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Tuesday, 11 October 1910

Senator CHATAWAY (Queensland) . - I point out that this clause does not deal with " shanghaied " seamen. It deals with seamen who absent themselves from duty. We have all read with a good deal of disgust in the Commission's report of sailors who have been ' ' hocussed ' ' in lodging-houses and, while drugged, put on board ship, knowing nothing about it until they found themselves at sea. But this clause would not touch such cases. There are ships coming to Australia having on board sailors of many nationalities. If one of them happened to be an Australian citizen, he could desert and escape punishment.

Senator Vardon - What is the definition of " Australian citizen"?

Senator CHATAWAY - One who has an Australian vote.

Senator Guthrie - One who is Australianborn, or who has been naturalized in Australia.

Senator CHATAWAY - We are going to lay it down that if a ship has on board sailors of mixed nationality, any one of them who is, or claims to be, an Australian citizen, may walk ashore, breaking his articles, and the master shall have against him nothing more than a vague civil remedy.

Senator Guthrie - It is not vague, but an absolute remedy.

Senator CHATAWAY - Even if the remedy were a good one, it would involve the master of the ship remaining in Australia to prosecute the individual for desertion. We are asking Governments in other parts of the world to recognise that, if an Australian engages, say, at San Francisco, to serve on board an American ship and to come to Melbourne, he can, when the vessel reaches Newcastle, where, perhaps, she loads up with coal to go to Valparaiso, walk off the ship with impunity. Senator Guthrie has argued as though the men would be engaged in Australia ; but the clause will apply to men who have engaged elsewhere, and who come to this country. We shall be putting ourselves in an absurdly -bad position in the eyes of the world.

Senator McColl - The Imperial Government will not consent to this Bill if such a clause remains in it.

Senator CHATAWAY - Whether the Imperial authorities will consent to the Bill I do not know ; but I am sure that we are making a mistake in providing that a man who is an Australian citizen can claim special exemption in Australia, in spite of an agreement made in some other country. I ask the Government seriously to reflect on what they are doing. The Minister admits that this is quite a novel provision, and he has not attempted to justify it. I think we are making a very great mistake.

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