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Wednesday, 6 December 1911

Senator GUTHRIE (South Australia) - - I was very pleased to hear the argument which was put forward by Senator Symon, and I only wish that when we were dealing with the position of pilots under the Navigation Bill, he had used the same arguments. The Government have laid down one principle for pilots and another principle for lighthouse-keepers, although they are all servants of the Commonwealth. There ought to be uniformity in this matter. I hope that when an opportunity arises, the Government will free the pilots as well as the lighthouse-keepers from liability to civil action, because the two cases are exactly on a par.

Senator Lt Colonel Sir Albert Gould - I think the pilot's liability is a penalty.

Senator GUTHRIE - No. he is simply liable up to £100. We put no such responsibility on the Crown Solicitor, who may mislead the Commonwealth at any time. There is no liability attaching to a member of Parliament if he makes a mistake, negligently or otherwise. Why should this responsibility be applied only to lighthouse-keepers? It is absolutely unjust to saddle them with more responsibility than any other public servant has. to submit to. I hope that the amendment will be rejected, and that when an opportunity arises, other public servants will be treated in exactly the same way as light-, house- keepers.

Senator Fraser - A lighthouse- keeper is a very different official from an ordinary public servant.

Senator GUTHRIE - If there is any difference at all, it is considerably for the worse. I know some lighthouse-keepers who are placed on an island right away from human habitations, and kept there for twelve months without seeing a single individual ; and when one of them gets ill, the work is thrown upon the other, who for twenty f our hours has to attend to the lights. It is very difficult for that officer to prove that he was not negligent at such a time, and that it was the officer who put two men in the lighthouse who was really responsible.

Senator Blakey - -Is there not some daylight on the lighthouse?

Senator GUTHRIE - Yes ; but during the day the lighthouse-keeper who is well has to look to the machinery and clean the lights, so that he is virtually on duty 'for twenty-four hours. Some lighthousekeepers have no communication with the mainland. No ships pass, and therefore they are not able to signal them.

Senator McGregor - We are going to connect them by telephone or telegraph.

Senator GUTHRIE - The men are left there sometimes for a week. We have had lighthouses reported to be without lights, and when an explanation was called for it was shown that the lighthouses were undermanned, and that the State was making a profit out of the undermanning. I hope that that sort of thing will not occur under the Commonwealth.

Senator Lt.-Colonel Sir ALBERTGOULD (New South Wales) [3.57].- I certainly object to some of the remarks made by Senator McGregor with regard to my object in moving this amendment. 1 have a keen sympathy with the relatives of those whose lives may be lost through the negligence of a lighthouse-keeper. The honorable senator has attempted to draw a picture of the wife and family of a lighthousekeeper being left with nothing for their support because his savings may be taken away from him to pay damages. Carried to its logical conclusion, the argument means that we are to pity a man who commits a burglary, because he is sent to gaol. I have no sympathy with that, sort of spurious sentiment. Senator Guthrie objects to any officer of the Commonwealth being rendered liable to civil proceedings.

Senator Guthrie - Unless all are rendered liable.

Senator Lt Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD - Has it come to this, that because a man is working in the Public Service, therefore Parliament is to protect him against acts of negligence? That is altogether repugnant to every idea of fairness and justice. Each man should take full responsibility for his own actions.

Senator Guthrie - You are responsible for the actions of your coachman.

Senator Lt Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD -I know that; and he is also responsible for his actions.

Senator Guthrie - Not civilly.

Senator Lt Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD - Yes, civilly too. If anybody thinks that he can get more out of my coachman, because of his negligence, than he could get out of me, he is entitled to try. The honorable senator has also fallen into another mistake. He says that if the Crown Solicitor gives bad advice, he is in no way responsible; whereas every solicitor is responsible for the. advice he gives, and may be made to pay if it is shown that he has been negligent and ignorant.

Senator Guthrie - He must be ignorant if he gives wrong advice.

Senator Lt Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD - Not necessarily. In the legal, as in the medical, profession it is a question of opinion in many matters. 1 do not think that Senator McGregor has replied satisfactorily to the objection I raised to freeing lighthouse-keepers from all responsibility, except, of course, criminal responsibility.

Senator McGregor - That is enough, surely.

Senator Lt Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD - I know that it is a serious thing for a man to be liable to a criminal prosecution. If an officer is negligent, the honorable senator will take away his means of livelihood by dismissal, but will not allow him, if he is in a position to do so, to compensate a person who suffers from his negligence. It is only a matter of degree as to whether my amendment is not the preferable way of dealing with a case of this kind.

Amendment negatived.

Motion, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 9 (Light dues to be paid).

House of Representatives' Amendment -

Omit the clause and insert the following new clause : - "9. - (1.) Light dues, in accordance with the prescribed rates or scales, shall be levied and shall be payable with respect to the voyages made by ships or vessels or by way of periodical payment as the regulations prescribe. " (2.) The regulationsmay prescribe the rates or scales of light dues to be payable by ships or vessels and all matters necessary or convenient to be prescribed to carry this section into effect. " (3 ) When rates or scales of light dues have been prescribed under this Act, light dues prescribed by or under any State Act shall cease to have any effect ; " Provided that nothing in this sub-section shall releaseany ship or vessel orany person from any liability in respect of any light dues prescribed by or under any State Act which be came due before the rates or scales of light dues under this Act came into force."

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