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Thursday, 28 November 1912

Senator PEARCE (Western Australia) (Minister of Defence) . - I am not! going to admit that I have read what has been said, and the honorable senator can get any satisfaction that he likes out of this little episode. I am sure of this : That the honorable senators who have listened to the various explanations that. I have given will admit that they have been for the purpose of explaining; to the Committee the real effect of these amendments. I do not profess - nor doI think any other honorable senator will be daring enough to profess his personal qualification - that I am able to judge by myself the numerous amendments which have been made, all dealing with technical subjects, with which I am unacquainted, and upon which I have to rely upon expert advice. If the honorable senator can get any satisfaction out of the fact that I am. reading these explanations, he may do so.

Senator Clemons - I did not intend to put it that way.

Senator PEARCE - Though the standing order is there, I think it desirable that the Committee should have the fullest information possible on each amendment. That is the question, and not any technical breach of the standing order. And I do say that" if it had not been that I have been able to use the information which has been supplied to me, information which is not of my own finding, the Committee would have been in a far worse position. I submit to you, Mr. Chairman, that surely the Standing Orders are there for the purpose of facilitating business, and it must facilitate business to place the Committee in possession of information which I freely admit they would not have got from me otherwise than by reading, because I did not: possess it?

The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Do I understand that the honorable senator wishes to raise this question as a point of order?

Senator Clemons - No.

Senator Lt.-Colonel Sir ALBERTGOULD (New South Wales) [3.18].- I am glad that the Minister has taken the trouble to get information from persons who are qualified to place the matter authoritatively and clearly before the Chamber. I do not propose to object to this amendment affecting the stability of ships, but I am of opinion that it may branch out into a very wide power that we are giving to the Governor-General in Council in dealing with this question. Difficulties may arise in connexion with the administration of it from the fact that we do not construct or build the majority of these ships here, and when ships are built or constructed in the Old Country, or any of the great ports of the world, there is no doubt that full opportunities are taken advantage of to see that the ships are made stable and fit for the trade that they are expected to be engaged in. This also brings us to another question. So much of the stability of the ships depends on the way in which they are loaded, and the cargo is distributed, that I do not see how far this provision is going to assist the Government in dealing effectively with the matter unless with regard to seeing that the ships are properly loaded, and that the cargo is safely stowed, before they leave our ports. But I do recognise that the time has arrived when strong powers should be placed in the hands of the Government for the time being to insure the safety of passengers and goods on ships. I am prepared to accept this amendment, because while it gives very great powers, it will be of great assistance in easing the minds of the people.

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