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Thursday, 13 October 1910
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Senator SAYERS (Queensland) . - I understood Senator Guthrie to say that if a ship left England for Australia, and calling at South Africa, took in a cargo, including explosives, the seamen would be able to walk ashore. Surely the honorable senator does not think that our law would apply in that case? Under this provision the seamen could only leave the ship when it arrived in Australia. If we pass laws like this, we shall be very likely to get into trouble. I say that a Bill containing such a provision is likely to be reserved for the Royal assent. If we provide that seamen engaging on a British ship may, on its arrival in Australia, leave the vessel for one pretext and another, the Imperial authorities will veto the measure.

Senator Guthrie - It would not be a pretext. It would be because of a breach of contract.

Senator SAYERS - The honorable senator quoted the case of a British ship calling at South Africa, and taking in explosives there. But the seamen could not leave that ship in South Africa for that reason. This provision would not be recognised there.

Senator Guthrie - The South African law would recognise the terms of a contract.

Senator SAYERS - I admit that, under this clause, if the ship proceeded to Australia, after taking in explosives at Cape Town, the seamen would be able to walk ashore.

Senator Guthrie - Not walk ashore. They would be able to ask that they should be legally discharged.

Senator SAYERS - But I am supposing a case ot an agreement made outside of Australia, and no law that we can ,passwould make that agreement null and void. We should be careful not to overreach ourselves by trying to do too much.

Senator Pearce - We have already passed a similar provision in connexion with unseaworthy ships.

Sen'ator SAYERS.- This provision is not included in the Merchant Shipping Act.

Senator Pearce - No ; but a similar provision regarding unseaworthy ships is contained in that Act.

Senator SAYERS - If men sign articles on a ship leaving London, Dublin, Cork, Glasgow, or any other port in the United Kingdom, does the Minister mean to tell me that, immediately she arrives at an Australian port, the crew can break their articles under such a provision as this, and that nothing will be said about it?

Senator Pearce - In the case of a foreign ship, no.

Senator SAYERS - I cannot understand the contention that men engaged in the Old Country to serve on a British ship may, when they reach Australia, leave the ship because a provision which is not to be found in the Merchant Shipping Act has not been complied with.

Senator Pearce - If the honorable senator will look at clause 189, he will see that it provides that the whole of this part of the Bill shall apply to all ships, British or foreign.

Senator SAYERS - Does the Minister think that that is right?

Senator Pearce - Why not?

Senator SAYERS - A minute ago, the honorable senator said that the clause would not apply to a foreign ship.

Senator Pearce - I was wrong; but even Jove nods.

Senator SAYERS - I do not find fault with the honorable senator for making a mistake, because we all make mistakes. I take the case of a German ship loading at Hamburg, a port from which a great quantity of dynamite, lithofracteur, and other explosives used in mining, is exported. The crew sign articles at Hamburg for a voyage to Australian ports, and does the Minister mean to tell me that, under our law, they would be able to break their agreements if explosives were carried on the ship? If that be so, we may find Australian ships, when they get outside of Australian waters, taken in hand by the authorities of some foreign nation that will take no notice of our law. What are we to do in such a case, are we to declare war ? This kind of legislation is only inviting retaliation by other nations. I wish to see the Bill pass in such a way that there will be no difficulty in securing the Royal assent to it. If the Minister thinks this clause satisfactory, I shall not divide the Committee upon it; but the Government must accept the responsibility for it.

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