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Friday, 26 July 1912

Senator GUTHRIE (South Australia) . - There appears to be some misunderstanding about this matter. A doctor does not board every ship arriving in Australia. There are numbers of ports scattered around Australia at which it would be impossible to keep a doctor to board vessels entering them. Customs-house officers act as quarantine officers as well as doctors.

Senator Findley - I am informed that a doctor Was on board the vessel to which Senator Needham' referred.

Senator GUTHRIE - The quarantine officer. who may be a Customs officer, who boards a ship to examine her papers, decides whether a doctor is necessary or not, and, if disease is reported to him, he insists upon an examination by a doctor.

Senator Millen - What flag would the ship fly then?

Senator GUTHRIE - The yellow and black chequer flag. When an officer is unable to decide that there is quarantinable disease on board, the yellow flag is flown to indicate that a doctor is wanted. In cases where a pilot is required to take a vessel to a wharf, a penalty is imposed if she is brought to the wharf without a pilot. So that in the case referred to it was not the quarantine authorities who were to blame.

Senator Blakey - Is not the doctor the first man to go on board a vessel at all the principal ports?

Senator GUTHRIE - Not necessarily; in fact, that is impossible. For instance, there is only one doctor for Melbourne. Is it possible for one doctor to board every vessel which comes through the Heads during twenty-four hours?

Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) - Is there not a doctor stationed at the Heads whose duty it is to go out to ships ?

Senator GUTHRIE - He goes out if necessary - that is, if the ships are not coming from clean ports.

Senator Needham - Do you tell me that the flying of the yellow flag is not a signal for a doctor to go on board?

Senator GUTHRIE - It is a signal that the master wants a doctor to come on board to give a certificate that the vessel is leaving the port clean. The yellow flag is mostly flown in connexion with the performance of clerical work. I think that no pilot would ever dare to take a ship alongside the wharf when the yellowandblack flags were flying, and disease on board had been reported to him.

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