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Thursday, 31 October 1912

Senator PEARCE (Western Australia) (Minister of Defence) . - I think that a short explanation of the clause will remove any necessity for further debate. A great many of Senator Gould's remarks were directed, not to the clause, but rather to the whole scope of the measure. The clause itself clears the air, as it were, for what is to follow. There are certain matters in relation to which we have undoubted power. There are other matters regarding which our powers are not so clear, and new section1a sets out the position. It reads -

This Act shall not apply in relation to any Australian-trade ship, limited coast-trade ship, or river and bay ship, or her master or crew, unless the ship -

That covers all the matters with which the Bill purports to deal.

(a)   is engaged in trade or commerce with other countries or among the States; or

No one denies that we have this power.

(b)   is on the high seas, or in waters which are used by ships engaged in trade or commerce with other countries or among the States; or

That is where there is a conflict of opinion as to our powers. The statement which I quoted some time ago dealt particularly with that point. I shall read it again -

It is thought possible that the power conferred under the Merchant Shipping Act " to regulate the coasting trade " may be wider,so far as that trade is concerned, than that conferred by the Constitution.

The latter power is limited in its application to matters affecting ships trading Inter-State or with foreign countries. The regulation of the coasting trade, under the powers conferred by the Merchant Shipping Act is not, however, subject to any such limitation, and very possibly would be construed as giving power to control shipping engaged in trading between port and port anywhere along the coast, including trade confined within the limits of a State.

The power conferred by the Constitution no doubt gives us a certain amount of power to control Intra-State shipping, to the extent at any rate of imposing upon it obedience to such rules of . the road, &c, as are necessary to ensure the safety of Inter-State and foreign-going shipsusing the same waters, but no more. The power to " regulate " the trade would, oh the other hand, imply not only this, but such matters aswages, accommodation, discipline, &c.

That is the reason for the inclusion of paragraph b in this proposed new section. It continues -

(c)   is in the territorial waters of any Territory which is part of the Commonwealth.

That is practically to clothe ourselves with the power, in regard to the Northern Territory, which any State would have in regard to its waters, seeing that there we have undoubted power to do what a State can do within its jurisdiction. There we have explained the reason for each of the provisions. Unless a ship comes within the scope of paragraphs a, b, and c, the Bill does not deal with her, nor does it purport to do so. Therefore, the whole issue, so far as any issue may be raised as to powers, is narrowed down to those three matters. The second part of the proposed new section is designed to guard against the possibility of the whole Act being declared invalid, because of the possible invalidity of any of its provisions. It may be of no value, or it may be of some value. At any rate, it can do no harm, and it may be of some service.

Senator Guthrie - It covers a case like that of the Kalibia.

Senator PEARCE - In the opinion of the Government, it is worth while to enact the provision.

Senator Keating - Senator Gould asked if that is not in conflict with definitions contained in the 'Bill.

Senator PEARCE - I do not think that there is anything in his argument.

Senator Lt Colonel Sir Albert Gould - Read the definition.

Senator PEARCE - We say that an Australiantrade ship, if it is covered by paragraphs a, b, and c of this provision, is covered by the Bill. As regards the trade to Fiji, if it is an Australian-trade ship, it comes under the conditions of the Bill laid down for Australian-trade ships ; if it is a British ship, it comes under the conditions of the Bill laid down for British ships ; while if it is a foreign ship, it can only be controlled by the Bill in so far as it purports to deal with foreign ships. We know that in regard to foreign ships there is a serious limitation which the Bill does not purport to overcome, and cannot overcome. Therefore, the possibility of competition between foreign and British ships does arise, but will not arise because of the passing of this measure. It exists to-day, and always has existed; but, nevertheless, British ships have been able to hold their own, and may continue to do so. I ask the Committee to agree to the amendment, because it clarifies the position.

Senator Lt.-Colonel Sir ALBERTGOULD (New South Wales) [4.40].- In his concluding remarks with regard to the competition between British and foreign ships, the Minister of Defence omitted to point out that this Bill increases the rate of wages.

Senator Guthrie - It contains no provision as to wages.

Senator Lt Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD - It deals with the accommodation for seamen, and their victualling. Now, these provisions are, to a certain extent, handicaps upon our ships, and we should do the best we can to minimize them to the utmost possible extent. Take, for instance, the question of accommodation. In our measure we require 140 cubic feet of space to be provided for each seaman. The British Act, 1 think, required 7 2 feet until the space was increased. The Bill which was introduced here some years ago provided for increased accommodation. I forget whether it provided for 100 or 120 cubic feet. Certain ship-owners who were going to trade with Australia made provision accordingly, but now they find themselves confronted with the necessity of providing 140 cubic feet for each seaman. That is only one instance showing how the expenditure is being piled up against our own ship-owners. It would be far better, I think, to limit the Australian trade to Australiantrade ships within the waters which we may regard as our own. In Great Britain they have increased the accommodation considerably. A great deal of evidence was given some time ago as regards the necessity for that increased accommodation, and it was the extreme space which the Commonwealth Government adopted. Whilst I believe thoroughly in building up an Australian marine on fair and reasonable conditions, at the same time I do not want to handicap our own ship-owners when they are attempting to compete with foreign ships in waters where we have no authority.

Senator GUTHRIE(South Australia) ments which have come from Senator Gould. In one breath he said that he was prepared to give every assistance to build up a mercantile marine, but in the- next breath he said that we must not demand any better terms from an Australian shipowner than a foreigner.

Senator Lt Colonel Sir Albert Gould - I did not say anything of the kind. I said that I did dot want the Bill to handicap our ship-owners.

Senator GUTHRIE - The honorable senator knows as well as I that the Bill contains no provision dealing with wages. In that respect we are not imposing any conditions on any one who likes to come to Australia to trade. I ask the honorable senator if he would feed his dog on the food which is provided for in the victualling scale. He tells us that we ought to come down to the same feeding scale as that of the foreigner.

Senator Lt Colonel Sir Albert Gould - I have not done anything of the kind. I said that we should be guided by the scale in the Merchant Shipping Act.

Senator GUTHRIE - As regards the question of accommodation, would the honorable senator like to live, as the Imperial Act and some foreign laws lay down, in 72 cubic feet of space? He kicks up row enough now when he has to travel from Melbourne to Sydney in 200 cubic feet of space, and that for one night only. Fancy a man being cooped up in a compartment measuring 3 by 3 by .6 feet for three months. Not only has a sailor to sleep in 72 cubic feet of space, but he has to take his meals there, and do everything else that may be necessary. It is said that we are handicapping our ship-owners bv requiring them to provide 140 cubic feet of space. The statement is absolutely preposterous. We merely say to the shipowners " If you treat your men decently we will give you some rights; we will reserve the coasting trade for you." I shall cordially support a provision that not only every coasting ship, but every ship which engages a man in Australia, shall have the benefit of the conditions laid down in the Bill, or better if possible. I do not think we are asking too much. In fact, the shipowners have virtually conceded everything which is provided for in the Bill, and a bit more. The food which is supplied to-day on our coast is worth 50 per cent, more than the food provided for in the Bill. I hope that Senator Gould will help me to keep competitors off who are paying low wages, feeding the men badly, and providing bad accommodation.I shall give him an opportunity to say whether he is prepared to keep the trade for Australia, or to allow Dutchmen to come in and take our trade from us. I think that the Minister has satisfactorily explained why the clause is worded as it is. I realize the danger of passing the Bill without such a provision. When the first case was heard under the Seamen's Compensation Act, the Act was ruled ultra vires, on the ground that we had exceeded our constitutional power in one small particular. I think that the Government are wise in providing that if an unconstitutional provision is found in this measure of nearly 500 clauses, not the whole Act, but only that part shall be held to be invalid by the High Court.

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