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Thursday, 21 July 1904

Mr G B EDWARDS (SOUTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I refrained from speaking on the motion when it was first introduced, and upon the proposal to insert in the Arbitration Bill the new clauses to which it refers, because I am a member of the Commission to which the Navigation Bill has been remitted for report. But now that honorable members have decided not to insert these clauses in the Arbitration Bill, my way is clear to support the motion now before us. It seems to me,' too, that as these clauses are not to be inserted in the Arbitration Bill, what the honorable member for Hindmarsh desires could be best obtained, if obtained at all, by remitting them to the Commission for consideration. The question is much bigger and wider than most of those who have addressed themselves to it appear to think. One of the chief troubles in the industrial world to-day is how to regulate the severe competition among shipowners which is caused by the practice of foreign Governments of supplementing by bonuses the earnings of their shipping companies. At the present time there is sitting in the United States a Commission, which has admitted in its progress reports that all that has been done to foster the shipping business of that country, and to protect it from the effects of competition, has utterly failed. It seems to me, therefore, that we must look further than the example of America, and that what has been said about the great loss caused to the people of the United Kingdom by foreigncompetition is beside the mark, in view of the fact that that country, notwithstanding the great advance made by Germany, France and the United States, still maintains a preeminent position in regard to the carrying trade of the world. Notwithstanding that the shipping of the United States has enjoyed all the protection and all the fostering that the ingenuity of politicians and publicists could devise, the fact remains that 90 per cent, of the trade of that country is carried in foreign bottoms.

Mr Hutchison - Would not the position of affairs have been worse if America had not adopted protective measures?

Mr G B EDWARDS (SOUTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I fail to see how it could be worse. These facts are pressing themselves upon the attention of earnest men, who are giving consideration to the subject. It is being admitted that the American system is wanting in some respects.

Mr Hutchison - The subsidized steamers of other nations, have knocked out the American steamers.

Mr G B EDWARDS (SOUTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - If the subsidized steamers of other nations have knocked out the American steamers, which have been protected, why have they not also knocked out the British steamers, which have not been protected?

Mr Hutchison - They are fast knocking them out.

Mr G B EDWARDS (SOUTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - My mind is quite open upon the question, and I think the best thing the House can do is to remit it to the Royal Commission on the Navigation Bill. The members of the Commission will, no doubt, consider it, even if there is no special remission of it to them, because it comes naturally within the scope of their inquiries. When the Commission has taken all the evidence obtainable in regard to the matter. Parliament will be better able to determine as to the wisdom of taking measures to preserve our carrying interests. It seems to me that some of the proposals which have recently been made in this Chamber would have the effect, not of improving the carrying trade of the Empire, but of retarding it. If honorable members opposite were content to propose repressive measures in regard to foreign vessels only, their position could be understood, though I do not know that I would vote for such legislation. It seems absurd to think that the prestige which Great Britain has enjoyed for centuries in her control of the shipping trade of the world should be diminished by the act of dependencies in passing repressive legislation applying to British, as well as to foreign shipping. It is to our interests to have the greatest facility of communication with other parts of the civilized world, and any measure which will interfere with that communication will act prejudicially upon the Commonwealth. I am content that full inquiry should be made, with a view to ascertain how far it is possible to remedy the evils which arise from the unfair competition to which British vessels are subjected, by reason of the high subsidies paid by foreign Governments to foreign vessels. For that reason, I think the consideration of these clauses should be remitted to the Royal Commission on the Navigation Bill, whose members will give every attention to the important and startling facts which the honorable member for Hindmarsh has laid before the House.

Debate (on motion by Mr. Tudor) adjourned.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I ask your ruling, Mr. Speaker, as to whether this motion should appear on the notice-paper.

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