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Wednesday, 12 October 1910

Senator NEEDHAM (Western Australia) . - I am somewhat surprised at the fusillade of objections which have emanated from the Opposition. The opponents of this provision have concentrated their fire on sub-clause 3. The word " informer " has been objected to, although it does not appear in the clause. The only excuse that can be found for those who have fulminated against that word is on the ground of their nativity or their descent. One honorable senator who has spoken is a native of a country whose people abhor and detest an " informer." I wish to assure the honorable senator who is so vigorous at the age of seventy-nine, thatI did not refer to his present attitude when I alluded to him as slumbering. I was referring to the time when he was a member of the Victorian Legislative Council. If he had been as wideawake then as he is now we might have heard a dif ferent statement from him. Nohonorable senator more thoroughly detests the word " informer " than I do, but I cannot see anything wrong in a passenger who suffers from the overcrowding of a steam-ship laying an information against the owner.I have travelled in many steam-ships around Australia, and can cite instances in which there has been so much overcrowding that first-class passengers had to sleep in the music-room and the dining-room. Would a passenger, who made a complaint against that treatment, deserve to be called an informer? Certainly not. There is no policeman on board a ship to report a breach of the law. Therefore it is reasonable to provide that every ship shall be policed in this respect by the passengers.

Senator Lt Colonel Sir Albert Gould - Would it not be easy for a person who had been inconvenienced to lay an information when he got on shore?

Senator NEEDHAM - Senator Gouldhas sufficient knowledge of human nature to recognise that once the pain arising from such inconvenience has gone, persons are inclined to forget all about it. Honorable senators opposite have tried to make out that by this legislation we are endeavouring to manufacture dishonorable men. I resent that charge as an imputation upon the Senate. I am convinced that if the sub-clause becomes part of the law steam-ship companies will take precautions not to overcrowd their steamers. I have heard of no suggestion from the Opposition as to how the provision against overcrowding could be administered effectively by any other means. Even Senator Gould has not suggested a constructive amendment. It appears to me that his object is to destroy the whole effect of the clause.

Senator Lt Colonel Sir Albert Gould - Certainly not.

Senator NEEDHAM - As far as I can see a passenger on board any ship, who having paid his passage found that the contract into which he entered with the steamship company was not properly fulfilled, would not be transgressing the bounds of honour by lodging an information and seeking to penalize the company.

Senator Lt Colonel Sir Albert Gould - And putting money into his own pocket.

Senator NEEDHAM - It is to be assumed that the passenger would not be a rich man, and it is not fair to expect a citizen to make such a charge and to pay the costs of the action.

Senator Lt Colonel Sir Albert Gould - He would be allowed his costs by the Court.

Senator NEEDHAM - Yes, in case he won.

Senator Lt Colonel Sir Albert Gould -Ifhe does not win he gets nothing under this clause.

Senator NEEDHAM - But the person lodging the complaint has to incur that risk. If he wins his costs are paid, but if he does not he has to pay them out of his own pocket.

Senator Lt Colonel Sir Albert Gould - We should be much more likely to have an honest prosecution if the informer did not pocket the fine.

Senator NEEDHAM - I would not say that a person lodging a complaint under this clause was dishonest. Senator Gould has practically accused the Senate of being dishonest.

Senator Lt Colonel Sir Albert Gould - I did not.

Senator NEEDHAM - At any rate, honorable senators opposite have stated that the Senate is lending itself to dishonest legislation, which would manufacture dishonest citizens.

SenatorFraser. - That is the effect of the clause.

Senator NEEDHAM - Honorable senators opposite have been indulging in mock heroics. They have concentrated their criticism upon the word " informer," but their real desire seems to be to protect the steam-ship owner against the citizen, irrespective of the fact that the steam-ship owner may cause his vessels to be seriously overcrowded. The attitude of the Opposition is that they would allow the dishonest ship-owner to be immune, whilst the innocent passenger is made to suffer.

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