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Thursday, 14 September 1911

Senator PEARCE (Western AustraliaMinister of Defence) . - Senator Millen has raised a point as to the position of a captain with respect to the pilot if the latter should prove to be drunk. In the absence of a pilot, the captain is of course in charge of die ship. When a pilot comes on board, he undoubtedly has legal power to take charge of the vessel, and that principle must be maintained. We should not give the captain power to say to a pilot, " In my opinion, you are not entirely sober. I am not going to allow you to take charge." The captain is relieved of his responsibility by the pilot. There have been cases, I am informed, where a pilot, being under the influence of drink, was received, but not allowed to take charge. The captain brought the ship into harbor, and then stated his case, and on inquiry he was exonerated from the penalties of the law. That, undoubtedly, will be done under this measure.

Senator Millen - It is done with regard 1p the captain.

Senator PEARCE - The captain is in a different position in relation to the officers from what the pilot is in relation to the captain. It is not advisable that we should give to the captain a statutory right to be the judge as to whether a pilot is sober or drunk. If a captain deems that, in the interests of his owners, he should set aside the pilot, he must be prepared to take the responsibility of doing so; but in this provision we must not, I hold, make the captain the judge in this matter.

Senator Millen - You would sooner run the risk of the pilot wrecking the ship.

Senator PEARCE - No; the captain must take the responsibility of setting aside the pilot.

Senator Millen - Suppose that he does not, and that; the ship goes to the bottom ?

Senator PEARCE - Then the captain will have to answer to his owners for not taking the responsibility of setting aside the pilot, because of the penalties contained in the Navigation Act.

Senator Millen - And if the captain does take the responsibility, he will have to answer to you.

Senator PEARCE - In regard to Senator Lynch's point, ,1 would remind him that, under clause 329, a charge can be made against a pilot for unfitness or incapacity, and the charge will be inquired into by a Board. It is provided in clause 331 that the regulations may make provision for - fixing the conditions under which licences to coastal pilots may be issued and held and the form thereof.

Under that provision, age can be made a condition, but that may not always be satisfactory. In addition a periodical sight test may be provided for. It will not be wise, I think, to embody in the Bill various conditions which it is proposed to lay down. It will be far better to leave' that matter to be dealt with by regulation. Therefore, I do not think that any amendment of the clause is required.

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