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Thursday, 13 October 1910
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Senator GUTHRIE (South Australia) . - I think the honorable senator is making a mistake. If this clause were inserted after clause 254, there would be nothing for the seamen to leave the ship for, because, under that clause, an Admiralty Court might have ordered the destruction of the dangerous goods. I take the case of a seaman signing articles in Great Britain on a ship voyaging to Australia via South Africa. There is no stipulation in the articles that the ship may carry dangerous cargo, but when she reaches South Africa she takes in a cargo including dangerous goods. I say that in that case it is right that any seaman should be in a position to say, "I am not prepared to risk my life on a vessel carrying dangerous goods, and I want my discharge." Of course, if, in the first instance, the seaman signed articles with a knowledge that dangerous goods might be carried on board the ship, he could not break his articles. In the Merchant Shipping Act dangerous goods include gunpowder, benzine, lucifer matches, nitro-glycerine, and any explosives within the meaning of the Explosives Act of 1885. If a man is asked to sign articles on a ship that is going to carry any of these dangerous goods, it is a matter of bargaining for wages. The seaman would say that if he was expected to run such risks he must get more wages. Senator Henderson has said that most of our supplies of explosives are brought here by sailing ships, but, as a matter of fact, most of the explosives imported now for the Broken Hill and other mines are brought from South Africa in a special steamer continuously employed for the purpose by the South African Explosives Company. We had reason to know that in Adelaide a few weeks ago, when the vessel, with 250 tons of dynamite on board, was found to be on fire, and a very little concussion would have resulted in a disastrous explosion. I think this clause is a good one, and that it is in its proper place in the Bill.

Senator St Ledger - I think it will be found that it will lead to trouble.

Senator GUTHRIE - There need be no trouble about it at all. For instance, a man's articles may stipulate for a voyage from London to Australia, Australia to New Zealand, and back to London. When the ship reaches Australia, instead of continuing the voyage to New Zealand, it may be proposed that she shall go to China, and the seaman has then the right to leave the ship, because she would not be going where he stipulated to go under his contract. The position would be exactly the same under this clause if a seaman had not agreed to serve on a vessel carrying explosives.

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