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Wednesday, 7 July 1920

Mr MAHONY (Dalley) .- I do not think it fair to delay the bringing of this measure into operation. The reasons for delay advanced by the Minister (Mr. Greene) are not very sound. He says that the Government have not had time to make the necessary arrangements. The flaw in his argument is that the original Act was passed in 1912, so that both the Government and the shipping companies have had many years in which to make the necessary preparations. It seems to me that this is a piece of humbug on the part of the Government. They are promising some illusory thing to the seamen and those following mercantile pursuits. They have been dangling this measure before their eyes for years, and it is time for us to take a definite stand. Parliament ami the country should tell the Government in unmistakable terms that they are notto humbug the seamen any longer.

Sir JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for the Navy) - What a nasty thing to say !

Mr MAHONY - Those who go down to the sea in ships are working under nasty conditions, an improvement in which has been promised them for years. The Government have said to them, " Be good boys ; do nothing wrong; and in the sweet byandbye all the good things for which the Navigation Act provides will be given you."

Sir JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for the Navy) - Is the honorable member referring to the five years during which the Labour party were in power ? They dangled this thing before the people during that time.

Mr Tudor - We forced the original Navigation Bill through, in spite of the bitter opposition of the right honorable member and his party.

Mr MAHONY - Quite so. There was no more bitter opponent of the Navigation Bill than the right honorable member.

Sir JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for the Navy) - That is not so.

Mr MAHONY - We are ali prepared to admit that it was impossible to bring the original Act into operation during the war.

Mr GREENE (RICHMOND, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for Trade and Customs) - That Act was passed with the unanimous consent of the Parliament.

Mr MAHONY - But it was allowed to remain in abeyance for years, because of the crisis through which the world was passing. But for the mercantile marine of Great Britain, the Allied countries would have been starved. They made it possible for the Allies to win the war. They were promised that if they carried out their duties these improved conditions would be given them at the end of the war. To: day, after five or six years of promising, they are told that they must wait for a further period. Either the conditions for which this Bill provides are right or they are wrong. The conditions demanded by the Navigation Act are right or wrong, and if they are right they should be complied with without delay. The shipping companies can have no ground for complaint in connexion with this matter, because they have had years of notice within which to prepare for the enforcement of the provisions of the Act. They have not done so because they have been top busy building up huge dividends during the war, and have neglected to so improve the accommodation for seamen on their ships as to comply with the requirements of the Naviga tion Act. I shall strenuously oppose giving the Government power to postpone the operation of one of the provisions, of the measure.

Mr. BURCHELL(Fremantle) [9.32J. - The honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Mahony) has taken up the cudgels on behalf of the seamen, and if the facts were as he has represented them, there would be grave cause for complaint. But if we take into consideration the ships trading on the Australian coast to-day, it will be found that a very small percentage of them indeed do not, in respect of the accommodation provided for seamen, comply with the provisions laid down by the Navigation Act. The shipping companies have been preparing for the proclamation of the Act. I wish to remind the honorable member and the Committee generally that only a few months ago, when, unfortunately, we had a seamen's dispute affecting shipping on the coast of Australia, it was one of the terms agreed upon for the settlement of that dispute that every possible ship trading in Australian waters should, where necessary, be altered without delay to comply with the conditions imposed by the Navigation Act. It was one of the conditions of resumption of work by members of the Seamen's Union that the provisions applying to the accommodation provided for seamen should immediately be complied with whether the Navigation Act was proclaimed in force or not. I am surprised that the honorable member for Dalley, who represents a portion of Sydney Harbor, should not be aware of this fact. No proclamation of the Act will make the application of its provisions more binding than they have been made by the agreement by which the seamen's strike was settled and the. men agreed to return to work.

Mr Mahony - If that be so, what is the objection to proclaiming the Act?

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