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Thursday, 21 November 1912

Senator STEWART (Queensland) . - I believe that the excellent amendment moved by Senator Lynch is in great danger of shipwreck, owing to the very plausible amendment moved upon it by Senator Walker. I have been astonished to find an old seaman like Senator Guthrie supporting Senator Walker's proposal, and still more astonished at the honorable senator's favorite idea that the money derived from fines under the Bill should be devoted to the establishment of a library for seamen. I do not believe in ear-marking money for any special purpose.

Senator Guthrie - The honorable senator believed in the ear-marking of money for old-age pensions.

Senator STEWART - I do not believe in it. We are in a different position from the States in this matter. If we have any revenue unexpended at the close of the financial year it must be given to the States. It is for that reason that our Trust Fund was established. I do not see why the Commonwealth should subsidize libraries for seamen. I consider that ship-owners should be held as responsible for the reading matter required by seamen as for their food and accommodation. The general standard of living is becoming higher every year. It is an old saying that " man shall not live by bread alone," and I regard the provision of reading matter for seamen as essential. It has been pointed out many times during the debate that they are isolated, and cannot enjoy the ordinary conditions of citizenship. Some provision should be made for their comfort and amusement during their leisure hours. We ask that the shipping companies should make this provision. Libraries already exist on board many ships, and why should they not be open to the seamen ? To establish a special library for seamen would be to carry the class distinction to an absurdity.

Senator Lynch - If seaman damage any of the books they can be made to pay for them.

Senator STEWART - If a passenger damages or fails to return a book to the ship's library he has to pay for the damage or make good the loss, and seamen should be entitled to get books from the same library on exactly the same conditions as are imposed upon passengers. I advise Senator Lynch to adhere to his amendment. I regard Senator Walker's amendment upon it as a subterfuge. Unless I hear stronger arguments than those to which we have so far listened in favour of subsidizing libraries on board ship I shall not vote for any proposal of the kind.

Senator Rae - I rise to a point of order. Is it in order, as proposed by Senator Walker's amendment, for the Committee to decide that subsidies shall be paid by the Commonwealth for a library? Would not that be in the nature of an appropriation of money by the Senate; and is it not necessary that such an amendment should be put in the form of a request to the House of Representatives?

The CHAIRMAN - I am not yet satisfied as to the exact wording of the amendment submitted by Senator Walker.

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