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Friday, 15 September 1911

Senator PEARCE (Western AustraliaMinister of Defence) . - ,It is quite correct that a clause somewhat similar to this was contained in the Merchant Shipping Bill as introduced to the House of Commons. It is also correct that that clause was defeated. But there is this material difference between, this clause and that. The clause in the House of Commons Bill read as follows : -

With the object of enabling the Board of Trade to ascertain, as far as practicable, the gross earnings of British shipping, and the extent to which they affect the relations between the imports )to :and the exports if rom thc( United Kingdom the managing owner of every ship registered in the United Kingdom shall in each year make a return at such time, in such manner, and in such form, and containing such particulars as may be directed by the Board of Trade with respect to the voyages and gross earnings of the ship, and the expenses incurred in working the ship during the preceding year, and it shall be the duty of the Board of Trade to furnish the requisite form to the managing owner of the ship in each year.

Under this clause, the only obligation is to give a return showing the gross earnings. The House of Commons Bill provided for a disclosure of profits, because the shipowner had to give a return of expenses. Here the ship-owner is not called upon to give a return of expenses, but only of gross earnings. I have no doubt that it was the provision as to disclosure of profits which led to the rejection of the clause in the Merchant Shipping Bill. For statistical purposes, and for keeping a proper check on navigation, these returns will be of very great value. At the same time, the giving of the information cannot be said to injure the ship-owners, because no disclosure of profits is entailed.

Senator Millen - -Is there any other industry concerning .which similar information is required to be given?

Senator PEARCE - Speaking from memory, I do not recall an instance. It will he observed that care is taken that the information given is not to go to any one but the Minister, who, by watching the fluctuations of gross earnings, will be able to know how the navigation law is working. He will, for instance, be able to judge of the effect of the coastal clauses, and as to whether they lead to an increase of gross earnings or otherwise. Seeing that the clause does not involve a disclosure of profits, and is not, therefore, on all fours with the clause rejected by the House of Commons ; that it safeguards the disclosure of the information, and also that it is restricted to ships registered in Australia, I trust that the Committee will adhere to it.

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