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Friday, 30 September 1910
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Senator SAYERS (Queensland) . - I believe that the clause is definite, and it ought to be definite. I can mention a case in point. I was wrecked on the Dacca in the Red Sea, and though some of the men and passengers worked like Trojans on the occasion, and no one could have done better, a portion of the crew took a boat, ripped up passengers' luggage, and rowed away, leaving the rest of the crew and passengers to their fate, whatever it might be. Could any punishment be too great for such men?

Senator Guthrie - They should be punished criminally.

Senator SAYERS - Such men should be punished in every possible way. I believe the men I refer to were afterwards tried before the British Consul and got three months' imprisonment each in a gaol at Suez or Port Said.

Senator Lynch - That was far too light a punishment.

Senator SAYERS - I agree with the honorable senator. Such men are not deserving of the name of men. I think that the clause might provide for very much more severe punishment for men -who will not do their utmost to save the lives of people at a wreck.

Senator GUTHRIE(South Australia) £2.55]. - I am not defending men who will not do their utmost to save life where necessary. I should have no objection to such men being punished criminally. I object that under this clause. a man who may be charged with having failed to do his utmost at the time of a wreck may be called upon to forfeit ,=£50 or £60 due to him in wages. I point out to honorable senators that a ship might come into Melbourne that had been round the world. Some of her crew might have ^50 or £60 due to each of them in wages. Others might join in Melbourne, and as soon as the vessel got outside the Heads again she might be wrecked. Under this clause there would be no penalty upon those who had just joined the vessel in Melbourne, whilst other members of the crew might lose £50 or £40 in wages. I should be prepared to support a proposal for a criminal prosecution of men under the circumstances stated, but such conduct as is dealt with in the clause should not be a bar to a claim for wages. I ask who would benefit by this provision? I take it that the ship-owners would stick to the money, though after the ship was wrecked they would have nothing to do with it, and it would be in the hands of the underwriters. They could keep wages forfeited in this way as a plum. I can mention a case that occurred within half-a mile of my own house. A ship came to the powder buoys at Port Adelaide with 200 or 30c tons of dynamite on board stowed close to a cabin that was discovered to be on fire. The alarm was so great that the police interfered with the church services and turned the people out of all the churches in Port Adelaide to avoid the possible effects of an explosion. The crew of the vessel tried to put out the fire, but were unable to do so with the equipment on board.

Senator Sayers - They did their utmost.

Senator GUTHRIE - The honorable senator might let me finish the story. He may say that they did their utmost, but they did not succeed in putting out the fire, and the fire brigade came down the river with a float, got alongside the vessel and put the fire out, but the men when they got to Sydney were all dismissed from the ship for leaving it. Under this clause a man may be charged with not having done his utmost at the time of a wreck, and he would have to prove before a Court that he had done his utmost.

Senator St Ledger - No, it would be exactly the other way about.

Senator GUTHRIE - What does that matter? There is a big question involved in this clause. ' I do not know whether Senator St. Ledger as a lawyer has looked into the matter, but it is a debatable question whether a seaman is entitled to wages or not after a wreck takes place.

Senator St Ledger - He is entitled to salvage in addition to wages.

Senator GUTHRIE - Under the clause, the wages of a seaman will cease whenever his ship is lost. If he goes to work after that event, it will be for somebody other than the owner, and outside his agreement. Honorable senators want to provide that if, after the agreement is ended, a seaman does not exert himself to save the ship's stores, and equipment, he shall forfeit all the wages which he has earned.

Senator Sayers - The lives of people may depend upon that.

Senator GUTHRIE - They may not. The clause does not refer to the lives of people, but to stores, equipment, and crew.

Senator Sayers - People will want the stores to live on.

Senator GUTHRIE - The seaman is not paid for that. A passenger is just as necessary as a member of the crew to save the stores and equipment. What punishment is it proposed to inflict upon a passenger who does not exert himself?

Senator Chataway - He paid for the right to travel in the ship, but the seaman is paid for working her.

Senator GUTHRIE - He is only paid while he works.

Senator St Ledger - The honorable senator is pleading for cowards.

Senator GUTHRIE - No; I am pleading for justice.

Senator Chataway - It is obvious that once a ship is lost, a seaman cannot save anything.

Senator GUTHRIE - But a ship may not be entirely lost. If she is in such a position that she is abandoned, then she is lost.

Senator Chataway - If a ship is abandoned, people cannot be expected to go back.

Senator GUTHRIE - Under this clause they are expected to go back. What does the " loss " of a ship mean ? A ship may be on the top of a rock, but she is lost. The Australia, for example, was lost at Port Phillip Heads, but for months could be seen all the time.

Senator ALBERT GOULD (NEW SOUTH WALES) -Colonel Cameron. - Would not " wrecked " be the correct term to use?

Senator GUTHRIE - Whether a ship is wrecked or lost, under this clause the crew are required to exert themselves to the utmost, and, if they do not, they are to be punished. Who will be the judge of the danger which a crew are called uponto face? It will not be the seaman. He is not to be allowed to have a soul of his own, but is expected to obey every command. Even though a man may be running into certain danger and be conscious of it, honorable senators want to enact that if he disobeys, the command, he shall forfeit all the money which he has earned. As a matter of fairness, we should not enact such a provision. If honorable senators want to provide that a man who refused to render assistance in a case of shipwreck or loss shall be imprisoned or hanged, I am prepared to go to that length. But I am not prepared to bar a man's claim to his wages, the loss of which might not affect him, but would affect his wife and family. I hope that a clear definition will be made.

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