Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Pearl Shelling Industry - Royal Commission on - Progress Report

Download PDF Download PDF

1 11.






Presente d by Command; ordered to be pn'nte-d, 29th October, 1913 .

fOo st of Hepnrt.-Prepa ration, not given; 1,000 copies; a pproximate cost of printing and publishing, il4.J

No. 54:. - F.l666.


for the o f th e o f A USTR .-Il.l .-1 b v ALBERT J. MULJ. ET7,

. Government Printer for the State of Victoria.




GEORGE THE FIFTH, by the Grace of God, of the United K ingdom of Great Britain and and of the Brit·ish Dominions beyond the Ser.ts, JG·ng, D ef ender of th e Faith, Ernp.eror of India.




KNOW YE that we do by these our Letters Patent appoint you to be Commissioners to inquire into and t·eport upon the Pearl-shelling I ndustry as w rried on in Australian Waters or from ports, and more part·icularly in relr.ttion lo:-

The classes of labour at present engaged ; 'l'he reasons why white labour has not been hitherto more generally employed; The pmct·ica&ility of white labour being int1·oduced ; The employment of mnchinery in connexion with the diVI ng pumps; The cult-ivat·ion of the pearl shell oyster ; and

The means to be adopted to encourage employment of white labour (a ) wholly, (b) 1Ja?'lially:

And we appoint the said FREDERICK WILLIAM B AM}'OR D to be the Chainnan of the said Commissioners:

And we direct that at any meeting of the said Commissioners three Commissioners shall be sufficient to constitute a quorum, and may proceed with the Inqui1·y under these L etters Patent, notwithstanding the absence of the other Commissioners :

And we fm·ther direct that ·in the event of the absence of the Chainnan from any meetiny of the said Commissioners, the Commissioners present may appoint one of their number to act as Chairman dming S!,ch absence:

And we f u?·ther direct th at in the even/. of the vo tes given on any gu estwn at any meetinq of the said Cornmisswners being equal, the Chairman, 1j pre.•en t, and if the is not present then th e Comm·is.qion er appointed to act as Chainnan in Ms absence, shall have a .;econd 01' cast·ing •;ate :

And we require you with as liUle delay as possible to report to our Govemor-Geneml in and over our 8aid Common­ wealth th e of your inq1,iries the matters inlmsted to you. by these ott.r Letters Pate11t.

T ESTI MONY W H EREOF we caused the se our Letters to be made Patent, and th e Seal of our said

Commonwealth to be thereu nto affixed.

WITNESS our trusty and well -beloved T HOMAS, B ARON DENMAX, a. Memb er of His Maje>ty's Most Honorable Privy Council, Knight Grand Cross of the Most Di-stinguished Order of St. lofichnel (r,.s. ) and St. George, Knight Commander of the Royal Victo rian Order, Governor-General and

Commander-in-Chief of the Commonwealth of Australia., this third day of April, in the year of Lord One thousand nine hundred and twel1 ·e, and in the second year of our Reign.

(S gd.) DENMAN,


By Hu Excellency's Command, (Sgd.) JOS IAH THOMAS.

Entered on t·ecord by me in R egister of Patents, No.5, page Hl, this tenth day nf April, One thousand nine hundred and twe!t•t .



To Hrs ExcELLENCY THE RIGHT HoNORABLE THOMAS, BARON DENMAN, a Member of His Majesty's Most Hr;norable Privy Council, Knight Grand Cross of the Most Distinguished Order of Saint Michael and Saint George, Knight" Commander of the Royal Order, Governor­

General and Commander-in-Chief of the Commonwealth of Australia.


We, the MPmbers of a Royal Commission, appoint0d to in<1uire into, and report upon, the Pearl-fishing Industry as prosecuted in Australian waters, and more particularly as regards the following matters, namely :-(1) The classes of labour at present engaged ;

(2) The reasons why white labour has not been hitherto more generally employed ; .

(3) The practicability of white labour being introduced; ( 4) The employment of machinery in connexion with the diving pnmps ; (5) The cultivation of the pearl oyster ; and (6) The means to be adopted to encourage employment of white labour

(a) wholly, (b) partially ;

have the honour to submit our progress Report in connexion therewith. In submitting this R eport, your Commissioners wish it to be clearly underHtood that only such portions of the evidence as relate to the industry in Queensland waters is being dealt with. ·

W e have taken some evidence in Melbourne in relation to the industry as con­ ducted in Western Australia, but this is h ere purposely omitted, it being deemed inadvisable to include such evidence, or any conclusions based thereon, until your Commi ssioners have had an opportunity to visit and make inquiries in all the lo calities where the industry is carried on.

\V"hilst, under ordinary circnmstances, we would not have deemed it necessary to have furnished a progress report, we now consider it advisable to do so, because of the fact that two members of the Commissi on have been selected to fill p9sitions of considerable responsibility, and involving duties which necessitate great and close attention for t.heir adequate fulfilment. Under these circumstances, the two members referred to will, in all probability, request Your, Excellency to relieve them of the duties ow being undertaken by them as members of the Commission. Before such request is preferred, it was deemed desirable that a progress report should be presented to Your Excellency, embodying the views of the Commissioners who had visited Thursday I sland and had heard the witnesses, and containing such recommendations as the Commissioners might agree upon in regard to pearl fishing, &c. , in Queensland

waters. At various times the question of substituting white for coloured alien labo':r in the pearl-shelling industry has arisen , and, as an outcome of the pressure of public opinion, several Royal Commissions have been appointed to make inquiries and to

recommend such action as seemed necessary in the direction of bringing a:oout the substitution desired. Those Commissions were appointed as follows :-By Queensland (Mr. Hamilton, Chairman), 1897 ; By South Australia (Judge Dashwood) , 1902;

u By Commonwealth (Mr. Lockyer), 1904; By Queensland (Captain Mackay, Chairman), 1908. The report submitted by Mr. Lockyer, being merely a departme11tal _one, has not been printed as a P arliamentary paper, but as Mr. Lockyer was exammcd and reference made to his report, it has been included in the appendices.

. The reports furnished by the Queensland CommiRsions are of a very hensive character and contain much valuable information, and have b een studted b_v your Commissioners with considerable advantage.



Wbat, for convenience sake, is termed the "Mackay" report (1908), being the latest submitted, has been freely consulted by us and, after careful consideration, we have deemed it inadvisable to traverse the ground covered therein. For instance, the foundation and early history of the industry is so clearly and fully recorded that

we regard further reference thereto as being unnecessary. Much other matter included in the above-mentioned report, such as the culti­ vation of the pearl oyster, we inadvisable to deal with in an.y way,

for the reason that there has been httle, if any, fresh development m the directiOn of such cultivation. Moreover, practically all that is known in regard to the cultivation of the pearl oyster, or of artificial pearls, is scientifically dealt with in the volumes hereinafter referred to.

Further, your Commissioners did not consider it essential to take evidence on some aspects of the industry dealt with by the "Mackay" Commission, nor t? ':'isit all the pearling waters mentioned in its report. Our ftmctions more limited

in scope than were those of the Commission referred to, which was authorized also to investigate the conditions under which the beche-de-mer fishing was being conducted.


The classes of labour at present engaged in the industry may be described as wholly coloured alien. At Thursday Island, which is the centre of the shelling industry in Queensland, there were in 1911 about 133 boats engaged in the industry. These boats are manned exclusively by Asiatics, the diver in almost all cases being a Japanese, the crew being a mixture of Japanese, Malays, and Papuans.

The evidence disclosed that this condition of affairs has existed almost without exception for over twenty years, prior to which time a number . of white men were engaged in the industry, the balance being aliens of Eastern nationality and South Sea Islanders.

The reason advanced by many of the witnesses for the changes in the nature of the labour employed is that, as the shallower beds became depleted of shell, the white divers would not undertake the risks involved in securing shell in the deeper waters, whilst the Japanese divers were indifferent to depth providing shell was plentiful in the lower beds.

It was given in evidence that the Japanese diver will unhesitatingly go to a depth of 40 fathqms, or even more, to beds reputedly rich in shell. The risks taken in this way are extreme, and would not be accepted by a white diver though higher returns were assured.

Again, it was stated that as the white divers abandoned the industry it was to obtain other white divers to take their places, and that shellers (as the

boat-owners described themselves) were compelled to seek elsewhere for the labour required. The fishing villages of Japan were resorted to, and a suitable class of labour there obtained . It is worthy of note here that the white diver taught the Japanese

divers who first came to Queensland the methods to be adopted in seeking pearl-shell. The Japanese proved apt pupils, and in a brief time ousted their white teachers from the industry. It was freely asserted by several witnesses that the sheller has an objection to the white diver, and will not engacre him while coloured men are available. This ' 0 was demed by the shellers generally, who expressed themselves as quite willing to

employ white divers if they were obtainable in Australia or elsewhere. Another reason given for the preponderance of the Japanese divers was that unless it were possible to procure a sufficient number of white divers at the same time, the Japanese divers would strike, involving the shellers in considerable los s.

Apart from the question of divers, there was a concensus of opinion to effect conditions hereinafter stated, it might be possible to work the boats

\VJth white divers and t enders, it would not be practicable nor profitable to man the boats with white crews. The evidence has satisfied your Commissioners that the industry at the present time is unquestionably in the hands of the Japanese, who are masters of the situation.

This of affairs has been brought about chiefly by the facilities offering prior to FederatiOn, no res triction having been placed upon the introduction of Japanese


Queensland, and that upon engagement in the pearl fishing, the Japanese

displayed a most remarkable aptitude for the work, while their absolute fearlessness of consequences in seeking for shell in deep waters made their services of inestimable value to the shellers. During the first Parliament of the Commonwealth, an Immigration Restriction

Act was passed, which provided that any person who , when asked to do so, failed to pass the test (meaning a lan guage test), or to satisfy the Customs Officers that h e was formerly domiciled in the Commonwealth, was debarred from admission to Australia. But, so far _recmiting for the pearl-shelling was concerned, this language

test was not msisted upon, and Japanese, and other ahens, were admitted, under permits, as freely as hitherto. These men were technically described as boats' crews, and were indented under agreements as such, but in actuality did not beco me boats' crews unbl after their arrival in the Commonwealth.

The reasons why the Japanese now dominate the industry may therefore be summarized as- firstly, the hold which this race had upon the industry prior to F eder­ ation ; secondly, the facilities since offering for their introduction under permits; and thirdly, the readiness of the Japanese divers to search for shell at depths considered

extreme and dangero us by white men. · The shellers quite freely admitted that their business is to obtain shell, and that the locality or depth whence it is procured is left to the discretion of the diver. No instructions are given to divers (who have absolute control of the boats) as to where they should or should not fish, consequently the divers select the locality where, in their opinion, the take of shell will be greatest, irrespective of the risks taken. Because of

this, and for other reasons here given, the services of the Japanese diver are highly prized and prefer ence is given to him over the white man. It may here be stated that diving for shell in certain waters is prohibited hy State regulations ; but, owing to the difficulties and expense entailed in effectively

patrolling the prohibited areas, the regulations are almost wholly disregarded. In 1905, a resolution was carried in the Senate of the Commonwealth to the effect that no coloured alien should be admitted for the pearl-shelling industry other than those r equired to fill vacancies as divers or crews. Under regulations framed in accordance with this resolution, permits are granted by the Minister for External

Affairs to fill vacancies as required. No complaint was made regarding any difficulty in. obtaining permits, but it follows that so long as these permits are granted, it will not be possible for white men to obtain control of the industry. Recognising this, the then Minister decided that no further permits would be granted after the 31st

December, 1912, excepting in cases where the diver and tender of a boat were white men. Subsequently the time was extended to 3lst December, 1913, and again to 31st December, 1914, in order that Your Excellency's Government might have the benefit of the information elicited by this Comrillssion.

We further agree that the condition of affairs disclosed by the evidence is not desirable, and we fully indorse the opinion expressed in the report of the Queensland Pearl-shell and Beebe-de-mer Commission of 1908, to the effect that "it is the natural and laudable aspiration of Australians to conserve their country and their industries

for men of their own race." And, again, " in no country in the world outside the British Dominions is any primary industry allowed to be monopolized by a race of aliens ." It is worthy of note that sentiments of the same nature were expressed by the

Gov ernment R esident of Thursday I sland (Hon. John Douglas) , who, when giving evidence before a Royal Commission appointed in 1897 to inquire into the laws regu­ lating the pearl-shell and heche-de-mer fish ery of Queensland, said that " a radiCal cure of some kind is necessary if you wish to preserve the industry for our own people."

The Commission in question (1897) itself also expressed the opinion that " all aliens whatsoever should be prohibited from the exercise of such privileges as would enable them to dominate or even partially control our fisheries." We hold that the opinions h ere expressed by the Members of the 1897 Commission, indorsed (as we have shown) by those subsequently given utterance to by t he Commission eleven years later, deserve the most serious consideration, _especially m

view of the fact that t he position has become accentuated, and ahens do now dominate the industry.



Your Commissioners desire to point out that none of the recommendations made by previous Commissions for the better control of the pearling industry, or for the encouragement of the re-introduction of white divers, have been given effect to by the Queensland Government.


What applies to the pearl-shelling industry as such, also applies with equal force to the boat-building industry, which has also become almost a monopoly for the Japanese boat-builders. Evidence was given to show that not merely for pearling are these boats being built, but also for general trading purposes.

The reason adduced for the strong position now held by the J apanese boat­ builders is that upon their advent they paid comparatively high prices to obtain possession of certain boat-building slips, and having got possession, worked more cheaply than the white boat-builder was enabled to do. The Japanese thus gradually

got control of the boat-building trade and have maintained the position to the present moment. There has been no evidence to show that any white boat-builder has entered into serious competition with the Japanese in recent years.

Shellers maintain that the cost of boats built locally is quite as great as that of boats of the same class built at Sydney, but that there is the advantage of being able to supervise the building of the boat on the local slips, and of having their own designs faithfully carried out.

We assume the probability that, were a white boat-builder to commence business at Thursday Island, the tactics whereby the Japanese gained control of the business, that is, by working at lower rates than the white man, would again be resorted to.


Whilst it is an easy matter to describe the class of labour employed m the industry, and to give reasons for its employment, your Commissioners fully recognise the many difficulties present in addressing themselves to the question of " the practicability of white labour being introduced."

Shellers generally express themselves as being perfectly willing to employ white divers on the same terms and conditions as were given to the Japanese, but were unanimous in asserting that white divers are not now procurable. ·

To meet this requirement, various methods have been suggested, the majority of the witnesses favouring the establishment of a school of diving. The Torres Strait Pearl-shellers' Association has formulated a scheme for the establishment of the suggested school, and this scheme is attached as an appendix.

Apart from the proposal of the Torres Strait Pearl-shellers' Association, it has also been suggested, by others, that the herring fisheries of Scotland and elsewhere, in which a hardy seafaring population may be found, should be tried as likely fields in which to procure men suitable as divers. The sponge fisheries of Southern Europe have also been suggested as places from which suitable htbour might be recruited.

Another suggestion made is that youths from the Queensland reformatories might with advantage be trained to .take a place in an industry now wholly in the hands of coloured aliens. That the native population of the islands of Torres Strait might be utilized more fully than at present has also some advocates. Many of these Islanders are at present engaged in getting pearl-shell, but by swimming diviP_ g only; few of them have been tried in diving dresses, and then only in comparatively shallow water.

Again, there are those who favour a bonus being granted for the discovery of shell by white divers. Those who make this suggestion adduce_ the results obtained by giving a bonus or bounty to the white growers of sugar-cane, and assume that like results would accrue if a bonus were given as suggested.

In this connexion vour Commissioners believe that action should be taken to introduce Crofte!'s, to the mixed industries of pearling, fishing, and farming should, under proper conditions, prove attractive and profitable. The islands in the vicinity of Cape York ""ffer special facilities for this class of immigration. _ By such means the Commonwealth would be establishing a sturdy race of British people in a lo cality sadly in need of population, and would certainly afford better opportunitieE. than have yet been available for introducing white labour into the pearling industry.



The Commission inquired of several witnesses regarding the practicabilitv of ?mploying machinery to drive the air pump on the pearling boat s. Reaarding" the mtroduction of power-driven machinery, it was asserted that no benefi t accrue therefrom, as, whether st eam or oil power were intr oduced, its employment would

necessitate the presence of a man familiar with whatever class of was b 0irw used. This would ent ail extra expense, whi]st t h ere would be n o reduction of dit ure in other direc tions, as the same crew as is now engaged would be n cc c.ssaq for t he proper working of the boat . Your Commissioners, therefore, maJ.::c 11.0 rec;om ­

mendations in this connexion.


As evidence of t he desire of the " " t o give white labour a fair t rial m

th e industry, the Wyben P earling Fleet , in conjunction wi th other shellers, made an off er to supply a lugger wit h all necessary gear, diving pnmp, &c., at a nominal rental for a period of six months t o l'!.ny white diver, tender, and crew competent to manage the boat and fish for p earl sh ell.

· This offer was embodied in a letter addressed t o the Commi ssio n, of which the fo llowing is a copy :-Thursday Island, 21 st May, 1912.

Tl1e Chair man,

Royal Commission on the Pearl-shelling Industry a t Thursday Island .


Wit h further reference to t he writer's evidence before yo ur Comm ission and our letter to Mr .\\· . . E. J oh nson of 17th instant, regarding t he supplying of a diving boat and divin g apparatus, wr havr now pleasure in informing you that t he offer of one month may be extended to six months from date hereof, a t the hire of 1s . per month; but with this extension the hirer must ins ure the vesse l, F.l'.A.. The offer in om·s of 17th instant was extended to any member of the Union here, but it may now be extend ed to a ny whites a t the direction of t he Commission.

We may ment ion that other shellers are standing in wi th us in sharing the cost of t he

boa t and diving apparatus.

Yours sincerely,


per pr. Burns, Philp, and Co. Ltd., (Sgd .) JOSEPH MI TCHELL,

Manager at Thursday Island.

As the Commission had no power t o engage or otherwise provide a c;rew in t he t erms of the proposal, no action was taken.

We do not consider, however, that an experiment of the nature and for the perio d mentioned would be conclusive eviden c.e as to the practicability or otherwise of the employment of white labour. So much would depend upon weather condit ions, t he fit ness of the and unforeseen contingencies, that it is highly improb able that any defi mte could be arrived at as a r es ult of the trial suggested.

Whilst it was admit t ed that white divers had been successfull y employed in t he past, and it was not denied that they might be equally successful if now employed. were they procurable, i.t was emphatically stated that white crews co uld not be profit­ ably engaged on the pearling luggers.

In support of this, the rate of wages paid to seamen on the coastal "tem:1er ,; was cited , and the inference drawn that whik crews on t he luggers co ul d not lw obtamed at a lesser wage, namely, £7 lOs. per month.



This contention, we hold, is a valid one under existing conditions, and, owing to the fa ct t he whole of the shell is exported, local legislation is powerless to artificially inflate prices t o such an extent t hat t h e above wages could be paid.


We consider the two questions, namely, the practicability of white labour being introduced, and the means to be adopted t o encourage t he employment of whit e labour wholly or partially, as being practicall y one, and are dealing wi t h bot h from that point o.f

As previously set out,'there is no question as to t h e nature of the labour employed in the pearling industry. Although Malays and other coloured ali ens are employed, undoubtedly the whole industry is, as already shown , domin ated by the Japanese. This is admit t ed by the shellers themselves, who seem t o have a wholesome fear of in any way provoking or offending their divers.

In support of this contention, evidence was given by Mr. Booker, Sub-Collec tor of Customs, Thursday Island, who furnished a return of the whole of the men employed on the boats on the 9th Mav, 1912. This return showed that on the date named there were 445 Japanese, 147 1 Filipino, and 53 P apuans engaged on the boats.

That, in addition to the "lay," which in some cases may exceed £90 per ton , the divers are allowed to retain the whole of the pearls discovered and to which the shellers make no claim, is substantial proof that the Japanese diver dictates the t erms upon which he will continue to work.

There is no method by which an exact es timate of the pearls di scovered may be ascertained, but that the return is large is generally believed. In 1911, the value of t he pearls declared at the Customs House, Thursday I sland, was over £12,000. In the year previous, however, the value was given at a little over £1 ,600 . The declaration

of value, it would appear, is a voluntary matter, and t he pearl being such a small gem is easily secret ed. Legislation, therefore, in regard to registration of the pearls found would be difficult to enforce, and probably wholly inoperative.


As to the desirability of the present coloured men engaged in the industry being supplanted by white men, there are no differences of opinion. That, from a national, as well as from an industrial standpoint, the qhange is both desirable and essential, is the opinion of your Commissioners, who consider that measures should be taken to effect the transition as far as may be found practicable.

We admit that to make the desired change will be comparatively costly, but hold that no reasonable expense should be spared in an endeavour to end a system so unanimously condemned and, from an Australian viewpoint, so negative in its results.


Under existing conditions, the industry is controlled by the Commonwealth

This divided control is eminently unsatisfactory and adds considerably to the difficulties in t he way of making necessary changes in the conduct of the industry. Three courses seem to be open, any of which, if adopted, would enable the desired transition from coloured alien to white labour easy of accomplishment. These courses would be :-

(a) By an arrangement between the Commonwealth and State Governments under which they would jointly and severally agree to use the powers now vested in eit her Government to t he full est limit in replacing coloured by white labour.


(b) By _the refusal of the 9ueensland to license any boat engaged

m pearl-shell fishmg unless carrymg at least a white diver and tender. (c) By the Queensland Government ceding to the Commonwealth the whole of the islands and reefs of Torres Strait, as indicated on the map

hereto appended, thus placing the industry in Queensland waters under one control.

The adoption of the first course (a) would mean the F ederal and State authorities doing what so far has never been attempted in regard to this industry, namely, a haTmonizing of the administration, with the transition from coloured alien to white labour as its objective.

· If the second course (b) were adopted , and a condition laid clown th at the on the boats should be locally recruited, that is, from the islands and mainland natives, the res ult would be that no permits for the importation of labour would be necessary and, consequently, the Commonwealth Government would be relieved of all domestic

jurisdiction in the industry.

By the adoption of the third course (c) the industry would at once be removed from the Queensland Government control, and the Commonwealth Parliament would become responsible to Australia for the initiation, and subsequent administration, of a policy calculated to place an important Australian industry entirely in the hands

of our o-vvn people.

An important reason for the suggested cession of the islands and reefs of Torres Strait is that, inasmuch as the industry is being carried on in territorial and extra­ t erritorial waters, it is not advisable that it should be conducted under different or varying laws and regulations, since it comes naturally within the ambit of the

Commonwealth rather than that of the State. Y our Commissioners are fully alive to th e importance of the departures here suggested, especially regarding the cession of the territory described, but have made the suggestion because of our fear that neither altemative (a) nor (b) would commend itself to the Queensland Government.

Our reason for arrivin g at the conculsion that no voluntary action would be taken by the Queensland Government is, that the Government of that State has failed to giv e effect to any of the recommendations of either the Royal Commission of 1897 or the later one of 1908.

The latter Commission urged the adoption of a method by which within five years from the date of its report the transition from coloured to white labour might be eff ected. Other valuable recommendations were made in the report of 1908 in regard to

the conduct of the industry, but none of these has so far been adopted.

Further, a Bill amending previous Acts, recently submitted to the Parliament of Queensland, gives no indication that a change of policy is contemplated.

Complete control of the industry by the State Government was favoured by a majority of the witnesses. This, however, co uld only be effected by an amendment of the Constitution, which endows the Commonwealth with complete power over immigration. But there is no insuperable difficulty in the cession here sugges ted

of the islands of the Torres Strait, which only.requires the assent of the State Parliament as provided in section 111 of the Constitution:-111. The Parliament of a State may surrender any part of the State to the Commonwealth; and upon such surrender, and the acceptance thereof

by the Commonwealth, such part of the State shall become sub jec t to the exclusive jurisdiction of the Commonwealt h.

As already stated, t he power of the Commonwealth Government over this industry begins and ends with the admission or exclusion of alien labour. On th e general question as to the admission of such labour, your Commissioners hesitate to express a definite opinion until after having visited the Western Australian Fisheri es

and inquired into t he conditions under which the industry is conducted in that State.




As regards the school in which divers may be trained, we are of opinion that a scheme, such as that suggested by the Torres Strait .Pearl-shellers' Association, with perhaps some modification, should be adopted. If this scheme were put into operation and carried out in a whole-hearted manner, we believe the transition from coloured alien to white labour could be made in the period suggested by the "Mackay " Com­ mission, i.e., five years from the date of the inception of the experiment. The cost in our opinion need not greatly exceed that estimated by the Torres Strait P earl-shellers' Association.

W e do not agree, however, with the view of the Torres Strait P earl-shellers' Association as to the advisableness of advertising in other co untries for students ; we hold this to be unnecessary unless or until it has been demonstrated that the sc}J_ool cannot be satisfactorily established without the introduction of students from abroad.

We have reason to believe that a sufficient number of students can be found within the Commonwealth.

The promoters of the scheme inferentially declare that some training is necessary, and it is no more than fair to assume that our own people would be as apt pupils and become as efficient divers as those from other parts of the world, who would, doubtlesR -to some extent, at any rate- be compelled to abandon methods adopted under different conditions, and become learners in what to them would be an entirely new



As to the question of granting a bonus on shell raised by white divers, we express the opinion that no good results would accrue by the adoption of such a method. :Referenee has been made to the success obtained by giving a bonus or bow1ty for white-grown sugar. We see no analogy between the pearl-shelling and the sugar inclustries, the latter being cond11cted in such a way as to be capable of close and frequent inspection. In the former, such inspection would be quite impracticable, and the

transfer of shell from boat to boat in the open sea would be so easily accomplished that to grant a bonus, as has been suggested, would be little less than offering an inducement to indulge in fraudulent practices.


Evidence was very conclusive as to the danger of diving at great depths, and as to the high mortality occasioned thereby. We are of opinion that diving in water exceeding 25 fathoms in depth should be prohibited.

Statistics in regard to the mortality in the industry disclosed that the death rate varied f:rom 100 to 110 per 1,000, occasioned principally by diving at great depths vvithout taking those precautions which experience has shown to be absolutely necessary if serious results are to be avoided.

The toll which the industry thus levies upon the lives of those engaged therein is such as to demand instant attention from the authorities in ·whose hands the remedy lies . Further, we consider it desirable that the dee.p waters should be reserved as a breeding-ground for spat, from \vhich the beds may be continually re-stocked.


It would materially help in the direction of inducing white men to enter the industry if fishing for shell within t erritorial boundaries, that is, w:ithin the 3-mil0 limit, were prohibited to boats carrying coloured alien divers or, crews.



In making inquiries upon this subject, we lcR.rned that little has been done £or some years in this direetion; in fact, siucc t l10 " Mackay" Commission reported there has been little, if any, progress made in the 'roues Strait. Mr. Sa:ville Kent and Mr. Paice have experimented as cultivators of the oyster,

but no sustamed e:ffort seems to have been entered upou by either oi tl1e rrcntlemen named. Mr. Tosh, marine biologist, bas been engaged in simi lar for t he

four Mr. Hoekings, who is with Mr. . Tosh his eutcrpris<', in giving

evidence sa1d, when asked R. · to the success or othrrw1sc of h1s ve11ture, that the biologist (Mr. Tosh) was hopeful. Further tLan thi:o; he would not declare, but, aR tlH' experiment has been conducted for four years, it is reasonable to assume that thr rer:mltr,; are enco uraging. It may her e be said that Mr . ngr,; complained of derredations

of poachers on his cultivation arear,;, and inferred that were it not fm these depredations the position of the cultivator would be more r,;atisfactory. Experience has shown that cultivation oE the <'cliblc oyster is a paying pro­ position under snitable con<.litions . We Ree no r ason why, under equal conditions

f pearl oysters Gannot be made a payable occupation ior white men . We arc, therefore, agr c<'d that no e:fforts should be spared in the encouragement oi t he industry in this connexiou. As to the size of areas, we note that the Pilot Cultivation Company (otherwise

James Clark and Company) commenced operations in the direction of prarl oyster cultivation in the y ear 1892, upon an area of about 2 square miles at Prince o{ Wales I sland. W e hesitate, however, to offer an opinion as to the size of the areas or the rents which ought to be paid thereon . Probably the regulations for such made by the

Queensland Government are such as to meet the case. For the protection of cultivated areas we think a fast motor launch :::;hould be engaged continuously in patrolling such waters ; that any boat or boats im.properly on the leased cultivated areas should be seized, and a heavy penalty imposed upon the owners. For a second offence, forfeiture of the boat or boats to the Crown. It boats seized upon cultivated areas are there owing to non-preventible causes , onus of proof

of such to lie upon the owners.

THE COLOURED POPULATION OF THURSDAY ISLAND. The advisableness of supplanting the present coloured residents of Thursday I sland by a wholly white population was unanimously approved by the various witnesses examined at the I sland.

Although the investigation of this matter was not directly submitted to the Commission, it is one of considerable importance, and we consider it so closely allied to the whole question of white versus coloured labour in the pearling industry as to merit serious consideration.

Granted that the industry should eventually beco me one undertaken by white workers only, who would make their homes upon the I sland, it would certainly be advisable that the mixed population of the Island should become subj ect to the same conditions and the same changes as the fishing industry itself.

Any recommendations we might here make, however, are so dependent upon the legislation of the Queensland Parliament, and the subsequent administration thereof, that to express definite opinions or make recommendations thereon under the conditions now existing can serve no useful purpose. -


Your Commissioners were shown two diving dresses, one the invention o£ a Mr . K elly, of Nelson, ncar Cairns, and the other invented by Mr . R eznicek, of Thursday I sland. We wer e not fayorably impressed with the dresses, and can make no reco.m­ mendation in regard to either of them. Practical men had no hesitatio n

the opinion that no dress or contrivance is likely to supersede the ordmary chvmg dre8s now in use .



' XlV


As to the industry being a profitable one there can be no question. The fact that Mr. James Clark some years ago offered the Queensland Government £5,000 per annum for the sole right to fish the reefs of Torres Strait indicates that, not merely is a profit to be made by shellers, but also that the revenue now derived from those reefs might be very considerably increased. We submit herewith a table (Appendix G) showing the profits now being made, the calculations being based on official figures as supplied to the Commission.

It is worthy of note in this connexion that the value of the pearls obtained is not estimated, even approximately, in the accompanying table. Probably, were the change made from coloured to white labour, the pearls secured would become an important factor in estimating profits.


With of dummying, the prevention of illicit dealing in pearls, shore vessels and floating stations, differential fees for boat licences, uniform methods to be adopted in calculating the tonnage of boats, fishing in territorial and extra-territorial waters, friction between races engaged in the industry, methods to be adopted in lowering and raising divers in deep water, inspection of boats and gear, quality and quantity of food supplied to crews, epidemics and sanitation, and other matters, your Commissioners propose to deal when submitting their final report.


Summarizing the opinions and suggestions comprised in the foregoing report, and especially with the view of again making pearl fishing, as far as possible, a white­ labour industry, your Commissioners recommend the following: -1. That it is desirable that immediate steps should be taken to establish a school

of diving.

2. That such school should be established somewhat on the lines laid down in the scheme submitted by the Torres Strait Pearlshellers' Association. 3. That the Commonwealth be responsible for the cost of establishing and maintaining such school.

4. That in the event of the suggested school being established, every effort should be made to obtain the required students in Australia before seeking elsewhere for trainees.

5. That our investigations having shown the necessity of the pearling industry being under the sole control of the Commonwealth, we recommend that the Government be approached with a request that the islands and reefs in Torres Strait, as indicated in the appended map, should be ceded to the Commonwealth.

6. That pending the cession above referred to, we recommend that. all within the 3-mile limit be reserved to boats manned by white crews or by white divers and tenders with aboriginal crews .

7. That fishing in waters exceeding 25 fathoms in depth be absolutely prohibited.

8. That every encouragement be given to those now engaged, or likely to be engaged, in the cultivation of the pearl oyster.

9. That the encouragement should take the form of­ (a) t he adequate protection of cultivation areas ; (b) nominal rents for such areas for a given period ;

(c) the appointment by the Government of a competent marine .biologist to advise cultivators and generally superintend their operatwns.


10. That for the protection of those who engage in the cultivation of the pearl oyster, and for the effective policing of prohibition areas, one or more fast motor launch es be engaged in patrol work.

11. Further, without fully indorsing them: your Commissioners are of opinion t hat the following recommendations made by the "Mackay" Commission (p. lxxv) in r egard to the means fo r arresting depletion of pearl oyster beds are deserving of the ful1 est consideration when legislation affecting the industry is under contemplation :-

" (1) That there be no increase in the number of licensed vessels until investi­ gation has proved that the supplies of shell have been augmented; " (2) That no individual or company desiring to come into the industry in future shall be permitted to obtain li cences for, or acquire a beneficial

interest in, more than five vessels ; that so long as existing pearl­ shellers (whether individuals, firms, or companies), own more than five vessels they shall not be granted licences for vessels intended to replace any which may become unserviceable or which may be lo st or sold, nor shall they be permitted to hold or acquire a bene­

ficial interest in any vessel or vessels licensed in the name of any oth er p erson or persons ; and that the members of a firm or company shall not be allowed to obtain, in the aggregate, more than five licences ; " (3) 'rhat no licences be issued to aboriginal natives of Asia, Africa, or the

islands of the Pacific not now holding divers' licences;" " (5) That legislation be passed rendering any reintroduction of the floating­ station system impossible, and prohibiting, inter alia, the licensing for employment in the pearl-shell fi shery of any vessel of a gross

tonnage exceeding 25 tons ; " (6) That the deep-water areas in the vicinity of Darnley and Mount Adolphus Islands be permanently closed ; " (7)

" (8)

That defined areas be closed for a period of years, or, alternatively, that all grounds, with the exception of the old ground, be closed for a certain prescribed period in each year ; That closure be rigidly enforced by an eff ective patrol, backed up by

the necessary legal enactments."


In concluding this Progress R eport, we feel it necessary to say that, as regards the various questions submitted for our consideration, there are only two upon which Your Excellency's Government can act upon its own initiative. These are, firstly, the granting or refusing of permits for the importation of coloured alien labour; and, secondly, as to the establishment of a school for diving. Even as t o the latter it vwuld

be desirable, if not absolutely n ecessary, to have the sympathetic assistance and co-operation of the Queensland Government.

The pearl-shelling industry is one unique in itself, of much national importance, deserving of encouragement and, in our opinion, capable, if systematically and scientifically conducted, of considerable develo pment.

We are of opinion that it is practicable t o eliminate coloured aliens from the industry, and to gradually alter the conditions so that it would, say in fiv e years from the initiation of the new policy, be almost wholly prosecuted by white labour.

Although we adhere to the belief that this change is as desirable as it is practicable, we regret that Your Excellency's Government is at present powerless to act in the direction of giving eff ect to any recommendations we may make of such a character as to bring about the res ult so earnestly desired.

For t his reason we are impelled to recommend such changes as we beli eve are necessary to abolish the existing divided control.



The Commission desires to acknowledge, with thanks, the receipt of the following reports, lists of publications, &c. :-


Premier of Western Australia Secretary, Fisheries Department, Perth, Wes ­ tern Australia High Commiss ioner of the Commonwealth of

Australia in London Hi s Excellency the Governor of Ceylon . . The Officer Administering t he Government of Ceylon His Maj esty's Ambassador, Washington

His Majesty's Ambassador at Paris His Maj esty's Ambassador at Vienna His Britannic Ma jesty's Ambassador, Tokyo, J apan O.uvernment of Burma, India

Government of Madras, India

Secretary to the Government of Bengal, India Ch ief Secretary to the Government of Bombay Dr. H. Lyster Jamieso n, London .. Mr. T. Haynes, London ..

Nature of Report .

Cop ies of Pcarling Bill and Debates thereon Report of the Chief Inspector of Fisheries, Western A us­ Australia Various reports and lists of wo rks relating · to P earling

Industry in foreign countries Various reports relating to t he Pearling Industry Ordinance No.3 of 1911 for the Protection of His Majesty's P earl Banks of Ceylon Various reports relating to the Pearl-shelling and Sponge

Industries in the United States List of works relating to the P earling Industry Despatch relating to Pearling in Austria-Hungary Report by Commercia.! Attache to Embassy, and a number

of pamphlets relating to the Pearling Industry Report by Messrs. R.N. Rudmose Brown, B.Sc., and James J. Simpson, M.A ., B.Sc., on the P earl and Oyster Fisheries of the Mergui Archipelago and Moskos Islands Report by James Hornell, F.L.S., on the Indian P earl

Fisheries Report regarding Pearling in Bengal Particulars concerning the Pearling Industry in Bombay Various pamphlets relating to the Pearl-shelling Industry Pamphlet relating to Pearling Operations on Montebello

Island, Western Australia

Witness our hands and seals this 24th day of September, 1913.

H. FARRANDS, Secretary. Parliament House, Melbourne.


(L. s.)

Transmitted to the Prime Minister.

9th October, 1913.

(L.s.) (L.S.) (L.S.) (L.S.) (L.s.) (L. s.)




DENMAN, Governor-General.

Frinted a nd Publi shed for th e GovER I\ ME:-.iT of the COTh tThiONWEALTH of AUSTRALtA b u ALBERT J. Government P rioter for the State of Victoria.