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Pearl Shelling Industry - Royal Commission on - Report and Recommendation

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Presented by Command ; 01·dered to be printed, 22nd S eptember, 191 6.

tCoBt of Pap!'r.- Preparation, not given; 8GO copies ; approximate cost of print in g an d puu lishing, £7.]

No. 326.-F.l2904. ·



.To His Exc,ellency the Right _SIR JtoNALD CJµUF:U.Jm 'M.pNRo FERGUSON, a Mer;:,,ber of His Majesty's Mos.t Ho~orabfo Privy Council, Kn.ight Grand Oross .. of the Most Dis.tinguished Orde,r of S.Q;int ~ tiic.hael a,rJ,d · 8a,in~ George, Go~ernor-General and C'om.mander-in -:;Ch,ief of the Comm9n-

wealth. of Australi(i. · · ·


On the 24,th September, 1913, your C~mmissioners ha-d; the hp:QQll,iC to s-qb, a Progress Report detailing :the ._ re~wt ,of their in;ve~tigations made to that d.~;te iiP--~~gail'd . :to the conditions pertaining in the -p~arl-she]Jipg industry as 1 CQµd,ui;.ted 1 j:t;1 .Qu~~na.l@d waters. Owing to various ca-q.Aies furth,er. -inquiries w;_ ere 111a.q.e ,duri~g JJi~ w.~~rs

1~13-14.. Ap the outbreilk. of the ~ar the ind,~stry, for a ti:rpe, ~ecame c.wnpletely d:iiwrgamzed. Th~ market for shell b~came r.estn!3t,ed to an ~~tent almost equal . to ~n · utter collaps~.. Contracts w~re broken, and the industry ,generally ~~s most' serj.01J.~ly affected. Your Co:r;nmissioners ln:i,de:i; the circ~stan~es deemed it. _ advisabl~ to su~pencl all inquiries until the termination of hostilities, and at a meeting specially convened a resolution to th~t effect . w:as pas.~~d. ·

The Government had in· the meantime extended the time .during which pe 11mits for the introduction of. Asiatic lab~ur might ·be ~ssued~ .. maki~g th~ i~sue -permissihle up to the 3_ 0th Ju)le, 1918, after ,which date perm1!ts to mtroduce Asiatic labolil!f would only be granted in cases where the diver and· tender of a boat were Europeans. ·This determination c~eated much alarm amo~g~t those engaged in the. ·pearl-she11i:rigilll.

whether or not the decision of the Government ,would 1be adhered to :ita r.ega!icl. to ,the issue of p" ernµts. The industry, which had :been so seriously affected .at . tJhe :Outbreak of tl}.~ :w~r; 4~\d., , j,:i;i. tp.e ;mea~ti_m.~, .re.gzj:q¢ s9me .. Qt i (~1 .form.e~1 b,µoy~p,cy, 9.9:r.iiciji ions had i:n).J;>;t'.01/ed, . a:f\d f9r sh. ~11 W,{l,S :t:~~;µm:e(l, ;~th<;>TI:&_.h :On -~ mµph:-:i.:ed~\q~d · ~ al_~. _It

.b~iµg 'recognised .. that not:wi t4st~.nd.iJ.;).g .(he w~r • ..t.4~ . j;ng;til~tJy w.a,$ J3 ,tiIJ. . ~\U'.Yir7ing, if,_ ~ot flourishing, and the Minister for External Affairs being impressed by .th~ r.ep:r:e&e,ntatio.ns of the shellers, the Commission was requested to pursue its inquiries and furnish a Final Re.Port_ , . as originally. designe_ d: _ ·

. Immediately .complying with .~he requ~st of .the Mirtister a rp.g~ti;ng of t~e Com­ ~s~o:o.ers . wa~ ~rranged, and· th~ resoi_utirm passe.d on t~~ ·~9th October, l ~i~, to. tµi, effec.t t,ha.t. t4~ ·work · of the Co:r;nrnission be suspel).ded untii, the con~lusjo:r;i. ·of the -w;~re was unanimously rescinded~ ' " • • .. t t 'I'

On the ~th ~pril, J9U>, y9~ Co.mmissio:n~rs left iv.IeH>o:ur.n~ . m , ~O.'t'1~e .t.Q . .:J}i:9.0,I!).e. whid;1 ,is ~p.~ p,ri.ncip~I centr_ e o_ f t)J.~ ,;pe_ arl-shelling.iDdlJst;ry i~ W:~stern .~~~r~lj~~ : 'Y_~te~s, Som,e evidenQ~ of ~.more or .l~~s il1).p~;rt~nt chara_cte.r wais t.a~e.JJ at.p9rts ~etwe~J11freJ?il~ntle a:ri.~ :ijroome, .Qiut no delay. W.{tS , cau~ .~<;l thereby,, ~w it w~~ .u.n~forstoo9- _ t.4at ~g~~ ,JY:9st · valuable evidence would be obt~iAed a_ t the l~tt,e.r J!l.~_pft.

· seven places w~re visite~ a.nd 50 witnesses e~~mined~ in~ all cases upon. oath. · .

4a"~ivin_g: 1~t l3f09;tP.e _ at :9.~9 a.,t;r:1.,pn~.h~ ~h4.J?J.:iJ, y.oµr 0~~]$~~.wi~rs q9m©.!'~~d t.o taJrn eyi9-en~e .~t th~ II01:1-se. at 10 ... 3Q tt.· m .. ot th~ ~ - ~.m~ r

how_~yer, ~ s#e<;l tp,e bot~oll?-, q_f ~4~ -~~a, or p\lf:i- oij, a q.iyip_g <µ:es _, be~g qmt~.qop~°'t to reµ,i~j;r?- .,as spec;tattor.s Qn. ~Q.~t4 ~l!e 1 .1..,tgg~r.

The -~vi<4mce .giv.en l?i ;th~ M~~ was x~:ry --~ ~ -ty,AAI~c.t~, IJ.11-4 ~~1, w~re UI].~nipJ.ous in. ~greement ,t~~tj :vwv4ilat ~~opean. d~vEµ"S, W-~~ ... ~qnaJ11 ~~ ~G 'Xl: ~ .mep of any. otl\m-· raoe,, &<;> ~:t as flt~ \wt~l diviµg· w~ i<;.QJlG~e.9-, ;Ji~Y, :w:e~ :Q.p» ·.pos~ . .of some special £ac1J.lty whi~ ,w;i.abJ,ed t,he A-;i~tic d).ye,i: .t~ di$e9.,ier sp.elJ. on 1:fhe ,o.~an

bottom. . . !his ~~u.l,ty, ~r ~.em;~; .i;~ w;~ ~w»ah1wi w~ si.w#a.t ~9 ,-~~ Pf,>$~ed ... by tfe a"pQrig.i,, who_ s~ ~~ewwijs. ,,9,f ~t, an9- ~ahlw.,;ble.p.~w.~ra oj .~er,v~t1qp., ~~l~.,Wm to track man or beast over country where a European would fail tQ. ».P~ ,{lo, tl:!l~.


. Mu?hinformation, was obtained regarding the experiment made in the importation of n1ne divers and three tenders (all European) from England. These m.en, _it wa s freely were xnost competent as divers, but were not successful in obtaining shell: owing to want of experience in locating it, and also t o the absence of t];:Lat particular

quahty which the Asiatic diver is said t o possess . Fortunately. it became possible to . several .. of , these imported divers at· Perth, they being variously ernployed in

the VICiruty. Of the four men . examined not one had any com.plaints to make regarding the treatment he had received from his employer, and the evidence for;merly given by of the English divers named N oury as to the desire of the shellers to make the

conditions of employment su9h as to insure that the experiment · would result in failure, was very considerably discounted. Each and all of these n1en admitted that the work was totally different from that to which had been accustomed, and applied to be released from the agreements t hey had. entered into. They expressed no desire to again

undertake the work ·of diving for shell, and professed t o be perfectly satisfied with the better conditions under which ,they are now working. ·

. These men had been working for the British Admiralty prior to to Aus­ tralia, and specially selected. for the work they were engaged to perform. Their discharges and testimonials were of the most satisfactory natlire. They came out under twelve months' agreements, vyhich were broken by mutual consent.

Your Commissioners, having heard both sides of the question, so far as this experin1ent -is concerned, have come to the conclusion that c.e:rtain shellers held the opinion that in waters known as the Roebuck Deeps, there were great accumulatiQns of pearl-shell, which it would be profitable t o exploit; that the divers being experienced in diving in deep waters, and . not being so liable to paralysis, due to the enforcement of conditions. laid down by the Admiralty, that is, in regard to rising from the sea bottom by slow stages, would be the .most suitable men to undertake the

working .of these particular areas . Wit h that end in view, t hese men were imported. The experiment proved a · failure, as the expected great stores of shell did . not exist, and, in consequence of this, the services of t hese imported men were no longer required. Thus no demur was made when the men requested that their agreements be ·cancelled.

· It is somewhat unfortunate the evidence of the principal mover in connexion with this experiment, Mr. Sydney Pigot t, ·was not procurable. Mr. Pigott being in London, his evidence as to the underlying motives actuating him in-this :rp.atter could not be ascertained. ·

The .population of Broome is approximately 2,700. The Europeans (of whom about 200 have left Broome since the outbreak of war) now number 500. The Asiatic population (2,200) comprises _ various principa1ly Ja.panese and Malays. TP,e whole . popp.lation of Broome is entirely dependent on the pearl-shelling industry. Were this industry to collapse, owing to any cause, it is unquestionable that Broome would inevitably become depopulated. It was learned that, notwithstandjng the preponderance of the Asiatic races, the population is singularly law-abiding. Quarrels occasionally arise between the Asiatics·, but the European population is pot interfered with. Houses are left uncared for, and with doors and windows yet

robberies or petty thieving are almost u,nknown. A police force of :five nten is found ample to control · Broome and the surrounding district.

Whilst at Broome your Commissioners had the opportunity given them to see in actual operation the re-compressor lately installed there. A_· Malay diver was brought in paralyzed from the waist Divers' paralysis is generally the result of a too hasty return to the surface from the when diving 1n deep water. The

re-compressor exerts upon the victim the ··pressure at which he was working under water, and.gradually reduces that pressure to normal, thus tending to the elimination of the nitrogen that has been absorbed by the tissues whilst under great pr:essure. In the case under notice, the patient was in the re-compressor for ·'4! hours, and when released showed a marked improvement. It was later ascertained that gradually

being restored to his usual health, and would probably in a few weeks be able to resume diving. Were the re-compressor not available, it is more than probable that the man would have died. The re .:.compressor, oil engine, &c., including its setting up, were the gift of Messrs: Heinke & Co., of London, and the building to house it was supplied '?Y the Western Australian Pearlers' Association. The apparatus is the only one of Its kind in .Australia.



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.' . · The of this plant has no doubt been of ail vantage to the

diVIng fraterruty, and has robbed deep-water diving of some, at least, of its terrors.

In the Progress Report above referred to it was· stated that the Final Report would with viz., dum1 nyiJ?.g, illicit in pearls, shore vessels

stations, differentia,! fees for boat hcences, uniform 111ethods to be adopted

In calculating the tonnage of boats, friction between races engaaed in the industrv, methods to be adopted in lowering and raising divers in deep wate:t', inspection of boats and gear, quality and quantity of food to crews, epidemics, and sanitation.

mature deliberation, and reallzing that your - has no power to

deal With of these n1atters, they solely within the jurisdiction of the States, your not deemed it necessary to deal exhaustively with any of the

questions above ... mentioned. . _

. In regard to the question of dummying;,:it may be. said that, admitting dummying to be rife, it would be competent to refuse permits for alien labour to those against whom convictions were recorded. In the State · Acts provision• is· made for dealing . with dummying, which is unlawful, but there have few, if any, prosecutions under this

head. There were at Broome many rumours a broad in regard to this offence being frequent, and names were freely mentioned of persons said to be implicated. The evidence given, however, was not such as to substantiate the rumours so readilv circulated. Possibly there are cases of dummying, but they are not common, and statements

made. in this regard have in most cases little, if any, What is known locally as the "Stockton case," in which an action was taken .for the recovery of damages for the aUeged conversion of a pearl, revealed a case of dummying, but whether or not the _ State law . authorities are takirig action was not ascertainable. ·

. It may, however, be permissible to say here that, in view 'of the fact that the Asiatics suffer-_ all the hardships and inconveniences inseparable from the life on the luggers, and daily risk their lives in the search for shell, their desire to obtain a greater share of the returns 'is not But where a conviction can be obtained against

the European dummy, the punishment should be mueh more severe than that provided under the . State laws . .

· That illicit dealing in p·earls is prevalent can scarcely be doubted, but no specia.l effort would seem to be made by the State authorities to put an end to the practice As denoting the laxity of principle in dealing with this question, one witness stated that when in charge of a boat he was offered a large sum for a pearl or pearls, which were the property of the boat owner. He scornfullyrejected the offer, but admitted that he would

have no hesitation in buying pearls, though knovving they were stolen.

, Fishing in territorial and extra-territorial waters is one of the questions upon which there is, and has been, muchdiversitvof opinion. The delimitation of these waters has not been satisfactorily settled; and is of the matters which should engage the attention of your Ministry. It is questionable whether the boundaries laid down by the

Federal Council can be sustained if questioned under international law, and it will possibly be a matter of some moment at a later date to determine precisely to where our territorial boundaries actually extend. It has been frequently urged that, were drastic restrictions plaeed upon the employment of alieh labour, 'fishing for shell could

be .carried on beyond the 3-mile limit, using some place outside Australia as a base­ Dutch territory for instance. This possibility, however, has been seriously discounted · by the evidenc- e of Mr. J. T. Macke1izie, manager for Messrs. Clark and Coy. Giving evidence, Mr. Mackenzie, who is a thoroughly experienced and practical man, and who,

moreover, was in charge of the Clark fleet at the Aru Islands, stated that it might be possible, but certainly not practicable,' to from. a base o_ utside Au?tralia: This _ opinion, coming from a man of +Vfr. Mackenzie s expenence, shoUld matenally disabuse the minds of those who have feared such a contingenc-y. ·.

The Admiralty directions in regard t o the lowering and raising of divers in deep waters were introduced to Western Australian fi shing grounds by the imported English divers, to whom reference has already been made. '\f it would appear these directions are now being adhered to by the boat-owners, so far a g is possible, but t?e divers do not always .follow .them, as 'the .staging process involves a loss of time to whiCh some, at any tate,· of the · .



• Your Cemmis~ionera rea:lize t.hat most of:these matters ape .mer.elf details, and that the principal and most vitaL question is; whether or not Asiatic or European. la.hour, ei~her wholly or parti allY,:, is to ~e e_ mpl_ oyed in this . ~nq.11stry.

Since presenting the Progress Report, the opinion of your Com;nissioners. has under.gone a change of .considerable importance, par;ticularly in rngard to the fahour question. Having ca'l'efuJly weighed the evidence, and having no reason to doubt ·the er.edibility of those who were .examined on this point, and further, having visited the · , principal centres of: the peirl.,.shelling industr:r in .Australia and noted :the'. Gonµitions

under wltich it is conducted, your Commissioners have decided, that diving j9r shell is not an .occupation which our workers should be encouraged to undertake. The )ife is no.ta desirable one, and the r,jsks are great, as proyed ·by the abnormal death rate 1amongst divers and try divers. The work is arduqus, the hours long, and the remuneration quite inadequate. · Living space is cramped;, the food wholly preserved of its different kinds, and the life.incompatipte with tnat a Emope~n .worker is entitled to .. liye. Social pfe is impossible .aU;d. enjpyment out of the .question!

·· . Take the average

m"4ch over 30, of good co~stitµ~ion, sound heart and perfect eyesight-in fac~, phy;sically as nearly perfect as the aver~ge man can hope to be. A I_Ilan · ·of that ~escription Qan find employment almost anyw-h~re, live a · congenial life, work shorter hours, _ and earn as much at lea~t as a successful diver. Yet the average diver, having-all th~ qua;ljficatipns · aboye indicated; wiJl in a few years beoome practic~Ily a physical wreck, ,un-fjtt~d for .any othe,r .occupation, a:µd, Q,nles~ more thaJ~ ordinq,ri,ly fortunate; 'likely t,0 :recome a

burden upon his frie:n,ds, o~ ,upon the cm;nmunity.

,It may be urgtd t4at E.-µ~opea:ns have successfully undertaken :the wor-k of. diying _ £.or sp,ell, which is true of ·the past ; but the Em:opean diver is nop-existel!t at the moment, -an.d boat-o'Yners who have dived in shallow, 9! .compar.a-ti':vely shallow:, wa~er dive no longer, but e:ajploy the Af,iatic, who cheerfuJly ta_ ke.s ~he i'~sks ;-apd puts up wiph the co_ nsequences. As the qlder generation of Eur:opean di~ers we:nt out of -tp.e busin~ss, owing to ruined health or for qther C~{!-S_es, there w~re none of the y-0unger generatJon to take . their places. ,If 'the ff lay" were !increased:, and the wag~s r.a;i~ed, , it JJlight induce some Europeans to take on the work, hut it is doubtful if any, man would ·give

µp,.employPilent, · ~a,y:,11,ou ia.roq~$tip.g. st.~~mea., to wo.rk !On ~ :p~a;r.1,illg higg~r, ev-e.n ,-at a wage ·' in e~cess. of that: p,aiid,

It has been pQ-1.;n,ted, out that all OF most of .the w.qrk,c<:m:t;1ected .w~th the, growing of sugar-cane _ and th~~manuJ~cture.i0f suga.r is done-by,Emopean 1IW}pm;1 .. and-ip :is asked why can.not the same apply to the pearl-shelling ~nd1Jstr,y. It :i~. sqar:cel:Y d:aJ.r, ho~ever, to make this comparison, as there is no analogy -b.etween .,the ooinditious under which vhe

two in~ustries are prosecut~d. In tp.e fir~t place, sugar h,_as b~come ~;o gr:eat, -~ part of our daily _ food a~ ,tct, now ~e ~,n :a hE?Jute -n.eceRsity: ~h_ i~st., on the ~t~el'. · ha..nd, rpothf~-of­ _ pearl shell and ,.pe1:rJ~ b~mg_ uxur\es, may be ~asily dispense¢). with ~nd the world suffer ~o loss or ~ncoilvenjence. rrus beir;ig s,o,,. were the _ cost of ra,isi!W shell, con~iderably mcr~a~ed, e1t~er the mother.-of-pearl wouJd go out of \ISe, or s1:1bstitu~es be fo,un~_. In the case of sugar, however, it being a commodity so necessary in our daily li_fe, tp.e cost of pro~ucing it~ no matt;er how 1gr~at, ca;n be pas~,ed on to t~e cons.1~mer. :Fmther, the con_ditiolis under whif?h, sugar is grown and manµfactured are entirely differ-ent from those pertaining to the pearl-shelling industry.

The men engag~d in. the former work in gang~ .. in the cane-field_ s an,d, n~ces~rj]y, in .l}~sociatio;n in the ipil1s. They, have suitable food_ , prQpe~y qooked, anµ enj~y socjal conditions quite impos~ible , in the 'pearl-sl;telling industry:. Their living conditions are ,c<;mtroll~d py Ac;.t qf Parliam~tj t, .a d inspectorr.are appoint~d to insure that the provisions

qf. that, Act are :complied with. Tp.eir pay ,is fixed. by a Wages Bqard~ a~d aJso their working, hour~ ; and, in case of unjust or i11ieqwtable treatment, th.ey ha,ve a powerful union to whiqh they may- appeal for redress. ';No comparison is ppssible. b~tw~en'the two industries. ·I)·

. Further., in the cane-field, there-is not, and never was, that element of risk which is associated with


' '

. Being ?f .the· opinion tha.t'jt· is not ·desirable, especiany at the present juncture, to disturb ex1s:ting condition's; ·or to make any special effort to induce. the Australian to engage in the peart-shelling industry, .it is not recommended that financial

should he afforded by your Excellency's Government to in any way promote

the Industry, either h,iy the establi&hment of a school for diving, the cultivation of shell, or the artificial production 6f pearls-. Your Commissioners; however, recommend that consideration should be gliven t6 'the question of offering a reward for the inver1tion .of an improved diving dress or other mechanical contrivance for securing shell, which will at least minimize the danger to life which unfortunately attends the present-day methods

of divitrg: . ·

. is that the industry has an importance of its own,

Ill that It maintaans a European population. in centres where no other industry would be at all likely to take its place. Broome, for instance, is the only town oJ any i'mportance between Geraldton and Darwin, a steaming distance o£ ),985 miles, and is entirely sup'ported by this industry. - It cannot, however·, be urged that it is an industry of

.in1portance, and in the opinion of your Comrnissioners its development and

explmtation may be left, as at present, to the enterprise of those engaged in its prosecution. t.he given above, Commissioners do not persevere in the recom­

made. in the whole of the P.Fogtess R-eport.

In any case, although nearly three years have elapse·d since the presentatio-n: of that Report, there is no evidenee that any attempt whatever has been made by the Governments concerned to give effect to the recommendations then made. . THe States in which 'the industry is· carried . on, that IS Queensland

and Western Australia; have Act's in· force ·co'ntrolling it, and apparently they Sl,lffi.ce, in 'the opinion of the respective Administrations, to meet all requirements. As previously affirmed, the Commonwealth has no power or -jurisdiction, excepting only in regard to the introduction of indeni3ed lmbour, and: your Commissioiie:ts make no that powers should be sought; nor additional responPibilities incurred, in regard to

the industry. -

· It may here be mentioned that,. in matters :involving local control, the West Australian Association has made a number of suggestions to the Western Australian Government, which, if adopted and included in the Pearling Act or Regula­ tions, would remove, or at any rate greatly minimize, many of disabilities under which the industry said to suffer. (See A.) ·

. Regarding the matters specifically referred to the Com:mission, the opinions already related_ should be, generally speaking, a sufficient answer·; but lest there should be any lack of definiteness in that respect; it· may be desirable to place in detail the opinions more:- generally expressed:-

rr:HE CLASSES OF LABOUR AT PRESENT ENGAGED. Prior to the outbreak of war about 250 -Europeans were engaged as shell-openers. At present, however, with the exception of a few shell-openers, the labour employed is wholly Asiatic, being mainly Japanese and 1VIalay, with a sprinkling of Manilan;ten.

Wit·h tHe exception here indicated, it may be safely stated that the labour employed in the pearl-shelling iridustty is solely Asiatic. .


In the early days of the industry pearl-shell was procured by swimming divers, the shell then being plentiful in shallow waters. As .shallow beds wer.e denuded, and it became necessary to exploit the deeper waters, diVIng dresses were Introduced, and although Europeans successfully undertqok. they gradually, and

apparently not unwillingly, displaced by the who displayed than

ordinary aptitude in the business. coupled .With t?eu fearlessness, and to accept what was deemed a lower pnce for. .serVIces, ga:ve them a 1n the

industry, and was instrumental in' wholly eliminating the European as a diver. The shellers have repeatedly e2.:pressed to . employ_ .Europea_n

divers, if available ; but none, it· is said, are o:ffenng, which- all things considered- Is not to be wondered at.



8 \\

- . From the ·swimming' diving of the earlier times of•the industry there has been a gradual development in the methods adopted, and whereas diving in 5 or 6 fathoms was the rule with. the swimmers, diving jn 20-to 25 fathoms is now quite the ordinary practice. To go down In these depths, no matter .- what precautions may be taken1 must, and does, entail consi.derable risk, as the abnormal death ra.te .amply proves, to .which must be added the hst of those who become permanently disabled. It is not therefore a matter for .:surprise Australian worker prefers a less risky and more congenial field in which to earn his hYing. . - . · ·

THE PRACTICABILITY OF EUROPEAN LABOUR .BEING INTRODUCED. It may be practicable, but your Commissioners do not consider that it would be either desirable or profitable to attempt, by any drastic method, to transfer the industry from Asiatic to European.

THE ·EMPLOYMENT OF MACHINERY IN CONNEXION WITH THE DIVING PUMPS. ' It is to be regretted that machinery is not in general use in Queensland waters, there being only about two vessels at Thursday Island fitted with engine pu1nps, but in the Western Australian fishing grounds, oil engines and air compressors are being installed very generally, and within a reasonable time it is. safe to assume that every lugger will have power driven machinery to work the air pumps. The introduction. of this machinery has created a decided reform by increasing and regulating the supply of pure air to the d;iver, thus minimizing the dangers of paralysis and death. The offering of a reward for. an improved diving dress, or other 1nechanical contrivance for obtaining shell, would, · as already pointed out, further assist in the direction of lessening the dangers which at present attend deep-water diving. , ·

THE CULTIVATION OP THE PEARL SHELL OYSTER. It cannot be questioned that, under suitable conditions, the cultivation of the pearl oyster is a perfectly feasi-ble and reasonably simple operation. The Montebello Islands experiment would make this quite clear, and it was only owing to want of capital that the scheme was abandoned. It is open to question, however, whether the artificial · cultivation, as proposed to be carried out at Montebello Islands, would be a profitable

undertaking. · ,

So doubtfUl are your Commissioners on this point, _that it is not intended to recommend any expenditure upon making experiments in this direction, as it is considered that there are industries of a genuinely practical and beneficial character more worthy of encouragement. If, however, it is deemed desirable to take action with a view to support some scheme, having for its purpose the cultivation of mother-of-pearl shell, it will be advisable that your Commissioners visit Japan and India, so that first-hand information may be obtained as to the latest and most direct methods practised in pearl­ shell the artificial cultivation of pearls, and in combating the pearl oyster's

many enennes.

THE MEANS TO BE ADOPTED TO ENCOURAGE EMPLO¥'MENT OF EUROPEAN LABOUR-(a) .WHOLLY; (b) PARTIALLY. _ . There is only one way by which European .labour might be induced to engage, either wholly or partially, in the conduct· of the industry, and that is by so increasing the remuneration that workers would be tempted to abandon employment elsewhere, 'for -the purpose of seeking engagement as divers or tenders. It is doubtful, however,

whether· the industry could afford the increased expenditure which such a policy would entail. ·.. _., ·

. There is . no ma;rket for shell in Australia, and, as remarked elsewhere, any great increase in ,the price of ·shell -(providing such increase were possible) would either kill the market or-bring substitute. Only by subsidizing the industry by means of a bonus ·per ton of shell raised by European divers and crews, or possibly by co-operative ownership of luggers, the wages and conditions lie raised sufficiently high to permit of the whole or partial employment of Europeans.

-· Your Commissioners would recommend that no permits· be issued in . excess ·of the number refet red to in the resolution of the Senate of the 30th November, 1905;

. {


that the right to permits held by those who have enlisted for war service should be protected to a specified period after the war; and that in the issue of new permits in lieu ofany which may have been forfeited, preference be given to returned soldiers. The action taken by the Dutch Government in protecting the interests of its

subjects by providing that a percentage of the earned shall be paid to the labourer on his return to his is well worthy of consideration. For the reasons sta t.ed a hove, that mother-of-pearl shell and pearls are not so much commodities as luxuries, the adoption of any policy entailing a subsidiary expendi­ ture is not recommended, and your Commissioners are of the opinion that the White

Australia policy will be neither weakened nor imperilled by allowing the pearl-shelling industry to continue as at present conducted. Your Commissioners desire to place upon their appreciation of the kindness and courtesy extended to them by Major Wood, Resident Magistrate, Broome, who

arranged for the local Court House to be made available to the Commission, and also by His Worship the Mayor (Mr. Archie Male) and the Councillors at Broome, who allowed the Co:rnmission the use of the municipal chambers. ·

Your Co1nmissioners are also indebted to Major R. McKay Oakley, Collector of Customs, Fremantle, and to Mr. L. S. Ogilvie, Sub-Collector of Customs, Broome, for their valuable assistance in facilitating the investigation;:; of the Commission. In conclusion, your Commissioners desire to express their appreciation of the services rendered by Mr. H. Farrands, Secretary to the Commission, whose courtesy

and untiring zeal deserve the' highest co1nrriendation.

Witness our hands and seals this 17th day of. July, 1916.

(L.s.)' (Sgd.) F. W. BAMFORD, Chairman. (L.s.) (Sgd.) W. J. McWILLIAMS. (L.s.) (Sgd.) W. MALONEY. (L.s.) (Sgd.) H. GREGORY.


(Sgd.) H. FARRANDS, Secretary. (L.s._)

Parliament House, Melbourne.

Read and transmitted to the Acting Prime Minister.

22nd July, 1916.

(Sgd.) R. M. FERGUSON, Governor-General.



1. No pearl-fisher to be at any time in debt to his master more than £4:0, inclusive of cash and goods.


·2. The lay to be paid to any diver not to be more than one-sixth of the ruling local price -of 1 __ ton of shell over the scales, at the date when such diver's shell lands in Broome. .

3. No lay at any time t_ o exceed £4:0 per ton. · · p •

4:. To any diver on a hand-pump boat who exceeds 5 tons the lay on the shell over such 5 tons to be

increased by 50 per cent. · .·

. 5. In the case of an engine-boat which exceeds 9 tons the lay on the shell over 9 tons to be mcreased oO per cent. .

.F.l2904 . .,..-B



6. No . diver's wages to exceed £2 per month. 7. No tender's \vages on hand-pump boat to exceed £4 lOs. per month. 8. No tender's wages on engine-boat to exceed £6 103. per month. 9. No engine-boy's wages to exceed £4 per month. 10. No crew's wages to exceed £2 lOs. per month. 11. All conditions in pursuance of the abbve to be set out in the Pearling Agreement. 12. That a very heavy penalty, includi1 1g cancellation of the licences of acting in contravention, be provided. ·


. 13. 'All books and documents used in connexion with the business to be produced and handed by the owner or his agent or pearl-fisher to the Pearling Inspector on application. .

14. All questions put by him in connexion with the business must be replied to by any person whatsoever. · 15. Tire Inspector to have, power given him on application to make all due inquiries and inspection from any person and persons and from banks or other similar institutions. · 16. A heQ..vy penalty including loss of licence, if any, on failing to comply, or wilfully giving w:rong answer.

17. A penalty for any owner or agent to approach another person's diver or employee, or to negotiate with such diver or employee before the expiration of the term of his agreement. 18. A penalty for any wilful false entry in any pearl-fisher's book or books used in connexion with the business.

19. The onus of proving the truth or bona fides of any answer or entry shall be on the person in respect of whom the inquiries are being made. 20. The Pearling Act-·to be amended in such a manner to enable at any time Regulations to be made dealing with the above matters. -


l. Amendment of Police Act required with regard to pearls by extending the definition of the words "unlawfully obtained" as follows:-(a) In the possession of any p erson who is not authorized to deal in or sell pearls under the provisions of the Pearling Act.

(b) In the possession of any p'erson who is not abie 'to account for same as having been obtained from or through any p erson authorized as above.


2. The Inspect& or any officer to have power to question any person as to what pearls, if any, he has or has had in his possession, and as to where he or any other person obtained same from. 3. Also as to any pearls he may have had or be alleged to have had in his possession or power and t.he circumstances of their disposal. .

4. Any_person in whose possession such pearls may be proved to have been, to be liable to the same penalty as if found in his possession. ·

5. Generally to make the fullest inquiries. .

6. The officer should have power to demand the production of all pearls at any time in the possession of any person whosoever, and if he shall think fit with or"without the assistance of a police officer to make all necessary searches in any place or on any person. 7. Heavy penalty on refusal or failure to properly answer or produce. . .

8. Officer should have the fullest power without warrant to search any place or p erson. Books in of search.


1. To be registered. (The meaning of Pearl-cleaner to be defined.) 2. To keep accounts of all pearls as they come to be cleaned. 3 . . To keep records of the results of any cleaning. 4. To answer all inquiries from officer as to all pearls he has or may have had in his possession. 5. Heavy penalty on failure or refusal. ' · ·

6 . .Pearls not properly accounted for to be deemed to be unlawfupy obtained.


1. All persons must keep record of all pearls sent from any place where the Act applies and must notify the Inspector of their intention so to do at any time, and, if requested, produce same to him before .sending: · ·

2. In order to assist proper inquiries officer should have fullest power of searching for and inspecting all books, papers, and documents in the possession or power of any person questioned by him. . . , , 3, In e;vent of a search by an officer being necessary.he shall be entitled to carry or take away 'under seal any pearls, books, &c., he may find, but he m.ust give a receipt if required to do so.

4. Banks and insurance companies to answer questi9ns as required. . . 5. shall have power to inquire what cash is held by any person, and for what purpose,

ana· make 'full inqUiries in respect to same and check and search for such cash. 6, . pearls purcha,sed to paid for by cheque. . . . . .

7. If more· than the sum of £10 be found on board any vessel without satisfactory explanatiOn bemg given, the owner to be liable to a penalty. ·8. Suggested that Section 58 of the Pearling Act be repealed on the .grounds that it is not equitable.

84 1



1. A penalty to be provided for making a false declaration in applying for a licence, making it punishable by a fine and imprisonment, also forfeiture of any licence. 2. Make it unlawful for any person unqualified or debarred to have any interest, 'direct or indirect, either proprietary or as mortgagee, legal or equitable, in any ship, pearls, pearl-shell,' or profits of the

business of pearling. 3. A person shall be deemed to have an interest if, inter alia, he in any way undertakes or is permitted to pay or share in paying any part of the working expenses of the boat or business of pearling or being a pearl-fisher, or if such expenses· or any part be made a charge or payable out of any remuneration he is to receive or may receive from the business. Payment of an unreasonable lay on shell to be evidence of an interest in the business. ·

4. Make the onus of proof on the owner or charterer of the ship, or the person or persons applying for or holding a licence to prove that the person or persons stated in the application for a licence, or holding a licence, is the only one who has any interest, direct or indirect, in the business. 5. Heavy penalty for all persons party or privy to contravention.

6. Similar to illicit pearl-dealing. Penalties likewise.

1. To be licensed.



2. No shell to be bought ex--cept from a person who is the holder or qualified to hold a ship's licence.


1. Power for Minister, on being apprised of a suspicious case, to suspend any licences held under the Act pending inquiry. .

2. Any person . convicted of any offence under this Act shall be deemed unqualified to hold any licence whatever until such time as the Minister thinks fit. 3 . .Apy person who has a licence suspended shall be deemed to be unqualified during such suspension. 4. All powers and offences shall apply equally to persons and property ashore and afloat.

5. The Pearling Act to apply to the whole of the State. '

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