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Thursday, 30 November 1905

Senator KEATING (Tasmania) (Honorary Minister) . - I move -

That the Senate's amendment be not insisted on.

This is the amendment which was moved by Senator Guthrie with regard to any ship registered in Australia that might be on a voyage between any two Commonwealth ports. The reason given by the House of Representatives for disagreeing with our amendment is -

Because it is impossible to state to which State the persons on board any ship or vessel should be credited.

Provision is made in clause 15 of the Bill for obtaining returns with regard to persons who are not abiding in dwellings; and a ship or vessel between two Commonwealth ports would not be a dwelling within the meaning of the clause. There is no intention on the part of the Department to avoid obtaining the necessary particulars as to persons on board such ships, but it is deemed desirable that arrangements for that purpose shall be made by means of regulations, instead of by providing in the Bill that such ships shall be dwellings.

Senator GUTHRIE(South Australia).I do not think that the reason given for not insisting on our amendment meets the case. So far as I can see, there is absolutely nothing in clause 15 which requires the Department to register persons on board vessels. It merely makes provision for obtaining such returns and particulars as are prescribed. The clauseis taken from the New South Wales Act. We have no more guarantee that in the Commonwealth census particulars will be obtained of persons on board such ships than was the case in New South Wales. A number of particulars are required in regard to persons who are at sea on the census night. But we want to know to what State they shall be credited for electoral purposes. We also want to know their nationality and a number of other things. In the past, in all the States, such persons were merely bunched together as being on a certain vessel; but under the Commonwealth a looseness in this respect may make such a difference as to deprive a State of a representative. For statistical purposes also it is absolutely necessary to obtain these particulars. If the Government assures me that a special form will be prepared to meet the case of vessels at sea on the census night, and that the regulations will provide for the distribution and collection of schedules, I do not know that it will be necessary to insist on the amendment. But unless I have an absolute assurance, I feel inclined to insist on it.

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