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Friday, 30 September 1910
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Senator GUTHRIE (South Australia) . - I 3111 sure that if any honorable senator were looking for employment, he might say, " I can work with John Brown, but I should not like to work with William Jones."


Senator Vardon - That is very rough 011 William Jones.


Senator GUTHRIE - I know men in Adelaide who would not object to work for Senator Vardon, but who would strongly object to accepting employment with other printers. The reason is obvious. Some employers work under fair conditions which insure that their employes shall be reasonably comfortable - whilst others do not. Under this clause a seaman may say, " I want a ship. Such and such a vessel is engaged in a certain trade, the food on board is good, and the master is a man with whom I can work." Under these circum stances he may be prepared to accept employment upon that vessel. But he may further say, " Upon another ship the accommodation is miserable, the food is. bad, and I know that I should not be able to work with the master." Under these circumstances, ought he not to have the. right to decline to accept service on the latter vessel? The Merchant Shipping Act provides that a seaman's agreement shall be drawn in a certain form. That agreement specifies a certain ship, and sets out the port of destination. But in this clause we are asked to provide that a man shall sign articles with either the master or the owner of a vessel. Under it a seaman may sign an agreement to serve on an Inter-State vessel belonging to Archibald Currie and Company, and be immediately afterwards transferred to a ship trading to Calcutta.


Senator Stewart - Could that be done?


Senator GUTHRIE - I think so. Although the text of the clause affirms that the agreement shall be made with the owner or the master of a vessel,, the marginal note declares that it is an agreement to serve on more than one ship.


Senator Pearce - The marginal note is not the law.


Senator GUTHRIE - In the New South Wales coastal trade what I have stated is the law. There, however, a man cannot be compelled to transfer to another vessel until he has been in port twenty-four hours, during which period he may give notice of his intention to leave the vessel.


Senator Sayers - Could not another master be appointed to the same ship?


Senator GUTHRIE - Yes. The owner ought not to have discretionary power to transfer a seaman from one ship to another at his own sweet will.


Senator Henderson - The honorable senator's- amendment would not prevent that.


Senator GUTHRIE - In conjunction with other amendments which I intend to move it would. What would the honorable senator say if he were asked to enter into an agreement for three years to serve a colliery proprietor, who had a mine at Powlett River, another at Newcastle, and a third in Queensland, in any of those collieries ? Yet he thinks that a seaman ought to agree to serve upon one ship, and be liable to transfer to another at the caprice of the owner. I would further point out that when an agreement is made with the owner, the seaman has no redress if that agreement be not observed. Action has first to be taken against the master. The Government will be well advised if they agree to my amendment.


Senator St Ledger - There are some advantages in making the seaman enter into an agreement with the master only.


Senator GUTHRIE - In our coastal trade a seaman's agreement is for six months, and the owner or master has the right to give him. twenty-four hours' notice of his intention to discharge him at any time that the vessel is in the home port. Similarly the seaman has a right to give twenty-four hours' notice of his intention to leave the ship. But, under this clause, he may be prevented from giving that notice, because the moment his vessel arrives in the home port, he may be transferred to another vessel.


Senator Givens - If he signs articles with the owner, does he not agree to serve upon one ship?


Senator GUTHRIE - No. The intention of the clause is that he shall be liable to serve upon any ship belonging to the same owner. The agreement, I contend, ought to be made with the master.


Senator Givens - Suppose the master died whilst the ship was at sea?


Senator GUTHRIE - The agreement would then continue with the master who succeeded.


Senator Givens - Can a seaman exercise a choice of making an agreement with the master or with the owner?


Senator GUTHRIE - If a number of men went to the Shipping Office, and refused to sign on with the owner of a ship, it would be said that there was a strike. Only last week there was trouble on board a ship that arrived in Sydney. The whole of the firemen gave their legal notice and left. The news was at once widely distributed, and everybody said that a strike had taken place.


Senator St Ledger - What was the cause of their leaving?


Senator GUTHRIE - Overwork. The newspapers throughout Australia said that the ship was stuck up because the firemen had struck; and it was only by means of negotiations, that were fairly carried out, that a general strike in Australia was averted.


Senator Sayers - That is too simple altogether.


Senator GUTHRIE - The statement is quite true. Here was a ship laid up for want of firemen. According to the agreement between the owners and the seamen, the detention of a ship twenty-four hours means the termination of the agreement. We were just within two hours of that period when the dispute was settled, and a general maritime strike throughout Australia was averted. That is the position that will occur under this clause if it is not amended, because I feel certain that men will refuse to make agreements with owners which would permit them to be transferred from one ship to another.







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