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Wednesday, 12 October 1910

Senator PEARCE (Western AustraliaMinister of Defence) . - I do not think that the provision is unnecessary. On the other hand, for the reasons I gave in a previous speech, I think it is necessary. It is a most difficult thing for a single officer to check the number of passengers going on board a ship. Honorable senators who have done much travelling by sea know what an amount of bustle and hurry accompanies the sending of a ship to sea, and how difficult it must be for an officer of the Government to find out whether the number of passengers allowed to be carried has been exceeded.

Senator Lt Colonel Sir Albert Gould - Does not the honorable senator see that it will be just as hard for the officers in charge of a ship to determine whether the statutory number has been exceeded?

Senator PEARCE - No; the officer issuing tickets to passengers can keep a check on the number. In the case of a ferry steamer a check is kept on the number going through the gates.

Senator ALBERT GOULD (NEW SOUTH WALES) r-There is no tally as to the number of regular subscribers to a ferry who go on board.

Senator PEARCE - It is quite easy for the company to put up turnstiles to count the number going through. It is a reasonable thing to bring in the passengers to police this provision, because the passengers who go on board a ship are interested in having the law obeyed.

Senator Lt Colonel Sir Albert Gould -The Bill proposes to reward passengers who secure conviction.

Senator PEARCE - Yes; because if a ship-owner chooses to break the law the passengers have to suffer. If the ship is lost a passenger may lose his life or his luggage. Even if the ship be not lost he will suffer discomfort from overcrowding. The principle of this clause is already in operation in the Game Acts of some States. Owing to the impossibility of the police force exercising proper supervision, sportsmen are brought in to assist, and are rewarded if a conviction is secured against a person who has broken the law. The law cannot be broken without the connivance of the owner or his agent. Senator Gould says that there may be collusion between the agent and the passenger who seeks to get the award.

Senator Lt Colonel Sir Albert Gould - An employe1 may allow an extra number of people to go on board, so as to enable him to inform.

Senator PEARCE - If the Court could be shown that the owner had taken all proper precautions, and had issued instructions to prevent overcrowding, those facts would be taken into consideration. In the case of collusion, does the honorable senator think that any Court would enforce the penalty? It must be remembered that the penalty of £100 is not arbitrary. The Acts Interpretation Act provides that a penalty prescribed in a Commonwealth Act means that the amount stated is a maximum. I venture to say that any magistrate to whom reasonable proof of collusion was given would, inflict a merely nominal penalty. The overcrowding of ships is a very serious offence indeed, and I am informed that it is impossible for the Department to employ sufficient officers to protect passengers. We, therefore, propose to bring in the passengers to police the measure, and to encourage them by giving them the penalty which may be recovered.

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