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Wednesday, 6 December 1911

Senator RAE (New South Wales) . - If there be any doubt whatever as to the meaning of the Bill, I hope that we shall make it perfectly clear before it leaves this Chamber. But I wish to place on record my opinion that the expense involved in the administration of an Act of this character, and in settling any legal doubts which may arise, is due largely to the wrong basis upon which it has been framed. Instead of the compensation payable being regulated by the number of dependants whom a seaman leaves behind, the Bill should rest upon the assumption that a human life, no matter from what cause it may be lost, is worth so much.

Senator McGregor - That is what it really does.

Senator RAE - The Bill, instead of saying that the compensation payable shall be divisible among certain persons, and that, in the event of a seaman being a bachelor, only sufficient shall be forthcoming to cover his funeral expenses, ought to provide that the amount recoverable shall be the same in all cases. We all recognise that a life lost is a life lost to the State, and if the deceased leaves no dependants, the amount of compensation which would be payable under other circumstances should be paid to the Crown.

Senator Millen - In most cases, the difficulty is not that there are no claimants. It is in determining the proportion of the compensation which each shall receive.

Senator RAE - That may be so. I think that the Bill is based upon absolutely wrong premises, because it lends colour to the idea that a human life is of no value unless somebody be dependent upon it. I say that there is a potential value attached to any life, and if ship-owners were liable to pay the same amount of compensation in any circumstances, where the deceased left no dependants, the money could go to the State.

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