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Friday, 11 March 1904

Mr DEAKIN (BALLAARAT, VICTORIA) (Minister for External Affairs) - The Government has a general responsibility for whatever happens in the administration of the Electoral, as of any other Act. The regulations issued under the Act were absolutely correct; the error referred to and commented upon by the newspaper arose out of instructions issued by some electoral officer without reference to the Attorney- General. The statement appearing in the Argus that the proposed alteration was submitted to the Attorney-General is absolutely incorrect, as is the further statement that Orders in Council were passed. Thus we have in the first leading article appearing to-day in the columns of one of the morning journalsof this city two statements absolutely without foundation, but put before the public as if they were absolutely and veritablytrue.

Mr Fisher - They are near enoughto the truth to suit the Melbourne press.

Mr DEAKIN - Perhaps I may be permitted to say, in reference to the second leading article which appears in this morning's Argus', commenting upon the difference between the treatment given to the crew of the Petriana and that meted put to the crew of the Japanese ship recently wrecked near Newcastle, that precisely the same course was followed in both cases. In each cas e agents of the vessel wereasked - " Will you undertake to see that these shipwrecked men leave this country for their own land at the first convenient opportunity?" The duty of returning shipwrecked sailors to their own country is an obligation cast upon British ship-owners by British law. The agents of the Petriana refused to give that undertaking. They declined to allow the men to be landed upon their responsibility. They were offered their choice of landingplaces, and might have put the men ashore wherever they wished, if they had made themselves responsible for the deportation of the men on the first occasion possible. In the case of the crew of the Japanese ship, the undertaking we asked for was entered into, and the men were allowed to land at once, and to go to the Sailors' Home. ' There was no alteration in procedure in that case, because none was necessary. The whole dispute has been as to who should bear the cost of keeping these men, and in the Petriana case the agents endeavoured to transfer their responsibility to the Government. Their failure to do so was the whole source and cause of the complaint which has been made, and the foundation of the misrepresentations which we have heard.

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