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Thursday, 21 November 1912

Senator RAE (New South Wales) . - In my opinion, this is a magnificent proposal. I do not think that Senator Gould's suggestion that it may be ridiculed in another place should deter us from passing a democratic proposal. While I believe that, personally, he would have no objection to fraternise with seamen, yet I think that, collectively, it shocks his idea of conventionality that the man from the stokehold or the forecastle should be treated the same as a passenger. Senator Russell made an excellent point in remarking that a man gets so much with the accommodation, such as it is, virtually meaning that he is paying rent for his quarters, and therefore has a right to some consideration from us. To my mind, the strongest point is that a seaman spends a considerable portion of his life at sea, and, consequently, his opportunities of getting the use of free libraries on shore is very small. It is at sea only that he can hope to get any recreation or improvement by means of books. I have travelled about the coast of the different States, and my experience is that the libraries are very largely wasted on the passengers. The books are not very widely read, and therefore there will be any amount of opportunity for seamen to obtain books without inconveniencing passengers. Such as the books are, I do not think that we should object to the seamen sharing them with the passengers. There will be quite enough books to meet the demand that is made upon them. The idea that this provision, if carried, will bring everybody down to the same level, is absolutely wrong, because it is really an attempt to bring them up to the same level. When the Minister finds the Opposition united in opposing this proposal, it should be clear evidence to him that he is taking up the conservative side of the question. The fate of all men trusted with power and authority is to become more conservative, and it is the duty of the rank and file to see that that feeling, does not become crystallized. I believe that this amendment is on right lines, and the Minister knows very well that if the principle is approved, the actual wording can be amended.

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