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Thursday, 3 December 1914

Senator MILLEN (New South Wales) . - I am somewhat disappointed that Senator Guthrie, who is so packed with knowledge of the matters coming within the scope of this Bill, should have expressed the opinion that its provisions will be futile if not pernicious-

Senator Guthrie - They will not be of much use. I do not say that they will be pernicious.

Senator MILLEN - The honorable senator expressed that view in reference to a portion of the Bill which is especially designed to further the saving of life in case of accidents at sea. It is that circumstance which makes me disappointed that he was -not able to welcome the measure in warmer terms than he did. As honorable senators are aware, that part of the Bill is the direct result of the Titanic disaster in the Atlantic. Following upon that disaster, it was felt, not only here, but throughout the civilized world, that the time had arrived for strengthening the provisions for life saving in cases of that kind. Out of that general thought there was evolved the idea of holding a Conference. To that Conference the late Government elected to send its representative. Bearing in mind the 'personnel of that Conference, the sources of information which it had at its disposal, and the high standing of many of the gentlemen upon it, whose names are familiar to most of us, I believe that we have obtained from it some indication of the lines upon which beneficial legislation might proceed.

Senator Guthrie - Over a particular trade that does not interest us.

Senator MILLEN - I cannot quite think that it is limited in that way, but, even if it were, I venture to say that we are interested in the safety of life even in that portion of the ocean in which, perhaps, our vessels do not travel with as much frequency as they do around our own coast. At that Conference it was decided to inquire, under five headings, into the steps which ought to be taken for the purpose of insuring the safely of human life at sea. I shall not enumerate those steps, except to say that, so far as I have been able to familiarize myself with the findings of the Conference, it did its work thoroughly. It has put before us certain proposals. Whether these will prove of as much benefit to Australia as they will prove to other portions of the world, does not seem to me to be the point that we ought to consider. The question which we have to consider is whether they make for the safety of human life at sea. I think that even Senator Guthrie will admit that they do that, if not around the coast of Australia, in the broad expanse of the Atlantic and other oceans. When that Conference was called, the late Government felt that Australia ought to be represented, and entertained the utmost hope that at it some scheme might be evolved which would prevent a repetition of the disaster which we all had in our minds at the time, or which would at least minimize the losses that would otherwise result from such catastrophes. I hope that Senator Guthrie has spoken rather in general terms than out of his mature judgment.

Senator Guthrie - This Bill provides for picking up ice in the North Atlantic, which our commerce never reaches.

Senator MILLEN - I think that the honorable senator is taking an entirely narrow view of the matter.

Senator Russell - It was put there because it involved less trouble to include it than to notify the other signatories to the Convention that we had omitted it.

Senator MILLEN - Just so. The whole purpose of this legislation is to minimize the risk of danger at sea, and to increase the prospects of successful rescue if an accident does occur. I cannot conceive that any one would seriously declare that that matter is immaterial and of no value.

Senator Guthrie - It is only the provision as to wireless which is good.

Senator MILLEN - Now we are getting a concession from the honorable senator, and possibly, before the debate ' is closed, he may feel disposed to make a further concession. At any rate, I am pleased to welcome the Bill as a member of the Ministry which was represented at the Conference. Believing that the Conference did good work, and believing, too, that it carried out the mission for which it was appointed, I will, as far as that portion of the Bill is concerned, not only welcome its appearance on the statute-book, but anticipate from its operation much more satisfactory results than Senator Guthrie is able to do.

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