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Friday, 30 September 1910
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Senator ST LEDGER (Queensland) . - I wish to point out to Senator Guthrie that before an owner or master can deprive a man of his wages, the latter has to show that the man did not exert himself to the utmost. There is no injustice done in the matter, because prima facie his claim for wages holds good in the case of a wreck or the loss of the ship. Senator Guthrie says that, under the clause, a man may be asked to tread hot plates, or to do something of that sort. That is not a matter of exertion, but a matter of courage. If strong evidence is given that a seaman, hid himself when he ought to have been looking after the sails, or that an engineer hid himself when he ought to have been at his post, and that he could not be found when he was wanted, does the honorable senator contend that a man who has disobeyed not only the law of the land, but the law of humanity, ought not to be deprived of his wages ? The lien on a seaman's wages is one of the strongest and most easily enforced liens which any workman has.

Senator Guthrie - When it is over


Senator ST LEDGER - He has his claim all the time.

Senator Guthrie - What claim has he after the ship is lost?

Senator ST LEDGER - He has a double claim, namely, a claim against the master, and a claim against the owner all the time, and his lien can never be got rid of. The lien on the seaman's wages is strong in every Act.

Senator de Largie - And particularly strong in this Bill.

Senator ST LEDGER - Yes. With regard to the protection of a seaman's wages, the Bill provides for summary procedure at every port which he visits. What more can we give him?

Senator Givens - If the vessel is lost or wrecked, what becomes of his lien ?

Senator ST LEDGER - He has his lien all the time in every Court of law.

Senator Givens - But suppose that the owner is out of the country?

Senator ST LEDGER - We cannot provide for every case which can be imagined, but a seaman has his claim against the owner, the master, and the executors. He has every possible lien to enforce his right to wages up to a certain point.

Senator Guthrie - Up to the time the vessel is lost.

Senator ST LEDGER - In a case of shipwreck or total loss, before a man can be deprived of his wages and lien, it must be shown affirmatively that he behaved as a coward. When that fact is shown in a Court of law, why should he not be deprived of the wages accruing due?' As Senator Pearce has pointed out, men who are engaged in foreign-trade ships draw a large proportion of their wages.

Senator Guthrie - They have not in the past.

Senator ST LEDGER - The Bill contains ample provision for a seaman to allot his wages, or to direct where or how they shall be paid. He is drawing upon them all the time. This clause only refers to the wages accruing due at the time, and not to the wages which he has earned, because they may be appropriated to a large extent. Only the amount accruing due, which in many cases is remarkably small, is in jeopardy under the clause. It will only be in jeopardy when a man has not exerted himself, as he ought to have done on the ship in a case of wreck, but before he can be deprived of that amount, the owner or master must go into a Court and prove affirmatively that he was a dastardly coward. Surely when that onus is thrown upon the master or the owner of a vessel, we ought to declare that a seaman who does not exert himself to the utmost in time of emergency shall not be able to enforce his claim for any wages which may be due to him.

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