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Wednesday, 4 October 1911
Page: 1010

Senator PEARCE (Western AustraliaMinister of Defence) . - Senator Millen asked me whether the Committee of the Board of Trade had made any recommendation. I think I replied that they had not. I was in error, because they did make a recommendation. When dealing with the Bill previously, I intended to have quoted the following from the report, but I; was interrupted under the new standing order -

If our recommendation as to the relative positions of master and pilot be carried into effect, one of the greatest objections to an alteration of the present law as regards the immunity from liability of a ship-owner whose ship is under compulsory pilotage will have been removed. We have pointed out how productive of hardship is the present state of the law to innocent parties, and how fruitful a source of litigation.

We are strongly of opinion that a ship-owner should not be released from liability for damage done by his vessel when a pilot is compulsorily on board.

We, therefore, recommend that section 633 of the Merchant Shipping Act 1894, and the proviso to section 74 of the Harbors, Docks, and Piers Clauses Act 1847, should be repealed, but, in addition to such repeal, it will be necessary as well to insert a provision specifically declaring that the owner shall be liable, as his immunity from liability at present does not alone depend on these sections, but has also been decided independently of any statute.

We desire to point out that the Select Committee of 1888 reported as follows : - "Your Committee are strongly of opinion, having regard te the views just expressed, that the time has arrived when the exemption of the owner from liability for damage done by his ship when the ship is placed in - charge of a pilot by compulsion of law should cease to exist. Your Committee are of opinion that such exemption is indefensible, and is inimical to the safety of life and property at sea. In their opinion, the master of a vessel, even while a pilot is on board, should continue to be responsible for the conduct and navigation of the vessel."

Senator Millen - If I have followed the quotation aright, the Board stated that a mere immunity from liability will not meet the case, but this is all that the Minister proposes. His proposition does not attach liability to the owner, but merely removes an exemption.

Senator PEARCE - We say that the owner or master of a ship shall not be exempt from any liability. I do not know whether it is necessary to provide that he shall be liable for any damage.

Senator Millen - It is quite clear that some amendment is wanted.

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