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Friday, 1 November 1912

Senator GUTHRIE (South Australia) . - The whole point of Senator Lynch's argument is that a seaman may object to go to sea, and that his objection may bring the unseaworthiness of the ship under the notice of the Minister. But the honorable senator forgets that the seaman will render himself liable to a penalty. The honorable senator knows perfectly well that when he himself was going to sea, the mere fact of knowing that a penalty was hanging over his head induced him to put up with things rather than face the consequences. The Minister has alleged that I made a wrong statement concerning the Imperial law. I did not. I asserted that the Imperial Act of1906 did not impose any penalty upon a seaman who refused to join his ship. The Minister asserted that there is no such provision. I say that it was the Minister who made a wrong statement. The Imperial Act of 1906 provides that if a man fails to join his ship the superintendent may withhold his previous discharge. But there is no penalty.

Senator Pearce - That is a pretty drastic punishment, is it not?

Senator GUTHRIE - It is not so drastic as the penalty of £20.

Senator Pearce - What could the seaman do without his discharge?

Senator GUTHRIE - A discharge is not worth a snap of the fingers at the present time. The honorable senator could ship to-morrow as an A.B. or a fireman.

Senator Pearce - Why did the Royal Commission make recommendations about discharges if they are useless?

Senator Lynch - The honorable senator could not get employment on the coast without having his last discharge.

Senator GUTHRIE - There are hundreds of men going to sea to-day without discharges. How did the honorable senator himself first go to sea ? He ran away in a ship. Clause 65 of the Imperial Act of 1906 provides -

Where it is shown to the satisfaction of the superintendent that a seaman lawfully engaged has wilfully or, through misconduct, failed to join his ship the superintendent shall report the matter to the Board of Trade; and the Board may direct that any of the seaman's certificates of discharge shall be withheld for such period as they think fit.

That section operates where there has been wilful misconduct. We, however, are making provision for punishing a sailor where there may have been no misconduct, but simply inadvertence. A sailor may miss his passage in a ship because of a wrong hour of sailing having been given him.

Senator Pearce - That would be " reasonable cause."

Senator GUTHRIE - The whole point is that the clause would force men into Court.

Senator St Ledger - The Court might give protection to a man.

Senator GUTHRIE - A Court never gives protection to any one but the lawyer.

Senator Millen - The logic of the honorable senator's argument is that there ought to be no agreement, and no navigation laws.

Senator GUTHRIE - We have decided that there shall be an agreement, and that it shall not be signed before a superintendent.

Senator de Largie - The honorable senator is referring to coastal shipping.

Senator Pearce - Is there any crimping in the coastal trade?

Senator GUTHRIE - This clause covers not only ships on which there may be crimping, but all cases in which a seaman may fail to join his ship. It is going back on the latest British legislation. In England there is no imprisonment for failing to join a ship. Why should there be a penalty here?

Senator Pearce - There is disqualification in England.

Senator GUTHRIE - There is disqualification by the Board of Trade; but the Board of Trade may not give its decision for five years.

Senator Pearce - And a seaman would be disqualified all that time.

Senator GUTHRIE - No; not until the Board of Trade had decided. The Minister would be well advised to withdraw the amendment altogether. The Minister has tried to saddle this provision upon the Commission, but the Commission made no such recommendation ..

Senator de Largie - The clause carries out a recommendation of the Commission.

Senator GUTHRIE - I remind honorable senators that the Senate passed this Bill last year without any such provision, and it has been inserted in another place.

Senator Pearce - The Commission recommended the abolition of imprisonment, and that has been provided for.

Senator GUTHRIE - If a seaman does not pay the fine of £20, what will happen? The Minister says that under this Bill we shall abolish imprisonment, but weprovide for it in another way. As a rule, a seaman has no goods upon which distress can be levied, and in such a case he will have to go to prison. So that we have not abolished imprisonment. I hope that if the Minister will not withdraw this proposal altogether he will submit something in the nature of the provision to be found in the Merchant Shipping Act.

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