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Wednesday, 28 September 1910

Senator ST LEDGER (Queensland) . - I move -

That the word " fluently " be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the word " intelligibly."

Quite recently, an honorable member was addressing the other House, and, in his usual way, clearly enough, but with an Irish accent. After the conclusion of his speech, the Attorney -General told him that he did not understand one word he had said, inasmuch as he had spoken in a foreign language.

Senator de Largie - That was only said in a joke, though.

Senator ST LEDGER - It is very difficult to understand whether the insolence or the stupidity of an answer like that was the more marked. It is possible that the administration of this measure may pass into the hands of men who are -either insolent or stupid, or who do not understand what the Act may mean. I submit this amendment so that there shall be no mistake made. Neither in the New Zealand Act, nor in the Canadian Act, does such a provision find a place. But it is right that we should see that officers and seamen know the English language. The object of my amendment is not to prevent a test of their knowledge, but, whilst not going too far, to give reasonable elasticity. I hope that it will be accepted, because there may be a very grave distinction as to who does or who does not speak the English language "fluently." And, after all, what does it mean? The word "intelligibly" is capable of being easily understood; but we may all differ - and examiners too - as to the meaning of the word " fluently." It will meet the intention of the Bill, and of . the Government, to substitute the word " intelligibly " for a word which is most indefinite.

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