Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Tuesday, 28 August 1906

The CHAIRMAN - Order.

Senator GUTHRIE - Are you calling me to order. Mr. Chairman.

The CHAIRMAN - I think that the language used between the honorable senators is not quite in order, and I hope that

Senator Guthriewill confine his remarks as nearly as possible to the clause.

Senator GUTHRIE - The position is this : that Australian registered companies pay rates of wages which are consistent with Australian living.

Senator de Largie - I am obliged to appeal to you, Mr. Chairman, on a point of order. Does the present amendment deal with rates of wages on the coast ? Has the amendment anything to do with the conditions of employment on our ships?

Senator Millen - This amendment proposes to deal with rebates, and I understand that it is alleged that shipping proprietors, who trade on the coast, are in the habit of allowing rebates. Some quotations have been made from a document, with which I am not familiar, in support of that allegation, and with a view to proving the advantage of adopting the proposed amendment. I understand that now Senator Guthrie wishes to refer to that document with a view to showing that the facts on which Senator de Largie relied in support of the amendment, and the argument drawn therefrom, are not substantiated. So far as I can understand Senator Guthrie, I think that up to the present he has been quite relevant.

The CHAIRMAN - Senator Guthriemay argue that a system of .rebates would enable a shipping company to pay a high rate of wages, and I do not feel disposed to rule the honorable senator out of order.

Senator GUTHRIE - When the point of order was raised I was dealing with the question of whether rebates were for the benefit of Australian labour - let me emphasize the words " Australian labour." If we abolish rebates we shall have coolies, lascars, Germans, Frenchmen, and others competing for the trade of Australia. Senator de Largie, who is opposing this Bill, is, I believe, one- of the strongest advocates amongst us for a white Australia. The Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company, whose vessels call at Fremantle, employs lascars, Chinamen, and Eastern natives generally, and pays about one-eighth of the wages which obtain on the Australian coast amongst Australian shipping.

Senator Staniforth Smith - Do the vessels of the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company carry merchandise from port to port in Australia?

Senator GUTHRIE - At present I desire to deal with the passenger trade; and I declare that the accommodation on board those mail steamers is not one bit better than that supplied on the Australian coastal steamers. Further, the attendance oil passengers on the Australian coastal steamersis quite equal to that on the mail steamers.

Senator Styles - It is better.

Senator GUTHRIE - I accept the honorable senator's correction. The other day I proved that freights on the Australian coast were lower than anywhere else in the world ; and the figures I then laid before honorable senators have remained unchallenged up to the present moment. Those figures show how much higher the freights are on the English coast, where the cost of labour is only one-third what it is on the Australian coast!

The CHAIRMAN - I do not think the honorable senator is quite in order now.

Senator GUTHRIE - I desire to show that on the British coast, where those conditions prevail, there are no rebates. There are rebates on the coast of Australia; but," without taking these into account, the freights here are one-third less than on the English coast. Yet we hear, not only in the Senate, but in another place, that freights on the Australian coast are extortionate. The first saloon fare from Sydney to Fremantle on the Kanowna, the Kyarra, the Yongala, the Grantala, the Bombala, and the Riverina is £10, and by other boats £9. From Melbourne to Brisbane the fare on the newer boats is £4 ios., and on the older boats £3 12s. F,rom Melbourne to Sydney the fare by the newer boats is £2 ios., and by the older boats £2. Let us see how these fares compare with the passenger fares in other parts of the world. It has been stated that the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company gives no rebates, and the fare from' Sydney to London, a distance of 12,485 miles, by one of their vessels-

Senator Pearce - I thought the honorable senator did not approve of comparing coastal with oversea trade ?

Senator GUTHRIE - I was then dealing with the question of freight, whereas now I am referring to passenger traffic. After giving a close study to Rhodes' Steam-ship Guide, which deals with passenger fares over the whole world, I can say that there are no cheaper passenger fares than in Australia.

The CHAIRMAN - Will the honorable senator connect those remarks with the question before us?

Senator GUTHRIE - - I say that the rebate system is detrimental to the people of Australia, who are nomadic in their habits, travelling from one State to another. I am prepared to give evidence that they are affected by the system of rebates.

Senator Story - Do passengers get a rebate ?

Senator GUTHRIE - No; but I am prepared to show that passengers travel at less per mile on the Australian coast than in any other part of the globe. Rhodes' Steam-ship Guide, which deals with the whole world, gives the fares between port and port, and I defy any one to find an error therein. From Sydney3 to London, a distance of 12,485 miles, the fare runs from £65 to £75, but the minimum fare of £65 works out at r.25d. per mile. From Sydney to Colombo, a distance of 5,300 miles, the fare is £32, or at the rate of i-45d. per mile. From Sydney to Vancouver, a distance of 7.067 miles, the fare is £40, or at the rate of i-36d. per mile. From Sydney to San Francisco, a distance of 7,211 miles, the fare is £40;, or at the rate of. 1.33d. per mile. From Sydney to Hong Kong, where the boats are manned with cheap labour at 15s. 4d. a month, as against £8 ios per month on the Australian coast, the fare is £33, or at the rate of i.7id. per mile. From Sydney to Capetown, a distance of 6.349 miles, where the lowest form of white labour that is procurable in Europe, is employed, the fare is £31 10s., or" at the rate of i.igd. per mile. This is truly free-trade in carrying, where the owners, as in -the case of the Peninsular and Oriental Steam-ship Company, have the right to employ lascars and coolies at 15s. 4d. per month, or 6d. per day. Senator de Largie wants that company to come into competition with Australians, who, if they live in Sydney or Melbourne, 'have to pay from ios. to 15s. per week for rent. And yet its seamen really do not receive sufficient pay to enable them to pay rent, and if they have wives and families, keep them in India, where they can live on an anna per day. Yet this honorable senator has the courage to stand here and say that he is in favour of encouraging Australian industries !

The CHAIRMAN - Will the honorable senator confine his remarks more closely to the question before the Committee ?

Senator GUTHRIE - Y'es. Rebates on freight, I repeat, are granted, but no rebates on passenger fares are allowed.

Senator O'Keefe - Some persons are carried more cheaply than are others.

Senator GUTHRIE - No.

Senator Givens - The boats carry clergymen, commercial travellers, and actors, more cheaply than other persons.

Senator GUTHRIE - So do the States railways. Suppose that we pass a provision to the effect that no rebates shall be allowed under any circumstances. How would it affect the rights of the States? A football or cricket team which is selected to take part in an Inter-State match is allowed a rebate by the Railways Commissioners. It will, therefore, be seen that a provision against the grant of rebates would interfere with the business of the States railways. Senator Playford knows as well as I do that in South Australia the Commissioner for Railways carries wool from Morgan to Adelaide at a considerably cheaper rate than for a similar distance in any other part of the State.

Senator Playford - I understood that an arrangement had been come to among the States not to charge those rates.

Senator GUTHRIE - It is still being done. In Victoria, for instance, the Railways Commissioners are carrying wool from Echuca to Melbourne, or Port Melbourne, or Williamstown, at a cheaper rate than they charge for a similar distance in other parts oft he State.

Senator Staniforth Smith - That is in violation of the agreement arrived at by the States Premiers.

Senator GUTHRIE - It has not been carried outyet.

Senator Playford - Then we shall have to create an Inter-State Commission to carry it out.

Senator GUTHRIE - What I wish to ascertain is whether the Government have considered to what extent States rights are involved in this question of rebates?

Senator Playford - The Bill does not deal with the States.

Senator GUTHRIE - No; but an amendment has been moved which raises the question of States rights.

Senator Playford - I do not think so.

Senator GUTHRIE - If the Government of South Australia, or Victoria, or New South Wales are prepared to give rebates on the carriage of wool from the Murray to the sea coast, is not the question covered by the amendment?

Senator Playford - No ; the States do not come within the purview of the Bill.

Senator GUTHRIE - If, as the Minister says, the States do not come within the purview of the Bill, I am prepared to bow to his superior wisdom. Having given the passenger rates per mile outside Australian waters, I propose now to mention the passenger rates which are charged on our coast. From Sydney to Fremantle, a distance of 2,450 miles, the fare is £10, or at the rate of.98d. per mile, which is cheaper than any rate I have quoted, the lowest being that from Sydney to Capetown, namely,1.19d. per mile. From Melbourne to Brisbane, a distance of 1,080 miles, the fare is , £4 10s., or at the rate of 1d. per mile.

Senator Playford - That is as cheap as the rate per mile on an English parliamentary train.

Senator GUTHRIE - An English parliamentary train does not supply either sleeping accommodation or food, but when travelling from Melbourne to Brisbane, a passenger is well-housed, and is fed like a fighting cock. From Sydney to Hobart, a distance of 628 miles, the fare is £2 10s., or at the rate of . 95d. per mile. Rhodes' Steam-shipGuide, which is absolutely independent and unbiased, deals with the principal steamship lines in the world, and is as high an authority as is Cook's Tourist Guide. I take these guides as being absolutely correct. The fares on the Australian coast in no case amount to over1d. per mile. The fares outside of Australia, where the ship-owners have the advantage of cheaper labour, are over a 1d. per mile. Is there, then, any necessity for passing special legislation to restrict our ship-owners? I have now proved that both fares land freights are lower on the Australian coast than on the English coast. I am prepared to go further, and to prove that they are lower than on any coast in the world. There is no necessity for either Senator Best or Senator de Largie's amendment, so far as the Australian coastal trade is concerned. It has been said that there is no competition. I say that there is competition; but God help the Australian seaman who has to sign on a ship running in competition with a Federation ship ! He gets nothing like the wages that are paid by the federated companies, and he is absolutely starved. Senator de Largie instanced a Western Australian ship-owner - Bateman - who never paid the standard rate of wages in his life. Yet the honorable senator stands up in his place in the Senate, and advocates the cause of Bateman !

Senator de Largie - Do Scott, Fell, and Company pay Australian rates of wages ?

Senator GUTHRIE - I take it that that firm does so under compulsion.

Senator de Largie - Do J. and A. Brown pav Australian rates?

Senator GUTHRIE - J. and A. Brown have from the beginning of their opposition said, " We are prepared to pay union rates."

Senator de Largie - That company is outside the ring.

Senator GUTHRIE - The whole coast of Australia is open to it. There is nothing to prevent any ship-owner from entering the Australian trade. If any of them can invent another syste)m to cut against the rebate system, what, is to stop them from doing it? Now I wish to come to a personal matter. Senator de Largie has referred to the fact that I signed the report of the Navigation Commission.

The CHAIRMAN - I think the honorable senator has already made a personal explanation regarding that matter.

Senator GUTHRIE - No, I have not. The honorable senator failed to tell the Committee that there is another provision in the Commission's report which I signed.

Senator de Largie - It has nothing to do with rebates.

Senator GUTHRIE - It has everything to do with the question.

Senator de Largie - Then let the honorable senator bring it forward.

Senator GUTHRIE - I am going to do so.

Senator de Largie - I stand by every part of the report.

Senator GUTHRIE - So do I.

Senator de Largie - Did not the honorable senator sign that part of the report dealing with rebates?

Senator GUTHRIE - Why mention that part of the report alone?

Senator de Largie - Because that is the only ppart with which we are dealing.

Senator GUTHRIE - Far from it. I signed the report on this condition - that every sship that was prepared to abide by Australian conditions should have the right bv licence to trade on the Australian coast.

The CHAIRMAN - I think the honorable senator said that before.

Senator GUTHRIE - I did not.

Senator GUTHRIE - Senator Best's amendment deals with the question of services which are the subject of competition. We are in this unhappy position on the Australian coast : We have ships trading with our ports which are employing labour at such rates that the men could not live on them in Australia. They would not be sufficient to pay his rent or to cover the cost of the bare necessaries of life. Let me point to the case of a ship which arrived in Queenscliff a little while ago. The crew was absolutely starved on the voyage from Molinda, in Peru, to Queenscliff. They declined to go any further in the vessel. The magistrates decided that they were justified in refusing to go an inch further, first, because they had been starved; secondly because their lives had been endangered from the fact that no lights were exhibited during the voyage, owing to the want of oil; thirdly, because no fog-horns were in use, and fourthly, because the lifeboat which was supposed to be available for the men in case of collision or running aground was in such a condition that paint, when put inside, ran through on to the outside.

Senator Best - Is the honorable senator opposing my amendment ?

Senator GUTHRIE - I am.

Senator O'Keefe - The amendment does not mention shipping.

Senator GUTHRIE - But it mentions " services." What does the honorable senator mean bv " services " ?

Senator Best - Transport charges.

Senator GUTHRIE - Does the honorable senator mean transport charges within a State, or does he mean extra or InterState charges?

Senator Best - Both.

Senator GUTHRIE - Then I hope Air. Bent, the Premier of Victoria, will take notice of the attitude of Senator Best, who is a representative of Victoria. Mr. Bent, to-day, is charging differential rates' between Echuca and Melbourne.

Senator Best - The honorable senator spoke of Inter-State and extra-State charges.

Senator GUTHRIE - I spoke of InterState and State charges, to which the honorable senator said he intended the words "or sendees " to apply.

Senator Best - And so they will apply, so far as corporations are concerned.

Senator Keating - We cannot go beyond corporations.

Senator GUTHRIE - I say that Mr. Bent, who is a corporation, and Mr. Tait, who is a corporation in a lesser degree, are charging special rates over the Victorian railways.

Senator Best - The honorable senator must see that the words cannot apply to any State railways.

Senator GUTHRIE - The words apply to every State railway in the Commonwealth.

Senator Best - If we seek to bind the Crown, the Crown must be specially mentioned; and the clause applies only to corporations formed within the Commonwealth and to Inter-State trade.

Senator GUTHRIE - Then we arrive at the question - what is a corporation? Does Senator Best deny that Railways Commissioners are a corporation?

Senator Best - I answer in the words of the Constitution, that Railways Commissioners are not a foreign corporation nor a trading or financial corporation formed within the Commonwealth.

Senator GUTHRIE - The Constitution provides that all the powers regarding the rates on railways shall be settled by an Inter-State Commission.

Senator McGregor - Unless special rates are required for the development of some part of the country.

Senator GUTHRIE - I shall accept Senator McGregor's definition. Is it in the interests of the Commonwealth that there should be rebates between Echuca and Melbourne? The amendment lays down the principle that wool carried from Echuca to Melbourne shall be granted a rebate.

Senator Givens - Is it not. a differential rate rather than a rebate?

Senator GUTHRIE - Nothing of the kind. Senator Best knows that a rebate has to be granted from Echuca, or the wool would never come to Port Melbourne.

The CHAIRMAN - I hope the honorable senator will not pursue that argument any further, because I do not think the question of States railways has anything to do with the amendment before us.

Senator GUTHRIE - I most respectfully decline to agree with your ruling.

The CHAIRMAN - If the honorable senator disagrees with my ruling, will he be good enough to put his disagreement in writing, so that the point may be settled by reference to the President?

In the Senate:

The Chairman of Committees. - Mr. President, I beg to report fhat when the Committee were considering clause 6 of the Australian Industries Preservation Bill, Senator Best submitted an amendment with the object of adding the following paragraph to sub-clauseI : - "(d) If the defendant, with respect to any goods or services, which are the subject of the competition, gives, offers, or promises to any person any rebate, refund, discount, or award upon condition that that person deals, or in consideration of that person having dealt, with the defendant to the exclusion of other persons dealing in similar goods or services."

Senator Guthrie,in discussing the proposed new paragraph, introduced the question of rebates granted by the States Railways Commissioners, and referred at length to the action of Mr. Bent, the Premier, and Mr. Tait, Railways Commissioner, of Victoria. I ruled the honorable senator out of order, on the ground that the question of rebates granted on any State railway do not come within the scope of the Bill. To that ruling Senator Guthrie has disagreed in the words -

I respectfully decline to agree with the Chairman's ruling that I cannot debate the question of "or services" in the amendment proposed by Senator Best, clause 6, sub-clauseI, of the Australian Industries Preservation Bill.

You will observe, Mr. President, that the Bill deals with corporations and commercial trusts, and that - "Commercial Trust" includes a combination, whether wholly or partly within or beyond Australia, of separate and independent persons (corporate or unincorporate) whose voting power or determinations are controlled or controllable by -

(a)   the creation of a trust as understood in equity, or of a corporation, wherein the trustees or corporation hold the interests, shares, or stock of the constituent persons, and so on. I submit that the States railways and States Railways Commissioners do not come within the scope of the Bill, and that Senator Guthrie is out of order.

Senator Guthrie - I hold that we, as a Commonwealth Parliament, have absolute power under this Bill to control any body whether corporate or unincorporate, unless the contrary intention appears - and no contrary intention does appear in the Bill. "Commercial Trust" includes - a combination, whether wholly or partly within or beyond Australia, of separate and independent persons (corporate or unincorporate) whose voting power or determination are controlled or controllable by -

(a)   the creation of a trust as understood in equity.....

I do not think that many honorable senators really understand what is meant by " a trust as understood in equity."

Senator Henderson - The honorable senator evidently does not understand.

Senator Guthrie - I admit that I do not.

Suggest corrections