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Friday, 15 September 1911

Senator DE LARGIE (Western Australia) . - The last argument used by Senator Millen will be appreciated by those who best understand the question at issue. When talking of the coasting trade, honorable senators must bear in mind that there are very few coastal trips in any country in the world to be compared with that between Western Australia and the eastern States. The distance by sea from Adelaide to Fremantle is 2,000 miles. Fancy that being dubbed a coastal trip ! It is really an oceanjourney. Because of the great distance which has to be travelled, and because of the large number of people living in Western Australia who travel to the eastern States - largely, I suppose, because so many of them have left the eastern States and settled in the West, and, consequently, have many attractions and friends over here - itis desired to make a special exemption in their interest. According to the argument that has been used here to-day, however, those people are to have their best means of reaching the eastern States cut away at one fell swoop. The length of the journey, and the roughness of the water to be traversed, form strong reasons for this exemption. Personally, I prefer to stand by the finding of the Royal Commission, which, although there was only one Western Australian upon it, recommended that there should be an exemption in favour of Western Australia.

Senator Walker - Was the honorable senator himself the one Western Australian on the Commission?

Senator DE LARGIE - Yes ; I was one amongst eight members. Three of the members represented New South Wales, namely, Mr. Dugald Thomson, Mr. G. B. Edwards, and the present Attorney General. The following is the finding of the Royal Commission on this point -

That pending the connexion of the railway systems of Western Australia and South Australia British mail steamers carrying passengers between those States be exempt from the proposed reservation.

Senator Millen - Was that a unanimous finding ?

Senator DE LARGIE - I cannot remember. Senator Guthrie, the champion of the seamen, who pays greater attention to shipping than any other member of the Senate, signed that recommendation. We all know Senator Guthrie's opinions on such matters. No man guards so jealously the rights of Australian shipping and Australian seamen as he does. Yet he was a party to this recommendation .

Senator Givens - I happen to know that Senator Guthrie, although he may have signed the report, does- not agree with this particular recommendation.

Senator DE LARGIE - I am rathe: surprised to hear that. It is not his usual practice to sign a document containing anything with which he does not agree. Whatever Senator Givens may know privately, Senator Guthrie signed the report. Here is his name appended to it.

Senator Millen - Was it unanimous? Senator Guthrie may have dissented from that provision.

Senator DE LARGIE - I can assure the Committee that he did not. I am positive that he signed it. Knowing the man as we do, we can safely follow his lead in this regard.

Senator Givens - I am perfectly certain that Senator Guthrie, if he were here, would vote for the deletion of this provision. Indeed, if he had been here, he would have, moved for its deletion.

Senator DE LARGIE - I know that, if Senator Guthrie were here, he would vote for it.

Senator Millen - That does not affect the merits of the case.

Senator DE LARGIE - But when we have a direct contradiction, I think it right to take the opportunity of saying that .Senator Givens has utterly misrepresented Senator Guthrie.

Senator Givens - We shall probably have first-hand authority on the point before the end of the session.

Senator DE LARGIE - It is just as well to give such a statement an emphatic denial. The names of the signatories to the report of the Commission are Mr. Hughes, Mr. Groom, Senator Guthrie, Mr. S. Mauger, and myself. The other members of the Commission dissented. As to the present form ot the clause, I may say at once that I am not in love with iti. I should prefer to see the clause as it stood in the first Bill. That would confine the exemption to a specific case, and we should know exactly how it was going to act. I believe that the recommendation that, as soon as the railway systems are connected, this exemption should cease to operate, is a wise one; and as a Bill for that purpose is about to be introduced, I do not believe that the clause, as far as Western Australia is concerned, will need to be put into operation at all. But if that railway connexion is not to be made, and we are robbed of the present travelling facilities, we shall have inflicted on the travelling public of Western Australia a serious wrong, that State being left even more isolated than it was before Federation. The people of Western Australia surely did not join the Federation to be placed at a disadvantage, and that really would be the effect of precluding them from travelling by the mail boats. I know sufficient of the Western Australian people to be confident that they would prefer to travel by the Australian vessels if other things were equal. But people who are not good sailors naturally prefer to travel in as much comfort as possible. To give honorable senators some idea of what the journey to Western Australia really is, I may mention that the last time I went over there I travelled on one of the mail boats between Adelaide and Fremantle; and, although I am a fairly good sailor, and am very seldom knocked out by bad weather, nevertheless I was not able to go on deck during the whole six days of the journey, nor was there a passenger on board who could go on deck.

Senator W RUSSELL (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - I had to stay in bed for three days.

Senator DE LARGIE - It is quite common for persons to join a boat at Adelaide and not to be seen on deck again until she has passed the heads at Fremantle. That is the invariable rule with bad sailors. It must be admitted that, between bad sailors and good sailors, there is a large number of persons who, when they get an opportunity to travel in a good vessel, can make the trip with less discomfort. Not only would Senator Givens rob these persons of that advantage, but he would rob all persons of the advantage of having a second vessel in which to go to that State once a week. That is, I submit, a restriction which my honorable friends should not ask the people of any State to endure. If the people who travel from the eastern ports to Fremantle were as few in number as those who travel to the northern parts of Queensland and Western Australia, we might be justified in not considering the interests of a few. In this case, however, there is a big traffic. It will be generally admitted, I think, that the travelling public should not be treated in the way proposed by Senator Givens. I am pleased that those who have spoken against the provision have not ventured to state that there is any unfair competition. The representatives of the shipping companies, when they were examined by the Royal Commission, did not suggest that they were subject to unfair competition by the deep-sea boats, for the simple reason that the latter charge higher rates.

Senator Givens - Have we any guarantee that that arrangement will continue?

Senator DE LARGIE - We have the guarantee that that has always been the practice, and that, I think, should be 'sufficient. I know that the mail boats are not likely to cut the rates.

Senator Millen - May I draw your attention to the fact that the recommendation which Senator Guthrie signed covered, not merely passengers, but also cargo. So that, if you are pinning your faith to him, you ought to go the whole hog.

Senator Pearce - " The greater includes the less," and this provision is less than what he asked for.

Senator DE LARGIE - I shall read the paragraph, so that the Committee may see that Senator Millen has made a mistake.

Senator Millen - Read also the paragraph immediately preceding it.

Senator DE LARGIE - The paragraphs read -

31.   That the coastal trade of the Commonwealth be reserved for ships on the Australian Register, or ships conforming to Australian conditions, and licensed to trade on the Australian coast.

32.   That pending the connexion of the railway systems of Western Australia and South Australia, British mail steamers carrying passengers between those States be exempt from the proposed reservation.

Senator Millen - And the proposed reservation referred to the coastal trade?

Senator DE LARGIE - No; the honorable senator is mistaken. As a matter of fact, the deep-sea boats do not carry any freight between the east and the west. Consequently, to give those boats any such advantage as the honorable senator has referred to, would be to give them something which they have not asked for. That is the trade which is reserved for the Australian coastal vessels, and that, by the way, was shown by the representatives of the deep-sea boats to be much more profitable than the carriage of passengers. The rates for freight between the east and tl,r west are enormous ; in fact, as much as the rates between Australia and the Old Country. It is a profitable traffic indeed, and is reserved for the Australian coastal vessels.

It is only the passenger traffic which the exemption extends to.

Senator St Ledger - Is that by arrangement with "the companies ?

Senator DE LARGIE - I would not like to say that there is an arrangement with the companies; I do not think that there is. I understand that the steamers, when they get to Fremantle, wish to hurry eastward, and get the mails delivered at Adelaide as quickly as possible; and then before they leave the eastern States their cargo space is fixed up in such a way that they do not want to be taking in and discharging small quantities of freight between ports.

Senator W RUSSELL (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - Senator Guthrie advised me never to travel with the mail boats, but to patronize the coastal boats.

Senator DE LARGIE - Did the honorable senator take his advice?

Senator W RUSSELL (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - Yes; and I had to stay in bed for three days.

Senator DE LARGIE - I hope that honorable senators will recognise that there is nothing unfair in this proposal, except that it is carried to a greater extent than was proposed by the Royal Commission.

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