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Wednesday, 28 September 1910

Senator LYNCH (Western Australia) . - I have a slight amendment to submit for the consideration of the Committee. Briefly its object is to give power to retire from active service a certificated master, or mate, or engineer, when he has reached the age of sixty years.

Senator Guthrie - Good Lord ! Make it twenty-one years.

Senator LYNCH - It may operate a little harshly in certain cases, but it is our duty to insure the safety of the travelling public as far as possible.

Senator Millen - Does the amendment put a compulsion upon a man to cease to act after he has reached sixty years of age?

Senator LYNCH - Yes. I move it, as follows : -

That the following words be added : - " Provided that no person holding a certificate or licence issued under the provisions of this Act, or accepted as lawful by this Act, shall, on reaching the age of sixty years, continue to carry out the duties which such certificate or licence might otherwise entitle the holder to perform.

Penalty : Fifty pounds."

Senator Millen - When the honorable senator is ten years older he will be ashamed of having moved it here.

Senator LYNCH - Quite so. \ dare say that it might come hard upon me if my lot happened to be cast at sea, but there is a greater purpose to be served, and that is to insure the safety of the travelling public. When it- is remembered that a ship is in charge of a captain or .1 mate, or an engineer/ that its safety depends entirely upon the ability with which an officer discharges his duties, and that the ability of the average man declines as he advances in years, I think it will be recognised" that it is proper and safe to fix 1 limit when we have the opportunity to do so. If it can count for anything in th,: discussion we have the precedent of the pilots who are employed in Port Phillip. Those who are licensed under the Act of 1904 are retired compulsorily when they reach the age of sixty years, whilst those who hold licences issued prior to that year are allowed to continue in service until they are sixty-five years old.

Senator Millen - Is there any superannuation for them?

Senator Guthrie - Yes; but that is provided by themselves. They are not civil servants, but independent pilots.

Senator LYNCH - There is no necessity to mention the names of persons who have been responsible for unfortunate occurrences, but we are all aware that one or two notable maritime calamities were distinctly traceable to the employment of men who had long passed the ordinary period of active service. When a person reaches the age of sixty years, it is about time that he gave place to a younger and more capable man. It has to be remembered that a seafaring life makes severe demands upon the nervous system, and when the nervous system of a person becomes impaired, it is certainly time for him, in the public interest, to make way for a younger man. The Defence Department makes no delicate distinctions in this matter. It compulsorily retires officers at ages varying from forty-eight to sixty-two, according to the rank they hold. There is always a delicacy about casting a duty of this kind upon a public department. People are actuated by the venerable superstition which prompts them to say, "Oh, he is an old man, let him go on for a little bit longer." An officer in charge of. a ship is responsible, not only for a valuable pieceof property, but for hundreds of human lives. He needs to be alert in every respect. No sentimental consideration should stand in the way of retiring a man whose physical condition is highly impaired by reason of advanced age.

Senator Millen - Why put a man aside who is fit for his work merely because he is sixty years of age? The clause gives ample power to put an officer aside at any age if he is unfit.

Senator LYNCH - I admit that the amendment would operate arbitrarily in many cases, but, nevertheless, I am of opinion that a man following a seafaring life when he reaches the age of sixty has attained a period when his usefulness is impaired. If we allow him to continue indefinitely, we do not act fairly by the travelling public. I have been told that two nautical calamities have occurred in Australian waters owing directly to the employment of men who ought long before to have been retired. In the Defence Department a captain who reaches the age of forty-eight is compelled to retire, even though he may still be an excellent captain.

Senator Pearce - If he is still a captain at forty-eight, that is a good indication that he ought to be retired.

Senator LYNCH - My object is to insure that ships engaged in the Australian trade shall be under the command of men in the prime of life, and in perfect health.

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