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Tuesday, 23 March 1965
Page: 47


Senator MURPHY (New South Wales) . - This is a Bill to amend the Navigation Act. After consultation with the industrial movement including the great maritime unions, the Opposition has no objection to the Bill. The measure deals with various technical matters, the substance of each of which has been stated by the Minister for Defence (Senator Paltridge). There is nothing I can usefully add. The navigation laws of Australia do not provide - but in my opinion should provide - for a publicly owned national shipping line to carry our overseas trade. That line should be operated and manned by Australian seamen. Our laws should discourage or prohibit the use of flags of convenience. How can one justify the use of ships which evade compliance with the minimum requirements established by international conventions? Not only the Opposition but also the Waterside Workers Federation and other maritime unions have constantly reminded the Government and the people of the evils associated with flags of convenience.

It is pleasing to see that the Government is considering its international obligations and the discharge of those obligations. Many international conventions are directed towards modernising the laws of the sea and providing for the safety and legal rights of passengers and seamen and for minimum requirements. The Government has fallen down badly in failing to ratify such conventions and, worse, in failing to implement them even when ratified. However, these are general deficiencies in the law and in this Government's administration. They do not constitute any specific objection to this legislation. Therefore, the Opposition does not oppose the Bill.

Senator KENDALL(Queensland) [4.28J. - This is a Bill to amend the Navigation Act in quite a number of minor ways. So far as I can see, it will make very little difference to the actual running of ships or anything of that sort. Previously, when the Australian Coastal Shipping Commission had surplus money and wished to invest it, the Commission could either take out Commonwealth securities or place the money on fixed deposit with a bank. Now, such money may be deposited with the Reserve Bank of Australia. It is believed that a more profitable deal can be made by placing the money with the Reserve Bank than by investing it under the former conditions. The provision that the Commission may have £5 million on overdraft has not been altered. These matters of high finance are a little above my head but I cannot see any reason why they should cause any worry to sailors or shipping companies. This is entirely a matter for the Commission.

As I have pointed out on a number of occasions in the Senate, the Navigation Act itself still remains one of the most difficult of our Acts. It has something like 425 sections and it is very difficult for other than legal people to find out exactly what some of the legal phraseology in the Act really means.

Soon after my election to this Senate, I set out a scheme for national service in the merchant marine of Australia. This could be worked along the same lines as those adopted by the Royal Australian Navy and the Royal Australian Air Force. By this means we could build up gradually a national mercantile marine, as we have been doing, but in a different way. Young fellows could join the mercantile marine as they now join the Royal Australian Navy. They would go through apprenticeships or cadetships and after passing vatious examinations could become officers or engineers in the Australian mercantile marine.

After 12 years of talking on this matter, 1 congratulate the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr. Freeth) on the fact that the Government has now brought out a comprehensive scheme for young fellows to be engaged and serve in the Australian National Line. They may now become part and parcel of a line which over the years has built up a very fine esprit de corps. This is seen in the fine magazine that is produced by the National Line every month. The new scheme follows very much along the lines I have advocated for 12, 14 or 15 years in this chamber.

In 1950, soon after I was first elected to the Senate, I made a comprehensive suggestion of what could be done to save the wastage, of senior naval reserve officers. Every convoy that floated in wartime had a senior naval reserve officer in charge. There was absolutely no need for this. In the general run of a convoy, a ship's master is chosen to act as commodore, and the other masters in the convoy are responsible to him. There is no reason at all why these convoys should have needed senior naval reserve officers who could have been away in fighting ships. The proper course - and this could still be followed in future - would be to give masters in the mercantile marine all the necessary training for say 28 days in the reserve. Then if a war broke out - and God forbid that it should - and we had to make use of the convoy system again, every master in command of a ship would have the necessary qualifications to take over as commodore of a convoy. The other senior men could then be utilised in fighting ships. These were some of the things that I mentioned at that time.

I congratulate the Minister now upon having set up a scheme for apprentices. Under this scheme I believe it is laid down that apprentices have two month's training ashore in the Sydney Technical College. They then go to sea for 12 months and then go back for study. Eventually, they get their four years in, the training having been ashore and afloat, somewhat on the lines that are followed at the Southampton University in England, which has a very similar scheme. As I said earlier, it is of advantage to keep these boys with the one line, that is a national line, rather than have them leaving one company to go to another company where they start at the bottom, as is done under the present system. I know from personal experience that that sort of thing has been happening for very many years.

Over the years I have expressed the opinion that some day we would have a national shipping line which would operate not only on our own coast but throughout the world. I understand that the keels of two 47,000 ton tankers are now being laid. If we in Australia can do that, we could build not only cargo ships but also passenger ships that would be able to provide a good service on overseas routes. In my opinion, the time is fast approaching when the Government will have to consider seriously building up our National Line with ships of which our sailors would be proud. I believe that in a number of ways the Government would find the venture to be quite profitable. We cannot rely indefinitely on other nations to provide us with the means of overseas transport.

I again bring to the notice of the Government the fact that Australia still has no Antarctic vessel of her own. Senator Laught has backed me up on this proposal for a number of years. It seems ridiculous to me, as a sailor, that we should have to charter ships, the total cost of which chartering by now must be much more than £li million. That sum would have enabled us to build a ship for service in the Antarctic and would have given us an opportunity to train our own men, who now have very little opportunity to serve under Antarctic conditions. If the two or three ships that we charter suddenly became unavailable, we would not have anything in which to go down to the Antarctic. So I ask the Government to have another look at the matter and to see whether something can be done about it. I am sure that other honorable senators on this side of the chamber agree with me.

As one who has some knowledge of the sea, I was horrified at being reminded by Senator Murphy of the use of ships that fly flags of convenience. I recall the long debate we had in this place seven or eight years ago on the Convention on Safety of Life at Sea. The proposals that were advanced in that Convention were good. Sailors themselves, and other people in my position, said that they would work. I spoke for about an hour during that debate, that being more or less a record for one of my poor speaking ability. I am horrified when

I think of some of the ships that are operating to Australia under the flags of other countries and which are not obliged to obey the rules of that Convention. I do not know how long that practice will be allowed to continue. I presume it boils down to how much it costs to bring migrants to Australia in ships that comply with the rules of the Convention. It must be much cheaper to charter ships that fly flags of convenience than to charter ships that have to conform to the Convention, to which we in Australia have subscribed.


Senator Hannaford - Do they use any of those ships for migrants?







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