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Thursday, 26 November 1914


Senator RUSSELL (Victoria) (Assistant Minister) . - I move -

That this Bill be now read a second time.

Honorable senators will recognise in this measure a very old friend, and will probably desire to know the reason for the introduction of an amending Bill prior to the proclamation of the original Act.. The primary reason is the desire to give effect within the four corners of our own Navigation Act to the decisions of the International Convention on the safety of life at sea. The Convention was called as a result of the disaster to the Titanic in the Atlantic Ocean. At it fourteen of the leading Powers of the world were represented, including all maritime Powers, with the exception of Japan, which subsequently adopted the Convention. It can, therefore, safely be said that its determinations were unanimously adopted by practically all the maritime Powers. The principal object aimed at was the safety and preservation of life at sea. The Convention met in London in 1913, and its determinations were signed by the whole of the Powers in the same year. Its findings consist of seventy-four articles and fiftyone regulations dealing with the construction of ships, including such matters as the provision of water-tight compart- ments, the efficient manning of boats, provision for life-boats and rafts, and a system of wireless telegraphy for the making of effective calls in the hour of danger. For meeting this special purpose, an International code of wireless calls has been adopted. It is further provided that a Morse lamp of sufficient power and strength to give efficient service shall be carried by each vessel. All possible means for preserving life at sea have been adopted. Australia was represented at the Convention by Captain Collins, who signed the document on our behalf. It is the intention of the Government to adopt the provisions of the Convention, and we are now endeavouring to pass them into law in the form of this Bill. New Zealand and Canada are in exactly the same position. " The whole of the Powers pledged themselves to give effect to the decisions of the Convention at an early date, and if report speaks correctly, they have all carried out their promise, and Australia is now following in their footsteps. The principal features of the findings are safety of construction, wireless telegraphy, lifesaving appliances and fire protection. It is provided that after a certain date in 1915 any new keel laid down shall be classed as a No. 2 ship. That is to say, it shall be constructed under certain conditions and according to certain specifications which will give a greater guarantee for the safety of life at sea than is furnished by boats hitherto constructed without a plan recognised and adopted by the maritime Powers of the world. It is gratifying to Australia to know that in many respects she anticipated in her own ^Navigation Act many of the decisions arrived at by the maritime Powers. With regard to the sufficient and efficient manning of passenger ships, article 15 of the Convention is almost covered by sections 14 and 43 and schedules 1 and 2 of our own Act. With regard to periodical inspection and survey ofhull, boilers, machinery and equipment, honorable senators may compare article 29 with sections 191, 193 and 199 of our own Act.


Senator Guthrie - And that is a backward step from the legislation of the whole of the six States.


Senator RUSSELL - The results of the Convention have somewhat impressed me. It will be open to the honorable senator to show in what regard they modify any existing legislation. In adopting them the Commonwealth Government honestly believe that they are adopting the most effective proposals ever made for the preservation and safety of life at sea.


Senator Guthrie - Every State has a better provision to-day.


Senator RUSSELL - If the honorable senator clearly proves that, I shall have no objection to Parliament adopting the provisions to which he refers, because Australia has reached such a stage of development that she must refuse to lag behind any other country in regard to these matters. Whether the Government in power is Labour or otherwise, I believe this Parliament is too progressive to take a reactionary step in that regard. The honorable senator's proposals on the subject will, therefore, have a fair field and no favour. On the subject of wireless installation, articles 31 and 35 of the Convention are practically identical with section 231 of the Navigation Act. Article 55 of the Convention compares favorably with section 254 of the Act with regard to the prohibition of the carriage of dangerous goods on passenger ships. Article 54 provides that each life-boat and liferaft shall include in its crew a certain number of certificated life-boat men. On that question, honorable senators may compare sub-section 2 of section 41 of the Act. We propose a new section to follow section 17, to provide by regulation for the issue of certificates as life-boat men to seamen who qualify. In that we adopt the report of the Convention- almost in its entirety. Compulsory boat drills are provided for in article 56, with which section 235 is to be compared.


Senator Guthrie - Compulsory in the men's watch below - that is, when they are off duty.


Senator RUSSELL - I am not in a position to discuss details in that regard, but I believe that adequate provision has been made that the men shall understand the boats. It is only a fair thing, whether they are on or off duty, for the men to turn out and equip the boats if it is found necessary ; and I do not believe they will stop to consider whether it happens to be their watch on deck or below.


Senator Guthrie - What, for drill?


Senator RUSSELL - Perhaps the honorable senator will have an opportunity of dealing with that subject in Committee. I cannot say now whether the men will be exempt during the hours that are, supposed to be their own. Tf they are not I am prepared, and I am sure the Government will be, to give favorable consideration to any necessary amendment when the Bill is in Committee. We propose to amend section 206 to provide by regulation for the periodical trial and operation of water-tight doors and valves, and for musters, and practice, and drills, with a view to action in emergency.


Senator O'LOGHLIN (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) -Colonel O'loghlin. - Are you duplicating in this Bill provisions already made in the Navigation Act?


Senator RUSSELL - No; in some cases we are extending them, and in others we are merely making amendments for the purpose of getting uniform action and a uniform code throughout the maritime world. The intention of the Bill is to embrace in its entirety the report of the Convention as adopted by the maritime Powers. Since the passing of the original Act, a few errors and inconsistencies, as was only natural in a Bill of such magnitude, have been discovered, and we are taking this opportunity of rectifying them, but they are of a very minor nature.


Senator Guthrie - Why has not the Act been proclaimed ?


Senator RUSSELL - Not because of any desire on the part of the Government to hold it back, but because of the large number of regulations that have to be drafted. In any case, whether this Bill is carried or not, I am given to understand that a considerable time must still elapse before the regulations are ready and the Act can be proclaimed. The Government think that it is just as easy to pass this Bill, in the meantime, in order to keep good faith with the other parties, to the Convention. The Act, together with this Bill, can then be proclaimed at the one time, which will be the earliest date possible.


Senator Guthrie - That means a further delay in proclaiming the Act of 1912.


Senator RUSSELL - I clearly stated that, in the opinion of the Government, the magnitude of the regulations would prevent the proclamation of the Act, in any case, for a considerable time. The Government believe that its proclamation will not be delayed by one day by the passage of this Bill. As the measure is essentially one for Committee, I trust that honorable senators will give it their earliest and most favorable consideration, in order that Australia may possess, if not the best, at least a Navigation Act equal in all its parts and details to any other in the world.

Debate (on motion by Senator Guthrie) adjourned.







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