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Friday, 23 October 1914

Senator PEARCE (Western Australia) (Minister of Defence) .- The matter raised by Senator Guthrie comes under my Department. The ships captured from the German mercantile marine had in all cases left Germany, and the goods had been placed in them, prior to the outbreak of the war. As the vessels were either captured in our ports or when outward bound from our ports with Australian cargo destined for places overseas, it was obviously not in the interests of Australia that they should be allowed to remain in our ports and rust; and the Government determined to put them to use. But in order to do so it was necessary to dispose of the . cargo, because leaving the cargo in the holds or dumping it into the sea would be useless. The obvious thing to do was to take the cargo to where it was consigned - the action was not trading with the enemy, seeing that the cargo had been put on the ships before the war broke out or was thought of, at any rate, by the traders - but in order to do so steps had to be taken to provide the ships with crews, but not German crews; in all cases British crews were placed in them. The officers and crews have been placed on board through the Naval Board, and the vessels are being taken from port to port, and the cargoes discharged at the cost of the consignees.

Senator Findley - What has become of the original crews?

Senator PEARCE - They, with the officers, are now in prisons in Australia.

Senator Guthrie - And some of them are being paid £2 and £3 per week !

Senator PEARCE - Like many other wild rumours, that mentioned by the honorable senator is absolutely without foundation. These men are merely being detained by the Government, and are receiving no pay whatever.

Senator Guthrie - What is being paid for some of the officers ?

Senator PEARCE - It is costing 30s.. per week to keep each of the officers, and that is the only payment being made on their behalf. Honorable senators will seethat there was no trading with the enemy such as contemplated by the Bill, because the goods were purchased before the outbreak of war, and we simply took a commonsense way of making use of the ships,, instead of allowing them to rust in our harbors.

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