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Tuesday, 11 October 1910

Senator ST LEDGER (Queensland) . - I have given notice of my intention to move two amendments on this clause. First, I move -

That the following words be left out, " more than five years old, reckoning from the date of her first registration."

If that amendment is made, I propose to move the omission of the words "once at least in every six months, and every other steam-ship." If both amendments are accepted, as I . suppose they will be by the Government, on account of their manifest justice, the clause will read -

Subject to the power of the Minister to extend the time for resurvey, every steam-ship shall be surveyed once at least in every twelve months by the prescribed surveyor.

My reason for suggesting these amendments is to bring the clause in accordance with the provision of the Merchant Shipping Act. Further, if it is so amended it will follow the precedents of the Navigation Acts existing in the States.'

Senator Guthrie - Only in one State.

Senator ST LEDGER - If my notes are correct, the provision existed in the law of other States. New Zealand and Victoria had it.

Senator Guthrie - New Zealand is not a State, but a Dominion.

Senator ST LEDGER - Is the honorable senator prepared to say that in no other State, such a provision or substantially such a provision as my amendments would make, the clause does not exist?

Senator Guthrie - Only in Victoria.

Senator ST LEDGER - I think that my amendments will bring the clause into conformity with what was substantially the law in most of the States in Australia prior to Federation. In the report of the Royal Commission, I can find nothing recommending a survey, as it was provided for originally in the Bill. Its recommendations on that point, as far as I read them, are only three. On page 64 of the small edition of the report, I find this passage -

In connexion with the provisions for survey, three things seem essential -

1.   That sufficient surveyors should be appointed.

2.   That they should have adequate powers.

3.   That provision be made to enable these to be given effect to.

The report goes on to deal with the qualifications of the surveyors and the classes of surveyors recommended for appointment to carry out surveys. In a summary of the Commissioners' recommendations I find a recommendation which is remarkably brief, and as clearly intelligible as it is brief -

40.   That the survey of ships be intrusted to men who are experts in the matters upon which they are called to report.

The Commission seems to have made no specific recommendation on what is an important innovation in the Merchant Shipping Act. The clause will apply as it is intended to apply to the coast-trade vessels, and, of course, to vessels trading to the Pacific. It must be within the knowledge of the Minister that some of the voyages along the Australian' coast take several weeks. From the time a steam-ship leaves Melbourne for Cairns until she returns to port three weeks elapse, and to connect with Western Australia, I dare say that it takes another four or five weeks. Under this clause every six months a vessel engaged in the coasting trade and working upon a time-table may be laid up by the Minister. What is the reason for this innovation? It Is an entirely new departure from the lines laid down in the New Zealand Navigation

Act and the Merchant Shipping Act. Apparently some of the expense which will be cast upon ship-owners by this clause is to be modified, inasmuch as the provision is not to apply to vessels more than five years old. But the Minister must recognise that some vessels after five years' service are in a more defective condition than many which have seen twenty or thirty years' service. There is such a thing as a jerry-built ship. Under my amendment the Minister would have power to exercise his discretion irrespective or whether or not a vessel had been more than five years in service. He would thus be able to take action whenever he chose in the case of a jerry-built ship. Those vessels which satisfied his surveyors. after they had been five years in service,wouldbe liable to survey only once in every twelve months. But if the surveyors found defects in a ship so great as to endanger her seaworthiness, the Minister would have power to detain her upon that ground. No other Navigation Act, so far as I am aware, provides for a survey of vessels every six months.

Senator Pearce - I shall have something to say upon that matter.

Senator ST LEDGER - My statement may be incorrect.

Senator Needham - As per usual.

Senator ST LEDGER - Not as per usual. I have not misquoted a single section. I ask the Minister whether it is wise to insist upon the clause as it stands in view of the fact that it will add a good deal to the expenditure of Australian shipowners, and whether my amendment would not satisfy all reasonable requirements?

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