Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Thursday, 21 November 1912

Senator PEARCE (Western AustraliaMinister of Defence) . - It is very easy for Senator Lynch to appeal to the sympathies of honorable senators by saying that a library ought to be provided for the crew of a steamer just as one is provided for the passengers. He might just as well use the same argument about the food to be supplied. Why should we not say that the crew ought to have the same food as is provided for the passengers?

Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) - Do not the passengers pay extra?

Senator PEARCE - Yes; and so they do for the use of books in the library of the ship. The library is part of the accommodation for which passengers pay. It is put in' by the ship-owners to attract passengers, and the extra food which they get comes under the same category. If there were no extra charges for passengers the ship-owners would not provide any better food for them than they do for the crew, and we should find it necessary to provide in the Bill a food scale for passengers. It is only because ship-owners try to induce persons to travel that we do not provide a food scale for passengers. It will be seen that when Senator Lynch makes this departure, he should not stop at the question of giving the crew access to the library on a ship. Why should we- not say that the crew shall have the same food as is served to the passengers? Why should we stop even there? Why should we not say that the crew shall be entitled to cabins on the same conditions as passengers? What argument can my honorable friend adduce for bringing in one thing and stopping at the other? We must get away from sentimental ideas, and realize what is the position of the crew as compared with the position of passengers. The crew are employed by the ship-owner under definite conditions to do certain work. If, in the opinion of the Committee, one of the obligations of the employer ought to be to provide a library for his employes, this is not the right way to proceed. There should be a provision to set apart a definite library for the use of the crew. We must realize that a modern passenger steamer is a floating hotel. What do we recognise in our land legislation and Wages Board legislation? Do we stipulate, for instance, that the employes at an hotel shall have the right of access to the smoking-room or the library? I have never heard a Labour member throughout Australia advocate such a thing.

Senator Long - Because there are dozens of libraries of which an hotel employe can avail himself.

Senator PEARCE - This leads one to the conclusion that a library ought to be provided in the seamen's- quarters. The employ^ is provided with separate quarters in order to cany out the work of the ship smoothly. Let me point out another oversight in this amendment. Why should not the passengers in the steerage and the second class also have the right of access to the library? It is exclusively reserved for the use of first class passengers.

Senator Long - - Not at all ; there is a library provided in the second class quarters.

Senator PEARCE - An ounce of experience is worth a ton of theory. I have travelled steerage, second class, and first class to and from Western Australia, and I know from personal experience that no second class or steerage passenger has the right of entree to the library.

Senator Long - On the Orient boats they have.

Senator PEARCE - I spent a month on a steamer going to England, and I know that none of the second class passengers could get a book from the library.

Senator Guthrie - A catalogue is placed in the second class cabins.

Senator PEARCE - Why does not Senator Lynch propose to provide reading for steerage passengers? Surely, if the crew are entitled to the use of the library on a steamer the steerage passengers have an equal right.

Senator Lynch - The crew are there all the time, but the passengers are there only for a few days.

Senator PEARCE - It should be remembered that a ship is really a travelling hotel, and that, as in an hotel, separate quarters are provided for the employes. At an hotel the employes do not have their meals with the guests, or put in their recreation hours in the' smoking-room or the library of the hotel. _ Why? Because it is recognised that the guests are paying for a definite service, and the employ^ is being paid to render that service. The employes at an hotel would not ask that they should be given the privileges for which the guests pay.

Senator Lynch - An hotel proprietor is not compelled to supply medical stores oi: medicine, whereas a ship-owner is so compelled by this Bill.

Senator PEARCE - That is only because the employe on a ship has no resource; he cannot go elsewhere.

Senator Needham - He has no resource as regards books.

Senator PEARCE - He has the opportunity of bringing books with him, or of combining with his comrades and creating a library, replacing books when they go ashore. He could, by an arrangement with other libraries, get books to take the place of those which he has used. The amendment overlooks the vital difference between the position of the passenger and that of the employ^. What does Senator Lynch mean by the expression " under the same conditions " ? If I go on board a steamer, among other things, I have paid for the right to get books from the library; but if I take a steerage ticket, I do not acquire that privilege Now let us examine what are the conditions of a first class passenger. Between the hours of 10 and 12, and between the hours of 3 and 4 there is a steward in attendance at the library to give out books to passengers. At those hours every one who has the right of access to the library has the right to go up and take a book. Does Senator Lynch propose that a seaman who is on duty shall have the right to go into the library at that time?

Senator Needham - He might be off duty then.

Senator PEARCE - But the amendment does not say that. If it is carried, a member of the crew, no matter what he may be doing, will be entitled to go up to the library and get a book.

Senator Long - That is very poor reasoning.

Senator PEARCE - That is the wording of the amendment. If Senator Lynch means that this privilege is to be availed of by any member of the crew when he is off duty he should say so. If we provided in the food scale that a seaman had the right to go to his meals under the same conditions as the passengers, it would mean that he could go at the same hours as they do, but we do not say that. I trust that the Committee will not carry the amendment, at any rate, in its present form.. If Senator Lynch wants to provide a library for the crew of a vessel he ought to lay an obligation on the owner to do so, and not to interfere with the purely local arrangement. In my opinion the amendment is altogether a mistake. It loses sight of the fact that the passenger pays for a service rendered, and that is the provision of a library.

Suggest corrections