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Friday, 30 September 1910
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Senator GUTHRIE (South Australia) . - I agree with the Minister that it is wise to leave the amount of the fees to be settled by regulation. I am aware that in many State Acts, more especially where lawyers are concerned, the fees are fixed. In our Local Courts Act, for instance, the fees are laid down. I do not think that we ought to hamper this measure by putting in too many schedules. A large number of things have to be paid for at the Mercantile Marine Office, though not amounting to much. A seaman has to go there seven or eight times during a half-year, or a dozen times in a year, to be engaged and discharged through no fault of his own, but simply through the vessel being laid up or through being transferred from one ship to another. It will be a very heavy tax upon him if he has to pay fees every time. In every other case when a man is entering into an agreement the employer supplies the stationery and the pen and ink. Why should not the employer of a seaman pay for the making of the agreement? There is no employe who is taxed to the same extent as is the seaman through the Shipping Office. He has to pay for shipping and for being discharged.

Senator Stewart - What are the fees?

Senator GUTHRIE - The charge to the seaman is1s. for shipping, and1s. for discharging, and his payments may amount to 24s. or 30s. a year.

Senator Long - What is the necessity for making a charge at all?

Senator GUTHRIE - That is what I want to know. When Senator St. Ledger's amendment is disposed of, I shall move the amendment I have indicated. I recognise that the Mercantile Marine Office ought to earn a revenue sufficient to meet the expenditure, but it ought to be provided by those who employ the men. At present the ship-owner is responsible for the payment of the fees, but permission is given to him to deduct a prescribed amount out of the seaman's wages.

Senator Lt.-Colonel Sir ALBERTGOULD (New South Wales) [11.43].- The Minister has urged the desirability of dealing with a matter of this kind by regulation, but he overlooks to a certain extent the very strong objection which has always been taken to legislation by regulation. It is a mistake to give to the Executive too much power in that regard. When the fees payable are set forth in a schedule, any one who gets a copy of the Act can see what they are. But when it is provided that the fees payable are such as may be prescribed by regulation, it is necessary for a person to get, not only a copy of the Act, but also a copy of the regulations. Unfortunately, the regulations made under an Act are never bound up with the Act in the statute-book. Of course, one may get a copy of an Act with the regulations attached, but there is no certainty as to how long they will remain in force. I might, for instance, buy a copy of this measure after it is enacted, with the regulations attached, but, in the course of twelve months, they might be replaced by others.

Senator Stewart - In one month.

Senator Lt Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD - Yes. Even in one month a change may be made. I would further point out that the assent of both branches of the Legislature must be obtained to any Statute, whereas either branch of it may disagree with a regulation, in which case such regulation can have no effect. Whilst I recognise that to some extent it is necessary to legislate by regulation, we ought to avoid legislation in that way as far as possible. Under this Bill we know very well that certain fees will have to be paid. If we know the probable amount of the fees, why should we not specify them in the Bill ? They would then remain operative until the Parliament in its wisdom saw fit to alter them. The Minister has stated that we are laying down the practice of dealing with matters by regulation. I say that we should leave nothing to regulation which can reasonably be effected by Statute.

Senator Pearce - Please quote me correctly. I said that in the matter of fees we had adopted the practice of dealing with them by regulation.

Senator Lt Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD - I have no wish to misrepresent the Minister of Defence, and I accept his statement with the fullest confidence. But I say that we can reasonably determine the amount of these fees. At this stage it is better to specify them by Statute than by regulations which may be repealed and re-enacted from time to time.

Senator Guthrie - All fees payable under the Merchant Shipping Act are prescribed by regulation.

Senator Lt Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD - That may be so, but it is undesirable that we should do more by regulation than is absolutely necessary, and yet Act after Act is passed by this Par liament leaving a good deal to be done by regulation. We all know that one Ministry may regard a matter from a certain stand-point, and that its successors may regard it from an entirely different standpoint, with the result that the desired alteration is effected by regulation.

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