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Tuesday, 6 December 1938


Mr HOLLOWAY (Melbourne Ports) . - I wish briefly to support the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) in his advocacy of this measure. We are most fortunate in that we have in charge of it a medical gentleman in the person of the Minister for Commerce (Sir Earle Page). I am certain that he would npt dream of denying that the two diseases included in the list of occupational diseases by the Senate are not of the type which seamen would he more likely than others to contract. Throughout the post-war years, whilst the treatment, meted out by other countries to those who go to sea has been on the upgrade, Australia has largely remained stationary. I pay a tribute to those Ministers who have been associated with the bill, as well as to the officers of the Navigation Department, particularly the marine branch, for the time they have devoted and the sympathetic help they have given in respect of the preparation of a formula for the guidance of the Parliamentary Draftsman. I know that for years these officers have been desirous of making a little better the conditions of those who go to sea ; but it is a long job to prepare and pass through Parliament a measure of this character.. On numerous occasions we have made claims on behalf of seamen. Prom the observations we were able to make on trips overseas, we have been able to point out that seamen in the mercantile marine of the United States of America, Canada, the Scandinavian countries, and Great Britain, have had their conditions improved very materially since the war. Some of those conditions are in advance of what obtains in Australian waters. We have reason to be proud of the fact that this legislation will bring us into line with the best conditions in the world, and for that I thank the Government and the officers of the Navigation Department. The two diseases emphasized by the honorable member for West Sydney should be covered. I believe that Ministers and officers who have prepared this measure will agree, upon consideration, that they should not have been omitted. I have sat around the table with seamen who have suffered as the result of the last war, men who have been almost wholly submerged for hours and have never regained their former health, having contracted pneumonia, pleurisy, and other lung complaints. Having just passed a measure associated with our defence scheme, the object of which is to make provision for certain improvements t.o merchant ships to enable the mounting of guns on them, and thus transform members of the mercantile marine into gun crews should the necessity to do so arise, it is appropriate to mention the fact that seamen who are to be covered by this bill were not allowed to participate in any of the repatriation benefits granted at the termination of the last war, although the services they rendered were, equal to those given by any other section which participated in that conflict. Heroic deeds were done, and many sacrifices made by members of the Merchant Service Marine. Generally, a navytrained mau was placed aboard a merchant ship, and handled the gun crew, which was made up of the ordinary ratings of the ship. They performed the work under his instructions, he being the expert. They took all the risks, they were sunk, taken prisoner, and towed behind submarines. Ever since, as they have been gradually getting older, they have broken down in health, but all our efforts to obtain pensions or burial money for them, have, up to date, failed. I hope that some of them will receive benefits under this bill. Those who are still able to go to sea will, I am sure get some. That, at least, is something that I am glad to know, but there is one thing that I regret to have to say. Whilst I thank the Government and the officers of the Navigation Department for giving us this bill, and am sure that the Minister will not attempt to cut out the amendments which the Senate made in it, and which make it a- first-class measure, bringing Australian conditions for seamen into line with the best anywhere in the world, I fear that the benefits to which seamen will be entitled under this measure, because of the nature of their industry, will be largely destroyed by the last piece of so-called social legislation passed by this chamber, known as the National Insurance Act. The benefits are given to the men under this bill because of the risks they take in going to sea. These are allowed for and taken into consideration when awards are made by judges in the arbitration courts, and the seamen receive them without making any direct contribution. However, under the other act to which I have referred, they will be called upon to make direct payments, and therefore will get none of these benefits free. They will get nothing at all under the other measure that they pay for, whilst they will receive them under this bill, so that, indirectly, they will be paying ls. 6d. a week for the advantages they derive from it.


Sir Earle Page - There are other sicknesses besides those mentioned in the bill.


Mr HOLLOWAY - The great bulk of them will be covered by it. I am pleased to be able to support the bill, and commend it to the House. I hope it will go through in it's present form. I wish to add my word- of praise to those responsible for it, both inside and outside of Parliament. I know that our navigation officers did a great deal by means of suggestions, knowing, as they did, the experiences of seamen, and what things ought and ought not to be covered. They have helped to make the bill what it is, and I am sure they will be just as glad as we who represent the seamen in this chamber are at the passage of a measure of this type.







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