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Wednesday, 7 July 1920

Mr FENTON (Maribyrnong) .- I do not wish to attach special blame to the Ministry, but, speaking generally, in matters relating to the mercantile marine, there appears to be a desire to see what Great Britain is doing before taking action. The principle seems to be that what she does we may safely do. In 1912, this Parliament passed a Navigation Bill that was declared by the British Board of Trade to be a hundred years ahead of its time. Within less than two years, however, the British Government hadto admit that in that measure, the Australian Parliament had laid the foundation for the navigation laws of the civilized world. Under this clause the Minister takes power to withhold the issue of certain proclamations bringing the Act into operation. Are we to wait until the people of Great Britain take certain action, and then meekly follow their lead, or are we again to take the lead in navigation matters, and set an example to the rest of the world ?

Mr Tudor - I do not think this measure would be assented to if it were very far in advance of the Imperial law.

Mr Atkinson - It is a Bill that affects the Empire as a whole.

Mr FENTON - We call ourselves a self-governing community, and while we must have some regard for the mercantile operations of the rest of the world, are we to hesitate to confer certain benefits on the seamen of Australia because of a fear that the Bill providing for those benefits may not be assented to some 12,000 miles away? The time has come when we should put up a fight. The King's representative in Australia cannot in the name of His Majesty assent to this Bill. It must go overseas to receive the Royal assent.

Mr Tudor - Clause 2 declares that to be so.

Mr GREENE (RICHMOND, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for Trade and Customs) - We are obliged to reserve this measure for the Royal assent.

Mr FENTON - I recognise that certain measures must be reserved for the Royal assent; but many people say there are numerous restrictions which oughtto be eased. If the Government put up a decent fight, there would be a relaxing of this tieing-up process, but if there is a lack of " fight " on this side, we shall continue to remain at the apron-strings.

Mr GREENE (RICHMOND, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for Trade and Customs) - What is the honorable member talking about?

Mr FENTON - I object to this clause, which gives the Government power to withhold the issue of the proclamation bringing the measure into operation. In other words, it provides that they are to wait for a lead by others.

Mr GREENE (RICHMOND, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for Trade and Customs) - It has nothing to do with the question of the Royal assent.

Mr FENTON - My electorate does not touch the sea at any point; but eight years have elapsed since the original Navigation Act was passed, and while I admit that war conditions have prevented the bringing of that Act into operation, I feel that we ought not always to live under the shadow of the Great War. Are we never to attempt to return to normal conditions? I protest against this handing over of power. Let us have this measure passed and brought into operation as soon as possible.

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