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Wednesday, 6 December 1911

Senator RAE (New South Wales) . - I think I can understand the object of the provision, namely, that a claimant shall get something, but, as a rule, shipowners are large companies or firms. An ordinary householder who goes bankrupt mav have assets to the amount of only half-a-crown, but when a shipping firm goes bankrupt it must have some substantial assets if it has only one ship. Consequently, this provision does not appear to me to be so generous as the Minister states it is. I think- that we should entitle the claimant to get the full amount of his claim. Is there any ship-owning firm which, it it went bankrupt, would not have ships of some kind in its estate? The employment of seamen implies the ownership of ships, and therefore the possession of considerable assets in the case of bankruptcy.

Senator Pearce - Suppose that the firm has only chartered a snip r

Senator RAE - We know that from a pecuniary point of view persons engaged in shipping are not in the same position as ordinary householders.

Senator McGregor - Some of them may go down for a shilling in the pound.

Senator RAE - If they do their liabilities will be very large.

Senator Guthrie - No ship-owners in Australia have gone bankrupt, except one.

Senator RAE - To test the feeling of the Committee I shall move for a larger amount to be paid, because I think it will be found that the majority, if not all, of the shipping firms of Australia which have gone into liquidation have been possessed of "substantial assets, besides which any claims made under this measure would be a flea-bite.

Senator McGregor - I would remind the honorable senator that seamen may have claims for wages too.

Senator Guthrie - This is an insurance question.

Senator RAE - We know that these matters are always provided for by way of insurance. In fact preceding clauses deal with the liabilities of insurance companies. The wages of all seamen employed plus the claims against, the owners for any accident would represent a very small proportion of the total assets of any shipping firm which is doing business in Australasian waters at the present time. Is it not a fact that claims for accidents would be a very small percentage of the total assets of any shipping company that went insolvent? I can quite understand that in an ordinary case of bankruptcy, if you secure anything like a total payment to one set of creditors you may deprive another set of any share whatever. But to meet all possible claims under this Act would absorb so small a percentage of any company's assets that I cannot conceive that we should be doing any injury to any set of creditors by providing that the full amount that can be claimed should be secured to seamen. T therefore move -

That the word " One," line 6, be left out, with a view to insert in lieu, thereof the word " Five."

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