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Wednesday, 29 June 1938


Mr HUGHES (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for External Affairs) - Yesterday, the honorable member forWest Sydney (Mr. Beasley) asked me for information regarding ratification in respect of the Commonwealth of certain Maritime Conventions adopted at the twenty-first and twenty-second sessions of the International. Labour Conference 1936. The present position is as follows : -

1.   Conventions affecting the Commonwealth Government only. - Hours of Work on Board Snip and Manning Convention. - This convention applies only to ships engaged on an" international voyage", and there is no need for the Commonwealth Government to consult the State governments before ratification. The Commonwealth Government has authorized ratification of the convention subject to certain declarations being made at the time of ratification. These declarations have now been drafted by the Marine branch of the Department of Commerce, and steps are being taken to ratify the convention at an early date.

2.   Conventions affecting both the Commonwealth Government and the State governments. -The remaining five Maritime Conventions adopted by the International Labour Conference in 1936 concern, not only the Commonwealth Government, but also the State governments, two of which have not yet replied to the Commonwealth Government's original communication on this subject. Further letters were forwarded to these two States on the 29th April, but so far no replies have been received.

For the information of the honorable member, however, I supply the following brief summary of the present position in regard to these conventions:-

(a)   Convention concerning the Minimum Requirement of Professional Capacity for Masters and Officers on Board Merchant Ships. - The Commonwealth Navigation Act already fully complies with the terms of this convention. The convention, however, extends to intra-State ships, which are not all sufficiently covered by existing legislation to permit of ratification. (b)Convention concerning the Liability of the Shipowner in case of Sickness, Injury or Death. - This convention extends to intra-State shipping. So far as Commonwealth legislation is concerned, on broad principles and in many details the Navigation Act confers on seamen rights equal to, and in some cases much more generous than, those contemplated by the convention. There are, however, other provisions which have no counterpart in the act. Apart from action by the States, there fore, Commonwealth law does not sufficiently cover the terms of the convention to permit ratification. An amendment of the Navigation Act would first be necessary. For some time past a comprehensive amendment of the act has been contemplated, and in completing the final drafts ofthe bill full consideration will he given to the terms of this convention.

(c)   Convention concerning Annual Holidays with pay for Seamen. - This convention also extends to intra-State ships. The Commonwealth has as yet no legislation concerning holidays for seamen, the matter falling within the purview of the Commonwealth : Court of Conciliation and Arbitration. The awards made by 'the court in some respects confer greater benefits on Australian seamen than do the provisions of the convention. In other respects, the awards fall short of what the convention requires. One of the State governments has definitely expressed its unwillingness to legislate in a field hitherto reserved to industrial tribunals.

(d)   Convention fixing the Minimum Age for Admission of Children to employment at Sea - (Revised) . - Thisconvention, dated 1920, fixed the minimum age at fourteen years.

In practice no boys under this age had been employed on Australian ships, but it was not found possible 'to make the necessary legislative provision until 1935. TheCommonwealth's ratification was registered in Geneva on the 28th June, 1935. At the 1936 conference it was agreed to raise the age from fourteen to fifteen years. The Government is prepared to consider amending the Commonwealth Navigation Act to alter the age prescribed, but advice is awaited from the State governments as to whether they also are prepared to legislate. (e)Convention concerning Sickness Insurance for Seamen. Consideration was given to tie question of sickness insurance for seamen when the National Health and Pensions Insurance Bill 1938 was being drafted, and the bill contains certain provisions dealing with this question.







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