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Thursday, 21 November 1912

Senator LYNCH (Western Australia) .- I move-

That the amendment be amended by adding to sub-clause (3) the following new paragraph : - " [c) That in every ship registered in Australia or engaged in the .coasting trade where a library is provided for the use of passengers, members of the crew shall be entitled to obtain books therefrom under the same conditions as may regulate the issue of such books to the passengers."

Penalty (on owner) Ten pounds.

I am aware that my proposal has not behind it the hallowed support of precedent, but we are not bound hand and foot by what may have been done in the past; and in making this departure we should only be doing what we have already done in connexion with many matters provided for in this Bill. I am moved to suggest this provision to enable seamen to enjoy the advantages of libraries established on board ship, because, for a very long time, they have been regarded as people of an inferior type. In my opinion, the time has come when this Parliament should do something to wipe out a class distinction which has been too long maintained. There are many instances in which employers of labour ashore have taken pleasure in furnishing their employes, in communities at a distance from centres of population, with libraries to promote their intellectual improvement, and it is not too much to ask that what is done in many places for trie benefit of employes on shore should be done at sea for the benefit of seamen. Those on board a ship at sea represent a self-contained community, cut off from association with other people. The master of a vessel is invested with judicial powers, can order the imprisonment of any. one on board the ship, and is, in fact, an autocrat of the most pronounced type. I can see no possible objection to libraries established by shipping companies for the benefit of passengers being used also for the improvement and edification of seamen. The sailor in the past, and to some extent tb-day, is very much the product of his environment, and the time has come when his environment should, as far as possible, be such as to lead to his improvement. Extensive libraries are provided on some of the large steamers trading to Australia, which are sometimes ten days away from communication with land ; but there is a forbidding notice posted on the library doors, and seamen or firemen dare not put a foot inside the sanctum, much less make use of any of the books. It is about time we altered such a state of affairs. There may be some opposition to my amendment, on the ground that it is novel and original, but I again remind honorable senators who take that view that we have already departed from precedents which no longer serve the purpose of the present age. I am not in the habit of quoting poetry, but I am disposed to quote, in this connexion, a few appropriate lines written by one of Australia's most respected poets, and dealing with the difference between " fore " and " aft." Henry Lawson writes on this subject in the following terms -

But the curse of class distinctions from our shoulders shall be lurried,

And the influence of woman revolutionize the world;

There'll be higher education for the toilin', starvin' clown,

And the rich and educated shall be educated down.

And we shall meet amidships on this stout old earthly craft,

And there won't be any frictiontwixt the travellers fore and aft.

We'll be brothers fore and aft,

Yes, and sisters fore and aft,

When the people work together and there ain't no fore and aft.

I wish very much to emphasize the last line. Employers ashore, who have respected their employe's, have shown themselves ready and willing to make the provision which I ask shall be made in the interests of seamen. I hope that we shall not have any more of this fore and aft business, and that honorable senators will assist me to afford seamen facilities for their intellectual and social improvement.

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