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Friday, 1 November 1912

Senator RAE (New South Wales) .-It appears to me that the principal difficulty in this matter will be to define what is " reasonable cause."

Senator St Ledger - We had better not define it. We had better leave that to the Courts.

Senator RAE - I want to go a step further. Some cases have only to be stated to show that they are reasonable, but it is often difficult to prove that a reasonable case is reasonable. Behind all this, however, there is a deep-seated, and absolutely justifiable want of confidence in the fairness of those who will have to adjudicate upon the reasonableness or otherwise of the cause pleaded by the seamen.

Senator St Ledger - Those who say that are utterly unreasonable.

Senator RAE - I do not care a snap for Senator St. Ledger's opinion. I repeat that there is a deep-seated and justifiable want of confidence in the magistracy of this and other countries. There is a feeling that magistrates are utterly bigoted and one-sided in the administration of justice.

Senator St Ledger - What about the honorable senator's bigotry now ?

Senator RAE - I am not speaking to Senator St. Ledger, but to honorable senators generally, who have more sense than the honorable senator. I can speak with wide experience, and I say that if there is an unreasonable class of men who are open to the influence of class bias, it is the magistrates of the country. So long as we have such a class administering the laws of this country, there can be no justification for putting more work in their hands than we can possibly prevent. 1 arn very glad to say that in many respects this Bill is a big improvement upon the existing State navigation laws, .but, in my opinion, it was immeasurably .better before the House of Representatives amended it. The members of the Government in the Senate very naturally will not oppose the amendments carried in the Bill in another place. There may be good and reasonable magistrates, but -I have never had the good fortune to meet them. The magistrates are, as a class, the most objectionable I know of in this country, both honorary and paid, and I happen to be an honorary magistrate myself. Taken as a class, they have no sympathy with the poor and distressed. Whatever the facts in a case may be, where the well-fed and prosperous employer is on one side, and the needy and probably illiterate worker is on the other, the worker goes down every time. I therefore say that wherever it is possible, we should enact definitions from which they cannot escape, and wherever that cannot be done, the law should be left as loose as possible. Senator Gould suggested that we should define what is a reasonable cause, but to do so would be to exclude everything that was not included in the definition, and that might be most unreasonable. At the same time, we should take it out of the hands of the ordinary paid magistrates to decide such questions. There might not be so much objection if we had a tribunal that would know something about the shipping business.

Senator de Largie - I would sooner have the paid magistrate than an unpaid one.

Senator RAE - I would sooner have none than either. Senator Gould has said that, under any law, mistakes will occur. My complaint against the law is that when mistakes occur, the people in high authority never have to suffer for them. Honorable senators opposite, and, unfortunately, some on this side, tell us that it is human to be fallible, and that the poor devils of seamen will have to put up with these mistakes. They say that they should take their gruel, and say nothing about it.

Senator Givens - The honorable senator suggests that the mistakes always occur on one side.

Senator RAE - Yes; and I say that there is no penalty upon a magistrate for making even the most glaring blunder.

Senator Lynch - Can he not be removed from the bench ?

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