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Wednesday, 3 April 1957

Mr HASLUCK (CURTIN, WESTERN AUSTRALIA) (Minister for Territories) - I shall, of course, make inquiries, as requested by the honorable member, but T should like to point out to him that, as a result of the way in which the gentleman on whose behalf he speaks conducted his own affairs, the ship, and T assume all that is in it. was being detained, and I think is still being detained, because it is the subject of a number of claims against it.

Mr Edmonds - This stuff is not on the ship.

Mr HASLUCK - This gentleman went to Samarai, and on arrival there he was liable to prosecution on three separate charges. He was not prosecuted but was allowed to leave the port, having given an explicit assurance and having been issued with ship's papers for a direct return to Townsville. He left behind a debt of £120 owing to a local shipyard, which had put his ship into a seaworthy condition. So far as I know, that claim has not yet been satisfied, and the local shipwright has put it in the hands of his solicitors to make a claim against the vessel. Then, over three weeks later, it was found that he was still fishing around the islands, having broken his explicit promise to the officers of the Administration and having acted contrary to the papers which had been issued to him for his voyage. He was then liable - and I am fully satisfied on this point from examination of all the papers - to prosecution for having unlawfully employed natives, in contravention of the native employment ordinance. He was also liable for prosecution for having infringed the immigration ordinance of the Territory by having made landings at various places where he was not authorized to land; and he was also liable to prosecution, as he had been previously liable, for fishing in those waters without a licence. He was not prosecuted on those three counts; he was prosecuted on only one, and I think that if any blame is attachable to any officers of the Administration it is only on the grounds of their excessive leniency towards this gentleman. Then, I understand that the owner of this vessel approached the Administration and asked it to take some action to protect the interests of the owner, for this man Bowden did not own the vessel; he was operating it under some sort of agreement with the owner. So I imagine that any things relating to the vessel itself and the contents of the vessel are subject to legal claims which have been made by people in the Territory, by the Administration and by the owner of the vessel. I assure the honorable member that, just as I have made very detailed and very careful inquiries, at his request, into the whole history of the incident and have now had an opportunity to place those details before the House, so I shall make, at his request, further inquiries. I hope that the results or those inquiries will not be any less creditable to the gentleman concerned than the results of the previous inquiries.

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