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Tuesday, 6 December 1938

Sir EARLE PAGE (Cowper) (Minister for Commerce) . - It is very pleasing to the Government that honorable members of all parties have recognized, in the course of this debate, that a substantial effort has been made to bring our seamen's compensation legislation up to date. Though the various amounts fixed for compensation in respect of the different injuries and accidents are not exactly the same as those provided in certain of . the State compensation acts, it has been generally admitted that they are fair and reasonable, and have been determined after very careful inquiry and consideration. I believe that all who have any intimate knowledge of this subject will realize that the officers of both the Marine branch and the Health Department have examined the whole problem in the most sympathetic and understanding way. As the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) has said, they, have been prepared to give consideration to all suggestions and to discuss all matters as fully as possible, as my fellow Ministers and I have done, directly with representatives of the seamen. I therefore ask the honorable member for West Sydney not ' to press his suggested amendments. If he does .so the Government will be obliged to ask for time to consider the full effect of them and that might have the result of seriously delaying the passage of the bill. That, I think, would be a mistake, and would be detrimental to the interests of the seamen. I have taken a note of the various suggestions made by the honorable member and I assure him that I shall investigate them carefully to ascertain the consequence of incorporating them in the act.

I wish to mention only one other matter that has been raised. The diseases, pneumonia and pleurisy, were added to the fourth schedule of the bill when it was before another place. Every one who has any knowledge of those diseases will appreciate how difficult it is to relate them to the particular employment or falling which a person may follow. It was for that reason that they were not included in the schedule originally. I do not think that it can be demonstrated that seamen are more prone to pleurisy and pneumonia than are other sections of the community. If they show a slightly higher percentage in respect of these diseases than do workers in other callings the difference is negligible. We must realize, however, thatcompensation will be payable only in respect of diseases contracted by seamen in the actual course of their employment. I think it will be generally admitted that ample provision has been made in that regard. As the Navigation Act provides for thepayment of wages, and for the cost of medical and hospital treatment of seamen and of their conveyance home, if they contract diseases in the course of their employment while away from home and are landed at the first port of call for the indefinite period that may elapse until their recovery, I shall not resist the payment of compensation to seamen in. respeot of pneumonia and pleurisy as vigorously as I should resist it if it wereproposed in connexion with any other calling. My objections, in fact, are largely minimized because of the provisions of the Navigation Act, which must inevitably limit what might be described as the unnecessary liabilities that would otherwise be incurred if this provision were made in this measure without the existence of the provisions of the Navigation Act to which I have already referred.

In the circumstances, I am glad, on behalf of the Government, to intimate that no objection will be offered to the inclusion of these twodiseases in the fourth schedule of the bill. I appeal to honorable members to allow this bill a speedy passage through the House.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Bill read a second time.

In committee:

The bill.

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