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Thursday, 31 October 1912

Senator GUTHRIE (South Australia) . - I hope the Committee will not agree to the proposal. We have established a shipping office under this Bill for the protection of seamen, and if the amendment now proposed be agreed to, we might as well abolish shipping offices throughout the Commonwealth, and so effect a very considerable saving. The provision we have made for the protection . of seamen is necessary for every seaman who has to go to sea.

Senator Pearce - These men will not have to go to sea.

Senator GUTHRIE - Some of them will. A limited coast-trade ship may have a voyage of 400 miles, and men on board may be away from their home port for six months. I think that it is absolutely necessary that those agreements should be witnessed by a Government official. What is proposed now is that these men shall sign their agreements on board the ship. They will be witnessed by a clerk, or some agent of the ship-owner, and, though the men will be bound by them, the ship-owners will not. When we have established shipping offices, we should make use of them. It must not be forgotten that we impose a tax upon seamen in connexion with these agreements. A seaman must pay is. every time he signs on, and is. for every, discharge.

Senator McGregor - We should not use a steel hammer to drive in a brass tack.

Senator GUTHRIE - The honorable senator's interjection has no application to what I am saying. We are dealing now with ships engaged in the coasting trade, and I believe that the proposal is suggested by the Free Labour Association, who want to employ men at their own offices, and' prevent them being signed on at a shipping office. I may say that, so far as I can discover, there is no power under the Bill to compel a man to go before a superintendent. That has, in some way, been omitted, and an amendment in that direction is absolutely necessary. We make provision for a superintendent, but what he is to do I do not know. We should see that men sign articles before a superintendent who can properly explain to them the nature of the agreements they sign.

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