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Tuesday, 11 October 1910

Senator PEARCE (Western AustraliaMinister of Defence) . - The question of survey has been the subject of considerable correspondence between the Board of Trade and the Commonwealth Government.: The clause has been practically agreed to by the Board of Trade, though not without some demur. I do not intend to quote the whole of the correspondence - it will suffice if I quote that portion of it which brings the matter to a conclusion. On 27th November, 1908, the Secretary of State for the Colonies, in reply to a letter from the Deakin Government, cabled -

With reference to your telegram of 28th October, Navigation Bill, Board of Trade are most anxious to meet your Government as far as possible. If your Ministers consider it essential to insist on extending compulsory survey to all vessels, they earnestly trust that Act will be administered in same spirit as New South Wales and Victorian Acts, which, so far as they are aware, have not caused serious ground for complaint.

The Fisher Government, on 23rd December, 1908, replied as follows : -

2.   . . . Allusion has been previously made to the fact that a power, similar to that the inclusion of which in the Commonwealth Bill was objected to, has existed for years in the New South Wales and Victorian Acts, and it is now admitted that the exercise of such power, has, so far, " not caused serious ground of complaint." As there is no reason for assuming that Federal administration will not be as considerate as that of the States mentioned, it is difficult to understand the reason for the suggestion to take a test case to the Court. Had cases of hardship occurred, or had there been any doubt as to the legal position of the matter, it might reasonably have been expected that ship-owners would not have waited till now to appeal to the Courts.

3.   Still, should a case occur in which a shipowner desires to test the constitutional validity of the clause in question, the Government would, of course, offer noobjection to his claims being speedily brought before the High Court for decision.

4.   With regard to the statement in the telegram that certain vessels are " exempted " from survey in Great Britain, my colleague points out that that statement may be capable of misunderstanding. The ships referred to are " exempted " because they are not included in the scope of the Imperial Act, which places them in a somewhat different position from that which they would occupy if they were specially exempted from actual reference. If such reference existed, the Bill would be in direct opposition to the Imperial Act, but, as it is, it merely attaches a liability to a British ship whilst in Australian jurisdiction only, and does not directly contravene any Imperial legislation.

On 1 2th February, 1909, the Secretary of State replied as follows: -

3.   With regard to paragraphs 2 to 4 of Mr. Fisher's minute, I have to request that you will explain to your Ministers that His Majesty's Government fully recognise that under the administration of the Commonwealth it is not likely that any inconsiderate treatment will be meted out to British vessels. As, however, the matter of survey is one on which there is strong feeling among the ship-owners in this country, His Majesty's Government asked in my telegram of 27th of November, for the assurance which your Ministers have now readily given, that if any ship-owner is advised that the provisions as to survey in the Commonwealth Navigation Bill when passed into law, are, in effect, repugnant to the provisions of the Imperial Merchant Shipping legislation, no technical difficulties will be placed in the way of the matter being taken before the High Court of the Commonwealth.

4.   Your Ministers will recognise that the legal question involved is whether or not the effect of the Imperial legislation is to exempt from surrey vessels not required to be surveyed under the Imperial Act, and that this question cannot tie considered as being altogether free from loubt.

Section 34 of the New South Wales Act of 1 90 1 reads - (1.) The owner of every steam-ship constructed or intended to carry passengers-, shall, during the actual employment of such ship in that capacity, cause it to be surveyed twice at least in every year, at such convenient times as the superintendent directs, by a shipwright surveyor and by an engineer surveyor, appointed under this Act.

Section 138 of the Victorian Act of 1890 provides -

Every steam-ship with non-condensing engines shall be surveyed once at least in every six months, and every other steam-ship shall be surveyed once at the least in every year in the manner hereinafter mentioned, except foreigngoing steam-ships trading between any port in Victoria and any port in Europe or America not carrying passengers or carrying passengers not exceeding twelve in number.

These clauses are not identical with the clause in the Bill, but they establish the fact that in the legislation which is referred to in the Board of Trade's circular to the Commonwealth Government a similar provision was embodied as regards the period of survey. I would further remind the Committee that the proposed survey is to apply only to steamers more than five years old, and that it will be subject to the power of the Minister to extend the term. Senator St. Ledger appears to think that the survey of ships is a very costly matter. But I find that in New Zealand the fees charged for the survey of vessels are as follow. - For ships not exceeding 20 tons register in respect of a certificate issued for six months, £110s., and in respect of a certificate issued for over six months and not exceeding twelve months, £3. They vary from these amounts up to a maximum fee in respect of a certificate issued for six months of £10, and in respect of a certificate issued for more than six months but not exceeding twelve months, of £20.

Senator Sayers - Would not a ship require to be docked?

Senator PEARCE - I do not think so. Under the Merchant Shipping Act the fees charged for survey vary as follow : - For passenger steamers not exceeding 100 tons, £4 ; exceeding 100 tons and not exceeding 300 tons, £6 ; exceeding 300 tons and not exceeding 600 tons, £8 ; and for every additional 300 tons above 600 tons, an additional £2. The maximum fees for. survey of emigrant ships are : - For an ordinary survey of a ship, and of her equipments, accommodation, stores, light, ventilation, sanitary arrangements, and medical stores, £10; for a special survey, £15.

Senator St Ledger - The fee for survey is small; but there are docking and harbor dues to be considered.

Senator PEARCE - Under these circumstances it cannot be argued that the clause will inflict any very great hardship, and the only point which the Board of Trade had in its mind was as to whether we could apply it to British ship-owners. In reply, the Commonwealth Government has intimated that it will throw no obstacle in the way of any British ship-owner stating a test case before the High Court.

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