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Tuesday, 11 October 1910

Senator CHATAWAY (Queensland) - - Senator. Guthrie has thrown an entirely new light on this proviso. When I first objected to an Australian seaman who had signed articles on a foreign vessel, being placed in a better position than the other members of the crew, I did so from a sense of justice. But I now find that this clause is intended to be a portion of an anti-emigration Act. Senator Guthrie has told us that it is intended to prevent Australians from escaping from- Australia.

Senator Guthrie - Do not twist my words.

Senator CHATAWAY - That is the statement which the honorable senator made. I took a note of his very words.

Senator Guthrie - The honorable senator's pencil runs hard.

Senator CHATAWAY - That is what the honorable senator said. He declared that we were going to allow Australian seamen an opportunity to escape from this country if they desired to do so. He then quoted French maritime law quite forgetful of the fact that that country is under a system of conscription. No man is at liberty to leave France unless he pan prove that he has served his time in the army or unless he can be brought back at a moment's notice to complete it. If an Australian seaman at Cape Town, Durban, or any other port outside the Commonwealth deliberately signs an agreement for a round voyage, I do say that to allow him to step ashore on reaching a Commonwealth port,, and thus to flout his agreement, whilst compelling other members of the crew to return to their vessel, is manifestly unjust. To say that only some civil penalty shall . be inflicted upon him-

Senator Guthrie - His wages and effects may be forfeited.

Senator CHATAWAY - The moment an Australian seaman arrives in Australia he will be at liberty to demand his wages.. If he joins a French ship at Havre, he knows the terms under which he is engaging.

Senator Guthrie - Does he? l

Senator CHATAWAY - I know that the President of the Seamen's Union has beer* endeavouring to prove how awfully innocent our seamen are.

Senator Guthrie - I rise to a point of order. Is the honorable senator in order in referring to me in any capacity other than that of a senator?

The CHAIRMAN - Certainly not, ex,cept by name.

Senator Guthrie - Then, I ask that. Senator Chataway be called upon to withdraw his remark.

Senator CHATAWAY - I am quite willing to withdraw the statement that SenatorGuthrie is President of the Seamen's Union. But that honorable senator has, for some time, been endeavouring to explain that seamen generally are innocent lambs who are taken down wherever they may go.

I believe they understand the law just as well as Senator Guthrie himself does. I do not believe that an Australian seaman who happens to have gone to the Old Country on a ship, and who joins a foreign vessel at Havre, where he signs, for a voyage to Australia, would be such a nincompoop as to sign articles without understanding what they meant. Yet, that is the assumption underlying the argument of honorable senators opposite. I am not taking exception to the clause as far as it relates to Australians who, in Australia, sign articles to serve on board a foreign ship, and then, for some extraordinary reason, decline to proceed with her. Why such a case should occur, I do not know, except where a sailor may. have indulged too much. But that really has nothing to do with the clause, which is intended to deal with an Australian sailor who joins a ship in a foreign port, comes out with her to Australia, and then breaks his articles. I contend that there is no reason why an Australian, under such circumstances, should be placed on a different footing from an American, a Frenchman, or a German. I cannot vote for Senator Sayers' amendment, because he seeks to make the clause apply still more widely. I do not care whether the sailors affected are Australian or British; when they come to Australian waters, they should all be treated on the same basis. As to the term " Australian citizen," I ventured, by interjection, to say that I did not believe that a man could claim to be an Australian citizen unless he had remained in this country sufficiently long to enable him to exercise the franchise. The Minister of Defence read portions of a judgment of the High Court in a certain case. But what he read did not deal with the question of what 'is an Australian citizen. The passages he quoted related to what is an immigrant or a prohibited immigrant. I have consulted two or three law dictionaries in which the expression " citizen " is defined in a somewhat unsatisfactory manner. A citizen is said to be a man who lives in a city and has the franchise of that city. But, turning to Webster's Dictionary, T find that a citizen is defined as - one who enjoys the freedom and privileges of a city;, a freeman as distinguished from a foreigner, or one not entitled to its franchise ; : . . . a person, native or naturalized, of either sex, who owes allegiance to a Government, and is entitled to reciprocal protection from it.

As a footnote, Webster adds -

This protection is .... national protection, recognition of the individual in the face of foreign nations, as a member of the State, and assertion of his security and rights abroad as well as at home.

We have used the phrase " Australian citizen" in this clause without defining what it means. I do not believe that the phrase is to be found in any Federal Act.

Senator Guthrie - Except in the Naturalisation Act.

Senator CHATAWAY - I do not know that the phrase is used there. At any rate, it is not defined here; and it certainly is not covered by the judgment that has been quoted. I presume that an Aus-' tralian citizen is either a natural-born Australian or a person who has been naturalized in Australia, or, at all events, one who has; gained the franchise here. I am still impressed by the idea that we are making a great mistake in saying to foreign countries, " When your ships arrive in Australia, any man on board who can claim that he is an Australian, may break his articles." No provision is made to the effect that a man making this claim must prove that he is an, Australian citizen. I remind honorable' senators of what occurred a few years ago.' A great outcry was raised in South Africa' about a large number of " Australian citizens ' ' who were left stranded after the' war. The Commonwealth Government,, and I think some State Governments also, contributed money to enable those people to be brought to Australia. A number came over. We know the very unpleasant subsequent history of a considerable percentage of them. Those who read the Police Court reports, and other reports, which appeared soon after they arrived in this country, know what sort of people they were. It was to the interests of the Governments concerned to find out who were Australian citizens then. Yet, it is doubtful whether all the persons brought over were Australian citizens in fact. In this: case, we are going to lay ourselves open,' not only to the danger of being deceived5 by the use of this phrase, but, under ' Senator Sayers' amendment, either British' or Australian citizens would be able to claim exemption. I should be glad to see the proviso struck out; but, as that cannot be done, I enter my strongest protest against it. I have every reason to hope that when the Bill reaches another place, the proviso will be relegated to the dark-' ness from which it ought never to have' emerged.

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