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Tuesday, 19 July 1904

Mr CONROY (Werriwa) - I regret that the Ministry have thought fit to introduce in this Bill clauses which properly belong to a Navigation Bill. The Prime Minister himself has already acknowledged that these clauses appertain to the Navigation Bill. That being so, 'it does not appear to me that we should discuss them at this stage. By taking this course, we are bound to cause' great confusion to all men who study our laws. Any man who commenced to read the Navigation

Bill when it became a statute would not discover in it anything with regard .to the Arbitration Court. Probably he would not know of the existence of such provisions as these, until his case came before the Court. It should be one of the desires of Parliament, as it is of the Judges of the land, to have all the sections relating to a particular subject within one Act. No man should have to look at three or four Acts to find out the law relating to any subject. ' In the State of Victoria some years ago both Houses of Parliament passed a vote of thanks to Chief Justice Higinbotham, because he had gone through all the Acts of Parliament in the State, codifying the sections, and arranging them under their proper headings. At the present time a similar codification is taking place in New South Wales. Certain men have been engaged in selecting sections from the various Acts, and placing them in the Acts to which they properly belong. An enormous amount of money is saved to the public from having the laws of the country codified in that manner. In this instance, I fail to understand why, since the Prime Minister himself admits that the clauses properly belong to a Navigation Bill-

Mr Watson - Where did I admit that?

Mr CONROY - Let me ask the Prims Minister: does he not think that these clauses could be more appropriately placed in the Navigation Bill?

Mr Watson - I say that they might form part of the Navigation Bill, but I do not say that they should necessarily do so.

Mr CONROY - Does not the Prime Minister think that the convenience of the parties interested would be considered by placing them in the Navigation Bill ? It is in this way that we compel the public to go to lawyers. The very reason why lawyers are so numerous in the community is, first, because of the many Acts of Parliament which are passed, and, secondly, because sections dealing with certain matters are not placed together in certain Acts, where men can easily find them.

Mr Watson - I am afraid that this measure will give work to the lawyers, no matter in what form it is passed.

Mr CONROY - On that ground alone I urge the Prime Minister to include these clauses in the Navigation Bill!

Mr Webster - Will the honorable and learned member support them then ?

Mr CONROY - It will be time for me to deal with the Navigation Bill when it comes before the House; but certainly I must oppose the clauses as here introduced. I can assure the Government that, no matter how much I was in favour of them, I could not support them as part of this Bill.

Mr Watson - The honorable and learned member would not support them in any case.

Mr CONROY - Another very excellent reason was given by the right honorable member for East Sydney when he pointed out that if the clauses are inserted it will probably mean that the Bill will have to be reserved for the Royal Assent. The clauses will make the measure one affecting oversea .shipping, and, therefore, in all probability, the Royal Assent will not be given bv the Governor-General. We are led to believe that this measure is urgently needed, and that we ought not to delay its passage for a single moment. Surely that is an argument which ought to have great weight with the Prime Minister. Another reason is that the Navigation Bill itself has been referred to a Royal Commission to inquire into the whole subject. Surely freight rate's, profits, and wages should be inquired into by the Commission. They cannot be inquired into by us in this Committee. But I will go still further. If we pass provisions of this kind, for whom shall we be legislating? Chiefly for the benefit of aliens, whom honorable members opposite hold in such detestation. I confess that, for my own part, I am always glad to welcome to this country men of the Caucasian race who are likely to assimilate with us. I only wish, that we could get more' qf them. But when we are asked to pass a measure under which regulations will be framed which will possibly affect Australian shipping, it certainly becomes us to ask in whose interest , we are legislating. The State of New South Wales does the largest amount, of shipping business in Australia, and therefore, probably, there are in that State more seaman than in all the other States of Australia put together. I find that the number of men engaged in shipping in New South Wales is very little more than 930, of whom about 480 belong to British-speaking races, and about 450 to other nationalities. We are really asked to interfere, so far as that great

State is concerned, with 930 men, of whom nearly one-half are not of British nationality.

Mr Hughes - I do not think that that is right.

Mr CONROY - I am only taking the figures given in Coghlan.

Mr Hughes - They are nearly all naturalized, anyhow.

Mr CONROY - That may be. From my point of view, men of that type, who come here and settle down, or show an inclination to settle down, are just as much to be considered as any citizens born here.

Mr Hughes - Provided that they are naturalized.

Mr CONROY - Provided that they have shown an inclination to become citizens of Australia.

Mr Mauger - And to live up to the Australian standard.

Mr CONROY - I do not know what the Australian standard is, nor does the honorable member.

Mr Mauger - The honorable and learned member's standard.

Mr CONROY - The standard of good men is, I presume, the same all the world over. At all events, they are aiming to belter their condition, and the honorable member cannot lay down what the standard is for one citizen any more than for another. A citizen may find much greater happiness under one form of government, or under one standard of life, than under another. It is not for us to impose on anybody conditions, however pleasing they may be to ourselves-

Mr Mauger - A coolie, with a humpy to sleep in.

Mr CONROY - I have slept a good deal more often in a humpy or tent than has the honorable member. I am quite certain that one can be just as contented in one way as in another. I would, point out another thing, which it appears to me the representatives of Western Australia have very properly stated. If the aim of these clauses were achieved, the result might be the loss to Western Australia and South Australia of the visits of the big steamships which now call at their ports. Surely that would be a very serious detriment to those States ? Of course, if it is not going to affect trade one way or the other, it is of no use to pass the clauses, and we are simply wasting time in discussing them.

Mr Hughes - I think it will affect the " tramp " ships, but not the regular liners.

Mr CONROY - I would remind the honorable and learned gentleman that so far as the Peninsular and Oriental Company is concerned, its loss on' the Australian trade last year - admittedly a bad year - amounted to nearly ^50,000. There is no doubt that it hopes to make up that loss in other directions, but, nevertheless, we must be very careful not to throw any unnecessary hindrance in the way of its ships making any profit. If we do, the result may be .most disastrous to the producers of Australia, and certainly will be very disastrous to the inhabitants of Western Australia and South Australia. We have already imposed one disability, and that is by the infliction of heavy Customs duties on the stores carried by ships touching at Fremantle or Adelaide,' before they touch at Melbourne or Sydney. If this other disability is superadded, we may prevent those ships from calling at such ports, and the result will not be good. Admittedly, there are only 2,500 seamen in Australia, and we are asked to interfere with the export trade of nearly 4,000,000 persons, because we shall interfere with the export trade to- a very large extent if we place these further hindrances in its way. Only this afternoon a representative o'f Tasmania pointed out that the reduction in freight on some of the products of that State caused by the big boats calling at Hobart, amounts to nearly 100 per cent. Surely when such instances have been placed before us, it will ill become us to proceed with this legislation. My objection to the clauses is based on the ground that they do not properly belong to the Bill, and even were I in favour of them I should still vote against their inclusion. The Barton Ministry carried1 that idea out so fully that they allowed a colleague to resign sooner than consent to the insertion in this Bill of clauses which properly belong to a Navigation Bill. No doubt the honorable member for Hume thoroughly approved of that course being followed, otherwise he would not have allowed the right honorable member for Adelaide to resign alone. The fact that he did not resign when that right honorable gentleman did is, or ought to be, a proof that he disagreed with him, and he will, by his vote to-night, show that he is of opinion that these clauses do belong to the Navigation Bill, and not to this Bill.

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