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Tuesday, 11 October 1910

Senator ST LEDGER (Queensland) . - I am inclined to vote with Senator Sayers when the amendment is put. Suppose that a " British citizen," whatever that term may mean, was engaged on a foreign ship, and deserted her in an Australian port, he could, under this clause, be put on board. But suppose that an Australian came to Australia on a foreign vessel for a round trip, he might desert her, and nothing could be done, except with his consent.

Senator Story - He could be tried for desertion.

Senator ST LEDGER - Yes : he could be tried and fined. Apparently, the clause forbids the Courts being used to put an Australian on to a foreign ship whose articles he has signed : but when a British citizen comes to Australia on a foreign ships and deserts her, the Minister will be bound to see that our Courts are used to put that man on board here. How is he going to justify the distinction which is made between an " Australian citizen " and a "British citizen"? What is the meaning of the former phrase as compared with the latter? It may be that every Australian citizen is a British citizen ; but it is clear, from the proviso, that every British citizen is not an Australian citizen. The phrase "Australian citizen" must be taken to be used in this provision in contradistinction to every other citizen or citizenship in the world. If the intention is that no distinction shall be made between "Australian citizenship" and- " British citizenship," what is the objection to Senator Sayers' amendment? What distinction is there in the mind of the Government between Australian citizenship and British citizenship? If there is no difference, on what grounds have their legal advisers come to that conclusion? But if there is a distinction between the two things, it means that, whilst the Minister will not enforce the law as against the Australian citizen who deserts a ship, he will enforce it against the British citizen who becomes a deserter. If there is an indignity or an injustice in enforcing the provision against an Australian citizen by reason of his birth, surely equal indignity and injustice will attach to its enforcement in the case of a person born in any part of the United Kingdom. The more the proviso is examined the more stupid and farcical and unjust does it appear to be. Why should Senator Ready, for example, simply because he is an Australian, be entitled to desert from a foreign ship in an Australian port, and to say, " I shall not go back to the ship ; you can fine me ^5 or is.," whilst Senator Sayers, simply because he happened to be born in the United Kingdom, could be put on board a foreign ship if he deserted from it in an Australian port?

Senator de Largie - Is that a fair illustration? Is Senator Sayers an Australian citizen or not?

Senator ST LEDGER - That is a point about which I want to be clear. Senator Sayers is both an Australian and a British citizen. He has his ' Australian citizenship within the jurisdiction of Australia, but he also has his British privileges as a native of Great Britain. A person born in Australia has the protection of Great Britain, and a citizenship of that country. If every Australian citizen is also a British citizen, why is the word " Australian " used exclusively here? If the term "Australian citizen " must of necessity imply a British citizen, then the shipping law will be in conflict with foreign law, because, under this measure you give to the Britisher a privilege which you do not give to the foreigner. If " Australian " includes a Britisher you encourage the desertion of

Australians and British citizens from foreign ships, and to that extent make a distinction against the shipping laws of foreign countries. If that contention is sound, then at once a conflict begins, and foreign countries will very probably draw the attention of the Imperial authorities to the differentiation. At first sight it seems a very proper thing for us Australians to do what we can to secure our people from possible injustice and indignity, but when I see that the distinction is not to apply . to Britishers-

Senator Chataway - It will be unjust to the foreigner.

Senator ST LEDGER - Very probably it will operate unjustly all round. I shall vote with Senator Sayers in order to accentuate what I regard as -worse than a farce, and that may be characterized as an international indiscretion fraught, it may be, with very serious consequences.

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