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Tuesday, 11 October 1910

Senator CHATAWAY (Queensland) - - Senator Guthrie has told us a marvellous story about a man signing on in Australia on a foreign ship to go to Portugal, where there is a bit of a " scrap " going on just now. But we should deal with an average case. We can assume that, before a seaman signs on, he knows where the ship is going. If, for instance, an Australian citizen, while in the United States, signs on for a round voyage, including Australia, are we going to provide that, as soon as the ship reaches Australia, the man may desert, on the ground that he is an Australian citizen ; whilst, in similar circumstances, if he were an American, he might be dealt with? I say that, in agreeing to this proviso, we shall be degrading ourselves, and inviting foreign nations to place our seamen travelling in foreign countries in a worse position than they occupy now.

Senator Pearce - An Australian deserting from a foreign ship in certain circumstances might be fined.

Senator CHATAWAY - The Minister must know that there can be no excuse for this proviso. The seaman might be fined if some one belonging to the vessel remained behind in Australia to see that he was properly dealt with.

Senator Guthrie - The agent of the ship could take action.

Senator CHATAWAY - The Minister has admitted that this is a novel provision, and is not to be found in any other Navigation Act. It proposes what is absolutely unfair, and would disgrace us in the eyes of the world. It proposes that we should say to the nations of the world, " We are going to regulate the shipping of Australia as we think fit. We intend to regulate your shipping in Australian waters as we think fit, and to permit Australian citizens to desert from your ships in any Australian port, if they claim to be Australian." There is no provision requiring the men to prove that they are Australian citizens. Senator de Largie said just now that the moment a Britisher arrived here on a ship, he would be practically considered an Australian. I do not consider that a man is an Australian, even though he belongs to the British Empire, until he has been here long enough to qualify for a vote. We are putting ourselves in a false position in the eyes of the world when we provide that, if a foreign ship comes out here with a crew of fifty or sixty men, one of them can step ashore and claim immunity from the penalties which apply to a deserter, because he happens to be an Australian citizen. If a deserter is an Australian citizen, the first thing he should be made to do is to prove that he is. A citizen is a man who has civic rights. An Englishman who steps off a ship on to our soil is not an Australian until he acquires civic rights. Senator Sayers moved an amendment which, to my mind, would make the proviso even worse than it is. We are framing a Navigation Act for Australia j and, while I do not agree with the proviso, I can understand it applying to Australian citizens, but not to any one who is not an Australian citizen, whether he be a Scotchman or an Irishman, or whether he comes from Jamaica. I shall be under the painful necessity of voting against the amendment, and afterwards, unless I can find a modus vivendi with the Government, of pressing to a division an amendment to delete the proviso.

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