, and from George Dawson and others of the Coal and Shale Miners' Mutual Protection Association of Airly, Industrial Union of Employes. That is sufficient evidence of a very general demand for the proposed legislation.

Mr Lonsdale - Were any of the petitioners producers?

Mr HUTCHISON - Will the honorable member say that any one of them is not a producer? In the same volume, honorable members will find a .petition from the Executive Officers of the Federated Seamen's Union of Australasia, which contains the following statements : -

I.   Legislation for industrial conciliation and arbitration is chiefly wanted in reference to maritime troubles, which have disastrously affected Australian industry.

II.   This has always been recognised, and was the main cause of the introduction of conciliation and arbitration into various Australasian State Legislatures, notably, in South Australia, New Zealand, and New South Wales.

III.   As maritime disputes generally affect more than one State, they can only be satisfactorily dealt with by Federal legislation, and the necessary power for dealing with disputes of this character has been expressly inserted in the Federal Constitution.

IV.   Australian ship-owners are, in connexion with the Australian coastal trade, exposed to the competition of oversea and foreign vessels, manned by crews engaged at rates of wages which, in many cases, are entirely inadequate, and less than half the amount of the rates properly paid on Australian vessels.

Those are the statements of the men who are most competent to judge of the position of affairs to-day. I shall not read the whole petition, but its concluding statements are these -

VIII.   Your petitioners fear that if the Billis passed in its present shape -

That is, without the provisions relating to seamen - the result may be that in any arbitration, as the Court will have no power to raise the rate of wages paid by foreign or oversea vessels, although these wages are entirely inadequate for the Australian coastal trade, the wages of Australian seamen may be reduced, as the only mode of preserving any part of the trade to Australia.

IX.   - Your petitioners submit that there is no good reason why foreign or oversea vessels should be exempted from the operation of legislation to which Australian vessels are subjected in connexion with Australian trade, and that the present practice of some great nations, and British practice of many centuries, including half of the last, would justify differentiation against foreigners.

X.   Your petitioners, however, do not ask for this, but humbly pray that at the least, in the interests of so important an industry as the Australian mercantile marine, the proposed Conciliation and Arbitration Bill may be amended so as to equally apply to all vessels engaging in the Australian coastal trades, whether Australian, oversea, or foreign. Your petitioners are satisfied that this is the most effectual mode of dealing with the question, and its eminent fairness is unquestionable. Australian laws should surely not discriminate against Australians and in favour of foreigners.

I entirely agree with those statements. No arguments have been adduced which prove that . this legislation is not urgent. When the right honorable member for Adelaide spoke on the subject there was an expectation of serious trouble, similar to that which occurred during the maritime strike of a few years ago. I admit that that difficulty has been got over, though I think only temporarily. Honorable members who say that this legislation is required, but that the proper place for it is in the Navigation Bill, should remember that there is -no likelihood of such a measure being passed during the next two years, within which time the present agreement between the seamen and the ship-owners will have expired, and we do not know what may not happen then. The right honorable member for Adelaide has made this subject a special study during the whole of his political life, and he is better fitted than are most honorable members to judge as to the proper place for the provisions now under discussion. The right honorable member for Swan told us that only 1,500 persons- would be affected by the proposed new clauses, and that statement was repeated by the honorable and learned member for Parkes ; but more than that number of persons would be affected in New South Wales alone. If we take into account the masters, mates, engineers, firemen, trimmers, cooks, stewards, and other ship employes, who would be affected, the number would not be over-stated at 20,000 persons. The honorable and learned member for Parkes, appears to be of the opinion that the Australian trade is not paying, and that if the oversea mail steamers are too severely handicapped, their owners may refuse to allow them to come here. Whether the trade is now a profitable one or not, I am- sure honorable members will agree that it is a growing one. Indeed, it is likely to increase in the near future by leaps and bounds.

Mr Johnson - So much the better for the local shipping companies.

Mr HUTCHISON - So much the better for competition. I am quite sure that, no matter how trade may increase, our local ship-owners will be prepared to perform their part, so long as they are able to compete with outsiders on even terms. A number of statements have been made with regard to the profits derived by the P. and O. and Orient companies. It is quite true that the Orient Company has not derived very large profits from the Australian trade. It is pointed out in Fair Play of February 25th, 1904, that the Orient Company was able to pay a dividend of only 5s. per share for the last financial year, and that the shares of the company were quoted at a little less than their original value. The Orient Company is practically a family concern, in which the whole of the partners are acting as managers, and drawing magnificent salaries. Therefore, it does not matter much to them whether they draw their profits in the shape of salaries or dividends. I find that the £100 deferred stock of the P. and O. Company was quoted in the last reports at £209 10s.

Mr Johnson - But the company paid a dividend of only 7 per cent.

Mr Reid - They did not derive that profit from the Australian trade.

Mr HUTCHISON - I agree that the Australian trade may not be so profitable as some other branches of the company's business.

Mr Reid - The P. and 0.. Company lost 50,000 golden sovereigns upon the Australian trade last year.

Mr HUTCHISON - I accept the right honorable gentleman's statement. I am quite satisfied that the company can see its way clear to make up all that loss, and to derive a considerable profit in addition, from the largely increased trade of the near future. The honorable member for Fremantle stated that the provisions now submitted could not be enforced, because we should have no control over ship-owners in foreign ports. I would point out, however, that the seamen's unions are very strong in many ports of the Continent, as well as in Great Britain, and that they have been able to enforce the payment of a minimum wage. I am quite satisfied that they will be able to insure that their members are paid at reasonable rates. The proposed clause 79F provides -

The master of every ship to which this Part of this Act applies shall, before his ship departs from Australia, satisfy the Collector of Customs at the ship's final port of departure that the members of the crew have been paid the wages prescribed by any award which extends or applies to the ship or to service or employment on the ship.

Penalty : One hundred pounds.

The Collector of Customs may refuse to grant a certificate of clearance to the master of any ship about to depart from Australia until he has complied with this section.

Therefore, the master of a ship will have to enter into an agreement, enforceable in any part of the world, to pay the rates of wages ruling in the Commonwealth before he can obtain a clearance, and I am quite satisfied that the seamen themselves will see that they are fairly dealt with.

Mr Carpenter - Does the honorable member call that proving his case?

Mr HUTCHISON - Undoubtedly I do. The honorable member has brought no evidence to bear upon the matter, and it is ridiculous for him to assume that the seamen who belong to unions in the old country, or elsewhere, will not be able to enforce their own rights, if necessary, even in the Courts. I think the Government are to be commended for introducing these provisions, and I trust that they will be adhered to. I am becoming sick and tired of accepting amendments proposed by honorable members opposite. Not one of those amendments has been moved with the object of improving the Bill, but rather with the intention of making it inoperative.

Mr Reid - The amendment proposed by the honorable and learned member for Darling Downs was intended to improve the position of the Government.

Mr Watson - That amendment was projected long before the right honorable gentleman had been able to exert any pressure.

Mr Reid - The Prime Minister accepted it, because he knew what was involved.

Mr HUTCHISON - Too many of the amendments proposed by honorable members opposite have been accepted, and I am very sorry that I was not here to raise my voice in protest against the proposal to permit of the appearance of counsel before the Arbitration Court. I hope that the Government will stick to the new clauses as they stand, unless it can be shown that they can be improved.

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