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Wednesday, 3 June 1942

Mr CHIFLEY (Macquarie) (Treasurer) . - I move -

That the bill bc now read u second time.

Navigation legislation has been several times before this House. Since the principal act was passed in 1912, there have been six amending acts and, generally, there has been found some difference of opinion as to the merits of the legislation proposed. On this occasion, however, I present a short bill of ten clauses dealing with the sections of the act, relating to courts of marine inquiry and I am sure that when the proposals are explained, they will receive unanimous support. Certain amendments which were found necessary or desirable before the. war have now become more pressing.

They will, if passed, save much loss of time by ships' officers who may be involved in collisions or other accidents, and may also avoid the necessity for delaying ships to obtain evidence. Both these factors are of great importance in present circumstances.

I should mention, in passing, that the department advises that many other amendments to this act are desirable, but the Government has not yet had an opportunity to examine them. Therefore, the matter which is most pressing is now brought forward in the bill before the House. Of the ten clauses, clause 6 is the most important. The practice followed in conducting courts of marine inquiry in Great Britain allows the court which inquires into the accident or casualty to take action then and there in regard to the certificate of competency of any officer adjudged to be guilty of any wrongful act, carelessness, &c. Here in Australia, it is necessary to convene a second court to consider a charge made against any officer, as a result of the first court's finding. This double procedure, the Government believes, should be avoided. It delays the completion of the proceedings and thus the chance of an officer getting back into employment, and is more expensive to both the officers concerned and the department. While an officer is awaiting the completion of the two inquiries, he must necessarily suffer some mental distress, and a procedure which will considerably shorten the period will, I am confident, commend itself to the House. By another clause of the hill, an appeal is given to the supreme court of a State, and this will ensure full justice to any one charged with an offence. The other amendments are more or less of a formal character. I propose to reserve further explanation for the committee stage.

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