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

Senator ST LEDGER (Queensland) . - I should like to know exactly where we are in connexion with this matter of licensed pilots. Australian coasttrade ships and foreign-going ships plying on the Queensland coast take on a pilot at Townsville or Cooktown, and cast h:m off" at Thursday Island. Vessels on the southern journey pick up the pilot at Thursday Island, and drop him at Cooktown or Townsville. The reason is that that is known to be a very dangerous part of the coast. I wish to know whether, in future, these pilots will be licensed pilots or Government servants. Assuming that they will be licensed pilots, I should like to know whether the Bill will alter their position in any way.

Senator Guthrie - The Bill is silent on the point.

Senator ST LEDGER - Senator Guthrie will admit that there is no part of the Australian coast where pilots are so necessary as the route along the Barrier Reef to which I have referred.

Senator Guthrie - Yet the Queensland Government never thought it necessary to make pilotage in those waters compulsory.

Senator ST LEDGER - What has that to do with the question? The honorable senator knows so much about the marine law of every country in the world that I am beginning to doubt the value of his knowledge. It is not possible for any intellect to acquire an accurate knowledge of so much marine law as Senator Guthrie would have us believe he knows. I am reminded by the honorable senator of Goldsmith's lines -

And still they gazed, and still the wonder grew

That one small head should carry all he knew.

I have travelled the part of the Queensland coast to which I have referred oftener than has Senator Guthrie, and I know it is a fact that pilots take possession of vessels going through those waters, and are bosses of the ships until they leave them. I have known a case where the master of a ship thought it desirable to go ahead, and the pilot said " No, you shall not go ahead ; you must anchor," and the master and passengers had- to submit to the pilot's decision. The question is : Will these pilots be licensed pilots or Government pilots?

Senator Pearce - They will be licensed pilots.

Senator ST LEDGER - Then an important question arises, and ships may not take pilots on that part of the coast.

Senator Pearce - Piloting is not compulsory on that route to-day.

Senator ST LEDGER - That probably arises from the fact that, as mentioned by Senator Guthrie, the Queensland law does not compel ships to take pilots in those waters.

Senator Guthrie - That is all that I said

Senator ST LEDGER - Then the honorable senator was right for. the twentieth or thirtieth time. I rather regret that pilotage is not compulsory on that part of our coast, but it is the invariable custom for ships to take pilots in those waters.

Senator Lynch - I have come through there a few times without a pilot.

Senator ST LEDGER - I think it is the invariable custom of ships travelling from Hong Kong and Singapore to take pilots in those waters, and I would say that, unless the master of a vessel ha? special knowledge of that part of the

Queensland coast, he incurs a foolhardy risk in taking his vessel through those waters without a pilot.

Senator Lynch - I was going through there one night when the order to go full speed astern was given, the vessel being within 20 feet of the reef, but that was when the Queensland Government had control, and masters were not compelled to employ pilots in those waters.

Senator Lt Colonel Sir Albert Gould - No master will be compelled to employ a pilot in those waters under this Bill.

Senator ST LEDGER - That is so according to the statement of the Minister of Defence.

Senator Pearce - There is a little compulsion apart from the law in connexion with the matter of insurance.

Senator ST LEDGER - I think that pilotage in those waters should be made compulsory.

Senator Pearce - Under the Bill we shall have power to make pilotage compulsory in those waters.

Senator ST LEDGER - Then another question arises, and that is as to the difference of skill in the case of Government and licensed pilots.

Senator Guthrie - The licensed pilot will need to be more skilful than the Government pilot.

Senator ST LEDGER - It cuts both -ways. Will it be contended that a pilot who takes a vessel worth ^500,000, and carrying a cargo worth ,£500,000 more, up the Brisbane River should not be required to have any more skill than a pilot taking charge of a small vessel in comparatively : sate waters?

Senator de Largie - There is no suggestion of that kind in the Bill.

Progress reported.

Sitting suspended from 6.28 to 8 p.m.

Suggest corrections