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Wednesday, 18 July 1906

Mr THOMAS - I do not know ; I guess not. Mr. Kenneth Anderson thinks that a fleet of nine vessels is necessary, and while there may be reason for employing nine,' it would be absurd to employ ten vessels. We suggest that £150,000 should be laid aside as an insurance fund, and £150,000 as a deposit towards a sinking fund to cover depreciation. If the eight steamers started off and made no profit at all for the first twelve months, that is to say, if they merely paid their working expenses, we could immediately proceed with the construction of another steamer. That, however, would be a matter for consideration by the superintendent of the fleet. , I am quite prepared to admit that we might lose a steamer on the very first trip. ' If Socialism is, so bad as some people represent it to be, possibly a special storm' would be raised by Providence to destroy one or more of our steamers. Some of us were taught that a special storm was raised by Providence in order to save England from the Spanish Armada. Many honorable members may have heard also the story about the hungry Jew who went into a restaurant, and whose nostrils were assailed by the savoury odour arising from some frying bacon. After a struggle he overcame his conscientious scruples, and enjoyed a hearty meal of the forbid'den meat. The weather was fine when he entered the restaurant, but when he emerged from it a heavy thunderstorm was raging, and he remarked, " What an awful row to kick up over such a small sin." It may be that Providence will raise a storm in order to cripple our socialistic mail sendee from the outset. What ever may be said against' Government control, it must be admitted that the lives of those who are engaged in conducting Government and municipal transit enterprises, and any passengers who may be carried by them are much better looked after than are those who have to depend upon private undertakings. Whilst, as I say, it may be necessary to build a ninth boat immediately, we may assume that we shall be no less fortunate than the Orient Steam Navigation Company, and the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company, who, during the period that they have been trading to Australia, have been wonderfully free from losses" at sea. Moreover, improvements are being effected every vear, and the risk of loss of property and life at sea is -being minimized. I should like to know whether Sir James Laing and Sons propose to provide nine boats at the outset. In connexion with the new service, it must be remembered that the voyage will be shortened to such an extent that one week extra will be available upon each round trip for docking or other purposes.' We are told by the Age that the Commission have over-estimated the receipts from passenger fares and freights, because they have fixed upon an amount representing double the income derived by the Orient Steam Navigation Company. That company having only averaged' £540,000 per annum from passengers, fares, and freights, if we add £100,000 to represent the subsidy they have received, their total income has amounted to £640,000. Mr. Kenneth Anderson told us in his evidence that the average working expenses of one boat upon an average round' trip amounted to £32,000. As the Orient steamers make twenty-six trips per annum that would represent a toi&l expenditure of £832,000, without making any allowance for depreciation or interest .upon capital. Therefore, according to those figures, the company have been sustaining a loss of £200,000 per annum. We may reasonably add another £200,000 for interest on capital and depreciation. Therefore the Orient Steam' Navigation Company have apparently been going back to the extent of £400,000 per annum for the last twenty years. If this be the fact, they have undoubtedly done great service to Australia. They deserve to be treated as patriots, and' should be very generously considered. We are also told by the Age that not only have we estimated that we shall receive twice the amount derived by the Orient Steam Navigation Company, but that the receipts from the Stateowned service are expected to practically equal those of the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company. The 'passage read's as follows: -

This is just about double the entire average annual revenue of the Orient Company during the last four years, and it nearly equals the total revenue of the Peninsular and Oriental Company earned by operations which embrace, as well as its Australian trade, a weekly service between England and Bombay, and a fortnightly service between England and Japan, China, Calcutta, and the Straits Settlements, as well asMediterranean and Egyptian .subsidiary lines.

We estimated the income of the Stateowned service as £1,300,000, and I find, by reference to the balance-sheet of the Peninsular and Oriental Company for- 1904, that their gross receipts amounted to £3,008,655 18s. 8d. When I went to school I was not taught that £1,300,000 was practically the same amount as £3,000,000 We anticipated that boats fully equal to those described by the post.masterGeneral would be employed in the State-owned service, and that they could be built for £375,000 each. Mr. Kenneth Anderson estimates that steamers such as we indicated would cost £400,000 each. Therefore, there is a difference between our estimates of only £25,000 per vessel. We sent to Mr. Coghlan a number of questions to which he has supplied very interesting answers. Among other things, he tells us that it would be possible to procure steamers of 12,000 tons, fitted with ordinary reciprocating engines, at a cost of £355>°°° each. He mentioned that, in addition to this sum, we should have to provide money for the purchase of pantry furnishings, cutlery, and so on. We asked whether it would be of any advantage to have eight steamers built by one firm of ship-builders, but Mr. Coghlan strongly urged that we should not place an order for more than two steamers with one builder. He informed us that, in the event of our ordering two steamers from the one contractor, we might rely upon a reduction of from 1 to 2 per cent, in the cost. That would represent a saving upon each steamer °f £7,000, which would be ample to provide all the pantry furnishings and cutlery required. That would leave £20,000 for the substitution of turbine engines for reciprocal' ones. * The figures quoted by Mr. Coghlan show that we have not greatly underestimated the cost of the steamers required. Mr. Coghlan may make mistakes, but I think that every honorable member will admit that he takes the greatest possible pains to obtain "accurate information. He states that steamers such as he describes would be capable of conveying 350 firstclass, 170 second-class, and 500 third-class passengers. The Commission do not indicate in their report that this would be the best class of steamer to employ. Evidence was given by Mr. T. A. Saunders, of Perth, which appeared to commend itself to some members of the Commission. He suggested that accommodation should be provided for a large number of passengers of the one class, upon much the same lines that the White Star steamers carry passengers. He stated that the White Star line had created a traffic for itself. If we were able to fill steamers such as Mr, Coghlan indicates with passengers for only five months in the year, and carried no passengers whatever during the remaining, seven months we should, I think, do very well. Of course, we might not be able to» make full use of our passenger accommodation for even five months, but we might rely upon securing the whole of the passengertraffic now carried by the Orient Steam Navigation Company, which would haveto retire from the passenger tradewhen the mail subsidy was withdrawn. We might reasonably expect also to securesome of the passengers who now travel by the Peninsular and Oriental Company'ssteamers. Then, again, we may reasonably assume that all Government officials, from the highest to the lowest,, when travelling on business, would proceed by the national steam navigation line.. At present, when a Government official requires to pay a visit to England, sufficient money is given to him to defray the cost of his passage, and he is free totravel by any steamer that he chooses. Otherwise, we should simply be feeding one private company' as against another. But if we had an Australian line of steamers in the fullest sense of the word, I' venture to say that all State officials travelling 'between' here and England - irrespective of whether they were going; home upon private or Government business - would travel by those vessels. Public sentiment would induce them to dothat. I now come to our coastal trade. As honorable members are aware, there is a considerable amount of passenger trafficbetween the various ports of the Commonwealth. All this traffic would be thrown in to make up the five months' full passenger trade. The Commission have set down £150,000 by way of subsidy. At the present time the Postal Department is= paying a subsidy of £120,000, and infuture it proposes to pay £125,000. TheQueensland Government makes . up thedifference between that amount and thepresent mail steamer subsidy of £150,000.. If the Queensland Government is prepared to subsidize a private company, surely it should be willing togrant equal assistance to a national* line of steamers ! The Commission further say that we mav reasonably ask the States to annually contribute- £100,000 by way of freight on State imports. At the present moment a good?

Mr Lee - It would entirely depend upon the price charged.

Mr THOMAS - Exactly. There need wot be any additional cost to the State. But even if there were an additional cost, compensating advantages would be supplied by a national fleet of steamers. The Commissioners further say that we should endeavour to obtain acargo of about 4,000 tons for each steamer each way. The . steamers we suggest would be capable of carrying 5,600 tons of cargo. Space, however, must be allowed for the accommodation of refrigerators, passengers' luggage, &c, so we allow for only 4,000 tons. If we could annually secure £100,000 by way of freight on State imports, only another £100,000 would require to be supplied by the merchants of Australia. Would not they be prepared to grant a preference to a fleet of this kind? They loudly proclaim that we should use Australian goods as far as possible, and I quite agree with them. If there be anything in the statement that -we should purchase Australian goods simply because they are Australian, surely there is something in the suggestion that imported goods should be brought here by Australian -owned boats ! If our local merchants refuse togrant a preference to a national line of steamers,they can scarcely approach this Parliament with a request for increased duties upon certain articles.

Mr Salmon - The honorable member is speaking of the manufacturers.

Mr THOMAS - Does not Mr. McKay, of the Sunshine Harvester Company, import the steel and iron which he uses? In passing,' I may mention that the present freightupon a good manyproducts which are carried by the mail steamers is £210s. a ton. The Commissioners do notsay that it should not be less, but basing our deductions upon the present figures we hold that an estimate of 4,000

Mr Lee - Not in all cases. The AberdeenCompany do not charge that.

Mr THOMAS - The mail steamers charge it. The freight upon fruit ranges from £3 to £3 5s. per ton. I venture to say that if a national fleet of steamers were established, there would be no necessity for the Commonwealth Government to enter into arrangements with the States Governments for the latter to guarantee the export ofa certain quantity of perishable products, because the exporters themselves would be only too pleased to enter into a definite agreement with a Stateowned line of vessels. Although the Aberdeen Company does not charge £3 10s. per ton for the carriage of butter to the old country, the evidence tendered to the Commission was that the exporters prefer to pay a little more than is charged by other vessels to secure the carriage of their commodity by the mail steamers, because of the regularity which characterizes their arrival and despatch.Inmyopinion,itwould be unwise for the exporters of perishable products to place themselves absolutely in the hands of the mail companies, because if they did so the latter would soon increase the freight upon butter from £3 10s. per ton to £7 per ton, which was the rate formerly charged. At the recent annual meeting of the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company, Sir Thomas Sutherland referred to the unremunerative freight at present being charged for the carriage of butter. But if we had a Government line of steamers, which would undertake the carriage of that commodity to the old country at £3 10s. per ton for a definite period, no difficulty would be experienced by the exporters in making a satisfactory arrangement. I admit that a Government line of steamers would not be able to convey the whole of the butter exported from Australia. Some of it wouldhave to be forwarded by the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company's steamers. I have already pointed out that, even if the income derived from a. national line of steamers were £112,000 less than we have estimated, the revenue and expenditure would still balance. I admit that the figures which I have quoted are merely estimates, and that figures can be made to prove anything.;

Even when the Tariff discussion was in progress, we frequently saw free-traders and protectionists alike quoting from the same volume of Coghlan in support of their rival contentions. But the question is, " Can a line of mail steamers be made to pay?" If it can, the Government should run a line of their own; but if it cannot, we have no right to become mendicants by asking a private company to undertake the work of carrying our mails for less than cost price. It has been said that the Government cannot run any concern as economically as can a private company. In this connexion, I may mention that the Commission, examined the Chief Railways Commissioner of every State except that of New South Wales, where Mr. Harper represented the Railways Commissioners. None of these gentlemen can be called Socialists, and every one of them is opposed to the idea of establishing a national line of steamers. But when we asked them whether the work at present being done by the railways could be performed more economically and expeditiously by private enterprise they said that it, could not.

Mr Lee - Did the honorable member expect to receive any other answer from them ?

Mr THOMAS - According to the honorable member's dictum, the evidence given in the opposite direction must also have been biased. Mr. Tait, the Chief Railways Commissioner in Victoria, has, during most of his life, been associated with privatelyowned lines. He has been vigorously attacked at various times by members of the Labour Party, and that fact would not predispose him to labour ideals. Yet he says -

My experience, having been engaged on what might be called a privately-owned railway for over twenty years, and for the last three years on a State-owned railway, is that the public receive fully as good, if not better accommodation and service, having regard to the circumstances, from a State-owned railway as they would receive from a privately-owned railway in similar circumstances. I should like to add that my experience here leads me to think that there is no need of competition in the Australian States, at least to keep the railway management and the railway staff of State-owned railways up to the mark, for we have the critic with us always, and in every part of the country.

It has been said that there is no elasticity in the method of determining the freights to be charged upon ocean-going steamers, and that that constituted a great trouble. I confess that when I assumed the position of chairman of the Select Committee upon Shipping I thought that, probably, there might be too much red-tapeism and notsufficient flexibility in the method of determining freights, and that these factorsmight militate against the idea of a Stateowned line of steamers. I am very pleased to say that without exception, so far as I can remember, the members of the Chambers of Commerce whom we examined, although opposed to a State-owned service,took the view that non-elasticity of freights between England and Australia, as the result of the Shipping Conference, was a good thing. Mr. Keep, who is a prominent merchant carrying on business in Melbourne, was examined by us, and, although strongly opposed to a State-owned service, said, when dealing with the Shipping Conference, and the elasticity of freights,, that -

It is an advantage to the importer to havefreights stable, so that he may know exactly what his goods will cost him before he orders them, and also that he may know that he is paying the same rates of freights as are charged to his competitors.

That was practically the evidence of ali the members of Chambers of Commerce ex,:1 by us. It must be recognised,, therefore, that inflexibility of freights,, whilst not being disadvantageous to the Government, would be highly advantageous: to the commercial community. Some people object to the rigidity of our railway freights, but if the Railways Commissionerswere able to vary them according to their own sweet will, there would be a hue and' cry throughout the country.

Mr King O'malley - We should have the curse of the American rebate system.

Mr THOMAS - Quite so. One feature of the present contract affords mesatisfaction, and that is that, so far asthe Post and Telegraph Department is concerned, it provides only for a postal service. I have urged on more than one occasionthat the service paid for by that Department should be a postal one pure and' simple. But I have also urged in this House that it is not sufficient for the Government to arrange merely for such a service - that whilst the Post and Telegraph Department should not be debited with thecost of anything more than the carriage of mails, the National Government should make arrangements for something more than a postal service. Practically every other country, with the exception of England, is; doing this at the present time. The Governments of Germany, France, Norway, the Argentine, Japan, and even the United States, are now entering into contracts with shipping companies to provide for something more than the carriage of mails. Not long ago, a Select Committee of the House of Commons presented a report dealing with the matter, in which it said -

That the subsidies given by foreign Governments to selected lines or owners tend to restrict free competition, and to facilitate the establishment of federation and shipping rings, and, therefore, that no subsidy should be granted without Government control over maximum rales of freight, and over this combination of subsidized wilh unsubsidized owners to restrict competition.

The time has come when the National Government of Australia should deal with this question. It was once said by a great statesman in the House of Lords, that the key of India was in London, and I venture to say that if Australia is to make, in the next decade, the progress that it nas done in the past, it will be necessary for us, not merely to be able to supply our own requirements, but to be in a position to hold our own in the markets of London. So far as perishable products are concerned, it is not sufficient that we should be able to satisfy the requirements of the few people scattered over this great Continent ; we must be in a position to supply at least some of the needs of the struggling masses in the congested parts of the old country. In order that that may be done, freights must be regulated, 'not by a. board of directors in England, but by a member of the Government. We have in power, I believe, a Protectionist Ministry. It has been proclaimed as such from the house-tops, and I understand that one of the objects of protection is to do away with all imports. The desire of the protectionists is that everything that can reasonably be made in Australia shall be made here. I take it that there can be no objection to their contention that if it be possible everything necessary to satisfy local wants should be produced in Australia. I cannot say whether or not_that is economically possible or whether ft is a sound proposition, but I assume that ft is the policy of the Government and of the great protectionist party. Some years ago. when the present Minister of Trade and Customs was Premier of New South Wales, he attended a banquet given by a steamship company conducting a service between

Sydney and Vancouver, to celebrate, if I remember rightly, the placing of a new steamer on the line. The honorable gentleman, speaking on that occasion, wished the company all success, saying, " I hope that you will have this boat going full of produce to Canada, but returning empty." I trust that I have not misquoted the honorable gentleman, but I understand that the words I have attributed to him express the legitimate desire of the protectionists of Australia that we should be able to supply all our needs.

Mr Johnson - Quite irrespective of the' cost !

Mr THOMAS - I am not dealing with that phase of the question ; 1 am simply pointing out that the desire that we shall produce everything that we need is a laudable one, although I cannot say whether or not it is economically possible of fulfilment. The point is that if that is the object of the protectionist party it must result in freights to England being increased, since there would be no back- load ing. If these steamers had to return empty from England the freights to the old world would be double what they would otherwise be. If the Government were able to bring about such a happy state of affairs as the production in Australia of all that is required to satisfy our wants, they should be in a post tion to say to the producers: "It is immaterial whether as the result of our legislation there is no back loading. We shall take care that you are not penalized by having to pay more than, you would otherwise do." Unless they were able to take this stand the advantages of their policy would be minimized. There is one question to which I should like an answer, and that is. as to whether or not the company with whom the contract has. been made is to be a member of the Shipping Conference in England. If it is not to be a member of that conference, then heaven help it - it will need! all the assistance that a kind Providence can give it to save it from. ruin. On the other hand, if it is to be a member of the conference the position will be rather serious, so far as the people of Australia are concerned. It is) necessary -that we should have some information on this question. I am not opposed per se to the Shipping Conference, which is described by some people as a " ring." I am a trade unionist, and, as such, believe that every worker who fails to join a union is a fool, to himself and his family. I have no particular objection to an employer enjoying the right to join a union whatever may be the name by which it is called ; but some of the features of the Shipping Conference in England are certainly inapplicable to a trade union. In the first place it would be interesting to learn whether they keep open their books. Much has been said in this House as to preference to unionists, and the closing of the books of unions. I have been a trade unionist for years, and am a strong believer in unions, but I hold that as soon as unionists declare that they will work only beside trade unionists, they must throw open their books, so that a worker who wishes to join their union will be able to do so. I have expressed! this opinion before, and will do so again. The same remark will apply to the Shipping Conference. Mr. Kenneth Anderson, when before the Commission, was asked by the honorable member for Kennedy whether any company, by subscribing to the articles of association, could join the conference, and his reply was that it depended upon the financial backing of the company. Then, again, Mr. Barnes, acting superintendent in Queensland1 of the Australian United Steam Navigation Company, was asked by the honorable member whether any company other than the Australian United Steam Navigation Company. Howard, Smith, and Company, and the Adelaide Steam-ship Company, trading on the coast, could join the conference on subscribing to the articles of association. The reply was, "Oh, no; we can do all the work ourselves." Mr. Paxton, when interrogated on the same subject, said that it was not a fair thing that, after all the pioneering work in connexion with the establishment of a shipping service had been completed, other companies or firms should he able to step in. and reap the benefit. As a trade unionist, I am prepared to grant the employer the same- right that I ask for the employ^ ; but if trade unionists declared that their" books were to be closed, what a howl of indignation there would be. The honorable T. C. Beirne, a member of the legislative Council of Queensland, informed us that, although he had loyally abided by the Shipping Conference - that, although through his broker he had caused all his goods to be sent out in vessels owned by members of the Conference- he was threatened1 with the loss of his deferred rebates, because his London broker had sent goods to a person in South Africa by a vessel which was outside the compact. What would the editors of the Australian daily newspapers say if trade unionists took upon themselves the responsibility of saying that, although an employer here had done everything they desired, he ought to be penalized because of the action of an employer in South Africa ? I think they would be writing their articles in the deepest gall. Another arrangement of the Conference is that a profit shall be paid, not only on the ships that are working, but also on the ships which are idle, that is, on the whole of the capital of the companies interested. If, in Australia, the trade unions were to ask that, not only shall the men who are working be paid, but that also the men who are not working shall be paid, what would the ladies of the National League say? A company subsidized by the amount by which the proposed company is to be subsidized should not join the shipping ring, though, if it does not, those who send cargo by its vessels may be boycotted by the other companies. If, however, we established a national line, the shipping companies would not dare to boycott consignors, because behind a Government are the full resources of civilization.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Is the honorable member able to say that his party will vote with him on this matter?

Mr THOMAS - That is not a subject for discussion at the present moment.

Mr Fisher - This is not a party question.

Mr THOMAS - I should like to know what wages are to be paid to those employed by the proposed new company. It has been stated in the newspapers that they are to be paid the Australian rates for deep sea vessels, because, I understand, our sailors do not ask for the same rates of wages 'for long voyages as they expect when employed on coastal trips. We ought to pay those concerned in the carriage of our mails and cargo white men's wages. We require that there shall be white stokers on the mail boats, and we should also require that they shall be, paid white men's wages. We are determined not to wear boots, clothing, or hats made by sweated labour, and we should not allow the goods which we' use to be carried by sweated labour. If it were necessary, in order to make a national line profitable, to put aside a subsidy equal rn the difference between the cost of paving the rates of wages adopted bv the Orient and Peninsular and Oriental Companies, and the Australian rates, we should be amply jus-. tified in doing so. If we had a national line, a great deal of money would be spent here which is now spent elsewhere. That should^ please our protectionist friends, and even the honorable and learned member for Werriwa. We should not provide that a man living in Great Britain should not be employed on the steamers, but, within a very short time, through force of circumstances, the officers, engineers, and crew would all be 'found establishing homes in Australia. Indeed, if we paid Australian rates of wages, we might reasonably ask them to do so. With their homes established here, they would, of course, spend most of their money here, which would be more advantageous to the Commonwealth than the spending of their money in England - not that I have any prejudice against the old country, but that I think that, when the interests of Australia and Great Britain clash, we should consider those of Australia first.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Here we have a good man gone wrong.

Mr THOMAS - If I have gone wrong, it is in connexion with a very good cause. The Commission recommend that £150,000 should be put aside annually as an insurance fund. Of course, we touch private interests at every point. Instead of that money being handed over to a private' company, the Government could insure its own boats. The money would not necessarily be spent here, though I shall listen with pleasure to the arguments advanced by the honorable member for Dalley in support of his proposal that the boats shall be built here. I think that it would be a grand thing if they could be built here, provided that the work was as satisfactory as that obtained in Great Britain, even though the price might be a little more.

Mr Batchelor - Has the honorable member for Dalley the support of his party ?

Mr THOMAS - The Commission also recommended the setting aside of £150,000 as a sinking fund. These recommendations raise the question whether the cry of Australia for the Australians is raised in earnest, or is merely an electioneering cry. Those who support that principle are being offered an opportunity te carry it into effect, and to bring about the spending of money in this country, bv .giving the Australian trade to Australians, instead of to English ship-owners. I wish now to briefly refer to a criticism of our proposals which has been made by a Mr. Paxton. I do not kr.ow if it will be presumptuous for me to tell the House who Mr. Paxton is, or whether honorable members all know him. At any rate, I shall say that he is a member of the Chamber of Commerce of Sydney, and chairman of its shipping committee, and, at the conference of Chambers of Commerce, recently held in Perth, he was asked, I suppose as the leading shipping expert present, to move a motion in condemnation of the proposal for a Stateowned fleet. At the time the ' Commission had not. presented its report, and was still engaged in the taking of evidence, but that is a mere detail. By the courtesy of the honorable member for Kooyong, the president of the Chambers of Commerce of Australia, honorable members have been supplied with copies of Mr. Paxton's speech. It is a "whale" of a speech; but I shall not deal with his criticism in detail. He says that the Commissioners seemed to think that State-owned vessels giving a fortnightly service could carry all the produce of Australia; but we had r.c such idiotic idea, as our report will show. As a last argument, he alludes to some* thing which he alleges I said to him during a private conversation on the mail-boat. It seems to me that such conversations ought not to be made the text for a public speech ; but, although I do not remember the occurrence, I agree with the sentiments which I am alleged to ' have expressed, and do not treat Mr. Paxton's conduct in repeating it very seriously. He said that the Orient Steam Navigation and the Peninsular and Oriental Companies have a rule that divine service on their boats on Sunday mornings shall either be conducted bv a clergyman of the Church of England, or be the service of that church, and that he asked me whether there would be a similar rule in force on the vessels of the proposed national line. My reply was quoted to the effect that, as' Australia has not a State religion, we could not make it a rule that the it o'clock service on Sunday mornings should follow the Church of England ritual. I am not a member of the Church of England, but I like the service of that church, and. when at sea. unless ill, never fail to attend it. At the same time, I admit that, under the circumstances, the Government could not lav down the rule that only that service should be followed. Mr. Paxton used my statement as an argument against the establishment of State-owned vessels, because he said that without such a rule there would be three or four clergymen of different denominations each desirous of holding a service, and the result would be that the harmony of the passengers would be interfered with. The contract which the Postmaster-General asks us to ratify has been greatly boomed in the newspapers. I do not know of Any which has been more boomed. We have been told that turbine steamers are to be employed, that the Government are to control the 'rates of freights, and that Australian rates of wages are to be paid. The PostmasterGeneral in his excellent speech said not a word on any one of those three points ; but I should like some information in regard to them. There are other places besides Australia in which this matter is being considered. Having read in the newspapers cablegrams to the effect that the New Zealand Government contemplated the establishment of a line of State-owned vessels, I wrote to the late lamented Right Honorable Richard Seddon, asking him if that were so. He gave my letter an immediate reply, the full text of which is printed as an appendix to the report. In it he stated - ,

There is no doubt whatever that there is a combination of the shipping companies in New Zealand, and the Government are determined, by legislation or otherwise, to break the monopoly. To do it by legislation is rather a protractedand expensive method -

No Anti-Trust Bill about that -

Chartering or having State-owned steamers, is, in the opinion of the New Zealand Government, the only direct, definite, and efficacious . way of solving the problem ; and if the present unsatisfactory state of things continues, Parliament and the people will be prepared at an early date to try the experiment.

The late RightHonorable Mr. Seddon's treatment of the subject was very different from that of the Queensland Ministry, whose policy, when we wished for evidence from them in relation to our inquiry, seemed to be one of shuffle. In Natal, the question has also been raised, the following motion, movedby Mr. F. S. Tatham, having been carried unanimously: -

That, in the opinion of this House, the time has arrived for consideration of the question of establishing direct communication with England by a line of steamers owned or contracted by the Colony, and that the Government be requested to give consideration to the whole question during the recess.

With regard to the conditions to which the Norddeutscher-Lloyd steamers were subject, Mr. Kenneth Anderson was asked -

Do you consider that a restriction in any way ? - I do ; but if you have a Government at your back it does not matter much what restriction it imposes provided it is willing to pay the cost. A perusal of the N.D.L. subsidy agreement leaves one under the impression that the N.D.L. are as much a Department of the State as a private trading corporation.

This shows that other Governments besides ours are considering the question of exercising more and more control over transit services by. sea, as well as by land. We have been told that we should not establish a State-owned mail service, because no other country has embarked upon such an enterprise. If 'there were anything in that argument, we should never effect any reforms. If our ancestors had entertained that idea, we should still have been wearing fig leaves instead of the clothes which are now a source of comfort to us. It seems to me that it is our privilege, freed as we are from the shackles and manacles of old prejudices, to be in the van of the reform movement, instead of lagging in the rear. I may not be able to carry my point - to-day. It is possible that vested interests will be too strong, prejudice too powerful, and ignorance too rampant, to permit of my doing so. I have lived long enough, however, to know that that which is sneered at to-day, and regarded as utterly impracticable, often becomes the actuality of tomorrow. I had the pleasure of introducing into the New South Wales Parliament a proposal for a national scheme of insurance for miners. The Government opposed the idea, and the newspapers were strongly antagonistic to it. I was told that if I had not more cheek than brains I would never have submitted my proposal. I, however, lived to see, whilst still a member of the New South Wales Parliament, not only my proposal, but one going much further, carried on the voices by the two Houses of the New South Wales Parliament, and I noticed in the Argus recently a laudatory account of it, and 'an announcement to the effect that the antiSocialist Premier of Victoria intended to introduce a similar measure. I venture to say that the time will come when not merely our mails and passengers, but most of our cargo, will be carried to and from

Great Britain in State-owned steamers. It may be left for some one better able to advocate the cause to bring about the reform at which I am now aiming, but I shall have the satisfaction of knowing that I was the first to bring it under the notice of the National Parliament of Australia.

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