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Thursday, 8 July 1920

Mr GABB (Angus) . - I move -

That the word " one," line 25, be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the word " three."

The Minister (Mr. Greene) stated that it would be possible for seamen to refuse to travel by a particular boat offered for their conveyance. Whilst the Bill provides that shipwrecked seamen shall be entitled to conveyance, it does not provide that they shall be allowed to claim any particular kind of conveyance. The seamen cannot " sponge," as the Minister suggests, and I resent his insinuation that theywould attempt to do so. If the seamen refused the conveyance offered by the ship-owners, they would do so at the risk of their wages. The Minister has cast a slur upon the seamen by suggesting that, in order to draw pay for a couple of months, they would refuse the chance of a prompt return to their homes and loved ones. He apparently fears that an injustice might be done to the shipowners. Even if the men did " sponge " in the way he suggests, the extent of the loss to the companieswould be only a couple of months' wages for a few men. Such a loss would not be comparable with the injustice that would be inflicted upon men who were left for some weeks in a foreign country without pay. There is some truth in the statement sometimes made by honorable members on this side that the Government seem determined to uphold primarily the interests of property. Theyare now protecting the interests of the companies in opposition to the interests of the seamen.

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