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Friday, 18 June 1937

Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE (Western Australia) (Minister for External Affairs) .- I lay on the table* -

International Labour Organization of the League of Nations - Twenty-first and

Twenty-second (Maritime) Sessions, held at Geneva, October, 1936 -Reports of the Australian Delegates.

Draft Conventions and Recommendations adopted at -

(1)   Twenty-first (Maritime) Session, 6th to 24th October, 1936; and

(2)   Twenty-second (Maritime) Session, 22nd to 24th October, 1936. and move -

That the paper be printed.

The reports which I have tabled of the Australian delegates to the 21st and 22nd (Maritime) sessions of the International Labour Conference which were held at Geneva in October last, have appended to them the texts of the draft conventions and recommendations adopted. Representation at the International Labour Conference, as honorable senators are aware, consists of government and non-government delegates. The non-government delegates represent respectively the employers and the workers, and are chosen in agreement with the industrial organizations concerned. The Government delegate was Mr. L. F. East, I.S.O.; the employers' delegate, Mr. C. B. L. Filmer, D.S.C., and the workers' delegate, Mr. J. A. Tudehope. The Conference discusses matters on the agenda, and may by a twothirds majority, adopt international regulations in respect of social and industrial matters in the form of draft conventions, which are subsequently submitted to governments for consideration with a view to ratification and implementation.

The second session in October was necessary to comply with certain constitutional requirements in connexion with the revision of an existing convention.

The Conference was attended by the representatives of 83 States, of which 29 were maritime countries possessing in the aggregate 84 per cent, of the merchant shipping tonnage of the world. The United States of America and the Union of Soviet SocialistRepublics took part in the Conference for the first time.

The Conference adopted draft conventions concerning -

(1)   The eight-hour day principle under the three-watch system and providing for a systematic organization of work on board ship ;

(2)   The liability of the ship-owner in case of sickness, injury or death of seamen;

(3)   Sickness insurance for seamen;

(4)   Certificates of professional capacity for masters and officers; and

(5)   Annual holidays with pay.

In addition, the convention of 1920 concerning the minimum age for employment at sea was revised so as to raise the age from fourteen to fifteen years. Recommendations were adopted in regard to hours of work and manning, and seamen's welfare in port, whilst other resolutions called for the study generally of certain questions with a view to their being placed on the agenda of a future maritime session of the Conference.

It is claimed that the draft conventions and recommendations adopted at these maritime sessions of the Conference, combined with those adopted at the earlier maritime sessions in 1920, 1926 and 1929, now provide an international labour code for seamen in accordance with the spirit of the general regulations already accepted for workers as a whole. The Commonwealth Government has ratified all the earlier maritime conventions with the exception of one relating to the repatriation of seamen. The provisions of this particular convention are in practice being fully complied with by the Commonwealth. The law regarding the repatriation of seamen from places abroad, other than the United Kingdom, is contained in the British Merchant Shipping Act, and the United Kingdom has postponed ratification, pending ratification by at least six of the principal maritime powers, of which so far, only three have ratified the convention.

The provisions of three of the new conventions, namely those relating to the manning of ships, the liability of the shipowner towards sick arid injured seamen, and the establishment of minimum requirements of professional capacity for masters and officers, are already covered by the Commonwealth Navigation Act, but some minor amendments will be necessary to bring Australian legislation strictly in conformity with the conventions in question. The matters of hours of work and holidays with pay are covered by various industrial awards relative to officers and most, if not all, of the ratings employed on our coastal fleet. These provisions' are in many respects more liberal to seamen than are those of the new conventions.

The conventions and recommendations adopted at the 21st and 22nd sessions of the Conference have been referred to the several State governments and are now under consideration by the Commonwealth departments concerned.

Debate (on motion by Senator Collings) adjourned.

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