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Friday, 30 September 1910
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Senator GUTHRIE (South Australia) . - I move -

That the words " either owner or " be left out, with a view to insert "the" in lieu thereof.

I submit this amendment because I contend that a man ought to know exactly whom he is making an agreement with, and is to be responsible to. Large steam-ship companies, like the Howard Smith Company, the Huddart Parker Company, and the Adelaide Steam-ship Company, own thirty or forty steam-ships, which are employed in different trades. A man who is signing an agreement with a company of that kind does not know either who his owner is, or the trade he is to be employed in. When a man is about to make an agreement, he asks, " What trade is the ship employed in? What will be my chances of reaching my home sometimes during the tenure of the agreement ? " If, for instance, a man is domiciled in Melbourne with his wife and family, he will naturally say, " I shall ship in a vessel which will enable me to get home once a month, or, at least, once in two months." If a man has to sign the agreement with the owner of a vessel, and he can be transferred to another vessel of that owner, he may be sent to a place with no possibility of reaching his family during six months. It is absolutely unfair to ask a man to enter into an agreement, under the impression that he is signing on to a ship which will visit his home port, at any rate, occasionally. It will be quite sufficient if we provide that the agreement shall be made with the master, from whom he can ascertain the trade in which he is to be employed. In Australia all the steam-ship companies are limited liability companies virtually with managers. The owner of a ship is absolutely unknown to a man, and cannot be reached, if there is a breach of the agreement, whereas if the agreement were made with the master only, any breach could be remedied. The New South Wales Act contains a fairer provision than this clause, because it provides that a man must be twenty-four hours in port before he can be transferred from one ship to another, and if he does not like a proposed transfer he can give his notice and leave. This Bill contains no provision to enable a man to legally leave his ship. He can be transferred from one ship to another ship of a company, or from one trade to another trade, without being given an opportunity of legally leaving. In the Australian trade the agreement is generally made for six months, but at certain ports, generally the home port, where the articles are drawn up, a seaman has the right to give twenty-four hours' notice . to leave, and the master has the right to give twentyfour hours' notice to discharge a man. A ship, whose trade is virtually between Sydney and Melbourne, can arrive here to-day, and a man knows exactly when he will again have an ' opportunity to get to his home, but under this clause he could be transferred to a ship leaving Melbourne to trade on the north-west coast of Australia, or between Queensland ports, and he would have to fulfil his agreement before he could visit his home. All I ask is that the agreement shall be made with the master and for the ship in which he is to be employed, and not for all- the ships of an owner. I hope that the Minister will recognise the justice of my amendment by agreeing to it.

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