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Wednesday, 14 September 1904

Mr McLEAN (GIPPSLAND, VICTORIA) (Minister for Trade and Customs) - As this question refers to a very important matter, I thought it desirable to obtain all the information on the subject available in the Department. 1 and 2. As a general principle the working of vessels on Sundays is not allowed by the 'Department, and no regulation in violation of that principle has been made. In July, 1902, Mr. Kingston, who was then Minister, directed thatt as a temporary arrangement, and pending further consideration, Sunday work might be allowed in Tidal Ports, Open Roafdsteads, and Outer Anchorages or other places on the Queensland coast, where the conditions were of an exceptional nature.

In May, 1904, the following order was issued by the Minister, Mr. . Fisher ; -

In regard to the carrying out of the regulations the following relaxation may be made with regard to the working of vessels on Sundays, and certain holidays, viz. : - Good Friday, Christmas Day, and Eight Hours Day.

Mails may be taken on board and landed, and passengers may land and embark, but no cargo may be shipped or discharged. (This was in accordance with previous practice.)

As to Queensland : That small ports where coastal vessels are in the habit of calling for (say) an hour or two for the purpose of loading local produce, Sunday work may be permitted when, in the opinion of the collector, there is absolute necessity for it ; otherwise the standing rule is to be strictly enforced.

In August, 1904, strong representations were made by representative merchants and others to the Minister (Mr. Fisher) in favour of relaxing the above arrangements (especially in regard to Keppel Bay), as a result of which instructions were issued that the previous practice should not be interfered with at that port till the 1st November next, in order to allow of readjustment of time-table of vessels and trains,&c. The representations above-mentioned were supplemented by a resolution of the Chamber of Commerce, Mackay, indorsed by the Brisbane Chamber of Commerce, and supported by the Queensland Government, to the effect -that the conditions prevailing prior to the issue of the order of May, 1904, be reverted to at Flat Top and Keppel Bay, and were forwarded for the Minister's consideration. The Minister decided that the concession granted in the case of Keppel Bay might be extended to Flat Top, the conditions as to both these ports being similar, on the understanding that it should not cover the loading of entire cargoes 'or large quantities of produce.

3.   . Representations made on both sides were fully considered, but seeing that the two ports mentioned had been treated alike up to the beginning of August, it did not seem equitable to grant a concession in one case and refuse it in the other. As a matter of fact, it was found that absolute prohibition of Sunday work had not been strictly enforced up to the date mentioned at those ports.

Before the 1st of November the views of all persons concerned, such as the Queensland State Government, the various bodies connected with the handling of goods, the residents of the districts referred to, and the Chamber of Commerce, &c, will be fully considered with the object of arriving at a satisfactory settlement of the question.

It will be seen that the concession I granted to Flat Top Island was the same that had been granted by my predecessor in the case of Keppel Bay; that is, that the previous practice should be allowed to continue to the 1 st November in order to give us time to look thoroughly into the question. But the concession I granted was in a modified form, and only applied to portions of cargoes ; where there are large quantities of cargo to handle they will have to wait.

Mr Bamford - I have reason to believe that that rule has been violated.

Mr McLEAN - Those are the instructions I issued.

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