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Wednesday, 6 December 1911

Senator McGREGOR (South Australia) (Vice-President of the Executive Council) . - I think that Senator Gould is exhibiting an unnecessary amount of vindictiveness against the poor, unfortunate officer.

Senator ALBERT GOULD (NEW SOUTH WALES) -Colonel Sir AlbertGould. - I object to being charged with showing vindictiveness against a man.

Senator McGREGOR - Although I make that remark, I do not believe that that is really the honorable senator's intention. But that is how it would appear to any one. By an amendment which has been made, an officer is not exempt . from a criminal prosecution, or from the liability to be suspended or dismissed, or otherwise dealt with by the Commonwealth. If we impose so much responsibility upon the officers, instead of being able to do their duty efficiently, they will live in such a state of terror and confusion that they will not know what they are doing. Take the case of a lighthouse-keeperwho has a family, and has saved up a few hundred pounds. The loss of that money would mean a great deal to the family. The honorable senator should think of the position of the wife and family when the husband would be in gaol, because of his criminal neglect. He is only thinking of the shipowners.

Senator ALBERT GOULD (NEW SOUTH WALES) -Colonel Sir AlbertGould. - I am thinking of human lives.

Senator McGREGOR - I know all about that. As regards the value of property, every shipping company can insure against a casualty of this description, and so protect itself. But there is no way of escape for a poor unfortunate officer who may find himself in a difficult position. On many occasions, to my knowledge, men have been placed in critical positions. There was no criminal negligence, although it might have been ultimately proved that there was. The circumstantial evidence may have been against the officers concerned, but I have known their consciences to be quite clear of any feeling that theywere guilty of negligence. Under the clause, certain penalties may be inflicted upon a negligent officer, and I think that Senator Gould might think of the position of the wife and the family of the officer, and not insist upon making him liable civilly as well as criminally.

Senator Sir JOSIAHSYMON (South Australia) [3.50].- I am afraid that I cannot support the amendment of Senator Gould, who says that it will afford a clear cut issue. It will do so by cutting the very heart out of the clause. The real effect of the clause is to exempt these men, but if the amendment is made, it will destroy the clause altogether. In my opinion, it is a beneficial and usual provision in such cases. To preserve the liability for damages would be absolutely futile. It would be a mere drop in the bucket. The sort of damage which would result through a lighthouse-keeper omitting to keep his lights brightly burning would be the loss of a ship, the cargo, and probably some lives. How could we look to any lighthouse-keeper to compensate for the loss of a large modern ship, and the cargo ? It is obvious that my honorable friend is straining at a gnat, and swallowing a camel.

Senator Mcgregor - The lighthousekeeper could not pay sixpence in a thousand pounds.

Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON - It is not necessary. By keeping a double liability, it will add an additional terror to the carrying out of a man's serious duty. I think that we ought to avoid that. There is a good deal of force in what Senator McGregor has said, and it was not all sentiment. A man might say, " I am quite ready to face punishment if I am guilty of negligence, which results in the loss of life. But I do not thinkthat there ought to be superadded the taking away of my livelihood", or the taking away of anything which I have put aside.''' It has to be remembered that there is no difference between the kind of negligence which renders a man liable to punishment, and that which renders him liable to an action, lt is the same kind of negligence, but the remedy is different. If we are going to have the clause at all, the only object of it is to free from liability the men who are placed in this position of responsibility. The liability to punishment is retained, but they are free from responsibility for damages. The latter responsibility, I think, ought to rest, if it rests anywhere, on the Commonwealth, but .1 do not intend to move any amendment in that direction.

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