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Friday, 30 September 1910
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Senator LYNCH (Western Australia) . - Although the opposition to this clause is by honorable senators who have had considerable experience at sea, that does not weigh very much with me, because I am satisfied that, in actual practice, the only thing that carries weight with an employer is a man's last discharge. He may have a sheaf of discharges three feet high, but a new employer will take notice only of his last discharge. Senator Gould quotes the Board of Trade on the necessity of keeping a record of a seaman's service. Unless a man were haunted with a suspicion through life that he would be charged with having been engaged in some questionable practice, such a record would be of no use to him.

Senator Chataway - The point is that a man's last discharge might be a bad one.

Senator LYNCH - In actual practice on the Australian coast, men are engaged for six months, and then re-engaged for another six months, and so on, and it would involve only unnecessary duplication of clerical work to issue fresh discharges at the close of each engagement.

Senator Lt Colonel Sir Albert Gould - A statement has to be sent to the superintendent with regard to the seaman, and it would be no additional trouble to give the discharge.

Senator Turley - It would only mean filling in a printed document.

Senator LYNCH - We should, where we can, avoid the unnecessary duplication of clerical work. When a seaman is leaving a ship, he is entitled to receive a certificate of discharge, but it would be perfectly useless to give him a discharge at the close of every six months' engagement on the same vessel.

Senator Turley - He pays for it.

Senator LYNCH - I do not know that he does. The shipping company pays the expenses.

Senator Turley - No; the seaman has always to pay fees in connexion with every new agreement.

Senator LYNCH - This would only add unnecessarily to the clerical work which would require to be performed ; that would, in turn, increase the shipping , fees, and might have some effect later on the seaman's wages. The only object a man could have in keeping discharges for all his service would be to prove that he had not been engaged in any unlawful act while he had been serving on board a ship. But, without such discharges, he could prove an alibi if he were charged with having done anything contrary to the law. I shall support the retention of this clause, which has been adopted in the New South Wales Act, because I believe it to be a useful innovation. I know that I am in this matter pitted against an honorable senator who has had a lengthy experience of seafaring, but I am able to say that, in my own experience of seven years, I found that notice was taken only of my last discharge. I repeat that what honorable senators suggest would only add to the fees charged for clerical work, and might end in a reduction of seamen's wages.

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