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Friday, 4 December 1914


Senator GUTHRIE (South Australia) . - I have had no opportunity of seeing this amendment previously, and it is scarcely fair that it should be sprung upon us so suddenly. From my standpoint, a certificate of survey is a very serious matter. An absolutely new principle has been introduced into the Bill, because the measure follows Imperial legislation, which, up till now, has not been followed in Australia. In my own State, and in Victoria, the law formerly provided for a six months' survey of every vessel, large or small, irrespective of whether or not she carried passengers. But, under this Bill, a ship carrying less than twelve passengers will be exempt from survey. Sub-section (2) of section 204 of the Act provides -

In cases where the Minister is satisfied, in regard to any British steam-ship not registered in Australia, or any foreign steam-ship, that the requirements of this Act have been substantially complied with, he may -

(a)   dispense with any further survey of the steam-ship; and

(b)   give a certificate which shall have the same effect as if given upon survey under this Act.

Thus, a foreign ship may come in here, certain facts may be laid before the Minister, and he may issue a certificate which will have the same effect upon that vessel as would a certificate of survey. We must recollect that there is a considerable difference between inspection and survey. Inspection under the Act relates to lifesaving apparatus, whereas survey relates to the hulls of vessels.


Senator Russell - It is merely a formal matter which is involved.


Senator GUTHRIE - But formal matters have been the cause of an immense sacrifice of human life at sea. The alteration of the load-line on vessels trading in the North Atlantic was dealt with as a formal matter. That was passed in the Imperial Parliament without any debate, and yet it abolished the whole of the regulations regarding deck loading on ships sailing from Quebec to British ports with 12 or 14 feet of deck load.


Senator Russell - The amendment merely provides for the recognition of a higher certificate - the safety certificate.


Senator GUTHRIE - It is proposed to amend section 197 by inserting after the words " certificate of survey " the words "or a certificate under section 204 of the Act." Section 197 reads -

The master of a steam-ship shall not take her to sea, and the owner of a steam-ship shall not knowingly or unknowingly suffer or permit her to go to sea, unless a certificate of survey has been granted in respect of her and is in force.

Section 204 provides that a steam -ship in respect of which a certificate of survey granted by the Board of Trade of the United Kingdom has been issued shall, whilst that certificate remains in force, be exempt from survey. Here, to begin with, there is an absolute departure, because a certificate of the Board of Trade of the United Kingdom is a certificate granted to a ship carrying more than twelve passengers. There is no protection for the crew and passengers of a ship carrying less than twelve passengers. It is provided also by section 204 that -

A steam-ship in respect 6f which -

(6)   in the case of steam-ships carrying not more than twelve passengers a prescribed classification certificate granted by any corporation or asso ciation for the survey and registry of ships approved by the GovernorGeneral, may be exempt from survey under the Act. The French Veritas Bureau or Lloyds may give a ship a certificate, and the GovernorGeneral can accept it as sufficient to exempt the vessel from survey. Section 204 further provides -

In cases where the Minister is satisfied, in regard to any British steam-ship not registered in Australia, or any foreign steam-ship, that the requirements of this Act have been substantially complied with, he may -

(a)   dispense with any further survey of the ship; and

(6)   give a certificate which shall have the same effect as if given upon survey under this Act.

This gives the Minister enormous power.


Senator Lynch - Has not the Minister, by implication, the power to order a survey ?


Senator GUTHRIE - No ; the Minister, under this section, is given the power to dispense with a survey. It gives the Minister the power to say that, although a vessel has not been surveyed, she may go to sea. We shall shortly have a line of ships from Denmark trading to Australia that are perfectly strange to our authorities. They are fitted with Diesel engines, and, although they will be strange to our people, under this proposal, upon representations being made to the Minister that no survey is necessary, these ships may be permitted to remain on our coasts for twelve months without survey of any kind. We should have been given more time for the consideration of the amendment, which affects one of the most important provisions of the Act. One of the things to which I objected in connexion with the Imperial Conference was this proposal for doing away with a survey in Australia of foreign ships whether they carried passengers or not. My contention is that the lives of the crew and passengers of a vessel should be considered of equal importance whether the vessel carries 300 passengers or under twelve passengers.


Senator Needham - The honorable senator wants a survey of all ships.


Senator GUTHRIE - Yes, I do. If a ship only carries two men, their lives are valuable to some one, and it is our business as a Legislature to see that they are protected. When a Titanic is lost, there is a cry raised all over the world for legislation to prevent similar disasters; but I remind honorable senators of a circular which has been sent round during the last week, in which it is shown that, owing to an alteration made by the Board of Trade without the sanction of Parliament, at least 3,000 men were lost last year in small vessels. The Minister should give the Committee some information as to why this proposal is" considered necessary.







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