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Tuesday, 11 October 1910

Senator ST LEDGER (Queensland) . - Senator Gould gave notice of the following important amendment -

That the following words be added to paragraph a of sub-clause 1 : - " but in estimating the space available for the proper accommodation of seamen and apprentices there may be taken into account the space occupied by any mess-rooms, bath-rooms, or washing places appropriated to the use of seamen or apprentices in which they sleep, provided, however, that the space in any place appropriated to the uses of seamen or apprentices in which they sleep is not less than seventy-two cubic feet or twelve superficial feet for each seaman or apprentice."

This proposal was argued in the general discussion which took place on clause 136 of the Bill. It is identical in terms with section 64 of the Merchant Shipping Act of 1906. It also follows, verbatim I believe, the provision in the New Zealand

Shipping Act of 1909. A provision somewhat similar to this clause was contained in the New Zealand Act of 1906, but in 1909, for reasons which, I suppose, were sufficiently good, it was repealed and replaced with the provision of which my amendment is a copy. I would point out to the Minister that it is a slight concession to make. Although in some respects it may not be necessary to make this deduction with regard to the large ships which are engaged in the coasting trade, yet in the case of the limited coast-trade ships, as was pointed out in the discussion on clause 136, and also to some extent in the case of river and bay ships, the space for the accommodation of the seamen has to be carefully looked into, not merely from the point of view of convenience, but also from the point of view of the vessels' carrying capacity. If the Minister can see his way to grant this concession to the limited coasttrade ships, if not to the Australian coasttrade ships, I think that it will be welcomed by the shipping trade.

Senator Guthrie - It will not be welcomed by the men.

Senator ST LEDGER - I was going on to say that, in my opinion, the amendment if made will not be disagreeable to the seamen of Australia, provided that the matter is left to the discretion of the Minister, at any rate with regard to a limited number of the coast-trade ships. In a matter of this kind we have to consider two things, namely, the undesirableness of hampering trade by unduly limiting the carrying capacity of vessels, and the necessity for insuring that our seamen shall be properly treated. I do not share Senator Guthrie's fears that it would be disadvantageous to the seamen if a reduction were made in the accommodation proposed to be allocated to them.

Senator PEARCE(Western AustraliaMinister of Defence) [3-56l-- 1 would direct the attention of the Committee to the fact that Senator Gould intended to follow up this amendment with a proposal to leave out clause 138, under which relief will be provided to ship-owners. Under that provision, the Minister is empowered by order in writing to exempt a ship built before the commencement of this Act from the conditions laid down in paragraphs a and b of the clause now under consideration, if he be satisfied that the accommodation provided for officers and men is not insanitary, or that all such alterations have been made as are in his opinion necessary to make that accommodation sanitary. Senator Gould desires to make an arbitrary exemption in the case of ships registered in Australia before the commencement of the Act. It is not the intention of the Government to use this clause for the purpose of crippling our maritime industry, or of injuring it in any way. But there are a number of ships on the Australian coast upon which by means of structural alterations the desired accommodation can be provided. The amendment, if carried, would not render it obligatory on the part Qf the owners of those vessels to make such alterations. Consequently, I do not think that we should adopt it. All that we provide is that where a ship can conveniently be altered so as to provide the necessary accommodation, the alteration shall be made. If structural alterations cannot conveniently be made they will not be insisted upon. In that case the only condition which will be enforced will be that the accommodation shall be sanitary.

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