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Wednesday, 28 September 1910

Senator ST LEDGER (Queensland) . - It is not clearly laid down whether this provision applies exclusively to Australian-trade ships or also to British ships. Clause 8 reads -

The provisions of this Act relating to ships and their owners, masters, and crews, shall, unless the subject-matter requires a different application, apply only to British ships and to their owners, masters, and crews.

The clause which is now under consideration is governed by that provision. I should, therefore, like to know whether this clause is intended to apply to Australiantrade ships only, or also to British ships.

Senator Pearce - To both.

Senator ST LEDGER - When the Navigation Bill of 1908 was being considered the Board of Trade drew attention to this matter. It pointed out that -

Clause 23, which deals with the employment of uncertificated persons as officers, is more stringent than the corresponding provisions of the Imperial Acts, and it is suggested that it should be applied only to ships registered in Australia and ships engaged in the coasting trade.

That clause, I may mention, corresponds with clause 22 of the Bill which we are now discussing. To that communication the Department of Trade and Customs replied -

The limitation of the operation of this clause would, it is submitted, bc manifestly inequitable. For example, " A " (an Australian shipowner) could register his ship in New Zealand (a very easy and inexpensive proceeding), and so escape the requirements of our Acts, while " B," who retained his ship on an Australian register, would be subject thereto. To allow one ship to go to China, load there, and come back to Australia with her cargo and passengers, having an uncertificated officer, and to require an Australian ship doing exactly the same thing to have a certificated officer, would be a distinction which could hardly be defended.

I submit that that memorandum does not meet the position. What the Board Of Trade really desired was that we should treat British ships holding Board of Trade certificates, during the time that they are trading along our coast, as that body itself would treat them. In effect, it said, " As we think that our ships comply with all our requirements, surely you will do the same." We must recollect that the Board of Trade has just as much regard for

British ships as we have for our own vessels. When, therefore, they reach our coast, we ought to assume that, from the stand-point of their seaworthiness, they are fully equipped. But under this clause we could stop a British vessel which had uncertificated officers on board while she was on her way, say, from Adelaide to Melbourne. In other words, while she was trading along our coast we could practically wipe out the Board of Trade certificates, and say, " You shall man your ships according to the conditions which we lay down." That is what the Imperial authorities apprehended. 1 notice in a marginal note the reply of the Government to the statement of the Board of Trade which I have already quoted. That reply reads -

The suggestion has apparently not been adopted, as the clause in the present Bill is in substance the same as that contained in the 1907 Bill.

The Ministry also remind lis that -

In a cablegram sent on 28th October, 1908, the Deakin Government said that they were prepared to recommend Parliament to modify the clause in a manner which it was thought would meet the views of the British Government.

I believe that the clause under consideration is identical with clause 23 of the Bill of 1908, to which exception was taken by the Board of Trade. At the Imperial Conference, when a clause of this nature was under consideration, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Mr. Lloyd George, in effect, said to Australia, " You have control over your own shipping, and, to a large extent, over British and foreign shipping, while it is engaged upon your coast. All we ask is that you shall not place our shipping upon a worse footing than you place foreign shipping."

Senator de Largie - We place it on a better footing.

Senator ST LEDGER - The Imperial authorities do not think so.

Senator de Largie - They place their own shipping in a worse position than foreign shipping.

Senator ST LEDGER - I know that an Act was passed in 1 906 in which 'the British Government materially improved the conditions of the British seaman.

Senator Guthrie - And sanctioned the deeper loading of vessels.

Senator ST LEDGER - Ever since 1.894 the British Government have consistently improved the conditions of the employment of British seamen. They have established a standard which is quite equal to our own. They contend that under this clause disabilities are unfairly imposed upon them. It is only fair to (he present Government to say that their predecessors also refused to accede to the representations of the Board of Trade.

Senator de Largie - The honorable senator ought to know that in this Bill we propose to give British ships a preference which Australian ships are not given on the coast of Great Britain under the Merchant Shipping Act. Oar ships, under the Merchant Shipping Act, are placed on the same footing as ships of foreign countries.

Senator ST LEDGER - That may be so. My point is that the Board of Trade and the Parliamentary Shipping Committee, that sat to consider the Bill of 1907, did not hold the view which the honorable senator holds.

Senator de Largie - They could not possibly deny that we give in this Bill a preference to British ships on our coast which they deny to our ships on the coast of Great Britain.

Senator ST LEDGER - The question 5.5 not whether the reciprocal advantages are equal. The question which concerned them, and which must concern us to a great extent, is whether under this clause, and its administration, we shall not be imposing an unfair disability on British shipping. Under this clause, a British ship trading from port to port on the Australian coast might be prevented from going to sea by reason of the fact that she had not on board the number of certificated officers required by our legislation. We know that for a reason, arising from circumstances of which we are all aware, the Government propose, if they can do so constitutionally, to give at least one, or it may be two, ports of the Commonwealth an advantage, under this Bill. If a British ship, leaving Albany, is not, in the opinion of our Department, officered up to the standard required under the Bill, she may be detained.

Senator Pearce - The honorable senator is dealing with another clause now.

Senator ST LEDGER - If that be so, I shall not detain the Committee fur.ther, but I should like to ask the Minister if he can give the Committee some further explanation than that he has given in the marginal note to which I have referred, as to why the Government do not propose to accede to the request of the Board of

Trade and the Parliamentary Shipping Committee that considered the Bill of 1907.

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