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Wednesday, 6 December 1911

Senator McGREGOR (South Australia) (Vice-President of the Executive Council) . - I hope the honorable senator will not press his amendment, because if he suc ceeded in eliminating these words he would not- effect his purpose and would only raise a doubt. The Commonwealth is providing marine marks in the shape of lighthouses, beacons, buoys, and so on, for the benefit of the mercantile interests of the whole world, and is not making any profit out of the business.

Senator Fraser - Yes it is. There will be dues and the benefits derived from the extension of trade.

Senator McGREGOR - That may be so, but there will probably be vessels benefited by the maintenance of Commonwealth lighthouses that will not land any cargo in Australia at all.

Senator Guthrie - South Australia made a profit of ^35,000 a year from her lighthouses.

Senator McGREGOR - It is not the intention that the Commonwealth shall make a profit from the provision made for the protection of the mercantile marine, though it will, for many reasons, be necessary to levy certain dues. If the Commonwealth is not in this matter in the position of a common carrier or an ordinary employer, why should it be made liable? I remind honorable senators that under the Acts of all the States, with the exception of Western Australia, the State Governments were not made liable for damage arising from any inefficient management of their lighthouses. Under the Act of Western Australia, the State was liable, but no case was ever brought against the State under that Act, though one claim under the Act was settled out of Court. We are in this matter adopting the methods and policy which were followed in five of the States of the Commonwealth from their inception. So far as Senator Guthrie's objection is concerned, the clause, as amended by Senator Symon's amendment, will relieve the officer of liability for any civil action for damages. I understand that Senators Symon and Gould desire that no individual should be exempt from- prosecution for culpable negligence. Senator Symon's amendment was proposed more for the protection of the officers than anything else. I do not think that the Government would be justified in accepting any amendment such as that suggested by Senator Gould, which would extend the liability of the Commonwealth in this, connexion.

Senator Lt Colonel Sir Albert Gould - Perhaps the honorable senator will address himself to the liability of an individual guilty of negligence.

Senator McGREGOR - Seeing that civil liability is specially mentioned in the clause, and criminal liability is not referred to, I hold, and I think Senator Symon will agree with me, that any officer guilty of culpable negligence would still, under this Bill, be liable to a criminal prosecution.

Senator Sir JOSIAHSYMON (South Australia) [3.35]- - I think that the VicePresident of the Executive Council has properly stated the position with regard to Senator Gould's amendment. I doubt very much whether the amendment would effect the honorable senator's purpose. There could scarcely be default under the clause without negligence, and with all deference to Senator Gould, I think that the effect of his amendment would be to raise doubt and confusion. If we leave in the words " whether negligent or otherwise," we shall make it clear that it is the intention to debar civil proceedings for damages against a lighthouse- keeper, whilst, if those words are omitted, it may become a subject of debate in Court as to whether any act or default involved negligence, and might make the result very doubtful. I am inclined to think, however, that it would be well to strike out the words "the Commonwealth or the Minister." I do not see how there could be any liability upon the Minister because of negligence in connexion with any marine mark. But I think that) if possible, the liability of the Commonwealth should be retained. If Senator Gould had moved to strike out the words " the Commonwealth or the Minister," I should probably have supported him., always subject to the consideration that whether the exemption of the Commonwealth, or the Minister is provided for in the clause or not, it is very doubtful whether the Commonwealth will be liable to actions of this kind. I think that Senator Gould would do well not to press his. amendment.

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