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Thursday, 21 November 1912

Senator NEEDHAM (Western Australia) . - Two honorable senators on the other side have addressed themselves to Senator Lynch's amendment, and the only, argument they have urged against it is that it is new.. Apparently because it >is new it must be opposed ; but we are not here as the slaves of precedent. We are here, if necessary, to establish precedent. Honorable senators should not confuse the issues in discussing the amendment. The Minister has referred to people in hotels, but there can be no analogy between people residing in hotels and seamen on board a ship. In most places in Australia people living on shore are within easy reach of public, libraries, of which they can avail themselves, but the seaman cannot take a library with him. On the question whether it is right or wrong that the humble occupant of the stokehold should dare to invade the sanctum sanctorum of the first-class passenger, I may say that I have travelled first class on board ship only since I became a member of Parliament. I travelled third class here from the Old Country because there was no fourth class ; and if the people of Western Australia do not again return me to Parliament I may have to travel steerage once more. I do not regard the saloon library as my sanctum, and I have no objection to any seaman coming into it to get a book. The Minister has said that under" the amendment seamen would be permitted to go off duty, &ut the honorable senator should know that a seaman on watch might say to a colleague who was off watch, " Get me suchandsuch a book from the library."

Senator Pearce - That would not be " on the same conditions as passengers."

Senator NEEDHAM - The wording of Senator Lynch's amendment may not be all that could be desired, but the principle of it is one which I think every member of the Committee should support. I agree with Senator Lynch that it is time we did away with class distinctions on board ship.

Senator Lt Colonel Sir Albert Gould - Make all one class.

Senator NEEDHAM - I should be prepared to make all one class to-morrow. Our aim should be to give to the seaman every facility to improve his mind, and thus assist him to become even a better citizen than he is to-day. I hope that the Committee will carry the amendment.

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