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Thursday, 19 November 1959

Mr BEAZLEY (Fremantle) .- I move -

At the end of the clause, add the following sub-clause: - " (2.) The provisions of the last preceding subsection apply notwithstanding the provisions of the Navigation Act 1912-1958 in relation to the attachment of wages due or accruing to a seaman.".

Clause 97 relates to the payment of maintenance and to the order of a court enforcing the payment of maintenance. Section 90(1.) of the Navigation Act provides -

As to wages due or accruing to a seaman or apprentice -

(a)   they shall not be subject to attachment or arrestment from any Court;

A lady in my constituency was deserted by her husband, who was a seaman. She had three children and she was very ill with cancer. He left Western Australia and obtained work on a ship sailing out of Sydney. He left her with a car unpaid for, that he had purchased - it was a debt upon her - and furniture unpaid for. She obtained a maintenance order from the court and, when an effort was made to enforce it, he refused to pay and it could not legally be enforced. That started correspondence between me and the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator Paltridge). In the course of the correspondence, the Minister said - . . it seems clear that an unscrupulous seaman can use the protection granted by section 90 of the Navigation Act to evade his responsibility for the maintenance of his family. Accordingly I shall have this particular section examined when the next series of amendments to the Navigation Act are being considered.

Those amendments have never been introduced, and it remains a fact that of the people of Australia, as far as I know - the Minister may say that there are other exceptions - only a seaman does not have to comply with the order of a court to pay maintenance. I cannot see why that category of workers should be privileged above others. In clause 97 of this bill, we are providing for the attachment of wages and for the payment of maintenance, and unless some such provision as this is inserted, this category of worker will still be immune from the actions of the court. I again direct attention to the fact that the Navigation Act says that a seaman's wages "shall not be subject to attachment or arrestment from any court ".

I understand that the section was included in the Navigation Act many years ago to meet situations in which seamen got drunk and signed away their rights to their wages, and so on, to women, who were not their wives, round the ports. They were then legally bound by documents that they had signed. The provision was designed to protect seamen against such fraudulent tricks but it clearly was not designed to enable them to evade their responsibility to maintain their families, and for that reason I have proposed the amendment now before the committee.

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