4th Parliament · 3rd Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– I had the following information prepared in answer to the question asked yesterday by the honorable member for South Sydney regarding the upkeep of Government House, Sydney -
– Last week the Minister of
Trade and Customs promised to bring before the Cabinet a proposal for increasing the percentage of moisture allowed in butter exported from the Commonwealth. As those engaged in the butter industry wish to know what decision has been arrived at, I ask the Minister if he has any statement to make on the subject.
– I promised to bring the matter before the Cabinet at the first opportunity, but, although there was a Cabinet meeting yesterday, there was not an opportunity to bring it forward. According to my promise, I shall lay the matter fairly before the Cabinet at the earliest opportunity; but, as I have already said, I think it will be best to keep the moisture contents at not more than 15 per cent.
– According to the newspaper reports of the proceedings of the Fremantle Municipal Council, a large sum is owing to that body for services rendered to the Commonwealth, and has been owing for so many months that the position is almost scandalous. Will the Minister of Home Affairs have inquiries made, with a view to remedying the matter?
– I shall look into the matter. If the council has a claim against the Department, it will be settled, because it is our rule to pay promptly.
In Committee (Consideration resumed from 1 st October, vide page 3664) :
Clause 25 agreed to.
Clause 26 -
No person, other than a superintendent, a seamen’s inspector, or the owner, master, mate, or engineer of a ship, shall engage or. supply a seaman or apprentice to be entered on board the ship. (2.) No person shall employ, for the purpose of engaging or supplying a seaman or apprentice to be entered on board a ship, any person, other than a superintendent, a seamen’s inspector, or the owner, master, mate, or engineer of the ship-
Penalty : Fifty pounds or three months’ imprisonment.
.- Section III of the Merchant Shipping Act of 1894 provides that no person may engage or supply a seaman or apprentice to be entered on board any ship in the United Kingdom unless that person holds a licence from the Board of Trade for the purpose, or is the owner, or master, or mate of a ship, or is bona fide the servant, and in the constant employment of the owner. In my opinion, it would be a great convenience to the community if the words “ or is bona fide the servant and in the constant employment of the owner “ were inserted in the clause. I do not think that their insertion could lead to any abuse.
– This clause is one of the most important of those providing for the protection of seamen, and it was in connexion with it that so much evidence was taken regarding the crimping that exists in Australia, it being found that, although Newcastle had a bad name for this practice, other places were nearly as bad. The clause is designed to prevent or diminish crimping, and, in my opinion, is already sufficiently wide. A superintendent, a seamen’s inspector, and the owner, master, mate, or engineer of a vessel may be employed for engaging or supplying seamen. If we added to the clause, it is possible that persons who have been connected with crimping might be employed directly to secure seamen.
– The Bill introduced in 1908 contained the words -
No person, other than a superintendent or the owner, master or mate or engineer of a ship, or a person who is bond fids a servant in the constant and exclusive employ of the owner.
No one desires to encourage crimping, as it was found to exist in. Newcastle.
– It was pretty bad in Melbourne at one time.
– The evidence taken by the Commission showed that it was worse at Newcastle, where many sailing ships from al] parts of the world bring seamen of all classes and characters.
– And some of the worst characters had control of them.
– So far as we could see, there were some captains employed in the trade who were unscrupulous enough to make a profit out of this practice. Those who ought to have been the natural protectors of the seamen were not their natural protectors, but were trying to make a profit out of a nefarious traffic. The evidence showed us that it ought not to be tolerated in Australia for ten minutes. We all desire to suppress the traffic. I am sure that when the honorable member for Angas suggested an improvement by the adoption of some words in the Imperial Act he did not wish to insert an amendment which would encourage or countenance this practice at all.
– Hear, hear]
– Reading the clause through, I cannot see how the suggestion made by my honorable friend would give facilities for the operation of crimping, because he does not suggest that any body or individual should be licensed to engage seamen. All he suggests is that a person who is bond fide the servant and in the constant employment of the owner shall, be authorized to do it. That would give, I think, a certain elasticity in the conduct of Australian engagements, without encouraging any of the evil effects which the Minister has suggested. I hope that he will give us some reason why this provision has been omitted from the Bill of 1908, and may see his way to provide something similar, if not the same. The Navigation Commission distinctly recommended that, so far as possible, this business should be in the hands of a superintendent - that is, of a responsible person. This clause allows the owner, master, mate, or engineer of a ship to act. Of course, the owner cannot do it by himself, as he will be away, nor can the master; mate, or engineer leave his post for this purpose All that my honorable friend asks is that, in order to make the clause effective, the master, mate, or engineer should be enabled to carry out what he desires through a bond fide servant who is constantly in the employment of the owner.
– I think that the amendment would be dangerous. The Navigation Commission heard a great deal of evidence on this matter, and it was alt to the one effect. A condition of things had existed in some of the ports of Australia, particularly Newcastle, which, was little short of scandalous, and from what we gather only in San Francisco were conditions worse. The extent to which this practice went, and its ramifications, were really calculated to surprise any person who was not familiar, with shipping matters. It was clearly impressed upon the Commission that the only, remedy was to confine the business of engaging seamen, to a public officer, and so they recommended that no person other than a superintendent should be allowed to supply or engage a seaman on board a ship. I want it to be clearly understood that it was never suggested for a moment, nor was there the slightest evidence that . anything in” the nature of crimping occurred in regard to Inter-State shipping; of course, that would be perfectly absurd. The practice was confined to foreign-going shipping. But, as this measure affects Australian shipping as well as foreign-going shipping, naturally some regard had to be paid to the representations of ship-owners who might be handicapped by a too strict application of this principle, and, as a consequence, an amendment of* the Commission’s recommendation was made. The scope which was thought proper by the Commission was enlarged by the Government, so that now a superintendent is not the only person who may engage a seaman, but a seamen’s inspector, who is, of course, a Government officer, or the owner, master, mate, or engineer of a ship may -dso do so. We can find an excellent reason for allowing those persons to act, because they all have the sanction of practice. The master or mate does engage, and ought to be allowed to engage, seamen. He is the man under whom they are going to work, and, therefore, it is perfectly proper that he should be allowed to engage any person who he thinks is suitable for his purpose. The engineer is in a similar position with his staff. When we go outside the owner of the ship we are in troubled waters. The amendment suggested would, I think, be most undesirable. Take the suggestion of the honorable member that this business should be intrusted to a person who is bond fide the servant and in the constant employment of the owner. Practically it means that any person who is in the employment of the owner may engage a seaman. I take it that in practice a seaman could be engaged under the clause by the owner or by the owner’s agent. The honorable gentleman would not say that the strictest possible interpretation of the provision would preclude the owner from delegating to a bond fide agent the business of getting a seaman. It is perfectly true that he could only be supplied and shipped in one way, but the preliminary negotiations could be carried out by an agent. The owner would be responsible under the provision for anything improperly done. The moment you enlarge that, and permit the owner to delegate his authority, you will get into a very uncertain position. I do not think that even the question of allowing the owner himself is without difficulty
– I think it must be the master.
– I think so. With the master of a ship, you know where you are. Who is the owner of c ship? If the ship belongs to a registered company, or to a single individual, I know who the owner is ; but under the law the ownership of a ship is divided into sixty-four parts, and any person who has a sixty-fourth part, unless, of course, the ship belongs to a registered company, is the owner of the ship within the meaning of this provision. The clause is quite wide enough ; it cannot possibly affect Inter-State snipping prejudicially. I do hope that there will not be any tendency on the part of the Committee, in the full light of the evidence, which disclosed an astonishing and scandalous position of affairs, to enlarge the scope of the clause, and so to invite the continuance of that situation.
– I think that the Attorney-General has not given full consideration to the very reasonable suggestion that has been made by the honorable member for Angas. As a matter of fact, the Bill as introduced in 1908 contained a special provision of the kind enabling a person in the exclusive and constant employ of the owner to attend to a matter of this kind.
– Does the honorable member say that under the clause as it stands an owner could not appoint a person to act for him?
– If the AttorneyGeneral admits that that is so-
– I do not admit it. I said that the Court might very fairly hold that he could.
– Then is it not reasonable to put the matter beyond all doubt? The clause as it stands is of an almost prohibitive character.
– It is essential that it should be prohibitive.
– I am quite willing to assist the honorable member in putting down crimping, but I am simply urging now that reasonable facilities should be afforded owners in this connexion. I am- prepared to go almost to any length to avoid crimping ; I would make it a criminal offence to be severely punished. But our experience shows that crimping has been the result of negligent supervision, boardinghousekeepers who are primarily and mainly responsible for crimping, being permitted to go on board ship. It is not possible for my honorable friends opposite to produce any evidence that the practice that has hitherto prevailed of permitting this work to be performed by a bond fide servant of a company has resulted in crimping. In the case of a large ship, it is quite impossible for the owner, the master^ or the engineer to undertake work of this kind, involving, as it does, much time.
– The clause as it stands is wide enough for anything.
– Representations have been made to me that the owners desire the present practice to be continued. It has never been harmful.
– -Surely that is incorrect.
– The practice of “allowing a bond fide servant to act has certainly not been harmful. The words used in the Bill of 1908 were “ or a person who is bond fide a servant in the constant and exclusive employ of the owner “ shall be allowed to act.
– That is a nice loophole.
– Surely the honorable member will recognise that whilst this is a rigid Bill as against ship-owners, it is only reasonable that we should afford them reasonable facilities if we can do so to get through their work in a legitimate way. The Bill of 1908 provided for the continuance of the existing practice, but for some reason or other the provision to which I have just referred was omitted in the Senate. That, I think, was a mistake. The Attorney-General said that it was probable that the clause as it stood would enable the servant of an owner to do this work. I understood him to say that that” was a reasonable inference, but having regard to the rigid character of the clause such a view, I think, is excluded. The clause throws on the master, the owner, or the engineer a personal obligation to do this work, .and that, in the case of large vessels, must prove impracticable. If we provided, that a man in the constant and exclusive employ of the owner should be permitted to act for. him in this regard the position would be met. Surely honorable members do not think that either the owner or his employe’ would run the risk of having to pay .£50, or undergo three months’ imprisonment.
– There has been too much of a legal quibble.
– Nonsense. This is simply a proposal to give ordinary business facilities.
– My experience of the port of Sydney leaves open to me no other course of action than to vote for the clause as it stands.
– If the honorable member has had an extended experience of the port of Sydney, he must know that the present practice obtains without any evil result. It has been estimated that the passing of this Bill will mean placing on ship-owners an increased cost of ,£100,000 per annum. That amount is going to be passed on to the public, and surely when we have an opportunity to afford reasonable facilities we ought to take advantage of it. Do not let us ignore what is fair and reasonable in this connexion. If the Minister chooses to make inquiries I am sure he will be satisfied that no evil results have followed from the present practice.
.- I admit that from the stand-point of endeavouring to make the Bill a workable one the honorable member for Kooyong has made out a good case. I have had a good deal of experience of crimping cases which were brought before the old Arbitration Court in New South Wales, when awards were given in connexion with the coal trimmers and the wharf labourers of Newcastle. If there is in existence in the Commonwealth one system which is more pernicious than another, it is that of crimping. At the same time I fear that if we adopt the suggestion of the honorable member for Kooyong it will be open to a stevedore in the employ of a shipping company to engage seamen.
– No. The honorable member forgets that he must be “ exclusively “ employed by a company.
– There are some stevedoresin Newcastle who are continuously employed in that capacity by certain shipping: companies.
– They are not legally the servants of the company.
– If a man is employed the whole year round to look after the stevedoring work of a shipping company he is exclusively employed by that company, and’ would, under the proposal of the honorable member for Kooyong, be eligible to engagelabour. Again, a shipping clerk may be continuously employed by a shipping com’pany, and similarly he would be authorized to engage seamen. To him could be delegated the work of employing that class of labour.
– That is done nowvery largely.
– The honorable member for Kooyong said that under existing conditions no crimping was going on.
– Not as a result of the action of the bond fide servants of ship-owners. That is the whole point.
– There are some shipping masters who visit the port of Newcastle in whose honesty I would not repose much faith. They appear to be in league with the boardinghouse-keepers and crimpers. The clause under consideration is one of the most vital provisions of the Bill. It will prove of great advantage to the honest shipowner, who is at present handicapped by reason of the action of unprincipled men who can outdo him in business. It is a disgrace to humanity that crimping has been in existence so long in the Commonwealth, and especially in Newcastle. That city is notorious for crimping.
– Nobody knows it better than does the honorable member for Kooyong.
– I trust that the clause will be retained, and that the Committee will assist the Minister to make this measure a workable one. It should be above all party considerations.
– I think the Committee is unanimous in its desire to abolish crimping. Personally, I would make imprisonment the penalty for that offence. If there is one contemptible person on the face of the earth it is the individual who is willing to take sailors into his house, and whilst they are under the influence of liquor to induce them to sign articles to ship on certain vessels. I desire to assist in stopping that practice, and therefore I wish to make the punishment for it a sufficient deterrent. But in the offices of many of our shipping companies there is usually a confidential man who practically looks after the whole of the shipping for the firm.
– Would not he be the superintendent?
– No. If I thought the amendment would open the door to crimping it would not command my support. But most of our shipping firms employ a confidential man who is a firstclass servant, and who attends to the whole of the shipping business for his particular firm. He naturally knows a great deal more about it than does the shipowner, who is very often only a figurehead. I do not think we should incur the slightest danger in empowering such a man to ship the crew of any vessel. Very much more danger would be incurred in permitting the mate to sign on the seamen.
We all know that it is not difficult for a ship’s mate to enter into collusion with the keepers of boarding-houses and public houses which sailors frequent. It would be very much more dangerous to allow him to ship seamen at places other than the shipping-office, than it would be to empower a confidential man in the employ of a shipping company to undertake that work. There is no honorable member in this Chamber who does not entertain a perfect horror of crimpers, who, for the sake of gaining a few pounds, are prepared to do some of the most cruel work that is done in Australia. But I do not think that by adopting the amendment we should be opening the door in the slightest degree to crimping.
.- I trust that the Committee will not alter the clause. If we place the matter of shipping seamen in too many hands we shall run grave danger of the practice of crimping creeping in. The honorable member for Kooyong said that we ought not to penalize the ship-owners. I wish to assist them as far as possible, but I must safeguard the interests of the men whoare employed on board ships. We all know that the masters of the principal vessels which trade along our coast have a lot of work to do whilst they are in port, and it is only that consideration which prevents me from voting in favour of taking the work of shipping seamen out of the hands of the mates of vessels. I view with alarmthe suggestion that our shipping laws should be made so elastic as proposed by the honorable member for Kooyong. We know that, if anything occurred, the legal profession would be easily able to bring evidence to show that the person was employed by the owners of the vessels. I hope the Committee will accept the clause as framed, so as to, as far as possible, prevent the practice of crimping.
– Newcastle is, or was recently, notorious for the practice of crimping; and the police and the shipping authorities there urge that the engagement of seamen should be limited to the seamen’s inspector. This, it will be seen, would make the law even more rigid than is proposed in the Bill.
– We must take Australian conditions into account.
– Quite so; I have no doubt that if we were legislating for Newcastle only, the law would be much more strict than it is. The honorable member for Franklin has stated that it is very often the mate that arranges the crimping; and I think it would be much better and simpler to leave the engagement of seamen to some person who resides permanently in the port, and who is much more likely to know “ the run of the ropes “ than is a man who visits the town only at long intervals. The State Government of New South Wales have under consideration legislation to make the law even more strict than it is at present, and they communicated with the Commonwealth Government with a view of tightening up the provisions of this Bill instead of leaving them more elastic, as is now suggested. It is well known that the practice of crimping does not apply in the InterState trade, but is confined to oversea shipping, British and foreign. I trust the clause will be accepted as it stands. Doubtless this Bill, like every other Bill, will require amendment in the future, either in the way of tightening up the clauses or making them less drastic.
– This is one of the most important clauses in the measure; it touches the very core of the disadvantages under which ocean-going seamen sometimes labour, and I am sure that honorable members on all sides are in accord with the Government in their desire to put down with a firm hand the detestable practice of crimping. I cannot at the moment say whether the amendment submitted by the honorable member for Angas is a good one or a bad one; but my own inclination is rather to restrict the number of people who are permitted to engage in the work of supplying seamen - to restrict them within the smallest limits consistent with the reasonable working of the shipping business. One point on which this Bill errs on the side of leniency is that of penalties. In my. opinion, the monetary penalty should be abolished and imprisonment only substituted. I cannot help contrasting the lightness of these penalties with those imposed under the Royal Commissions Bill ; and nothing that could be done in connexion with a Royal Commission is half as detestable as the practice of crimping. In this connexion I should like to call attention to the report of the Royal Commission on the Navigation Bill, which affords some very startling information. It is just as well that these facts should be laid before the Committee, so that honorable members, who have not had much experience in nautical matters, may gather some idea of the practices which sometimes prevail in’ shipping seamen for deep-sea vessels. On page 15 of the report of the Royal Commission we are told -
A considerable amount of evidence was received in connexion with the supply and discharge of seamen on foreign-going ships.. Some of this was so sensational that, had it not been amply corroborated, its accuracy might well have been doubted. The witnesses, it may be remarked, were not recruited from any one class, but represented, indifferently, all sections of the community. From boardinghouse-keepers, shipmasters, seamen, lawyers, merchants, doctors, and police, the same testimony was received. As it would be impossible to suppose that witnesses of so representative a character, would mislead your Commissioners, they were forced to the conclusion that fresh legislation in. this matter is most urgently needed.
I may here remark, parenthetically, that it is the practice in some ports, not only to crimp seamen, but for boarding-masters andothers to sometimes utterly neglect to ascertain whether the men they supply are really seamen. Cases have come under my personal observation where men, who had never been to sea in their lives, have, after a spree, found themselves on a sailing ship miles out of sight of land.
– That is not crimping - that is shanghaiing.
– It’ comes within the same series of offences.
– There is a bit of both practised here.
– I do not know whether shangaiing is practised so much in Australia as it used to be in some other parts of the world when I was at sea. The report says -
Briefly stated, the law, as laid down in the Merchant Shipping Act, permits seamen to besupplied by a person who “ holds a licence from the Board of Trade, for the purpose, or who is the owner or master or the mate of the ship, or is bond fide the servant, and in the constant employ of the owner, or is a superintendent.”
That covers the scope of the amendment moved by the honorable member for Angas. The report goes on to say -
These provisions have proved quite inadequate to prevent crimping, and, in Newcastle, they may be said to have been for years past openly defied.
The report goes on to deal with the practices of boardinghouse-keepers and runners in the matter of supplying seamen. It says in regard to this -
The charge made by these persons for their services, as far as your Commissioners could learn, is £1 lor every seaman supplied. This in itself, of .course, constitutes a grave breach of the law, but other and more important ones are permitted daily.
Then the report gives an example. I should like honorable members to listen carefully to this -
For instance, it was sworn by several witnesses that this £1 per head was shared with the master of the ship by the O’Sullivans’ evidence. fs this your signature to the letter addressed to Captain McNeeley, dated 31st December, 1004? - Yes.
The following is the letter -
Sir, - I would like you to excuse me taking the liberty of writing to you concerning your business. in supplying you with men. Sailors’ wages are £3 10s. per month, my terms £1 per man, and I return 10s. from each £1. Hoping I will have the pleasure of doing your business, 1 remain, at your service, John O’sullivan, boarding master, Newcastle.
Attached to this letter is the following card -
The evidence proceeds -
Did you send that letter and card to the captain ? - Yes.
Did he agree to your terms? - Yes.
Did he take the 10s. ? - Yes.
How many men did you supply? - Eight.
Is it the usual practice in Newcastle to do this? - Everybody else does it. Andrew Wafer does it.
The Royal Commission commented -
This cold-blooded avowal of participation in a nefarious and criminal traffic excited no surprise in the shipping community at Newcastle, where long usage had rendered those concerned familiar with that and much more of the same kind.
These were ordinary business transactions, as is admitted. They were frequently conducted in years past. I hope they are not conducted to the same extent now at the port of Newcastle, in this beautiful country of Australia. I venture to believe that few shore-going persons have any knowledge of the fact that these practices have been pursued, and that our seafaring men have been victimized in this shameless and heartless fashion. But that is not all. It has even happened that seamen who have come out to Australia in ships, especially American ships, have been so tyrannized over on the voyage, and. been subjected to so many pinpricks, and often ill-usage, as to make them disgusted with the vessel, and anxious to leave her on arriving at port. The object of this practice has been largely to induce the men to accept only part of their wages as a condition of their discharge, or even practically forcing them to desert the ship and forego the whole of their wages. What has become of those wages I am unable to say. Whether they went entirely into the pockets of the owners, or whether the master of the ship, in consideration of the part he took in making life as uncomfortable and as intolerable as possible on board ship, shared’ in the wages thus forfeited, the evidence does not disclose. The report says, however, in regard to that matter -
It was sworn, too, that a regular traffic existed in inciting seamen to desert, and that this was carried on by boardinghouse-keepers. runners, and others, some of whom, it was alleged, did not even have a place of accommodation. Several witnesses alleged that some masters of vessels connived at such practice, partly for the purpose of sharing what was suggestively termed ‘ blood money “ (the £1 paid for the supply of seamen), and partly for the purpose of defrauding the seaman of his wages. Cases were cited in support of this statement. In one, men to whom three years’ wages were due were compelled to accept an insignificant proportion in order to obtain their discharges. A witness gave an instance where £60 being due, £10 had to be accepted. In other cases, despairing of ever getting anything and induced by glowing reports of local conditions put forward by the crimps, men have left the whole of their wages in the hands of the ship.
I think there can be no two opinions on the part of honorable members that practices of that kind should be put down as firmly as possible, and that we should see that no loophole is left in the Bill which will permit them to be continued. To that extent I realize that the Government in framing the Bill have tried as far as they could to provide against abuses. I myself am very chary of accepting any proposal that might possibly open the door to a continuation of such abuses.
– Or keep it open if it is open now.
– I do not know that the amendment of the honorable member for Angas will do that. I am rather inclined to think that it will afford an additional safeguard. But I am informed that the mates of some of these vessels share even more largely than the masters do in the money which is obtained from crimping. I do not know whether it is a wise thing to leave the clause as open as it is in regard to the power of mates to engage seamen. Sub-clause1 provides that -
No person, other than a superintendent, or the owner, master, mate, or engineer of a ship, shall engage or supply a seaman or apprentice to be entered on board the ship.
I think some safeguard might possibly be inserted to insure that there shall be some official supervision over the transactions of mates in that regard. Of course, I realize that a mate has not the same facilities as men ashore for successfully engaging in crimping. But at the same time he could be an active participant in the profits of crimping by sharing with boardinghousekeepers, runners, and others. I think that the amendment of the honorable member for Angas deserves consideration, because, provided that a person in the employ of the owner is a bona fide employe constantly and exclusively engaged by the owner, and in a responsible position, I do not think that any such danger as is feared by the Attorney-General is likely to occur. If the amendment were safeguarded in that way, I think it would be a safe one for the Minister to accept. I hope that he will not regard this as a hostile suggestion, because I am heartily in accord with him in his desire to make this amending Bill as perfect as possible. So are we all on this side of the House, especially in regard to those provisions which relate to the employment of seamen.
.- I did not move the amendment I mentioned, because I wanted to see what honorable members had to say on the matter. As the honorable member for Lang said, we are desirous of attaining thesame object as the Ministry - to put down crimping. But one has also to consider the convenience of employers, and we have the admission of the Minister that, except at Newcastle, there has really been no evil of that kind.
– Not of recent years. It used to be very bad in Melbourne.
– If there is a pronounced evil at Newcastle, there is nothing to prevent an amendment being made to apply particularly to that port. We are not bound to have the law uniform throughout Australia, but can make exceptions where the evil is intensified. That consideration ought to diminish the Minister’s opposition to the suggestion I am about to make. In New Zealand, for instance, greasers and firemen may be engaged directly by the engineer of a ship, so that greater latitude is given in this matter by a Dominion that has as much to do with seafaring matters as we have, if not more. I move -
That after the word “ship,” line 3, the following words be inserted : - “ or person who is bona fide a servant and in the constant and exclusive employment of the owner.”
I think the object of the honorable member for Lang is achieved by those words, which are definite. You can always tell whether a man is a servant in the exclusive and constant employment of an owner, but you could not always tell whether he was in a position of responsibility. I, therefore, do not think it desirable to add the latter words, although I quite sympathize with the honorable member’s object.
– I trust the Committee will not agree to the amendment. I am not at all sure that the clause is even yet tight enough to cure the evil that we are aiming at. As the honorable member for Franklin pointed out, there are quite a number of persons already authorized by. the clause to engage seamen. I do not believe that any honorable member would do anything to permit the practice of crimping to continue, and so I trust the honorable member for Angas will not press his amendment.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 27 -
The seamen’s inspector for a port shall -
– I presume that the seamen’s inspector is a new class of officer now being created, or that this is a new class of work being assigned to him. I point out to the Minister that under clause 9 we have provided for a general register of seamen to be kept, I presume, for the whole continent, at some central place, just as is done in England under section 252 of the Merchant Shipping Act.
– It will be kept at the most suitable place.
– Men will be signing on all over Australia, and I presume the official register will be built up upon information which will be supplied from all the different ports in Australia.
– It will be a register of the men already in the calling, and who have put in a certain amount of time in it.
– That general register, as will be seen by clause 8, applies, apparently, only to British ships. Clause 27, however, provides for a different kind of register, to be kept by the seamen’s inspector for a port, of persons desiring to be employed as seamen or apprentices. That register, as will be seen by clause 25, will apply to both British and foreign sailors. Does the Minister intend to use the information supplied in that way to keep up the general register, or is it intended to include in the general register only British seamen?
– I think we will take the name of every man who ships out of Australia, and who signs on in an Australian port.
– T think the Minister is quite right. I should, however, like him to look into this matter, to see that he really covers in the general register, provided for in clause 9, all the persons that he wants to cover.
– This clause should be read in the light of the preceding clause. This will be a different register from that mentioned in clause 9. What is the object of appointing a seamen’s inspector? If crimping is still as bad at one or two ports after the passing of this Act as it is now, an inspector will be appointed, and part of his work will be to see what he can do to carry out the law in regard to that matter. It will be necessary for him in carrying out his duties to have a general register of persons shipping in and out of the port at which he is stationed. Honorable members need not be alarmed on the ground that the clause will rehire to foreign ships. At the present time seamen are not signed on or discharged from foreign ships at the shipping office, but in the office of the Consul of the country to which the ships belong. I can quite imagine that the Consul for any other friendly nation might report to the Government that crimping had occurred in connexion with ships of the country represented hy him. It is not the policy of any civilized power to interfere with the shipping of a friendly nation, but T should imagine that at the request of the representative of any nation a Government would put down an evil which might bring disgrace upon a port.
– Seamen for foreign ships would not be signed on at the office of a Consul under this Bill.
– I know that the usual practice at present is for seamen belonging to foreign ships to sign on and be discharged at the Consul’s office, or in the presence of the Consul for the country to which the ships belong.
– It may be in the presence of the Consul.
– Under this Bill seamen desiring to sign on for a foreign ship would have to go before a superintendent or a shipping master.
– I have known cases in connexion with shipping at Port Adelaide of men getting their discharge from Russian ships at the office of the Consul’ in Adelaide. Though a foreign ship may be in our waters, it is to a very large extent subject to the laws of the. country to which it belongs, so long as those laws do not contravene our domestic laws. In the same way, the residence of an Ambassador for a foreign nation in London is not regarded as a part of London, but as a part of the country represented by the Ambassador. We may assume that our officers will have sense enough to administer the law in such a way as not to interfere with foreign vessels without absolute necessity. The object of making this clause applicable to foreign shipping is really to enable us to secure the same protection and fair play for men employed on foreign ships as we give to our own seamen.
– I remind honorable members that the register referred to in this clause is not the same as that referred to in clauses 8 and 9. The object of this clause is to enable seamen or apprentices desiring to secure employment to secure their registration at a shipping officeso that those who require seamen may know what men are available, and what their qualifications are.
– This will really be an employment register.
– That “is so. With respect to what has been said by the honorable member for Hindmarsh, trie practice adopted in connexion with foreign ships to-day is for the Consuls representing the countries to which they belong to go with the men when they are being signed on or off. Foreign Consuls will have absolutely no standing under this Bill to sign on or discharge seamen, nor have they any such standing under any State Act; but it is the practice for them to accompany foreign seamen when they are. signing on to explain any matter which they may not understand. There is nothing in this Bill which would prevent foreign Consuls continuing that practice, but we propose to make provision on our own account to safeguard the interests of seamen on foreign vessels.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 28 (Engagement and supply of seamen at ports where there is a seamen’s inspector).
– I shall ask honorable members to negative this clause, as the matter with which it deals is already provided for in clause 26.
Clauses 29 to 34 agreed to.
Clause 35 -
The master of every ship, except limited coast-trade ships of less than 15 tons gross registered tonnage, shall, before taking an apprentice to sea -
– I move -
That after the word “tonnage” the words “ and river and bay ships “ be inserted.
I wish to inform honorable members that I intend later to propose an alteration with respect to the registered tonnage of vessels, which will require an alteration in this clause. The reference here to ships of less than 15 tons gross registered tonnage has appeared in the Navigation Bill since it was first introduced in 1904. The matter was referred to by the honorable member for Franklin on the second reading of this Bill. I think that the tonnage referred to here is altogether too low, and I give honorable members notice that I intend to propose an amendment to increase it to 50 tons gross registered tonnage.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 36 agreed to.
Clause 37 -
Provided that any seaman who has been lawfully rated as A.B. before the commencement of this Act shall continue to be entitled to be so rated.
– I move -
That after the word “ apprentice,” line 4, the words “and is eighteen years of age” be inserted.
Amendment agreed to.
– What is goingto be done in regard to ordinary seamen? A person who had served two years as a boy, and a year before the mast, would be entitled to the rating of A.B. at the age of eighteen.
– I propose, in regard to ordinary seamen, to amend subclause 2 so that a person, to be entitled to the rating of O.S., or ordinary seaman, must have served before the mast or as an apprentice for at least one year and be seventeen years of age. Then, as there is nothing in the Bill to prevent the employment of unqualified men, I intend to insert after “ A.B.,” or able-bodied seaman, in sub-clause 3, the words “ O.S., greaser, or fireman.” I move -
That in sub-clause (2), after the word “ year,” the words “ before the mast or as an apprentice “ be inserted, and that the word “eighteen” be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the word “seventeen.”
That after the letters “A.B.” in sub-clause (3), the words “ O.S., greaser, or fireman,” be inserted.
Amendments agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 38 - (1.) No seaman shall be permitted to engage in any capacity unless he delivers to the superintendent, or, in the case of a limited coast-trade ship of less than fifteen tons gross registered tonnage, to the person engagi ng him -
Amendment (by Mr. Tudor) agreed to -
That, after the word “ tonnage,” line 5, the words “or a river and bay ship” be inserted.
– A penalty should be provided for the making of a false statement of qualification, as a precaution against personation and the fraudulent use of discharges.
– These discharges are frequently “ swopped.”
– I am aware that personation occurs to a wholesale extent, and it should be punishable as an offence. At present there is no guarantee that the person presenting a discharge is the person named in it, or possesses the qualifications it mentions.
– Responsibility will be thrown upon the superintendent, who will be a practical man.
– He will not have power to punish.
– I shall look into the matter. If seamen have gone away to other countries, it will be impossible to deal with them.
– They may return.
– I shall look into the question to see whether some penalty cannot be made. As I interjected recently, discharges have been “ swopped,” and, no doubt, honorable members have seen such discharges. This thing should be made an offence, in order to make sure that men who ship as firemen or as trimmers are on the vessel.
– If the honorable member for Darling Downs will look at clause 391, he will find that it contains a general penalty, which applies to all offences where no special penalty is stated. Itrea ds -
Whoever utters or puts off, knowing it to be forged, any forged document purporting to be a document issued in pursuance of this Act, shall be guilty of an indictable offence.
I think that that provision, together with paragraph b of clause 388, will cover everything.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 39 - (1.) No seaman shall be rated -
Provided that persons rated as firemen or greasers before the commencement of this Act shall continue to be entitled to be so rated. (2.) No person shall give a discharge to a seaman as fireman or greaser unless the seaman has served in the capacity in which the discharge is given for the time specified in such discharge.
Penalty for breach of this sub-section : Fifty pounds.
.- I wish to draw attention to the qualifications of greasers and firemen. My attention has been drawn to the fact that the clause, as it stands, will unduly restrict the choice of men to act in these capacities. Before he can be rated as such, a greaser is required to have served six months as a fireman at sea, while a fireman has to serve six months as a trimmer or fireman at sea. It is contended that this provision is unduly restrictive, and that many men may gain their preliminary experience as firemen on land. In the New Zealand Act, from which the clause is taken, provision is made that where a greaser or fireman has served on land, such service shall be taken into account in the rating for sea service. It is also pointed out that under the New Zealand Act three months’ service is sufficient. What reply has the Minister to make to that criticism?
– I hope that the Minister will adhere to the clause as it stands. There may be a very great deal in the view expressed by the honorable member for Bendigo. But if he had had the misfortune to go to sea as a fireman, he would have found it pretty awkward to be obliged to fire with a man who had never been to sea before, and who, therefore, had no sea-legs. If a fireman finds himself on a steamer which is bad to fire, it is of no use for him to kick up a row whilst he is at sea. The work of firing has to be done, and very often one fireman has to do the work of two, and to carry a man who is a dead-weight. That is a general ground of complaint by firemen and officers. A fireman is entitled to be protected against a man who is not competent to do his work. If anything is a dog’s job, it is that of firing at sea. Firemen have a perfect right to ask us to look at this matter from their point of view, and to give them a decent chance to earn their living in a manner which is fair both to themselves and to their employers. The present system is not fair to the men who fancy if they can get to sea they will be able to get along somehow. The proper place for such men is the inside of a gaol, because they have obtained their positions through misrepresentation ; they undertake work which they are utterly incompetent to do. No man is of much account when he first goes to sea. Everybody has to learn. A trimmer, of course, can be put on one side for a few days until he recovers; but the position is different in the case of a fireman, who should always be fit for his work.
– With regard to the point raised by the honorable member for Bendigo, the clause as it stands was in the Bill of 1907, and, I presume, in the Bill of 1904. It provides that these men should have a certain amount of experience. Probably the honorable member for Hindmarsh has had as much practical experience of this class of labour as any honorable member has had. A number of men go to sea as trimmers or firemen as a last resort, having failed on the land. As my honorable friend has truly remarked, the life of a fireman at sea is a dog’s life, and the smaller the liner is the worse it is for the fireman. One of the main objects of the Bill is to try to improve the lot of men who go down to the sea in ships, whether as firemen, greasers, or seamen. No doubt many honorable members have seen an unsteady fireman helped on to the boat after the gangway has been removed. I think that every man should be competent to take his share of the work. At present the men who are steady frequently have to do the work of firing for a watch or two for two men. In other words, they have to do the work of the men who are laid up for the first portion of the voyage because of their inexperience, and perhaps because some are not quite steady, and are unable for a watch or two to do their share of the work. The steady men are those who should be encouraged to get on, and we ought not to make their work harder than it is. I move -
That sub-clause (2) be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following sub-clause : - “(2.) After the expiration of twelve months from the commencement of this Act, a seaman shall not be permitted to engage in any capacity unless he satisfies the superintendent that he can pull an oar and handle a boat : Provided that this sub-section shall not apply to the engagement of a seaman who has not previously served at sea.”
What has been the complaint regarding a number of men who have gone to sea? The complaint of the officers is that the men will not take part in the boat drill, which is necessary, and which can only be carried out in perhaps one day out of ten, as boats can only be lowered on one day in ten, but the ordinary boat drill can be held at any time. Those who have been on ship board have seen posted up a notice showing how the crew is distributed among the several boats, and must know that firemen as well as ordinary seamen are required to assist in handling a boat. In case of shipwreck the chance of rescue might be very remote if one elected to remain on board rather than to put to sea in a small boat; but I think that the chance would be even less if one put off in a boat manned by men who had had no experience in pulling an oar. If I remember rightly, Lord Mersey, in his report, states that some of the female passengers who were lowered into the boats from the Titanic were able to show the seamen what to do. In that case there had not been any opportunity for boat drill. This amendment is designed to insure having on board ship men who are able to pull an oar and handle a boat, and so to meet an emergency.
.- I think that the Minister is right in proposing to make provision that a seaman shall be able to pull an oar and handle a boat; but, under the amendment as it stands, a man would not be allowed to work in any capacity on ship board unless he could do so. It is proper to require this qualification in the case of seamen–
– It is most desirable that a man should not be employed in any capacity on ship board unless he possesses this qualification.
– Would not the honorable member allow a man to be employed even as a nurse on ship board unless he could pull an oar and handle a boat?
– I recognise that there is force in the argument that a man employed on ship board in almost any capacity should be able to pull an oar, but the question is whether this amendment does not go too far.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clauses 40 and 41 agreed to.
Clause 42 -
Penalty : One hundred pounds.
– I move -
That sub-clause (1) be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words - “(1) The owner of a ship shall not suffer her to go to sea, and the master shall not take her to sea, without carrying the crew prescribed or specified in the last preceding section. Penalty : One hundred pounds.”
This is merely a verbal amendment. It is the owner and not the master of a ship that “ suffers “ her to go to sea. The master merely takes her to sea.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 43 -
– This clause, I think, goes far beyond what is reasonable. It provides, in effect, that the crew of a foreign-going ship shall not be employed in handling cargo in connexion with loading or unloading. I dare say that what the Minister has in view is to provide that the crew of a ship shall not be permitted to do this work where there is a strike in progress, but I believe that the clause as it stands would even prevent an A.B. from working a winch. A great many men are engaged with a view to their labour, irrespective of their work “as seamen, being utilized in particular ports. Whilst we do not wish in any way to interfere with the wages conditions of Australia, since we have attained to a fairly healthy .state of affairs here under which the general mass of the community are able to live up to the standard that modern civilization and education require, still if labour is not available locally at rates prescribed under an industrial agreement filed with, or an award made by, the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Court, it should be possible to use the crew of a vessel to load or unload her. The clause goes beyond what ought really to be in the mind of the draftsman. In order to test the matter, I move -
That after the word “prescribed,” line i, the following words be inserted : - “or where, in the opinion of the Superintendent or DeputySuperintendent of the Mercantile Marine Office, a sufficiency of local labour, at rates prescribed by an award or an industrial agreement under the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act 1904-11, is not available.”
Tn other words, I propose that the prohibition shall not extend to cases where local labour at rates fixed by an industrial agreement or an award of the Court is not available. Instead of leaving the determination of the question to the employers,
I suggest that the superintendent or deputy superintendent might very well be trusted to express an opinion as to whether there is a sufficient amount of local labour available at the regular rates. I think that they would be unbiased.
. - In April, 191 1, the Board of Trade made the following representations to the Government in respect to this clause -
This is a new clause, and seeks to forbid the employment of the crew of a foreign-going ship (British or foreign) in handling cargo in connexion with the loading or unloading of cargo. The clause in the Bill is, as it stands, very general (“in handling cargo in connexion with”), and, though it is understood that it is unusual to employ British crews in this work in Australian ports, the provisions of the clause will press very hardly on owners in the event of no shore labour being available. The Board has urged against some foreign Governments the claims of masters of British vessels to employ their crews in foreign ports in the manner sought to be prohibited by this clause, and other foreign Governments also support similar claims on behalf of their masters. It is to be feared that the putting into force of such an enactment will lead to retaliation by foreign countries.
I think that we ought to have a reply by the Minister to those representations. Some of the vessels employed in our limited coastal trade-
– They are provided for in sub-clause 2.
– That refers to Australian trade ships. The small boats which travel up our rivers, securing a bit of cargo here and there-
– A foreign-going ship does not go up little rivers.
– But the Northern Rivers Ship-owners Association have forwarded a letter, in which they express some misgiving upon the point as regards their ships.
– The clause will not apply to river and bay vessels.
– That is so; but I am referring to limited trade ships. The announcement by the Minister will relieve to some extent the fears which are entertained by their owners.
– That does not always follow, because I have heard Ministers express opinions which have been “ outed.”
– The intention of the Committee is that where shore labour is available it should be utilized. The crew of a vessel ought not to be employed to do work which is generally done by shore hands. At the same time, where such labour is not available, we ought to permit of some latitude, unless it be intended by means of regulations to afford the relief which is sought.
– The proviso says that that relief will be given.
– I ask the Minister to make some reply to the memorandum of the Board of Trade in respect to this clause. It is only due to that body that we should inform it of the reasons why we cannot entertain its objections.
– In my opinion, the amendment ought not to be adopted. The intention of the clause is that, in the case of foreign-going ships, shore labour shall be employed. That is perfectly in accord with “the general principle which has governed the economic and fiscal policy of the country since this Parliament has been in existence. I most emphatically protest against any attempt being made to differentiate between persons who are engaged in the maritime industry and persons who are engaged in a shore industry. Both the author of the amendment and the honorable member for Darling Downs know quite well that the position is not so simple that it would be met by providing that when there is a scarcity of shore labour available, the crew of a vessel may be employed to work cargo. The members of the crew of a foreign-going vessel are paid, I suppose, from £3 10s. to £4. per month at the most, which works out at less than 6d. per hour, whereas, under the awards which are now current throughout Australia, stevedores get is. 6d. per hour for working cargo eight hours a day and extra pay for overtime. How profitable, then, it would be for the master of a foreign-going ship to say,- “I cannot get labour here, and, therefore, I will employ my own crew to load and discharge cargo?” The proviso sets out clearly “ that the regulations shall not allow the employment of the crew of such ship, in handling cargo or ballast, where a sufficiency of other labour is available.” That is perfectly proper. I utterly fail to see why we should differentiate between shore labour usually so-called and shore labour which is employed in working, ships.. I cannot agree that any such differentiation is proper. The agreement which exists in Australia at the present time between the employers under the Shipping Federation and the members of the Waterside Workers Federation in regard to the working of cargoes, provides that in all the main ports sailors shall not be permitted to work cargo, but that, in those ports in which shore labour presumably is not available, or is not always on hand, the crews of vessels may be employed in this connexion. This clause places the foreign-going shipper on exactly the ‘ same footing as the local shipper; and anything more than that the foreign-going shipper ought not to ask for. If he comes here and trades he ought to pay shore rates. A foreign-going ship may take on hardwood at Bunbury and bring it round to this side; and, under such circumstances, it is to all intents and purposes competing in the Inter-State trade. Such competition, at 6d. an hour, is quite unfair and unjust to those employers whom we compel to pay certain rates.
.- Sub-clause 2 provides that the regulations may forbid the employment, except aa prescribed, of members of the crews of Australian-trade ships in handling cargo or ballast in connexion with the loading or unloading. The Attorney-General referred to an agreement which is in existence with the Wharf Labourers Union; and I desire to be quite clear as to whether it will be possible, under the regulations, to prevent the employment of crews in connexion with the cargo on ships trading up the rivers.
– Let the honorable member state a concrete case - say, a boat trading from Brisbane to Lismore.
– Quite so; such a boat may pull up every 4 or 5 miles, and take on twenty bags of corn here and a few sides of bacon there. If it is not desired that the regulations should apply to such vessels, the fact should be definitely stated in the Bill.
– Some discretion ought to be given to the man who draws up the regulations.
– We have had some peculiar experience lately of what can be done under regulations. I do not think that it is the general desire of honorable members that the -regulations under this clause should prohibit the crews of vessels being used under the circumstances I have indicated. If the regulations are to apply, such vessels, at the first port of call, will have to ship a special crew to work the cargo; and this, of course, will’ mean an increase in the freight. The actual work done by the crews is not very heavy; and I should like to know whether the AttorneyGeneral will accept an amendment to prevent the regulations applying to vessels of the kind?
– 1 understand the honorable member to ask whether, under sub-clause 2, regulations can be framed which would prevent the use of the crews in the handling of cargo on vessels trading between Brisbane or Sydney and Lismore, or any other northern river port. I do not say that no such regulation could be framed ; but this clause is confined to “Australiantrade ships,” which are defined in clause 5 - though that clause has not yet been passed - as including -
Every ship (other than a limited coast trade ship or river and bay ship) employed in trading or going between places in Australia, and every ship employed in trading between (a) Australia and (4) territories under the authority of the Commonwealth, New Zealand, or the islands of the Pacific.
Then, further, clause 5 contains the following interpretation : - “ Limited coast-trade ship “ means a sea-going ship exclusively engaged in making short voyages from and to any port in Australia within limits (not exceeding a radius of 400 miles) . . . determined for the port by the Governor-General.
There is no doubt that for all practical purposes an “ Australian-trade ship “ is a ship engaged in Inter- State trade so far as this sub- clause is concerned ; and, therefore, I think that the regulations would not apply. That, however, is a matter for interpretation. The honorable, member has asked what is the conception of the scope of this sub-clause by the Government, and whether it would be possible to frame such a. regulation under it. No doubt it would be possible to frame such a regulation, but whether it would be proper to do so must remain for the discretion of the Minister. I indicated what the practice is in regard to Inter- State shipping; but there is no such practice at the present time in connexion with the InfraState shipping. I am now speaking of the result of an agreement between the shipowners and the employes. In regard to Inter-State shipping, the practice I have spoken of is subject to limitations, in so far as certain ports are exempted. In regard to Intra- State shipping, and particularly in regard to those ports the honorable member has in his mind, the practice does not apply.
.- I am afraid that the sub-clause, if retained, would be very oppressive in its operation in connexion with some boats engaged purely in the Gulf trade. The Attorney-General was quite right in referring to the definition of “ Australian-trade ship,” because the sub-clause applies to such shipping only, and not to a limited coast-trade ship or river and bay ship. A limited coast-trade ship means a ship exclusively engaged in making short voyages from and to any port in Australia within limits. The AttorneyGeneral in quoting the interpretation clause “jumped” the succeeding words, “ not exceeding a radius of 400 miles.” The limit may be much less than 400 miles ; and in South Australia, for instance, there are a great number of vessels who make short trips daily, say, from Port Adelaide to Yorke’s Peninsula, of about four hours’ duration. The greater number of the men are employed on those vessels owing to the fact that their services may be utilized at the various ports,; the actual sea part of their work being comparatively small. Under recent awards they are paid fairly good wages and good overtime rates. Under an interpretation of some awards - the last one, for instance, connected with officers - a sum may be paid as commutation for overtime at sea; but if no overtime is worked at sea, and; the monthly sum is paid to commute the amount paid’ for overtime there is no allowance for work done on land.
– Men are employed on ‘ ships to unload cargo, and sometimes no shore labour is employed at all. The cargo is thrown on to the wharf from the slings of the ship by men employed on board.
– - In the majority of cases men are employed on board because they can be used at the various ports, and the greater part of the work is done in port. For instance, a seaman who is also a winchman is engaged on account of the double qualification. If the limits prescribed by the Governor-General are sufficiently short, a limited coast-trade ship cannot employ men in loading and unloading, though, of course, if the voyage prescribed is over the 400 miles a good many ships might be exempt. “ River and bay ship” is defined as including “every ship which trades exclusively in some river, gulf, or bay within any State or States.”’
I very much doubt whether in South Australia a ship engaged in the two Gulfs would come under that definition. But some of the vessels in South Australia are not confined to one Gulf. They are engaged in the two. The definition of river and bay ship therefore might not cover them, and they would not be excepted from the operation of the clause. That would be very severe and oppressive in some cases. I suggest’ to the Minister whether he has not gone too far, and am inclined to vote against the clause as it stands, as clearly going beyond what ought to be prescribed if any limitation is to be imposed.
– We are dealing with this matter in a very inconvenient way. We are passing a Bill which imposes severe restrictions on river boats, but the Minister has circulated an amendment which excludes those boats from the operation of the measure. I am particularly concerned with river boats such as those which run from the Derwent up the Huon, where no wharf labourers are employed on the wharfs.
– The clause would not apply to them.
– The amending provisions which have to be considered afterwards will very properly exclude the whole of those boats.
– Only in certain ways. It will not exclude them in all ways.
– I take it that the meaning of the amending provisions is that these conditions will not apply to boats wholly confined to a river trade.
– An Australian-trade ship cannot possibly include such ships as the honorable member refers to.
– I think that the practice of allowing such matters to be dealt with by regulation is objectionable. Where we have an opportunity, it is better for us to put into an Act of Parliament exactly what we mean. Instead of leaving so much to regulations, it will be better for us to define as clearly as we can what ships to which we intend this provision to apply If the amending clauses which we have to discuss afterwards are not carried, we shall be passing a measure which will be quite Oppressive in many instances. Would it be possible for us to deal with the new clauses before we proceed to deal with kindred matters which the amending clauses will affect?
– The honorable member has to ask himself whether the vessels to which he refers are Australian-trade ships. If they are engaged in rivers they are not.
– Look at the definition, which we have not yet passed.
– We are imposing restrictions which will be affected by the definition clause, which we have not yet passed. The amending clauses, I freely admit, give me nearly what I want in regard to river boats. There are no wharf labourers on the jetties where these boats put in. The sailors do the whole of the loading and unloading. There is an understanding between the Ship-owners Federation and the Wharf Labourers Union. The Union has never attempted to interfere with the trade done by these little vessels.
– The honorable member, of course, is not speaking of sea -going boats trading in rivers. The Union has attempted to deal with them.
– If the new clauses are carried they will exempt all those vessels.
-We cannot deal with the new clauses until we have passed the whole of the clauses in the Bill as it stands.
– I realize that difficulty; but it places us in the position that we are now imposing restrictions without knowing whether the amending clauses will be carried. If they are not passed it will be necessary for us to try to get some of the clauses of the Bill recommitted, in order to exempt river boats and boats not engaged in the oversea or extended coasting trade.
.- One aspect of this question has not been touched upon. I quite agree with the honorable member for Franklin with regard to the smaller ports where the seamen are engaged in handling the cargo, but we have had recent experience, especially on the Queensland coast, in regard to this matter, and to my mind the clause is not sufficiently drastic. In Queensland in more than one case, and in comparatively recent times, whenever there has been a little disturbance between the shipowners and the men in any particular port, the former, in order to defeat the men, who were asking for better wages or better conditions - perhaps for some trifling concession- have shipped what they call a double crew. The Attorney-General and myself have had these matters submitted to us officially on more than one occasion and we have found no way of providing for the difficulty. There has been a mutual agreement, but I think so soon as the Bill is passed all those arrangements will go by the board. The trouble mentioned should be provided against in the Bill itself, and I think it is met by the position taken up by the Minister.
.- According to the definition, a “ limited coast-trade ship “ means a sea -going ship exclusively engaged in making short voyages from and to any port in Australia within limits - not exceeding a radius of 400 miles - determined for the port by the GovernorGeneral. Any Government can cut that radius down by regulation, and the moment that is done the vessels trading to the Northern rivers of New South Wales become “ Australian-trade ships.”
– How can the Minister alter a radius which is fixed by the Bill?
– Power is given in the definition itself to alter the radius. I am informed also that some of the Northern river ports are beyond the radius of 400 miles from Sydney. Lismore is 425 miles, and the Tweed is further still, so that the vessels trading to the northernmost of those rivers from Sydney would become Australiantrade ships, to which sub-clause 2 would apply.
– What is the position today? Do they do their own loading or unloading ?
– Yes, going up and down the rivers, but not at ports like Ballina, Coraki, or Lismore.
– I do not think you can add to the radius the length of the voyage up the river.
– I want to be perfectly clear upon the point, because it would be most disastrous to our people if they suddenly found that they had to carry special crews up and down the rivers to attend to this work. Recent awards have put 50 per cent, on to the freights on those rivers. Five years ago we could send a bag of corn to Sydney for a shilling. We have now to pay1s. 6d. It is the same with freights on butter. In fact, everything has risen through these additional awards.
– In many cases the increase is not all due to the award.
– I do not say whether it is the fault of the awards or the companies. I f we include these ships as Australiantrade ships and oblige them to employ special labour at all the small wharfs and landing-places going up and down the rivers, it will mean another increase of freights, and the burden will fall, as always, on the producers.
– Ought it not to apply to ports like Byron Bay?
– Yes; and at all such ports the masters do not employ their own crews, unless it be the winchman. But going up and down the rivers there are small farmers’ wharfs for loading corn and putting off grass seed, and things of that sort. I want to be quite sure that there the ships will not have to employ special labour.
– You would get over the difficulty by the definition of a “ port,” and making this clause apply only to certain ports. What the honorable member has been mentioning are not ports, but landing stages.
– I think under this Bill they would be ports. If the AttorneyGeneral will look into the matter and propose a definition of “ port “ that will not include them, I shall be satisfied.
. -Perhaps the Attorney-General could add to sub-clause 2 the words “ at proclaimed ports.”
– I do not think that is advisable. I think if we define a port it will exclude all those places.
– Will the AttorneyGeneral make it clear that the prohibition: will apply only at those places where wharf labourers are available?
– Order ! I intend to allow a suspension of sitting until half-past 2 o’clock, instead of quarter-past 2 o’clock, in order to enable the officers of the Hansard staff to keep pace with the extra work occasioned by the longer sittings.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.30 p.m.
– The honorable member for Richmond and others have asked whether the clause will apply to small vessels trading up rivers, and carrying only a few hundredweights of cargo, which at present is put on board and discharged by the crew. We all know the vessels engaged in this trade, some of which do a little coasting. It is not intended that the clause shall apply to them, though it should apply to large river boats which load and discharge the bulk of their cargo at big ports. I suggest that the clause be allowed to pass as it stands, and chat when definitions of “ river and bay boats” and “limited coasting trade” have been arrived at, there should be a recommittal, if it be thought necessary. I admit the force of the contention that the matter should not be left to regulations.
– A number of vessels visit outlying South Australian ports in ballast, going to them from various parts of the world to obtain cargoes of wheat. At these places there may be difficulty in obtaining sufficient labour to do the discharging of the ballast and the loading of the wheat, and there may be difficulty in deciding whether there is or is not a sufficiency of labour available. I have been requested by residents of Port Darwin to draw attention to the fact that when two steamers arrive together, there is not always a sufficiency of labour available locally for the handling of their cargoes, and the crews have therefore to be employed to give quick discharge. I ask the Minister whether it would not be well to make an exception in regard to outlying ports such as that.
– There is bound to be a sufficiency of labour for the discharge of ballast in all ports where they load wheat.
– It is not my desire that crews should be employed in the work of loading and discharging cargo, except where that may be absolutely necessary, because of the difficulty in getting other labour. Many of the South Australian coasting steamers carry men specially for the handling of cargo. They have extra men on their articles for this purpose. This is done in the Spencer Gulf and west-coast trade, and it is the practice of the Adelaide Steam-ship Company to carry extra men. The clause as it stands might work hardly in some cases.
– I ask the Minister to postpone the clause rather than promise its recommittal. This course may save time. I know that the honorable gentleman does not wish to impede or hinder the operations of the small vessels trading up our rivers and along parts of the coast ; but if a Government were to limit coasting trade to the trade within 100 miles of a port, or even a larger radius, the operations of many of them would, as a result, come under the control of sub-clause 2.
Clause 44 - (1). The masterof a ship, other than a limited coast-trade ship of less than fifteen tons gross registered tonnage, who engages any seaman in Australia, shall enter into an agreement with him in the prescribed form, in the presence of the superintendent…….
– The words “ fifteen tons gross registered tonnage “ have been in all the Bills introduced since 1904, but it seems to me that the tonnage should be at least 50 tons, and, to bring this clause into conformity with clause 38, I move -
That the word “fifteen” be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the word “ fifty.”
– I suggest to the Minister that he should fix the tonnage at 56 tons. The honorable member for Dalley may know the exact reason, though I cannot now state what it it, but it is the wish of those employed on these small vessels that the tonnage limit should be 56 tons, and perhaps an amendment to bring that about will have to be moved when we are discussing the schedule. I hope that the Minister will take the matter into consideration.
– I shall take the matter into consideration, and, if necessary, propose an alteration subsequently. The Senate allowed 15 tons to stand.
– Fifteen is absurd.
Amendment agreed to.
Amendment (by Mr. Tudor) agreed to-
That after the word “ tonnage “ the words “ or a river and bay ship “ be inserted.
– A number of persons interested in small vessels trading out of Port Adelaide and other ports wish to know whether it is necessary that crews of small boats shall be signed on before the superintendent. The practice at Port Adelaide is for the superintendent to issue the proper form of agreement.
– It is not necessary in the case of river and bay boats. I am specifically exempting them.
– Very well.
.- I would draw the attention of the Minister to the memorandum of the Board of Trade in regard to this matter. In November, 1907, the Board of Trade addressed a communication to the Commonwealth Government, to which reply was made in June, 1908. In September, 1908, the
Board of Trade sent a further memorandum, as follows: -
Clause 44. - As to stipulations in agreements being approved by the superintendent involves the question of principle as to whether clauses in contracts should be controlled by an executive officer. The control will be used to protect the seamen, but if the clause is applied to ships not registered in Australia or engaged in the coasting trade, it will be contrary to the Imperial Act, which allows full freedom of contract.
To that memorandum- a reply by cablegram was sent in 1908 by the Government of the day, who stated that they were prepared to recommend Parliament to modify the clause in a manner which it was thought would meet the views of the British Government. I understand that the desire is to harmonize our law with the Imperial law wherever that can be done.
– We have done that.
– Quite so. Perhaps the Minister will state the difficulties that he finds in the way of carrying out the suggestion made by the Board of Trade in this case.
Mr. TUDOR (Yarra- Minister of Trade and Customs) £2.49]. - The difficulty of dealing with crimping was discussed this morning, when honorable members on both sides of the chamber expressed a desire to see seamen properly protected under the agreements which they sign. Some honorable members thought that the agreement should not be signed except in the presence of the superintendent or the inspector of seamen. The Board of Trade, however, are anxious that no executive officer shall be brought into the transaction.
– That is not the objection here. The point the Board makes is that this clause introduces a practice contrary to that under the Imperial Act.
– If we were to follow strictly the Imperial Act, the result would probably be to allow the continuance of that which is going on at present.
– No one suggests that that should be done.
– But we might leave a loophole. By providing, as we propose, that the agreement in each case shall be entered into in the presence of the superintendent, we shall be doing our best to stop crimping. A British ship would have to ship a crew here in the presence of either the seamen’s inspector or the superin.tendent
.- The New Zealand Act follows the Imperial Act, by declaring what are to be the conditions of the agreement. This Bill departs from the principle altogether, and leaves the provisions of the agreement to be prescribed by regulation. In the New Zealand Act very important provisions are included as necessary terms of the agreement. The time when an engagement commences, for instance, might be material for many purposes. That is incidentally referred to in clause 81, which provides that a seaman’s right to wages shall be taken to begin either at the time at which he commences work or at the time specified in the agreement. I do not know why the provisions embodied in the Imperial Act as to the terms of the agreement have been left out of this measure. The point to which the Minister’s attention has been called seems to give a very wide latitude to the superintendent to determine what are to be the terms of the agreement. I am not a great believer in the principle of leaving to be prescribed by regulation all those matters which, in other parts of the world, are usually made statutory conditions. . I understand that at present representatives of the ship-owners and the seamen meet together, and go through the agreement clause by clause. There seems to be no necessity for bringing in the superintendent to interfere with them.
– Is it not often the case that the men have not the slightest idea of the meaning of the agreement?
– I understand that a representative of the Seamen’s Society is present. I do not believe in the men being unrepresented.
– What representatives would foreign-going seamen have here?
– But the local bodies have their representatives.
– There is no question about that.
– Here, again, in order to accomplish something, the Government are going further than is necessary. I believe that the Seamen’s Association is satisfied with the fixing of the terms of the agreement through a representative of both the ship-owners and themselves, and that - I speak only from hearsay - they do not desire to have in the Bill the provision that the superintendent shall approve of the terms of the agreement.
– The President of the Seamen’s Union moved that the agreement be signed at the Marine Office in the presence of the superintendent.
– Very well. The question has been raised whether this clause permits of the agreement being signed «on board ship. Reading it in connexion with clause 10, I think that it does. That doubt has arisen, 1 think, owing to the fact that there has been omitted from this Bill the provision in the New Zealand Act, that where the agreement is signed on board ship, or at any place other than the mercantile marine office, the expense of bringing the superintendent there shall be borne by the ship-owner. Under the clause as it stands it may be that in few, if any, cases will the superintendent go on board ship to see that an agreement is signed, and attendance at the mercantile marine office, where something like 100 men had to sign on, would occasion loss of a day. I think it would 6e well to insert the provision in the New Zealand Act that the expense of bringing the superintendent to the ship shall be paid by the ship-owners.
– I think it inadvisable to make the amendment suggested, that the agreement can be signed on shipboard if* the superintendent goes there. I cannot see that there is anything to prevent the agreement being signed on board ship under the clause as it stands. That is evidently the opinion of the Senate, because an amendment moved there to add the words “ at the mercantile marine office “ was negatived. The agreement, therefore, may be signed wherever the superintendent is. The superintendent is not prohibited from going on board a ship, and, therefore, an agreement can be signed in his presence on a ship. I do not know, however, that we are called upon to invite the practice of signing agreements on board ship. Wherever possible the agreement should be signed on shore. The Minister has pointed out that an agreement might be read in such a way as to be little understood by the men called upon to sign it. It was shown before the Commission that usually the agreement was read, just as an oath is administered, at such a rate that even a person educated in the language used in the agreement, which is not always or generally the case, could hardly understand one word in ten. Frank Bullen and Conrad, in their works - and both of these have had great experience of the sea - state that no human being can detect a solitary word, or the meaning of it, except as we catch the concluding words of the oath, “ So help me, God 1” - and the peremptory demand for half-a-crown. The unfortunate sailor who is either recovering from, or is, perhaps, still under, the in-, fluence of drug or drink, or is a foreigner, does not know what the agreement is. If he did, he would not, usually, be there. I think we should encourage the signing of agreements on shore. The Government have agreed not to compel agreements to be signed at the mercantile marine office, but to leave the place of signing to the discretion of the superintendent. He will know that in some cases it is perfectly proper for an agreement to be signed on board ship, and that in others it is not. The matter should be left to his discretion, but we should provide that the agreement must be signed in his presence. I cannot agree with the suggestion made by the Board of Trade. It was carefully considered, but we could not adopt it.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 45 agreed to.
Clause 46 -
– I move -
That after the word “ agreement “ line 3, the following words be inserted : - “ or if within twenty-four hours of the ship putting to sea the services of the seaman are lost by death, desertion, or other unforeseen cause.”
This is to remedy an omission. The master may engage substitutes in the case of a seaman failing to join, but there is no provision for the engagement of a substitute for a seaman who already belongs to the ship, and is prevented from joining. This proposal is on the lines of the Imperial Act and the New South Wales Act.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 47 agreed to.
Clause 48 - (2.) A running agreement shall not extend beyond six months from the date thereof :
Provided that every such agreement shall, m any case, remain in force until the ship reaches a port of destination, and the crew shall be considered engaged when the agreement is first signed, and discharged when the employment ends.
Provided further that when a ship the crew of which have been engaged under a running agreement which has been in force more than six months reaches a port other than a port of destination, and the ship is not then on her way back to the port of discharge mentioned in the agreement, the crew shall be entitled to claim their discharge, and the master or owner shall be liable to provide them with a passage to the port of discharge or to such other port as is mutually agreed to with the approval of the superintendent.
– These running agreements are for a voyage of less than six months’ duration, but some men may be away from home for eight or ten months. Has the Minister any objection to making the period for twelve months instead of six ?
– An agreement may be made for the voyage, and if the voyage be less than six months, the agreement may extend over two or more voyages.
– Very often a voyage extends beyond the term arranged, and I do not think that the clause covers such cases. However, the Minister may consider the point. I am informed that, in many cases, men are taken on at Sydney for voyages that extend over six months.
– There are several sorts of running agreements; and under the clause an agreement may be made for a voyage, or, if the voyage extends over Six months, until the termination of the voyage.
– It will remain in force until the vessel reaches the port of destination?
– Yes, and similar agreements, are made under the New Zealand Act, the Canadian Act, and the British Merchant Shipping Act. Under the lastmentioned Act the agreement may be for a shorter time than six months.
– I cannot see any reason why the suggestion of the honorable member for Angas should not be considered. If I remember rightly, notwithstanding the terms of the agreement, a seaman always has the right to terminate an agreement on giving twentyfour hours’ notice at any home port.
– Can the owner also give the seaman twenty-four hours’ notice?
– Yes, at a home port. The suggested amendment cannot affect Inter-State trade in any shape or form ; and, as there is no particular virtue in the six months, I think the idea of the honorable member for Angas a fair and reasonable one.
– The usual practice, as I have said, is to have an agreement for six months, and all the agreements made in Australian ports to-day are for that period. The agreement is made for the voyage, and if the voyage averages less than six months, the agreement may extend for two or more voyages.’ That is the ordinary practice in practically every Englishspeaking country.
– It is a source of considerable and unnecessary trouble.
– In what way ?
– It necessitates a renewal every six months, and is a cause of expense to the seamen.
– I do not see that any trouble is entailed, nor, indeed, any extra expense. The seamen can terminate an agreement at Melbourne, Sydney, or any other port if that be the home port, and the six months is provided so as to do away with the necessity of signing afresh for every voyage. I have not heard any objection raised to that period ; and I trust that honorable members will agree to the amendment which I now move -
That the words “ ship reaches _ a port of destination “ be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “ ship’s arrival at a port of destination and the discharge of cargo consequent on that arrival.”
– In my opinion, the clause ought to be left as it is, and I am rather surprised at the remarks of the honorable member for Kooyong, who had charge of the measure in another place, and ought to know something about it. Running agreements for six months are an established practice recognised by the Ship-owners Federation and the organizations of the seamen ; and I cannot understand anybody desiring to depart from it except some hungry shipowner for reasons best known to himself. If a man signs on in Melbourne, the ship may not return to that port within six months. It is quite possible that a vessel may go into the Queensland or Western Australian trade, and, under such circumstances, a seaman can compel the shipowner to give him his discharge and pay his fare to the home port. The only object I can see in the suggested alteration is that it may permit some grasping ship-owner to evade the expense of sending the seaman home. In the ordinary Inter-State trade a voyage does not occupy even three months; for obvious reasons, there is no necessity for men to sign on every time they start. As I say, the only object I can see is that some shipowners - and not the best of them - may have an opportunity to swindle the members of their crews. The established practice has worked remarkably well, and I can see no cause to interfere with it. It appears to me ridiculous to make an alteration simply for the sake of making an alteration.
– I draw the Minister’s attention to the fact that in the Bill of 1908 there is a proviso, in section 48, that, in the case of a limited coast-trade ship an agreement, not otherwise contrary to the Act, may be made for a period not exceeding two years. This, I understand, was taken from the New South Wales Act, and I believe that the Minister has had a communication from the North Coast Shipping Association asking for the retention of this proviso. This would inflict no hardship on any seaman, who can obtain his discharge on very short notice, though I believe it would impose some inconvenience on the master. Why has this proviso been omitted from the Bill ?
– It was left out in the Senate; I do not know why.
– On the face of it, the suggestion of the honorable member for Angas seems reasonable. The only difficulty is that it imposes great inconvenience on the master. It is a question of practical administration.
– I have here a copy of the ordinary Board of Trade agreement for foreign-going or home trade ships. The same form is used in Victoria. It sets out an agreement with regard to one of the Inter-State boats, and is dated 6th July of this year. The agreement is for a voyage from Melbourne to any port or ports in the Australian States, trading to and fro in any succession of voyages for a period not extending beyond the 31st day of December, 1912, or until the first arrival at Melbourne after the expiry of that time, and the discharge of cargo consequent upon such arrival. One of the conditions of the agreement is -
In one port only, viz., Melbourne, but not elsewhere, the master may discharge any seaman if he give him not less than twenty-four hours’ notice on a day other than Saturday, and if the notice be not less than twenty-four hours before the vessel sails. Any seaman may end his engagement at the port aforesaid if he give such notice as aforesaid. If the ship be laid up in any port other than the port where the articles were drawn up, the seamen shall accept their discharge with wages then due and shall be entitled to free passage back to the port where the articles were drawn up.
That is precisely what we are trying to provide for in this Bill. In New Zealand the home-trade agreement is for six months. In Canada the running agreement is not to exceed six months, and under the Merchant Shipping Act the running agreement is to terminate on the next following 30th June or 31st December, so that it may be under six months. Six months is a fair period for any agreement made in Australia.
.- The proposal in the Bill is a very fair one. A six months’ agreement is quite long enough. Under a running agreement a man can ship from here to London, and go thence to America or elsewhere. The home port is wherever the man has signed on. If a man signs on under a running agreement, and leaves his ship before he gets back to his home port, he is a deserter, and forfeits his wages, so that the owner is protected. If the parties do not agree, six months is too long, and if they do agree there is nothing to prevent a man renewing his agreement; and the little inconvenience that may be caused to the sailor or shipowner is small in comparison with the difficulties that often arise from long agreements.
Amendment agreed to.
Mr. TUDOR (Yarra- Minister of Trade and Customs [3.20]. - I move -
That the word “ superintendent,” in the last line of the clause, be left out, with a view to insert the words “ proper authority “ in lieu thereof.
We propose to insert a definition of “ proper authority “ in clause 5. This amendment will bring the clause into agreement with the Merchant Shipping Act in this particular.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 49 -
In the case of limited coast-trade ships, the agreement may, notwithstanding anything in this Act, be made with either owner or master. In the case of Australian-trade ships the agreement shall, notwithstanding anything in this Act, be made with the master.
.- Will the Minister explain why a distinction is drawn in this clause between Australian-trade ships and limited coast-trade ships ? . It seems to me that it would be better for the agreement to be made with the owner or master in the case of Australian-trade ships. A man may be shifted from one vessel to another, being still under the same owner, but not the same master. The Australiantrade ships would be a bigger class of vessel than the limited coast-trade ships, and why, in their case, should the agreement be made only with the master?
– In the case of limited coast-trade ships, the owner is more often available than he would be in the case of Australian-trade ships.
– - ls it intended to provide that a man shall serve only in a specified ship in the case of Australian-trade ships?
– The agreement is always for one ship.
– In the Bill of 1908 it was provided that the agreement could be made with either owner or master in the case of both Australian-trade ships and” limited coast-trade ships, and that a seaman could engage to serve in any two or more of such ships belonging to the same owner. If the clause is passed, is it intended to prevent an agreement being made for a sailor to serve in two or more ships belonging to the one owner ?
– The clause does not specify whether he shall serve in one or more ships..
– If the agreement is made with a.. master, I presume the sailor can serve only with that master, and that would limit him to that ship. If it is made with the owner, it can apply to several ships.
– In England the sale of the ship cancels the agreement.
– There is a decision to that effect. What is the intention of the Government ?
– Clause 44 provides that the master of a ship other than a limited coast- trade ship of less than 15 tons who engages any seaman shall enter into an agreement with him in the prescribed form. Clause 49 says that in the case of a limited coast- trade ship an agreement may be made with the owner or master, and in the case of an Australian-trade ship with the master. That brings it into conformity with clause 44. If a company has ten ships, a running agreement will give it the option of putting the sailor on to any of them. On this coast until recently, although certain companies owned certain ships, it frequently happened, by a system of cross-chartering, that one company was running another company’s ships. Who was responsible for the payment of the crew we did not know. The fact remains that when a seaman makes an agreement with the master of a ship, he agrees to sail on that ship; but the matter is quite different when he makes an agreement with a company to sail on any ship. A man may sail willingly on a certain ship, and have objections to sail on another. The agreement carries out a time-honoured practice, and respects the prejudices of seamen, so that a sailor will now ship on a particular vessel, and not on any one of a fleet. As things are now, for all the Committee knows, there is nothing to prevent a man shipping to serve on any one of the whole Shipping Federation’s fleet.
– The Attorney-General is quite right in contending that a man should know what ship he is signing on for, but I see no reason why he should not be permitted to sign on before an owner as well as before a master. In some cases considerable der lay will be caused if signing on is always to be done in the presence of the master. A steamer like the loongana, for instance, is in port for only a few hours, and her captain under the recent arbitration award is at liberty to leave her as soon as she is moored, and need not return until she is on the eve of sailing. If it were discovered during his absence that one or more seamen were required, it would be necessary, under the clause, to wait for his return to get them signed on, and by that time they might have disappeared again ; and, in any case, there might be delay, postponing the sailing of the vessel. I admit that it is objectionable that men should sign on to serve on any of a company’s boats. That ‘ should not be permitted. But there is no reason why a definite agreement should not be made as to the ship, the signing on being done before either the owner or master.
– Many sailors are ignorant men, and would not know what they were signing.
– They would know as well if signing on before an owner as if signing on before a master.
– To sign on before a master, the sailor would have to go to the steamer’s office, and a sailor in an office is like a bull in a church - quite out of place. Besides, “ owner “ includes agent or secretary.
– The signing on could be done quite as safely in an office as on a ship. If necessary, the signing on might be done before a superintendent, or the representative of the Seamen’s Union could accompany the man.
– In the coastal and Inter- State trade the practice is to sign on before the master, and nine-tenths of the men employed in these vessels do not know their owners, or the managers, where the vessels are the property of limited companies. I understand from a well-known Inter-State captain that in his experience the signing on before a master is invariable. In the little river ports owners as well as masters are made available, because it often happens that the masters assist the crew in loading and unloading, and it would be inconvenient to call them off their work.
– The masters of the craft referred to are generally their owners as well.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 50 (Changes in crew).
Amendment (by Mr.Tudor) agreed to -
That sub-clause (1) be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof : - “(1) The master of every foreign-going ship shall, before finally leaving Australia, sign and send to the nearest superintendent, on the prescribed form, a full and accurate statement of every change which takes place in his crew before finally leaving Australia.
Penalty : Five pounds.”
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 51 - (1.) The master of every ship shall, at the beginning of every voyage, cause a legible copy of the agreement (omitting signatures) to be posted up in some part of the ship which is accessible to the crew, and shall use all reasonable precautions to keep it so posted during the voyage. . . .
Amendment (by Mr. Tudor) agreed to -
That after the word “voyage,” line 7, the words “ or engagement “ be inserted.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 52 -
The master of every foreign-going ship shall, within forty-eight hours after arrival in any port in Australia or upon the discharge of his crew, whichever first happens, deliver the agreement to the superintendent.
Penalty : Fifty pounds.
– I move -
That the words “ in any port “ be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “ at her final port of destination.”
There is some overlapping and conflict between this clause and clauses 164 and 168, all of them requiring the deposit with the superintendent of documents relating to the crew. The amendment is intended to remedy this confusion, and to bring the Bill into conformity with the Merchant Shipping Act. Later it is intended to strike out clause 164.
.-I think that the term used in the Merchant Shipping Act is “port of destination,” and those are the words used in the Constitution. It would be best to stick to that phrase, because the meaning of it will be the subject of a decision by the High Court in connexion with merchant shipping awards made by Mr. Justice Higgins. The question is whether port of destination means an intermediate port or the final port of destination of a voyage. A vessel leaving Sydney for a voyage through the Pacific Islands to Auckland and back to Sydney touches at a number of ports, all of which might be referred to as ports of destination.
– The words here are qualified. It is her “ final port of destination in Australia.”
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to..
Clauses 53 to 58 agreed to.
Clause 59 consequentially amended, and agreed to.
Clause 60 -
– - I should like to draw the Minister’s attention on this question of the discharge of seamen to a clause which appeared in the Bill of 1908, and which offered very great facilities. It provided that -
When the crew of a ship or any of them, immediately upon the expiration of their agreement, enter into a new agreement to serve in the same ship, then it shall not be necessary -
The foregoing provisions of this section shall not apply in the case of seamen shipped in the United Kingdom.
The point is that it should not be necessary for a master of a ship to go to the trouble, and for the crew to go to the expense and trouble, of obtaining a discharge when it is intended to sign on again in respect of the same vessel. It is obvious that when a man has fully determined to continue on the same ship it should not be necessary to observe a lot of formalities in regard to signing off and signing on again. I suggest that the provision in the 1908 Bill should be embodied in this measure.
– This clause deals with seamen not shipped in Australia, whereas the honorable member was referring to the case of seamen who have shipped in the Commonwealth. I do not think that the point raised by the honorable member relates to this clause.
– I ask that it be taken into consideration.
– I shall look into the matter. 1 move -
That the words “or could not be obtained,” line 5, be left out.
I propose also to move the addition of the following words - and it shall be a good defence if the master proves that under the circumstances it was not reasonably practicable for him to apply for the sanction.
As the clause stands, it would be a good defence for a master to say that he could not obtain the sanction of the superintendent to the discharge of his men. The superintendent might have felt that the master in question was trying to victimize the seamen, and might, therefore, have refused to give his consent; but, in that event, in the absence of this amendment, it would be a good defence for the master to say, “ I tried to obtain the superintendent’s consent, but could not do so.” We therefore propose to amend the clause in the terms I have .outlined.
– - All fishing boats are exempt from the provisions of the Imperial Act, and I wish to know whether it is intended to apply the general provisions of this measure to fishing boats and pearling luggers.
– Will they not be exempt?
– I know of no exemption which would apply to pearling luggers. The exemptions in regard to river and bay boats would not apply to them, for they fish in the open sea. I ask the Minister to consider this point.
Amendment agreed to.
Amendment (by Mr. Tudor) proposed -
That the following words be added :- “ and it shall be a good defence if the master proves that under the circumstances it was not reasonably practicable for him to apply for the sanction.”
– Is there any reason for making noncompliance with this clause an indictable offence? There would be great delay in trying the master of a ship for such an offence, which might, after all, have been merely the result of inadvertence. The requirements of the case might be met by imposing a heavy fine. Probably if a person charged were convicted by a jury, the result would be merely the imposition of a fine. That being so, why incur the delay of submitting him to a trial bv jury ? This is the only indictable offence with which we have yet dealt. I ask the Minister to make a note of the point.
– It is very easy to state a hard case, but we have to look at the facts, and the possibility of seamen being victimized. The position is very clear. It is provided that a master of a ship who fails to comply with this provision shall be guilty of an indictable offence. He has, however, to be proved guilty. It is a perfectly good defence for him to say, “ I went to the Mercantile Marine Office and inquired for the superintendent, but he was not there. My ship was ready ; I had to go to sea ; the tide was right, and I went.” We provide that he shall make out a prima facie case that he tried to comply with the clause. I do not agree with the suggestion that the offence should not be an indictable one. If we allowed it to be regarded as a trivial offence, we might as well forego the Bill altogether. We are dealing with a class of men whom the Equity Courts have always taken under their special protection as persons who are not capable of looking after their own affairs. The Courts have always- held out to them a helping hand, and’ we have also to safeguard their interests. The master of a ship, on the other hand, should not be victimized, and we therefore provide, that if he makes a reasonable effort to secure the sanction of the superintendent he shall not be held blameworthy.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 61 -
No person shall give to any seaman a discharge which falsely indicates the capacity in which the seaman actually served.
Penalty : Fifty pounds.
– I move -
That after the word, “ served “ the words “ or the time during which he served in that capacity “ be inserted.
This is to insure the absolute accuracy of the discharges, so that a man will not be able to assert that he has served as an A.B. when he has acted only as an O.S., or that he has served as a fireman when he has been employed only as a trimmer or greaser.
.- The whole question of rating requires to be very seriously considered. The rating, A.B. in Australia, has come to be an absolute misnomer. Unfortunately, the old A.B. is to a very great extent dying out. A man obtains his rating as A.B. after he has been employed for three or four years as an ordinary deck scraper on a cargo steamer trading along the coast. It is about time that we considered whether men who are not qualified sailors should be classified as A.B’s.
– We have provided that an A.B. must be able to pull an oar and handle a boat.
– Any man may learn in a minute how to pull an oar.
– The honorable member is quite correct. So long asa man can handle an oar - and most grotesquely some of them do it - and has been three years on a cargo steamer he can be rated as an able-bodied seaman. We passed that clause because it was understood that the question of rating would be considered when the proposed amendments of the measure came up. We are now dealing wholly and solely with the question of rating; and I contend that the discharge should state distinctly whether a man is a sailor or is just an ordinary deck hand.
– What does the honorable member mean by a “ sailor “?
– I mean a man who has served his time on a “ wind jammer ; “ and sailors cannot be produced under any other conditions. By this Bill we compel the owners of small coasting craft to discharge the men they now em ploy in favour of those who fulfil the definition.
– The Bill prescribes the qualification of a seaman.
– It does not prescribe any qualification, but simply defines a seaman as a man who has served a certain time at sea, and who may be nothing more than an ordinary deck hand. For such men as these, infinitely better sailors are to be displaced - men who have spent their lives in navigating small sailing vessels. It is the height of absurdity to class a manas an able-bodied seaman when he may know nothing whatever of seamanship, and may have no experience in steering or in handling canvas.
– Show us where owners of small vessels are compelled to discharge their present sailors.
– Schedule 2 provides, for instance, that in vessels under 15 tons not less than one able-bodied seaman shall be carried ; and the definition of an able-bodied seaman is one who has been a certain time at sea whether in a sailing vessel or on a steamer.
– What about it?
-This will compel the owners of coastal boats to discharge men who have been all their lives at the work, and supplant them with others who are probably not half as skilful. A man who has been engaged wholly on a steamer as a deck hand is just as dangerous a man as could be found to put in charge of a ketch or coastal vessel. The whole question of rating should be considered and decided by the Committee now; and I repeat that the discharge should show exactly the work in which a man has been engaged.
– The discharge will show the nature of the work and the character of the vessel.
-I say that the definition of an able-bodied seaman is wrong; a deck hand is not a sailor in the proper acceptation of the term. This would not be of so much importance if the schedule did not compel the carrying of able-bodied seamen according to the definition set down in the Bill. In my opinion, wrong is being done to the men at present employed, and it is stupid to classify men for work in which they have had no experience.
– We all have a desire to do what is necessary to prevent grave injustice. I have been trying to follow the argument of the honorable member to see precisely in what direction the danger lies, and that these men are in danger. Apparently, there is a class of ship °n which the most skilful and reliable seamen of Australia are to be found. We are told that those we. have been in the habit of regarding in the light of seamen are nothing more than persons who have worked on steam-boats, and cannot be relied on in any serious emergency, and that under this Bill able seamen are to be displaced. This is a most extraordinary position. I ask that some attention should be paid to the Bill, and it should be indicated by the honorable member what is the particular class of men to whom it is proposed to do this monstrous and asinine wrong. I know of my own knowledge how rating is obtained. I was, with twentyeight other men-, shipped as a seaman on one discharge, which was handed from one to the other ; and during a strike in Sydney no men were shipped, not on one discharge, but without any discharge at all ; they were shipped on permits. A permit represents an effort of imagination on the part of the applicant to remember the circumstances under which his alleged discharge has been lost. It is the practice to ship men on worthless discharges or on these permits; and now, by this Bill, it is proposed, for the first time in the history of navigation, that that practice shall not continue, but that no man shall be shipped unless he is of a certain age, and possesses certain qualifications. Then, the honorable member will observe, by the proviso to clause 37, that a man who has been rated as an able seaman before the commencement of the Act shall continue to be so rated ; and, therefore, every able seaman now will be an able seaman under this measure. Under the circumstances, I earnestly hope that the honorable member for Franklin will not persist further. I freely admit that the nursery of our mercantile marine is to be found in our fishing and other small craft, and all men employed thereon who are now entitled to be rated as able-bodied seamen will continue to be so rated under the schedule.
– I say that they will not.
– Then it is a conflict of authority.
– Will the AttorneyGeneral point out where that rating is given under the Bill?
– Are they able seamen now? There is nothing that will make a seaman out of a tinker. If a man is a seaman now, on what peg does the honorable member hang his rating? A man who is an able seaman now will be entitled to be rated as an able seaman after the Bill is passed.
. -It is evident that the Attorney-General does not understand his own Bill. I have pointed out that men who are first class sailors are not able-bodied seamen according to the Bill, and that there is nothing in the Bill to permit them to obtain that rating.
– I have quoted the proviso to clause 37.
– But the men I speak of are not rated - they have no rating at all.
– What do they do ?
– They have been in the coastal trade all their lives - engaged on ketches, fishing-boats, and other small craft.
– Are they under any agreement ?
– Then they will not require any agreement under this Bill. Will the honorable member allow me to explain? Where are those persons who, the honorable member says, are on boats now, and not under any agreement? That is an offence against the law. There must be a contract of some sort. Do they go to sea?
– No, up and down rivers.
– They are engaged in navigating rivers, and so I presume they come under the Tasmanian law. If not, where are they?
– They are under the Marine Board Act. The boats are registered.
– I have heard a great many things about the Marine Board of Tasmania, but I decline to believe that even that body permits persons to be employed in navigation without any agreement, or allows utterly unqualified persons to be abroad. Even if they did in the begining, those persons must be qualified seamen by now, on the honorable member’s own admission. If the honorable member denies that, I give him up.
– Mr. Chairman-
– The honorable member has .already spoken twice.
– The AttorneyGeneral asked me to allow him to make an explanation.
– I cannot make any distinction in the honorable member’s case.
– I wish to move an amendment prior to that moved by the Minister.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Amendment (by Mr. Groom) proposed -
That the word “ No “ be left out.
– There are now in the river trade between Hobart and the Huon, I suppose, between 400 or 500 men who would come under schedule 2 as regards boats under 15 tons.
– We are making that 50 tons.
– Fifty tons win cover most of them, but still there are some which are considerably over 50 tons. Every one of those will have to carry a complement of A.B.’s, as denned by the Bill. The young men of the district now employed on them have not got that rating, and under this Bill cannot get it. I am certain the Minister does not want to turn them out of their positions to make way for others who, although they have the definition of A.B., may not understand the navigation of those boats. A man who has spent his life on such boats is an infinitely better sailor, so far as they are concerned, although he has never got the rating of A.B., than a man who’ has been a deck hand on a steamer and has become an A.B.
– Are they rated as ordinary seamen?
– They have no rating at all.
– I have never heard anything like it in my life !
– The boat is registered, but the men have no rating, and are never registered. There is simply an agreement between the owner and the men. In a great number of cases these boys have grown up in the service. They are part owners of the boat, or their father owns it, and they have worked up under him.
– Do the deep-sea boats §o into those waters ?
– Very rarely, for a. cargo of timber.
– Is it a highway?
– It is the highway between Hobart and the Huon. There would be considerably over 400 men employed on those boats all the year round, and it is because I know that the conditions there have not been grasped by the framers of the Bill, and that an injustice will be done to these men, that I am a little persistent.
– I would suggest to the honorable member that we ask the Marine Board of Tasmania under what conditions those men are working, and, in the event of this Bill not covering them and preserving their rights, whatever they are, that provision should be made to meet their case.
– I am perfectly satisfied to accept the suggestion.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
– While it is difficult to realize that there are many men of the kind described by the honorable member for Franklin, who have no rating, it is possible that there are some; and I therefore suggest that the Minister might consider whether he could provide that schedule 2 shall not apply to river and bay ships.
– That is rather a wholesale proposition.
– I simply ask the Minister to consider it.
Amendment (by Mr. Tudor) agreed to -
That after the word “ served “ the words “ or the time during which he served in that capacity.”
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 62 agreed to.
Clause 63 consequentially amended, and agreed to.
Clause 64 agreed to.
Clause 65 - , (1.) Upon every discbarge effected before a superintendent the master shall make and sign, in the prescribed form, and forthwith deliver to the superintendent, a report of the conduct, character, and qualifications of the seaman discharged.
– I suggest that the Minister should follow the New Zealand Act and the Merchant Shipping Act so far as this clause is concerned. The clause is all very well as far as it goes, but it is frequently found that there is great difficulty in truthfully making a report on the subject ; and, in clause 61, there is a stringent provision as to the accuracy of these discharges. In the Merchant Shipping Act the following words are added: “Or may state in the said form that he declines to give an opinion upon such particulars.” In the New Zealand Act, the following words appear : “Or may state in the said form that he declines to give any opinion upon such particulars, or upon any of them.” I suggest that similar words should be added after the word “ discharged.”
– What is the purpose of the amendment?
– Because it follows the New Zealand and Imperial Acts, and because at times it is very difficult for the master to report definitely the character, conduct, and qualifications of a discharged seamen. He does not want to say exactly everything that he suspects.
– He marks his discharge D.R., which means “ Decline to Report.”
– That would damn the chances of the man with a future employer.
– It is only fair to the future employer that he should know this.
– It should be stated in the report.
– If he can report anything favorable to the man, he is obliged to do so ; but if he honestly cannot report it, he should be at liberty to say that he declines to express any opinion. The master should be at liberty to state that he declines to give an opinion about a man. We have good precedent for allowing this in the practice of New Zealand and the Old Country.
.- Difficulty arises from the fact that if one knowingly makes a false statement regarding character he is liable to be indicted. Character is a mere matter of opinion. We here know one another fairly well, but would hardly like to be called on to give certificates of the characters of our fellows. The master who reports on character must report on the character as a whole, as a guide to the person to whom the discharge will be presented ; to state one feature of the character would not be sufficient. If a mistake is made the risk of being indicted is run. A master ought not to decline to give a certificate of character, because that may suggest that something is being suppressed. The discharge is a privileged communication, and an action could not be brought by an aggrieved seaman for any false statement on it, but there is the risk of the master being indicted for having made a wilful and malicious mistake.
– It is an indictable offence to give a discharge falsely indicating the capacity in which the seaman has served. The seaman is entitled to a discharge stating that he has served as A.B., O.S., fireman, or greaser, and the length of his service. If his service has been good, the master should not write on the discharge “ D.R.,” which means “ decline to report.” It sometimes happens that the very best seamen displease the master, or the officer with whom they come most into contact, and, consequently, when their discharge is written out “ D.R.” is placed upon it. This is most unjust, and often damns a man’s chances of getting another ship. The seaman who has given good service is entitled to a proper discharge. If service has not been good, the master should take the responsibility of saying so on the discharge.
– - I am in favour of the clause as it stands, but there should be some modification of the penalty. The Royal Commission took a lot of evidence on this subject. The 1904 Bill followed the Merchant Shipping Act, clause 69 providing that the master might state that he declined . to give any opinion upon any or all of the particulars required to be written on a discharge. The Commission not only took the evidence of many seamen on this point, but also questioned Captain Charles Parsons, the Superintendent of Mercantile Marine in Victoria, part of whose examination I shall quote. It is as follows : - 497. What does a “decline to report” discharge mean? - That the master declines to report to the man’s ability as a sailor, or as to his conduct. 498. It is generally considered a bad discharge? - Those to whom such a discharge is presented generally interpret it as meaning that the man has not a good record. 499. Do you think it is advisable in new legislation of this description to compel a master to give a man a discharge on his merits, setting forth that he is either good ‘or bad? - Yes. 500. Although a “ decline to report “ discharge is generally recognised as a bad one, a master is not responsible at law for it? - I think that he is. I believe that the question has been dealt with by the Courts. 501. I wish you could show me a decision to that effect? - I have heard of a case in which a master was proceeded against for giving a man a bad discharge. 502. A “decline to report” means an attempt to avoid making any statement as to a man’s record? - That is so.’ 503. You think there should be no medium course - that a discharge should be either goad or bad ? - I do.
Captain Parsons was in a position to speak fairly and impartially on the subject.
– His opinion ought to be good enough for us.
– It is good enough for me. Whatever position in life a man may occupy, his character is his most valuable possession, and where it concerns his living we should take special pains to protect it. A man upon whose discharge “ D.R.” is written is practically damned, because the letters amount to the statement that he asked for a certificate of character and his employer declined to give him one. A positive statement of bad character would hardly be worse than this negative statement. A man’s service is either good, bad, or indifferent, and the actual facts should be stated about it. But if we put upon the master the obligation of making positive statements on the discharge, we should protect him in all cases where he has honestly expressed his opinion.
– And the man to whom a wrong character may be given should be protected.
– It is our duty to protect all parties. A man who has a bad character has no right to compel the master to give him a good character, but a man who has a good character is entitled to have that said- of him on his discharge.
– No doubt it is convenient to masters to be able to write “ D.R.” on discharges; other persons often find it advantageous to evade responsibility in a similar manner. But seamen are entitled to discharges on which their character and the nature of their service are truthfully stated. At present “ D.R.” may be written on a discharge merely because a master has a’ prejudice against a man, and that will damn his chances for employment as effectually as would the worst character, leaving him without any remedy. The Royal Commission was informed that it was a regular practice in the port of Newcastle to make the lot of seamen so uncomfortable that they were bound to leave their vessels. Seamen discharged from such vessels would be sure to have their certificates marked “ D.R.,” or to be given bad certificates. Clause 66 provides that a master shall be liable for wilful false statements, which is only proper, because a man’s character being his most valuable possession, it should not be traduced. Seamen are often spoken of as though they were little better than dogs, but in the Bill they are treated as men. They are entitled to their discharges, and to have written on their discharges the whole truth about them.
– There is very much in what the Attorney-General has said about the treatment of seamen at some ports being so bad that they are only too glad to leave their vessels at the first opportunity. They are sometimes so incensed at their treatment that they are quite satisfied to leave their ships, and to forego the wages accruing to them. Any master of a vessel or, in the case of an American ship, the “ bully “ mate, might so treat the sailors on board as to make it absolutely impossible for them to obtain a good discharge, no matter how satisfactory their conduct would have been to a master not actuated by unworthy motives. On the other hand, while I think it should be obligatory to give a man a character where his character has been good, I do not think this provision would be altogther an advantage in the case of a man whose character has been uniformly bad., and whom it is not desirable to recommend for employment. Unfortunately, even among seamen, such cases sometimes occur.
– But if a man has a “D.R.” on his certificate, that is equal to giving him a bad character.
– I recognise that it is unsatisfactory from an employer’s point of view. A “D.R.” discharge would indicate that the holder was not considered by his employer to be a desirable man to recommend for employment, but that practice does not compel a mast.pt to make specific charges against a man in a written document. What I see in this clause is the possibility of a master, actuated by the best of motives, and perfectly honest in his dealings with his men, having, perhaps, on board a ship a sailor of bad character, and having to set out his character in a written document. That might render him liable to an action for defamation.
– Not unless he falsely sets out the man’s character.
– Who would determine the falsity or otherwise of the charges seeing that the man would have been at sea, and that the other seamen on board would have been discharged, and, in all probability, would have gone to sea in other ships from where they could not be called to give evidence? I think there should be some protection for the master, and at the same time a guarantee that the sailors shall not be made the victims of personal spite.
– Does the honorable member object to the clause?
– Not at all. I think that the object in view - that of protection to seamen - is good. But I was suggesting that we might so word the clause as to afford ample protection to the seamen whilst at the same time protecting an honest master from proceedings at law as the result of giving a true statement regarding a man of bad character. As long as a seaman has the necessary qualifications, and his conduct is satisfactory, the master should certainly be compelled to give him a certificate, and to indorse on it his qualifications in the way provided by the clause. At the same time, where a man’s conduct has been really bad, some protection ought to be afforded the master who is compelled to convey that information in a written document to the superintendent before whom the discharge is effected. I confess that I do not know exactly how to get over the difficulty, but the Minister, after consultation with the Attorney-General, might be able to overcome it.
– I hope that we shall not in this Bill repeat what, after all, is a crime upon the seamen of Australia in so far as any captain is permitted to say that he declines to report either as to the ability or conduct of his men when discharging them. My experience of a little over four years at sea teaches me that the practice simply permits an officer or master who has, perhaps, obtained his position largely because of a little scholastic training and a good memory - rather than ability - to vent his personal spleen or smallness of mind upon competent men. If a man’s conduct has been of such a character as to necessitate comment by the captain, that captain should be protected in making the necessary observations, but he should not be protected in what, after all, is defamation of character. At present a master is often allowed to go free, while the seaman continues to suffer for the rest of his life, because of a discharge which will noi permit him to get another ship. The average master of a ship is not much concerned with conduct. He does not ask for angels in his fo’c’sle; he is more concerned about the ability of his men.- I do not think that the average seaman is over anxious to be described as an angel ; but, at the same time, he is anxious that his character shall not be defamed by a mere refusal on the part of his captain to report on it, so that he is prevented from earning a living in the. only direction in which he is able to earn it. I have in mind a case that came under my notice during my few years at sea. The only objection that the captain in this particular case had to an acquaintance of mine on board was that during the voyage he had had the supreme pleasure of thrashing a “ bucko “ second mate, who happened to be related to the skipper. When we arrived at port, the captain declined to report, on the man’s discharge, as to either conduct or ability. The man, however, was not quite a fool, and he told the captain that if he did not give him a different discharge, he would undergo an. examination as to -his ability, and that, if the examination were satisfactory, he would go as far as the law permitted. The captain immediately altered the discharge, and gave him “V.G.” for ability, but declined to report as to his conduct. Conduct, of course, is a matter of opinion. This skipper injured the man to the utmost of his petty, miserable power, and would have declined to report as to his ability, notwithstanding that he was as good a seaman as ever worked on a ship. There are many cases of a similar character.
– The only suggestion is to safeguard a captain on whom this duty is cast.
– A captain should be protected in reporting where a man’s conduct has been bad ; but he should not beprotected in an attempt to injure a seaman. A sailor’s life, Heaven knows, is hard enough, and we ought not to continue any hardship that it is possible to remove.
– Honorable members must realize that the effect of the awards of the Court and of legislation, of this character must be to raise the standard of our seafaring men. That being so, we should give them the utmost protection. The effect of this clause will be to reduce the number of bad discharges.^ that have hitherto been given. A skipper” will not care to give a man a bad discharge, and there will really not be such a necessity as there used to be to do so, because there will be a better type of men available, and it will be only in a flagrant case of bad conduct that a bad discharge will be given. I do not think it will be long before a man who is known to be a pretty bad character, and who has a bad discharge, will find it exceedingly difficult to get a ship. There is no danger to be feared in passing this clause. Honorable members opposite, no doubt, think that a captain might suffer under the clause as it stands. I do not think there is any danger for the reason that, without reflecting on “ the sailors of the past, I believe that awards of the Court, and our legislation, must have a tendency to raise the standard. Under the existing awards, the sea is not a bad calling to follow. If we had to deal with the standards of twenty or thirty years ago there would be a good deal of force in the arguments of the Opposition; but, having in view the standard that will be created, I do not think there is any danger to be feared.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 66 (Offences as to Discharges).
– I am loth to propose an amendment of this clause, because I recognise the difficulty of drafting one to meet the views that have been expressed by some honorable members. As it stands, the clause provides that a report as to character must not be false. In other words, a humane master, who tas on board a seaman of very bad character, must tell the truth about him. He could not be considerate, even to the point of commiseration. The obligation is thrown on the captain of doing justice, not only to the seaman, but to others who may re-engage him. A person who signs a discharge takes a very big risk; and the captain, out of kindness, might wish to modify his opinion of a seaman’s character, and for this he is liable to be prosecuted on an indictable offence before a jury. We have decided to protect the seamen, who ought not to be maligned; and I suggest that it might be possible to modify the clause by making sub-clause a a distinct clause with a lighter penalty attached. I further suggest that we might follow the wording of the Imperial Act by which such an offence is regarded as a misdemeanour. We have adopted a different terminology from that of the Imperial Act, and speak of a captain “knowingly “ committing an offence, which does not quite mean the same thing as the terminology of the New Zealand and the Imperial Acts. Very often in our drafting we make changes of this kind, for which I cannot quite see the reason. The New
Zealand and the Imperial Act speak of the issue of a false discharge, the captain knowing it to be false, whereas we provide that he shall be punished for making a report which is false, but the falseness of which may be known to some one else, and not to him. That may not be the interpretation which will be placed on the clause,, but, as a matter of grammar, the clause may mean that. We should, I think, provide that such an offence shall carry with it the penalty of, say, six months’ imprisonment,, under which circumstances the case need not go before a jury. I further suggest that after the word “false” we should insert the words “and defamatory.” This would give the captain a chance to modify his opinion about a bad fellow, but good seaman ; but be must not be maligned by defamatory statements. A sailor may be guilty of unmentionable crimes, but, at the same time, an excellent seaman; and a kindhearted captain might not wish to tell the whole truth, as he is compelled to do by theclause as it stands. If we insert the words “ and defamatory “ it will mean that the discharge must not be false tothe detriment of the seaman.
– I am quite prepared to submit to the Attorney-General and the Crown Law advisers the honorable member’s suggestion that the clause be reconsidered with a view to making the penalty lighter. The object of the clause is tosafeguard the seamen as far as possible. As has already been said, all seamen are not angels, nor, indeed, are all captains ;. it is possible that both seamen and captains may have made mistakes, and our only desire is to deal fairly with all concerned. We regard the seaman as needing a little more looking after by reason ofhis position ; and this makes us, perhaps,, lean more towards him than to the officers.
– I do not profess to know the exact legal bearings of this question, but I should say that a man who knowingly gave a false and bad character to a seaman, on whom he has perhaps a “set,” should be deemed guilty of an indictable offence, and very severely punished. On the other hand, if the seaman be as bad a lot as could possibly be found on board a ship, a skipper ought not to be permitted to give him a good character, and thus deceive another shipmaster.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 67 agreed to.
Clause 68 -
Amendments (by Mr. Hughes) agreed to -
That the words “ (not exceeding one-half) “ be left out, and that the following new subclause be inserted : - “(1A.) Except by agreement with the master an allotment note shall not provide for payment of a greater sum than one-half of the seaman’s wages.”
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 69 agreed to.
Clause 70 (Commencement of payment).
– I desire to substitute for this clause a newclause, which I shall propose later on.
Clauses 71 to 73 agreed to.
Clause 74 - (3.) The master shall during the voyage enter in a book as they occur the various matters in respect of which any deductions from wages are made and the amounts of the respective deductions, and no deduction shall be allowed unless so entered.
Amendments (by Mr. Hughes) agreed to-
That after the word “book” the words “to be kept for that purpose” be inserted, and that after the word “ deductions “ the words “ which shall be initialled or signed by the seaman “ be inserted.
– If the seaman declined to initial or sign the entry, would the deduction be allowed ? The Minister might look into that point.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 75 - (1.) The master or owner of every foreigngoing ship registered in Australia shall pay to every seaman, at the prescribed times, his wages or prescribed portions thereof :
Provided that this provision shall not apply to cases where the seaman by the terms of his agreement is wholly compensated by shares in the profits of the adventure. (2.) Every master or owner who, without sufficient cause, fails to make payment at any prescribed time, shall pay to the seaman a sum not exceeding the amount of two days’ pay for each of the days during which payment is delayed beyond that time, and that sum shall be recoverable in the same manner as wages.
Amendment (by Mr. Hughes) proposed -
That the following sub-clause be inserted after sub-clause1: - “ (1a.) In cases where the seamen are en gaged on time or running agreement on an Australian-trade or limited coast-trade ship, all wages earned shall be paid monthly not later than the first day of each month, or thereafter within twenty-four hours after the ship first arrives at any port in Australia at which there is a bank.”
.- The AttorneyGeneral is practically omitting clause 76, and inserting it, in the form of a new sub-clause, in clause 75, as being connected with the same subject-matter. I am informed that the provision will be very difficult to carry out, as many ships arrive on Saturday or Sunday, and there may be a holiday afterwards; in which case the time limit of twenty-four hours would be too short. In other Acts, special provision is made against the occurrence of a holiday. On the subject of payment of wages, there is a provision in an award made last year by Mr. Justice Higgins to the following effect : -
Wages shall be due monthly on the first day of every calendar month.
The wages (other than money for overtime) shall be payable as to any amount not exceeding three-fourths on the written order of the seaman countersigned by the master to the wife or a near relative of the seaman, and subject thereto to the seaman on or before arrival at one of the main ports.
Money for overtime shall be payable to the seaman at the home port, or, at the latest, within 28 days.
I believe this permits the payment of the wages at outports, and so has led to a good deal of waste of money. I have heard that application is to be made to vary the award on the ground that a good deal of the money paid at the outports does not find its way to the seaman’s wife and family. The Attorney-General might look into the question of whether it is advisable to permit payments of cash wages anywhere but at the home port.
.- Sub-section 2 of section 36 of the Acts Interpretation Act very nearly covers the point raised by the honorable member for Angas with regard to the time limit. It is as follows : -
Where the last day of any period prescribed or allowed by an Act for the doing of anything falls on a Sunday, or on any day which is a public or a bank holiday throughout the Commonwealth, or throughout the State or part of the Commonwealth in which the thing is to be or may be done, the thing may be done on the first day following which is not a Sunday or such public or bank holiday.
– There is a good deal to be said for the point raised by the honorable member for Angas. The clause is obligatory, but it would be impossible to carry out the arrangement in some cases. An oversea ship might arrive on Christmas Eve, which might fall on a Friday. There would then follow practically four holidays in succession. A similar state of things might occur at Easter time. The master would not be able to have access to the banks or to the agents’ offices, and he could not be expected to carry sufficient money with him to pay the wages. Even a ship limited to the coastal trade might be delayed by stress of weather or accident to the machinery, and arrive at a time when the banks and other offices were closed. The clause should be made a little more elastic to provide for contingencies of that kind.
– I am given to understand that when a vessel is likely to arrive at a port where there is no bank, or on a holiday, arrangements are made at the previous port.
– What if it is an oversea ship?
– This amendment applies only to Australian trade or limited coast trade ships. We cannot provide for the seamen of oversea ships to be paid in, Australia.
– A vessel registered in Australia might still be an oversea ship.
– I only know of one line of that kind. That is the Currie line, trading to India. It is quite possible that a line of that kind, employing only black labour, may, on account of this Bill–
– There are some sailing ships registered in Australia.
– As arule, they register outside Australia, so that they will not have to pay Australian rates of wages. I shall look into the point raised, so that seamen may not suffer any disability, if that can be avoided.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 76 negatived.
Clause 77 -
In the event of a seaman’s wages not being paid or settled as provided in this Act, then, unless the delay is due to the seaman’s act or default, or to any reasonable dispute as to liability, or to any other cause which is not the wrongful act or default of the owner or master, the seaman’s wages shall continue to run and be payable until the time of final settlement.
Amendment (by Mr. Tudor) agreed to -
That after the word “settled,” line 2, the words “ at the end of the voyage or engagement” be inserted.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clauses 78 and 79 agreed to.
Clause 80 verbally amended and agreed to.
Clause 81 -
A seaman’s right to wages and provisions shall be taken to begin either at the time at which he commences work, or at the time specified in the agreement for his commencement of work or presence on board, whichever first happens.
– Section 12 of the New Zealand Act provides that if, by reason of the termination of an agreement with the crew by effluxion of time, a seaman is discharged and reengaged on the day of his discharge on the same ship, his wages under the new agreement shall commence on the following day.. There was a doubt as to whether, when a seaman was off and on articles on the same day, he was entitled to two days’ wages. That and other questions may arise under this clause, by which it is provided that the wages shall be taken to begin either at the time at which the seaman commences work, or at the time specified in the agreementfor commencing work or presence on board. But a man might agree to commence work on a Wednesday, and by reason of urgency, he might have to set to on Monday. The question might then arise, was he subject to the law as a seaman until the time agreed upon for commencing work ? These points are technical, but they lead to law suits, and should be considered by the Minister.
– When a man signs an agreement to ship on board a particular vessel, he finds on it a statement in the proper column of the date and hour on which he must be on board, and his pay starts from that time. A man might have to be on board some hours before he would actually have anything to do ; that is the reason for the phrasing of the clause.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 82 and 83 agreed to.
Clause 84 - (1.) Where the service of any seaman terminates before the period contemplated in his agreement, by reason of the wreck or loss of the ship, he shall be entitled to wages up to the time of such termination of service only. (2.) Where a seaman, whose service terminates by reason of the wreck or loss of the ship, has been engaged by the run, he shall be entitled to the wages to which he would have been entitled on the termination of the run, subject to all just deductions.
. - Clause 81 of the Bill of 1908 provided that if the service of a seaman terminated before the period contemplated in his agreement because of the wreck or loss of the ship, or because of his being left ashore at any place abroad under a certificate of his unfitness or inability to proceed on the voyage, he should be entitled to his wages up to the time of this termination of service, but that if he had been engaged by the run he should be entitled to a proportionate part of his wages, subject to all deductions, to be calculated up to the termination of his service. Then section 158 of the Merchant Shipping Act provides that where service is terminated before the date contemplated in the agreement, by reason of the wreck or loss of a ship, or by reason of the seaman being left ashore at any place abroad under a certificate provided for by the Act, showing his unfitness or inability to proceed, he shall be entitled to his wages up to the time of the termination, but not for any longer period. In this clause nothing is said about unfitness to proceed because of illness, and a man engaged by the run will be entitled to the wages for which he had agreed on its termination, although his services may be determined earlier by the wreck or loss of the ship. Why has this departure been made from an Imperial Act and the draft of 1908?
– A man who engages for the run undertakes to ship for a voyage, say to Valparaiso and back, for a lump sum, and under the clause such a man will be entitled to the full amount bargained for, even if the vessel is wrecked, or, by reason of some disaster, cannot finish her voyage. Sub-clause 1 may be a little hard on the seaman. In the Admiralty inquiry into the collision between the Olympic and the Hawke, it was held that the Olympic was practically a wreck because she could not proceed further, and the pay of her sailors terminated at the time of the collision.
– A seaman who is wrecked may get another ship at a port close by.
– Yes, but the chances are all against that.
. -The Bill of 1908 followed the New Zealand Act of 1903, section 79 of which provides that where a seaman, wherever engaged, is discharged in New Zealand before completing the full term of his engagement, he shall be paid, or may recover, the full amount of his wages up to the time of his discharge, notwithstanding that he has not completed his full term. Where his service terminates before the date contemplated in the agreement, by reason of the wreck or loss of the ship, or by reason of his being left ashore at any place under certificate of his unfitness or inability to proceed on the voyage, he is entitled to his wages up to the time of such termination. It is further provided that a seaman engaged by the run shall be entitled to a proportionate part of the wages to which’ he would have been entitled on the termination of the run, subject to just deductions, and that that proportion shall be calculated up to the termination of his service. The wording of the New Zealand section was practically followed in the Bill of 1908. I think that after the words “entitled to” there should be inserted the words “ a proportionate part of the wages to which he would have been entitled on the termination of the run.” Surely there can be no reasonable objection to such an amendment.
– Where a man agrees to work by the day or month, the arrangement is made regardless of the ship’s destination, and when, by any reason, he is prevented from doing the work that he undertakes to do, it is reasonable that the wages which he is receiving should then terminate. The position, however, is different when a seaman engages for what is termed “ the run.” If, for instance, a man engages to take a vessel from Port Pirie to Newcastle, he undertakes to do for a lump sum the ordinary work of a seaman on board, and if, for any reason over which he has no control, he is prevented from taking the ship to the port to which he has undertaken to take it, his wages should not be deducted.
– But that is not the practice. Wages are paid by the week or month.
– Where men are paid by the month, when a wreck occurs, or anything else happens by which their vessel cannot be taken to its intended destination, their wages immediately cease, but, in so far as a “ run “ is concerned, the men invariably contract to take a vessel from one point to another for a lump sum. They undertake a risk. The quicker the vessel reaches its destination, the sooner they earn their money. In the case of a wreck, which for all practical purposes is under the control of the captain - one of the parties to the agreement - the seamen are in no way responsible, and they should get their money. They are on the spot, ready and willing to perform their contract, and are prevented from completing it by circumstances over which they have no control. It would scarcely be fair in such circumstances to say to them, “ Although you are willing and ready to complete your contract, and have been prevented from doing so through no fault of your own, you must have a certain sum deducted from the amount agreed upon.” How could the proportion to be deducted be determined? A seaman is engaged “ by the run “ to take a vessel from one port to another, regardless of time. In ordinary circumstances, a vessel might run from Port Pirie to New- castle in ten days.; in unfavorable circumstances, she might take twenty-four. I remember being on a vessel which took that time to make the “ run.” How, then, would the honorable member in such circumstances apportion the amount to be paid ? It could not be determined on the basis of time, nor could it be on the basis of distance. A sailing vessel might take a week in some circumstances to cover 500 miles, and in others she might cover it in two days, so that the amount to be deducted could not be determined on the basis of either time or distance. Where the practice has been to pay a lump sum “ on the run,” the seamen should receive the full amount even if they are prevented by a wreckfrom completing the contract.
.- Any confusion that may have arisen is due to the fact that we have departed from the terms of the New Zealand Act. Sub-clause 1 agrees with a provision in the New Zealand Act upon which it appears to have been founded, as well as upon the Imperial Act. That provides that in the case of a wreck, the seamen shall be entitled to their wages, under the agreement, up to the time of the disaster. I have always thought that that is rather hard on the seamen. It was pointed out in the evidence during the Titanic inquiry that some of the sailors were given a few pounds by passengers, because they had lost everything, and their pay had ceased from the time of the wreck. In sub-clause 2 we have departed from the New Zealand Act, under which only a proportion is paid where the service of the seamen engaged on the run terminates by reason of the wreck or loss of the ship.. The New Zealand Act provides that where a seaman whose services are terminated by. the wreck or loss of the vessel has been engaged by the run, he shall be entitled to a proportionate part of his wages. Here we provide that he shall be entitled to the whole of them. Since the New Zealand Act provides for the payment of a proportionate part, it is to be assumed that it is possible to find out, in relation to time, at all events, what ought to be the proportion paid on the destruction of the vessel.
– But a seaman might be left in a penniless condition.
– I agree with the honorable member. We have made sub-clause- 2 more humane than is the provision in the New Zealand Act, and I think subclause 1 is equally open to the same class of amendment.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 85 and 86 agreed to.
Clause 87 - (1.) If a seaman is discharged . .without fault on his part … he shall be entitled to receive . . . compensation . . . as if it were wages duly earned. (2.) If the seaman is so discharged . . , . the master or owner shall provide him with a “passage to that port or such other port asis mutually agreed to with the approval of the superintendent.
Amendment (by Mr. Tudor) proposed -
That the word “ superintendent “ be left out,. with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “ proper authority.”
– I have received a letter suggestingan amendment of this clause, which provides for compensation for a premature discharge. It is stated that it frequently occurs that a vessel going from one port to another is laid up and unable to earn anything, and it is suggested that after the word “ earned,” in sub-clause 1, the words “ unless he is provided with a passage back to the port of dischargementioned in the agreement “ be inserted. Hardship must be experienced in any circumstances, but where a ship is laid up there must be special hardship. If in such circumstances a sailor is granted his- passage back to the port where he was engaged that should be sufficient.
– But supposing that a ship were wrecked ?
– I only submit the matter for the consideration of the Minister.
– Australiantrade ships are practically the only vessels with which we are dealing under this clause, and it seems to me that the ordinary agreement made in connexion with them would provide that seamen signing on should be returned to the port at which they were engaged. With one slight exception, the clause is the same as that which the honorable member put before the Senate. The Board of Trade took exception to it as not being in accordance with the Imperial Act, but in introducing the Bill of 1908 in another place, the honorable member for Kooyong said that the Government had adhered to the clause as drafted, “as it made for definite compensation to the seamen.” I think it advisable to allow the clause to pass, subject to the technical amendment I have moved.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clauses 88 to 91 agreed to.
Clause 92 - (1.) Where a seaman is engaged in Australia for a voyage or engagement which is to terminate in Australia, he shall not be entitled to sue in any Court abroad for wages unless he is discharged with such sanction as is required by this Act. . . .
– I move -
That the words “this Act” be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the word “ law.” “When a seaman is discharged abroad, he comes under the protection of the Imperial Merchant Shipping Act, and his discharge would be subject to the sanction required by that Act. The amendment will have the effect of giving him the protection of the Imperial Merchant Shipping Act as well as of this measure.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to;
Clause 93 (Master’s Remedies for Wages).
.- Inthe definition of “ master “ we do not follow the Merchant Shipping Act of 1894, which provides that the word includes any person lawfully acting as master of a ship. This is not the place to move an amendment, but, had the definition clause been before us, I should have made a suggestion in this connexion. I ask the Minister to bring the definition into line with the Imperial Act. It will be noticed that some of the provisions of the Bill were framed before the awards of the Conciliation and Arbitration Court, and, according to the judgment of Mr. Justice Higgins, for instance, a seaman, in addition to his wages, is entitled to a free passage to his home port. These matters ought to be borne in mind, or we shall really be giving seamen the benefit of the Bill, and also of special provisions made in Acts and awards since the Bill was introduced
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 94 to 98 agreed to.
Clause 99 (Offences against discipline).
Amendment (by Mr. Tudor) agreed to -
That after the word “ desertion,” in the first column, the words “ Failure or refusal without reasonable cause to join the ship or proceed to sea in the ship” be inserted.
Amendment (by Mr. Tudor) proposed -
That in the second column, opposite the amendment just inserted, the words “ Penalty, twenty pounds,” be inserted.
– Australians, we know, are not addicted to drinking to excess, but I should like to know whether this clause is intended to meet the case of seamen who, through drunkenness, fail to proceed to sea. Would drunkenness be regarded as a reasonable excuse ?
– I should not think so.
– This amendment is inserted to provide a punishment for men who sign on, and, atthe last moment, do not turn up. Such men, although they have never been on the ship, are practically deserters. Men who have joined the ship and fail to proceed to sea are already provided for as deserters. It is this sort of offence that plays into the hands of the crimps, who keep the men from one ship out of the road and supply others. We are endeavouring to do our best for the men, but they should take the responsibility for their own actions.
.- It was suggested to me several times, when this Bill was before another place, that there should be some special provision in regard to the offence of drunkenness.I hope it is not correct, but it is said that drunkenness, especially on the part of firemen, is largely on the increase on the Australian coast ; and a suggestion has been made that there should be a forfeiture of wages, at any rate, equal to the amount that the owner or master has to pay for substitutes.
– If a man has never been on the ship, no wages are accruing to him.
– But there are cases where firemen have practically been paid their wages, and, because of their absence through drunkenness, substitutes have to be provided. It ought to be known that this is a distinct offence, and a provision such as I suggest would have a moral effect.
– Whatever may have been the case in the past, there is less disposition now to accept drunkenness as an excuse for dereliction of duty. The penalty of £20 is, of course, the maximum. In the Articles of Agreement which are in vogue at present, it is provided that any member of the crew who, in the opinion of the master or officers, is under the influence of liquor, or behaving in a disorderly manner, may, in lieu of the fine of 5s. elsewhere provided in the agreement, for a first offence, be instantly dismissed at the master’s option, if in port, and, if at sea, after logging, at the first port of call.
.- The case put by the honorable member for Kooyong is not altogether covered by the amendment of the Minister, which deals with inability to properly perform duty by reason of drunkenness, and, so far as failure to join the ship is concerned, meets the circumstances. If, however, the man is on the ship, the only thing that can be done is to fine him 5s. for a first offence. The honorable member for Kooyong points out that a substantial loss may be caused by the drunkenness, and that “there ought to be a higher penalty than a mere fine of
– I ask the honorable member not to press the suggestion, and I do so in the interests of seafaring men generally. I do not think it would be quite fair in an Act of Parliament to particularly brand firemen or seamen as persons too freely addicted to drink. There are clauses already in the Bill under which ample punishment can be meted out for drunkenness.
– I think we should look at this alleged offence of drunkenness a little leniently. I do not say it is the fault of the Government, but half of our seafaring men who are charged with drunkenness have been simply drugged and poisoned. lt would be much better if the authorities would take one-half the trouble they do over the drunkenness, in order to insure that our sailors are not treated in this way. Sailors, I am sorry to say, are regarded as the legitimate prey of certain classes of the community, and people generally regard the position with indifference. It would appear as if laws were passed simply to ornament the statute-book, and we ought to see that firemen and sailors get something like a “ fair deal “ without piling up penalties against them.
– I should be very sorry to brand any section of the community unnecessarily with any particular offence, but we cannot ignore the fact that it so frequently does exist so far as certain seamen are concerned. As regards the Honorary Minister’s objection to putting a reference to it in an Act of Parliament, I remind him that a much more serious offence, relating to embezzling or wilfully damaging cargo, stores, or equipment, is mentioned a few clauses further on. It cannot be urged, therefore, that the seaman will suffer any undue detriment by the insertion of the suggested provision, while it is thought that it might have a good moral effect.
.- I believe this Bill will do away, to a large extent, with crimping, and thus remove a great deal of the temptation to certain people to make sailors drunk or drug them. The Bill will, therefore, have a beneficial effect in that direction, and the ship-owners, will be benefited also by its passage.
Amendment agreed to.
– One of the offences specified is “ absence without leave from duty.” There are many circumstances in which a seaman might be absent from duty through causes over which he had no control, and when it was impossible to obtain leave. Sudden illness would be such a cause. I therefore move -
That after the word “ duty,” in the first column, the words “ without reasonable cause “ be inserted.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clauses 100, 101, and 102 agreed to.
Clause 103 (Secretion by deserter).
– I propose that this clause shall be left out. We provide, in clause 99, that if a man deserts he shall forfeit the whole of his accrued wages not exceeding £20, and it is against the principles of British justice to punish him twice for the one offence.
Clauses 104 and 105 agreed to.
Clause 106 consequentially amended and agreed to.
Clauses 107, 108, and 109 agreed to.
Clause no (Foreign-going seamen may be returned to their ship).
.- A somewhat similar clause appeared in the Bill of 1908, empowering the Minister to cause a foreign-going seaman to be delivered to the master of his ship. The clause in the present Bill adds the words, “ With the consent of the seaman.” This makes his return practically conditional on his own consent. Will the Minister explain the reason for the alteration?
– The man will have the choice of remaining in gaol to finish his term, or going away on his ship. If he prefers to remain in gaol there must be something wrong with the ship.
– He may want to desert and stay in Australia.
– I do not know at whose instance the amendment was inserted in the Senate - probably Senator Guthrie’s - but I think it was a good amendment. A seaman should not be sent out of Australia if he prefers to remain in gaol instead of going away with his ship.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses111 to 116, agreed to.
Clause 117 verbally amended and agreed to.
Clauses 118, 119, and 120 agreed to.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 8 p.m.
Clause 121 (Certificated cooks).
.- The conditions imposed by this clause seem to be more onerous than those imposed by the Imperial and New Zealand legislation. It is questionable whether it is necessary to apply them to ships registered in Australia, or engaged in the coasting trade, of 500 gross registered tonnage and upwards. In the Merchant Shipping Act of 1906 these conditions are limited to British foreigngoing ships of 1,000 tons and upwards gross tonnage.
– What would the honorable member suggest?
– That we should adopt a provision similar to that in the New
Zealand law, and apply these conditions only to foreign-going ships of 1,000 tons. Six months’ grace is given by the New Zealand law before the provision takes effect, and no penalty is imposed if sufficient reason is shown for inability to comply.
– The clause embodies the unanimous recommendation of the Royal Commission, and, in all probability, if the Merchant Shipping Act were under consideration to-day, a similar provision would be inserted in it. There are vessels of less than 500 tons gross register which carry a fair number of passengers, and it is only right that we should provide for the proper cooking of the food used on board.
Clause verbally amended.
.- The clause provides that a ship of 500 tons gross register or more shall carry a certificated cook; but any ship likely to have a numerous passenger list will carry more.
– The clause has not been objected to by any of the parties affected.
– I do not regard it from that point of view. The fourth sub-clause seems to me indifferently worded. It provides that the Minister may cancel the certificate of any cook for incompetency or misconduct. Any occupant of the office of the Minister of Trade and Customs must have too much to do to have time to satisfy himself as to the competency of a ship’s cook, and this would be especially difficult for so sincere a champion of the right as is the present Minister. What would suggest incompetency? A cook reported upon might merely have failed to please those for whom he was cooking on a rough day, while almost anything might be construed as misconduct. If it is intended that the Minister should act on the report of a subordinate, why is not the sub-clause phrased differently ?
– It is not proposed to punish a man for bad cooking.
– It is proposed that the Minister shall suspend or cancel a cook’s certificate, and thus take away his livelihood for incompetence or misconduct.
– The sub-clause applies to cooks who have been two years at sea before the coming into force of the law, and have not shown their competency by passing an examination, or in any prescribed way. They will be merely recorded cooks.
– Their record may be wiped out by the Minister. Parliament is often rather callous in the punishment it provides for men whose living depends upon their holding certificates. If the owner of a motor car offends against the traffic regulations, and has his licence cancelled, he is able to employ a chauffeur, but if the chauffeur’s licence is cancelled, the man loses his means of living. Similarly, if a cook’s certificate is cancelled or suspended, he may be forced to stand for Parliament, or look out for some other way of earning a living.
– It may be funny to make this provision appear ridiculous, but in the past almost any one has been accepted as a cook, just as any one was taken as a fireman, and the crews have had to suffer in consequence. The desire is that a better state of affairs shall exist in the future. The Minister has power to delegate his authority. However comical the view taken by the honorable member for Wentworth, the sufferings of hundreds of men at the hands of incompetent cooks have “been anything but humorous to them.
.- The honorable member for Hindmarsh seems not to be aware that I was not speaking against the provision requiring the employment of certificated cooks, of which I am in favour. On every vessel there should be some one who is able to cook properly. But it should not be for the Minister to say whether a cook is competent. I suggest that the honorable gentleman should consider the matter, and, if necessary, have the clause amended in another place.
– I would remind the honorable member that this Bill has already been dealt with by another place ; and that if we pass the clause as it stands - in the form in which it was introduced in a Bill brought in by the Ministry of which he was a supporter - it cannot be amended in another place.
– But the clause has already been amended by us.
– I am not sure whether the Senate could deal with the whole clause. 1 would point out fo the honorable member that, in the definition clause, “incompetent” is defined as meaning - unable, from any cause whatever, to perform efficiently the duty of the person in relation to which the word is used - whilst “ misconduct “ is defined as including careless navigation, drunkenness, tyranny, any failure of duty or want of skill, or any improper conduct.
– That is vague enough for anything.
– The consideration of the definition clause has been postponed; so that if the honorable member desires, as he says, to make the meaning of either of these words more stringent and less nebulous, he will have the opportunity to do so. As to the responsibility being placed upon the Minister, I need only remind him that the power must be intrusted to some person, and that the only person to whom it could be reasonably intrusted is the Minister who is responsible to this House and to the country. No doubt, examinations will be prescribed, and the test in the case of a cook will probably be that he shall cook a plain meal without spoiling the food. Many persons, as I have previously said, follow the sea because they have failed at other callings ; and some men have probably acted as ships’ cooks because they have been unable to succeed in other callings on ship-board. I think this clause is very necessary, and I hope that it will pass.
– I think this clause is very necessary, because the majority of seamen have had ample cause, at one time or another, to complain, not of the quality of the provisions supplied, but of the way in which they have been cooked. Cases have occurred where ships’ companies, otherwise peaceably disposed, have been goaded to the verge of mutiny by having served up to them improperly cooked provisions, which have militated very much against their health. I think, therefore, that it is wise to provide for certificated cooks. The defect of the clause, however, is that, in the case of ships of upwards of 500 tons gross registered tonnage, there is no provision for more than one certificated cook being carried. On some of the larger vessels which carry passengers, a number of cooks are necessary, and those who deal with the passengers’ food do not always cook the food supplied to the crews. I do not think that the clause as it stands goes far enough. Surely it is insufficient to provide for only one certificated cook being carried on a vessel of, say, 12,000 tons burden. On such a vessel there might be ope certificated cook acting as chief, while the real work would be done by uncertificated cooks, so that passengers and crew, under this Bill, would be just as much at the mercy of complete novices as they are at present.
– The difficulty has always been in regard to the smaller vessels.
– But some of the companies, relying on this measure, may say, “ We are employing one certificated cook, and you can take no exception to our action.” Large tramp steamers, which do not carry passengers, very often have big crews. Most of these certainly have on board more than one cook, and all should be qualified persons.
– No one knows better than does the honorable member that the trouble in this regard is in connexion with small and not large vessels. Care is usually taken to have good cooks on ships carrying passengers.
– But the competent cooks may not cook the crews’ food.
– I shall look into the point; but those who have travelled by sea know that the trouble has related, as I have already said, to small and not to large vessels. The honorable member for Lang is adopting a line of argument different altogether from that taken by the honorable member for Angas, who thought that we were going too low down the scale.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 122 (Disposal of bad provisions).
.- This clause provides that provisions found to be of bad quality “ shall be disposed of as the Minister directs.” I presume that the Minister could dispose of them in only one way, and that is by ordering their destruction. Why not say at once in the clause itself what is to be done with them ?
– Some provisions unfit for human consumption might be sold to be rendered down.
– They might be sold for manure.
– I am not going to pose as an authority on the subject, but I understand that the honorable member for Hindmarsh has paid that particular branch of science a considerable amount of attention, and he will probably admit that bad food is not necessarily good manure. The Minister might well say straight out that .he is going to destroy food that is not fit for human consumption. Surely we can insure that no bad food shall pass through the hands of the Commonwealth Government into consumption.
– It would be idle to declare in the Bill itself that all provisions found to be of bad quality shall be destroyed. For instance, butter found to be unfit for human consumption could be sold for soap-making purposes. The Department sometimes sells small lines which, although unfit for human consumption, are suitable for other purposes.
– Bad butter, ostensibly to be converted into soap, might really be used for making pastry.
– The Department has had seme experience in dealing with various goods, and making sure that they are used for the purpose for which they are introduced. For instance, certain goods are admitted under the Tariff at a lower rate of duty when intended for certain specified purposes, and in order to insure that they shall not be used for other purposes, we denature them. If bad butter were denatured with kerosene, I do not think it could be used, as the honorable member suggests, for making pastry.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 123 agreed to.
Clause 124 (Scale of medicines).
.- While the Minister has lowered the penalties ia clause 100, in reference to offences by seamen, to a lower scale than in the New Zealand Act, or in the Bill of 1908, of which this Bill is the last evolution, if not the last stage, he has increased the fines in the case of offences by owners of vessels.
– The penalties have been increased in the case of some offences by seamen ; for instance, in clause 99, a penalty of £20 is provided for desertion.
– But imprisonment has been abolished. I do not wish to gc through the clauses categorically, but, on the whole, it has struck me that the penalties have been lowered. I do not complain on this score ; but the same humanity might operate in the clauses before us. When the obligation is cast on the master or owner to provide medicines, the Minister, instead of making the penalty £,20, as is the case in the Merchant Shipping Act of 1906 and in the New Zealand Act, has fixed the maximum at ,£100.
– That was done in another place, and I do not propose to alter it.
– That “other place” is so sacred that we scarcely dare mention its name. However, the Minister has his ideas of what is necessary, though it strikes me that it is a very large jump to make the penalty five times as much as that under the British law or the New Zealand law.
– The Minister is empowered to draw up scales of medicines and medical stores, and may sanction a book containing instructions. Under the British Board of Trade the Ship Captains’ Medical Guide is published, and, in all probability, that will be the book suggested under the Bill. The Board of Trade took exception to many provisions in this Bill ; but, as a matter of fact, some of these have since been adopted, and made part of the British law. For instance, the clause dealing with allotment notes was objected to, but it has since been accepted by the House of Commons. The Board of Trade, however, takes no exception to this penalty, which applies only to vessels in the Australian trade, and British ships, until they are registered here, will not come under the clause. We are providing for our own ships, and I do not think the penalty is too high.
.- I do not wish to deal with the point raised by the Minister, because the argument of that honorable gentleman seems to answer itself. There is, however, a curious anomaly in the clause. In the first place, it applies to the master or owner of a foreign-going ship, and he has to keep a supply of medicine as ordered by the Minister. I understand that the Minister will merely order the same sort of medicine as is required by the British Board of Trade. While this clause applies to foreign-going ships, the master is the only man who is fined if he does mot comply, although, perhaps, this may not be due to bis own fault. We have a pious expression of opinion, which we cannot enforce, that if the master is convicted through the act or default of the owner, the master may recover the penalty and costs from the owner. How can we say what is to happen in the owner’s country, 10,000 or 12,000 miles away? Could we arrest the ship when the master is convicted through no fault of his own? Could he recover the penalty and costs from the owner in an Australian Court? Where could a master recover the penalty and costs? In a foreign country, I take it, although this Bill will give him no power in any country beyond the Commonwealth.
– It all depends.
– It seems to me to “ depend “ very considerably; and I desire to know exactly what the clause means. If the master cannot recover in an Australian Court, the clause is, as I have said, merely the expression of a pious hope, for the Bill does not give one iota of claim in any other country. Of course, the Bill binds the Australian owner, but the foreign owner is in a different position, unless we can arrest the ship; and I do not know how we stand legally in that regard.
– There is nothing novel in this proposal, which places a captain in exactly the same position that he is in under the Immigration Restriction Act. If a prohibited immigrant lands, the captain is liable to a penalty of £100 ; and what happens to him afterwards - whether he recovers the penalty from the owner of the ship or anybody else - is, of course, a matter for the master himself.
.- Does this clause hold out any hope to the master that he can proceed in an Australian Court against a foreign owner? Can the ship be held as a guarantee for the costs and damages recoverable under this clause?
– It all depends.
– The question is whether we have any jurisdiction over the foreign owner.
– This clause applies to British ships only, and, therefore, the condition of which the honorable member speaks does not arise.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 125 to 131 agreed to.
Clause 132 (Seamen lawfully left behind to be deemed discharged). (2.) Where the ship is registered out of Australia -
– I move -
That sub-clause 2 be left out.
In the case of British ships it has been found quite unnecessary to require any deposit for a sick seaman left behind, because the Merchant Shipping Act makes full provision for such cases. The superintendents throughout the Dominions are authorized to pay the whole of the expenses incurred on behalf of any such man, vouchers being forwarded to the Board of Trade, which collects the amount from the owners. This system works well, and, therefore, there is no necessity for the subclause.
Amendment agreed to.
.- It is rather hard to follow these long medical clauses. Sub-clause 3 deals with apprentices and seamen who are left on shore in any place in Australia, by reason of sickness or accident on an Australian registered ship. It is provided that there shall be a deposit of the full amount of the wages due to the seaman to the end of his engagement, for a period not exceeding three months, and, in addition, the medical expenses are paid. At the end of the clause it is provided that, in lieu of the express benefits which I have mentioned, a seaman may elect to be sent back to his home port, and receive all the wages due, the medical expenses also being paid. In other words, a seaman gets all the wages up to the time he is left on shore, and his medical attendance paid for, while he may request to be sent to the port of shipment. My attention has been called to the fact that this clause is anomalous ; and it appears to some that to give three months’ wages is rather too much. I do not so much object to that, though I desire to call attention to the fact that a seaman may, under the Seamen’s Compensation Act, be getting compensation, the amount of which is half of his wages, in addition to the benefit of this Bill. I have once or twice drawn the Minister’s attention to the fact that it is really neces sary to read this legislation in the light of Acts passed and awards made since the Bill was drafted, and since the Senate dealt with it. Last year we passed an Act under which the seaman would be very properly entitled, in case of accident, to half his average wages for twelve months, up to a period of about three years. Therefore, in addition to the benefits of this clause, he will receive half his wages. In other words, he will receive all his wages up to three months, as well as medical attendance under the Bill, and half wages under the Seamen’s Compensation Act. It is also necessary to look at the conditions of recent awards in connexion with shipping, because, so far as our local jurisdiction is concerned, we are really duplicating the benefits in some cases where the award is in relation to Inter-State shipping, and possibly where it relates to Intra-State shipping. The jurisdiction upon Intra-State shipping, however, is a matter upon which the High Court has yet to give a decision. I do not wish to move an amendment, but I do not know whether the Minister is aware that he is giving these double benefits.
– As we struck out a clause duplicating the punishment for an offence by seamen,I do not think there is any idea that they should obtain double benefit from two Acts. I shall look into the point raised by the honorable member for Angas. While it is possible that a seaman may decide which Act he will take advantage of, I do not think he can get the benefit of both.
– There is something to be said in favour of the contention of the honorable member for Angas ; but a provision of this kind is very desirable, as is shown by my own experience. On one occasion, having signed for a round voyage, I had been about fifteen months on the ship, and we put into Colombo after leaving Mauritius, where I, with one or two other members of the crew, had developed fever. I was sent ashore to the hospital at Colombo. I had only a canvas suit on at the time, all my other clothes being kept on board, and the master of the ship received orders to sail to another place. When he left, he was under the impression that I would be a dead man within four hours. However, I recovered, and after eight weeks in the hospital was discharged as cured. I did not receive one penny of the wages due to me; I was not allowed to accept any employment in Colombo, or to ship on another vessel. The authorities of the port insisted on putting me on board the first steamer bound for London as a distressed seaman, much against my will. I wanted to obtain further employment, because I was left without money or clothes. I had to spend six weeks on’ that steamer living on top of a deck house, with a coiled hawser for my sleeping place, and was landed in London without a penny. I went to the agents for the owners of my ship, and explained my position to them. While they had every sympathy with me, they refused to recognise any claim on my part, in the absence of identification. The ship was at that time somewhere in Indian waters, and I have never received my wages from that day to this. I can appreciate a provision of this kind being inserted in the Bill to prevent others from undergoing a similar experience.
.-! hope the moving story of the honorable member for Lang will not blind us to the statement of the honorable member for Angas that we may possibly be doublebanking with regard to some of this legislation. It is essential that the interests of seamen should be safeguarded, either by this clause or some award. I should prefer to see it done by statute; but we do not want a system of double payment of hospital expenses and sick pay. They should be ample to meet the necessities of the case, and that is what both sides of the House are anxious to bring about.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 133 - (1.) The owner or master of every . . Australian trade ship on a voyage between consecutive ports of call which exceeds a prescribed distance, having 100 persons or upwards on board shall cause to be carried a . medical practitioner. (2.) The owner or master of every ship . . having more than 10 and less than 100 persons on board . . shall cause f> be carried … a person certified to by a medical inspector as qualified to render “ first aid.”
– I do not think it wise to leave the distance in sub-clause 1 to be prescribed by regulation. I suggest, therefore, that the words “prescribed distance” should be left out, with a view to insert in their place the words “ 600 miles on a continuous run.”
– There is only one continuous run of 600 miles around the Australian coast.
– There is a run of that distance between Adelaide and Fremantle.
– That is the only one.
– A medical man should be employed on a vessel in such a case ; but it is not necessary to carry one on vessels which are calling into ports at least every second day, and,’ in some case, every day. In those instances medical assistance could be readily obtained ashore, and it would impose needless expense on ship-owners to insist on a doctor being carried.
.- My present inclination is to prefer the Bill as it stands, as the necessity for a doctor is governed more by the number of persons carried than by the distance of the run. Many things may happen suddenly on a ship, where you have a large number of human beings travelling outside the reach of medical science. There should be a doctor on board whenever passengers and crew number sufficient to justify his presence.
– But surely not on a trip from Sydney to Melbourne?
– Steamers are sometimes three days at sea on that trip, and when they are carrying many passengers there should be a doctor to deal with any sudden emergency requiring treatment.
– The Royal Commission recommended that vessels carrying 160 passengers or more’ on voyages lasting five or more days should have medical men on board. The coastal trip that was in the mind of the Commissioners was probably that across the Australian Bight. I think that the clause might be left as it stands. We are introducing many innovations, and experience will show the directions in which we should proceed further, and, perhaps, those in which we have gone too far.
– The Minister would hardly insist on a medical man being carried between Sydney and Newcastle, even on a vessel having 300 or 400 passengers on board?
– Such vessels would not come under the clause.
– They would be limited coast-trade ships. I move -
That after the word “ inspector,” in subclause 2, the words “or by an approved authority “ be inserted.
The amendment will bring the clause into conformity with the Merchant Shipping Act, so that vessels not required to carry a duly qualified medical man may have on board some persons certified to by a doctor, or other approved authority, as competent to render first aid. Here, as elsewhere, there are organizations which impart instruction in first-aid methods, and give certificates to those who pass their examinations. The amendment will enable us to avail ourselves of the services of such persons.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 134 agreed to.
Clause 135 - (1.) The owner of every steam-ship registered in Australia, or engaged in the coasting trade, shall-
Penalty : Twenty pounds, with Five pounds for every day after the first day during which such default continues. (2.) For purposes of a prosecution under this section, service on the master or agent of a ship shall be service on the owner.
Amendment (by Mr. Tudor) proposed -
That after the word “ engine-room,” line 25, the word “ or “ be inserted.
.- It has been pointed out by the representatives of those engaged in the limited coast-trade that special consideration should be given in the matter of accommodation to the smallness of their vessels. The nature of the trade in which they are engaged, and the shallowness of the rivers and river entrances, make it necessary to construct vessels of peculiar design, with very small draft, on board which space is naturally at a premium. Of course, Parliament cannot consider only the commercial interests connected with shipping ; the best accommodation possible should be provided for the officers and men employed on these vessels; but, in view of the fact that they cannot afford to greatly curtail their present cargo space, and that increased demand will be made on their accommodation by the increase of the size of their crews in many cases, we should not be too exacting in our requirements.
– River and bay ships will be compelled to provide such accommodation as may be prescribed.
– The vessels to which I refer are not river and bay ships, but small steamers trading from Brisbane and Sydney to the rivers on the north coast of New South Wales. It is impossible, because of the shallowness of those rivers, to build for that trade vessels as large as those in the Inter- State trade, but it is objected that the same conditions will be required of them. I wish to know whether the Minister can meet the difficulties which have been brought under his notice.
– We have endeavoured to draft the best Bill in the interests of all concerned, and it must be remembered that the provisions relating to accommodation do not apply solely to the vessels just referred to.
– But provisions could be inserted to deal specially with them.
– Representatives of the companies concerned waited upon me and upon the Attorney-General, and if their case can be met, it will be. Where men do not live on the vessels on which they work, it is not necessary to provide the same accommodation as should be provided on a vessel whose voyage may last for a week or more. Dr. Herbert Williams, the medical officer of the Port of London, one of the best authorities in the world on the health of seamen, writing to the Shipping Gazette of the 26th July last, says -
The prevalence of pulmonary tuberculosis among seamen is much greater than is supposed. A sailor’s life is supposed to be particularly healthy but the conditions under which sailors live and to which’ attention has been drawn repeatedly in my annual reports, are such as favorably predispose to the dissemination of this disease.
It may be stated that the crews’ quarters on vessels are habitually overcrowded, when judged by the lowest standard of accommodation which exists, or is permitted on shore, which cubic capacity is, in the case of common lodging-houses occupied by day and night, 400 cubic feet, whereas seamen may only have 72 cubic feet per head.
The conditions under which seamen on vessels live are particularly favorable for the dissemination of pulmonary tuberculosis, and it would seem that until the Legislature takes some more practical interest in the welfare of seamen, pulmonary tuberculosis will continue to be a cause of much mortality amongst this class of men.
I have pointed out before that the conditions of life on vessels for seamen can be much improved, especially in new vessels, without much addition to the prime cost of construction. The crews’ quarters should be situated above deck, preferably in the after part of the ship. This position will enable their quarters to be provided with skylights and adequate means of ventilation. Ventilation means the Tegular supply of fresh air to the inhabited spaces without the creation of a draught, and the extraction of the foul air so that the carbonic acid gas, &c, shall be constantly removed, and the quantities not allowed to increase beyond a recognised low percentage, while the relative quantity of oxygen in the air may be as high as possible.
The present regulations of the Board of Trade merely insist on the provision of a ventilator, which isoften situated over a berth, and is generally stopped up from below, or the external opening is covered up with canvas.
Complaints are made of the degeneracy of the seamen found on board British ships. They can indeed do little else but degenerate under the present conditions.
Persons who travel by steamer, and are enabled to sleep in state-rooms below deck, are often only too cognisant of the imperfect ventilation found in ordinary steamers even under such favorable circumstances where the stateroom is inhabited usually for only a few hours at night. They can easily imagine the condition of the seamen, shut up in quarters below deck which are practically in constant use as a sleeping, living, and dining room, generally dark, dirty, damp, and encumbered with clothing. In some of the smaller vessels the men have even to provide and to keep their food in their quarters.
– Those statements are quite true.
– Undoubtedly. The honorable member for Darling Downs, who was a member of the Royal Commission on the Navigation Bill, knows that this statement regarding British ships is borne out by the accommodation’ on some of the vessels that traded on our coast two or three years ago.
– Hear, hear.
– I shall not say that the position is as bad as it was, but there is still room for improvement. We have endeavoured to raise the standard, and to secure good accommodation for the men who have to do the work on board ship.
– We are all agreed as to that.
– I think we are. It would be unwise to reduce the accommodation space in order to meet one or, two hard cases, but I will do my best to meet them.
– This also affects the big vessels.
– In the building of vessels, since the Navigation Commission sat, an effort has been made to comply with its recommendation in this regard.
– I think Dr. William’s reference was to the space provided under the Imperial Act of 1894. It has since been much increased.
– Yes ; he speaks of a space of 72 cubic feet; whereas under the Imperial Act of 1906, 120 cubic feet of space has to be provided. Under thisBill, we made provision for 140 cubic feet.
– The Royal Commission recommended 120 cubic feet.
– The Board of Trade objected to that requirement. At the Navigation Conference which met in London, and at which the Commonwealth was represented by my honorable colleague, the Attorney-General, the Board of Trade representatives objected that the request as to 120 cubic feet was too great, but in the Imperial Act of 1906, effect has been given to that recommendation on the part of the Navigation Commission.
– I should be very sorry to take the English standard.
– Yes; because the Imperial Act of 1906 embodies many proposals to which the Board of Trade objected when we first proceeded to deal with navigation.
– I think that the owners of these small boats themselves suggested the provision of 120 cubic feet of space per man.
– If there is a possibility of meeting those cases, I shall be glad to do so, but I do not wish to make too wide the provision to meet them.
– We are all agreed that it is our duty to require that seamen shall have, certainly so far as the construction of new ships is concerned, the most complete and. comfortable accommodation. The attention, of Parliament has been directed for some years to that object, and a very considerable advance has been made. In the Merchant Shipping Act of 1894, which was supposed to be a substantial advance on previous legislation, it was required that only 72 cubic feet of space should be provided. In the Merchant Shipping Act of 1906, however, provision was made for 120 cubic feet less messroom and bathroom accommodation. That was a substantial advance in a very proper direction. The Commonwealth Navigation Bill, of 1904, followed the Merchant Shipping Act of 1894, and it required that provision should be made for only 72 cubic feet of air space. That Bill was subsequently referred to a Commission, of which the present AttorneyGeneral was a prominent member, and the Commission made a recommendation, in which I most heartily concurred, that a minimum of 120 cubic feet of space should be provided. That goes even a little further than the Imperial Merchant Shipping Act, which, as I have said, provides for 120 cubic feet per man, less bathroom and messroom accommodation. The New Zealand Act has a like provision. Under this Bill, we have gone one step further. The Minister has very fairly said that it is quite impassible in a Bill of this kind to provide for every class of vessel. The small trading craft referred to by the honorable member for Darling Downs may, in many cases, suffer considerable hardship, but the Minister has, very fairly, promised that if he can meet their case, he will do so; that he will not wantonly inflict hardship on the owners. Apart from that feature of the situation, which has been dealt with by the honorable member for Darling Downs, I ask the Minister whether we are not surpassing anything that has been suggested in this direction by proposing to require that 140 feet of space shall be provided? I am prepared to listen to a justification of this proposal, but I do not know that anything has transpired since the Royal Commission reported, and since the British and New Zealand Acts were passed, that would necessarily justify the proposal to increase the accommodation from 120 to 140 cubic feet. We must provide for the most comfortable accommodation that can be afforded our seafaring friends, but consistently with the inquiry that has already taken place, I submit that we ought not to unnecessarily penalize ship-owners by requiring that a minimum accommodation of 1:40 cubic feet shall be provided. We must recognise that this means a decrease in the carrying capacity of every vessel. This proposed increase of accommodation for the crew will make a difference in the case of the Kyarra, to which I referred in my secondreading speech, of ,£3,500 in the matter of freight. It is unwise to unduly penalize the owners unless there is complete justification for this proposed extension. The only justification yet offered is for an increase of the present accommodation to 120 cubic feet. To increase it beyond that point means to unnecessarily penalize the ship-owners and also the public, because the cost will be passed on to the public. I am not going to propose any amendment, but I expect to hear from the Minister a statement showing that the recommendation of the Commission that 120 cubic feet should be provided was too low.
.- There are one or two phases of this matter that ought to be looked at. The Royal Commission was guided by the evidence, a summary of which shows that of the witnesses on this point, three were in favour of 140 cubic feet, eleven in favour of 120 cubic feet, eleven in favour of 100 cubic feet, and six in favour of 72 cubic feet. The Commission, as I say, had to be guided by the weight of evidence, which was not in favour of 140 cubic feet. At that time there was a tradition, very strongly held by all seafaring men, that, for some inscrutable reason, Providence had ordained, from the beginning, 72 cubic feet of space for seamen. That was the space provided for in the Merchant Shipping Act, and had been so provided from the beginning. At the Navigation Conference a discussion arose on this very point, and the question of applying this space to all British ships arose. The representative of the shipowners, Mr. Hill, and others, including Captain Chalmers, of the Trinity Board, all assured us that 72 cubic feet was ample, and that the conditions under which seamen lived were everything that could be desired. But as the Minister of Trade and Customs has pointed out, there has been a change in England, where the space of 120 cubic feet has been adopted, although it was then scoffed at as impossible. It is perfectly proper, I contend, for us, who live in a semi-tropical and tropical country, to ask for 20 cubic feet more.
– I suppose that British ships do a good deal of tropical work?
– Some do, no doubt; but our trade is practically wholly within the tropics.
– The space of 120 cubic feet, under the British Act, is subject to deductions for bath-room and messroom accommodation.
– That is perfectly true; but I should hesitate to affirm the principle that we must follow the English Statutes in every respect ; we have seen too clearly, by a recent disaster, how foolish and how dangerous it is to do so. As to the accommodation for officers, I point out that a space of 350 cubic feet for two men means a room 8 feet by 6 feet, and 7 feet high. It is such a room that no sixpenny lodging-house would be able to let, except to a derelict; and it is suggested that the accommodation is so extremely restricted on some vessels that officers cannot be provided with such space. I do not think that is true in many cases, though in some cases it possibly is true. I think that wherever structural alterations can be made they should be made to comply with the Act in this particular, though, no doubt, there are vessels to which the provision is inapplicable. It is a very difficult matter; and by no means can we, in the Bill, discriminate between one vessel and another. The discretion must be left with the Minister, and, no doubt, he will exercise it wisely. We should be taking a very retrograde step if we did not insist on giving the officers, as well as the seamen, that amount of accommodation which is demanded by modern conditions and an enlarged idea of what is necessary for people who have the responsible duties of navigation.
– We have to take into account the whole shipping industry, and we are all desirous that seamen should be treated properly and seafaring pursuits encouraged. This is desirable, not only in the interests of the men, but in order to secure immunity from outside attack. Our first line of defence is the Navy, and unless we have an efficient mercantile marine, we have no chance of manning our war-ships. At the same time, it is a question of what is reasonably necessary ; and it may be that, in providing for too large an air space, we may cause such an increase in the shipping charges, or such a decrease in the profits, that it will be impossible to comply with the Bill.
– The difficulty is that some of the vessels cannot be enlarged, owing to the draught.
– The Minister has promised to make allowance for that. In vessels of 200 or 300 tons dead weight, to comply with these air space conditions, will mean a loss of space representing 90 tons of freight ; and this, of course, must have a serious effect on the profits. In the report of the Royal Commission, it is stated that the practically unanimous recommen dation of the medical men was at least 120 cubic feet; and the only reference to 140 cubic feet is that in a recommendation by the British Labour Commission ; and I take it that that was a recommendation as against the 120 cubic feet in the Imperial Act. We know that from the space allowed under the Imperial Act, deductions are made for mess-room and bath-room accommodation ; so that we may take it that even the British Labour Commission did not recommend the air space provided in this Bill. The space provided in the Bill of 1907, and in the Bill of 1908, was 120 cubic feet, and the latter measure was drafted after the report of the Royal Commission.
– And after the Imperial Conference.
– Yes. How is it that we are only now asked to provide for air space of 140 cubic feet, in addition to mess-room and bath-room accommodation? If such an air space was unnecessary then, why should we, by this provision, practically cripple some of the shipping, which cannot fulfil the law without a great increase in the shipping charges? Many obligations are now cast on ship-owners, and one has to welcome these, to a large extent. But they do result in very large charges to the public. I believe that, in New South Wales, in connexion with some of the vessels referred to by the honorable member for Richmond, there has been in consequence of industrial and arbitration awards an increase of no less than 50 per cent, in freight charges during the last eight or ten months. All these things must have a very substantial effect upon the public using these vessels, as well as on the margin of profit left to the ship-owners. While I welcome every change which will give increased accommodation to the men and ‘make their conditions as to living and wages better, I hope we shall not push these matters to such an extreme that the source from which wages have to be derived may be rendered inadequate to meet the increased demands arising from the industrial developments which are going on.
– I direct the attention of the Committee to the fact that at page 12 of their report the Navigation Commission referred to the evidence given in this connexion in the following terms -
As to the value of the evidence given on this head, it may be remarked that nearly the whole of the witnesses, were experts - masters, officers, seamen, and medical men.
The amount of space recommended by the British Labour Commission was 140 feet. This had regard particularly to conditions obtaining in England, and climates . of a temperate character. Many witnesses pointed out during our inquiry that the climatic conditions obtaining here range from temperate to tropical, and, consequently, greater air-space is necessary ; whilst 72 cubic feet, the present minimum, or, as Dr. Ham aptly put it, “6 1 6 1 2, the sepulchral accommodation which a man is entitled to at his own interment,” is altogether inadequate. Your Commissioners therefore recommend that the air-space for each seaman shall not be less than 120 cubic feet.
We have to pay some regard to the fact that some difficulty may be experienced in providing for very much increased accommodation on existing vessels of comparatively small tonnage. I do not see why ample provision should not be made in vessels built after the date of the passing of the measure. No one who knows what the space provided for in this Bill really means will contend that it is too much. The Attorney-General has pointed out that people would scoff at such accommodation as is provided for in this Bill being offered them even in cheap boarding houses. It must be remembered, however, that, on board ship, space is necessarily very much restricted, and there is a greater access to fresh air than there is in the cheap lodging houses used as an illustration by the AttorneyGeneral. We should, however, provide all reasonable accommodation for people who have to go to sea to earn their living. We must remember that one of the objects of this Bill is to make sea life somewhat more attractive than it is at the present time, with a view to inducing Australian young men to take to the sea as a profession, and with the ultimate object of being able later on to recruit our Australian Navy from the ranks of our mercantile marine. The more attractive we can make sea life in connexion with Australian shipping the better it will be for our seamen, for the country at large, as we may then be in a fair way of becoming a maritime nation, and having suitable material to draw upon for the naval defence of the country. One of the oldest pilots serving in Torres Strait suggested to me that there is a tendency on the part of this Parliament to grandmotherly legislation affecting sailors. Whilst agreeing that there is room for improvement in the accommodation supplied to seamen, he felt that there was some danger of making featherbed sailors of our seamen if we provided them with too many comforts. That may be an exaggerated view of the matter, and this pilot may have been contrasting the accommodation proposed, not with that provided at the present time, but with what was provided some forty or fifty years ago, when he was a boy. Consistently with a due regard to the interests of ship-owners I think we should insist upon as much reasonable accommodation as we can get for officers and crew. I intend to propose an amendment for the insertion of a new sub-clause (d) ir> the following terms -
In the case of vessels engaged exclusively intropical or sub-tropical waters no living quarters of officers or men shall be situated in alleyways, alongside the engine-room or the ship’s galley.
– What does the honorable member mean by tropical waters? Does he mean north of the tropic of Capricorn?
– Yes, or even north of Brisbane, in the summer time. I am induced to suggest this, amendment as the result of my observations on board the steam-ship Warrego, a vessel employed only in the northern trade of Australia. I am sorry that the honorable member for Melbourne is not present, because he accompanied the honorable member for Herbert and myself on a tour of inspection of the vessel. Wefound that the officers’ quarters were situated on either side of a very narrow and dirty alley-way. Some were alongside thegalley, where, added to the natural heat of the tropics, there was the artificial heat arising from the engine-room and the cooking stoves of the galley. The lavatoriesand other conveniences for passengers and members of the ship’s company were also situated in the same part of the vessel, and in the immediate vicinity of the officers’’ quarters. The officers on these vessels have a very busy time. They are calling at ports very frequently, and have to be on deck while cargo is being loaded and discharged. The accommodation provided for them is anything but healthy. I think that we should make provision that, from the time of the passing of this Bill, vessels trading in Australian waters should’ not have the quarters of officers or crew situated in such positions.
Amendment agreed to.
Amendment (by Mr.Tudor) agreed to -
That the following new paragraph be inserted : -
Amendment (by Mr. W. Elliot John son) proposed -
That the following new paragraph be inserted : -
.-One obvious objection to the amendment is that a ship which to-day is engaged in tropical waters may, in three months’ time, be trading in a temperate climate. A vessel goes where she can get work, and her internal structure cannot be altered every time she is taken from one region to another.
– Make it “ wholly in tropical waters.”
– Intropical climates, except in very bad weather, everybody sleeps on the deck. What we ought to insure, and what is insured by the Bill, is sufficient air space, efficient ventilation, and proper sanitary arrangements. The honorable member for Lang, who has had experience, must know that the worst part of the ship to sleep in is not that near the engine-room, but what is known as the “ glory-hole,” where the stewards sleep - without exception the most horrible den in which any human being was ever condemned to exist. Paragraph f of clause 136 makes full provision for proper ventilation of quarters for seaman and apprentices, and seamen include officers. We must pay some regard to the nature of the industry. We must make provision for all climates, and this the Bill as it stands will do.
– I am prepared to amend the amendment to apply to ships exclusively engaged in trade in tropical waters. Notwithstanding what the Attorney-General has said, there are some ships which are trading at present exclusively in tropical waters, and the quarters of the officers and the engineers are situated in a narrow alleyway, which is not more than 4 feet wide or thereabouts, and is right alongside the engine-room and the galley, where, in addition to the ordinary unbearableness of a tropical heat, they have to endure the artificial heat which finds its way into the cabins, and further raises the temperature. The honorable member for
Franklin can bear me out in saying that on the Warrego - a vessel which was trading exclusively in tropical and sub-tropical waters, running from Brisbane to Cooktown, thence to Thursday Island, and the ports in the Gulf of Carpentaria - the officers’ quarters were perfect ovens. It was simply abominable to go near them. The boat is not now in commission, but at that time it was subsidized by the Commonwealth to carry mails to the gulf ports. It is only typical of some other boats. On the Mindora, and other boats running up to Papua, and engaged wholly in trade of that kind, some of the accommodation is not fit for any human being to occupy.
– Where do the boats run from?
– From Brisbane northwards, and Brisbane is hot enough, even at this time of the year. It seems to me nothing short of downright cruelty that officers, after having performed their duty on deck, after having to retire to these wretched dens, and take their rest under suffocating conditions. Surely while we are trying to make the Bill as perfect as we can in the interests of those who go to sea, we ought to endeavour to meet all these conditions as far as we can ! I am rather surprised that this antagonism to the amendment comes from the Attorney-General, because in his early days he had some experience of sea-faring life, and that not under the most favorable conditions. He knows as well as I do how extremely bad some of these conditions can be, and actually are, at the present day. I was surprised, after not having come in close contact with vessels of that description for many years, to find that vessels which should have been broken up twenty years ago were still running on the Australian coast, and subsidized, too, by the Commonwealth. Are we still going to favour these conditions, and to fail to provide for better accommodation being supplied? The honorable member for Melbourne, who has just entered the chamber, can bear me out in my statement regarding the accommodation provided on the Warrego for the officers in the little narrow, stifling alley-way alongside the galley and the engine-room.
– It is an infamy and a shame.
– Ashe honorable member has rightly said, it is an infamy and a shame. He accompanied me on a tour of inspection round the ship when we noted various matters, and resolved that -when the Navigation Bill was before the House we would draw attention to the conditions, and see if we could not do something to remedy them. I sincerely hope the Attorney-General will view ny amendment in a more favorable spirit to the officers and the men. He surely cannot have seen the *Warrego, which is only one of a type, and which I saw was advertised the other day for sale in Brisbane. I shall persevere with the amendment.
– It is quite true, as the Attorney-General has stated, that no special provision can be made for vessels which are coming down the coast from the tropics to-day, and which in a fortnight will be in the south. But the amendment deals with a class of boats which are trading practically in the tropics all the time, those boats which never come south of Brisbane, and spend most of their time in the north. Take, for instance, the boats which are running from the Gulf country across to Papua. They are in a hot climate all the while, and there is no doubt that the officers’ quarters, which are situated close to the engine-room, are unbearably hot in the summer. Why cannot we give attention to the requirements of those officers; they deserve as much consideration as do any other persons trading in Australian waters? It is quite hard enough for them under ordinary circumstances in the climate in which they spend most of their time. It would not entail a great expense upon the owners to remove the accommodation of the officers from the alley-ways. We ought not to put the owners to more expense than is necessary, because every £1 of expense to which we subject them will have to be paid by the primary producers and the travelling public, with a little more by way pf interest. This accommodation could be provided without putting the owners to material expense. Whilst we were in the north we inspected the accommodation at the invitation of the honorable member for Melbourne, and we realized that it was not fit for the officers to occupy in that climate. It is the intense heat which is the trouble. There is no doubt that this is a matter which calls for consideration from honorable members. I can assure them that the quarters we saw were not such as they would live in themselves or like their friends to live in.
.- I . quite indorse the remarks of the honor able member for Franklin. On board the steamer Warrego it would be an impertinence to call the accommodation provided for officers and men decent. The supposed shower bath is a disgrace. A man had to walk along an alley-way on bare feet. He dare not wear boots, and he could not wear slippers. If I had the power I would send the shareholders and directors of that company for a twelve months’ cruise on board that vessel. Very few of them would come back ; the mortality rate would be alarming. The accommodation provided for the steerage and second-class passengers was an infamy. The Minister of Trade and Customs will probably recall the fact _ that some time ago an immigrant ship visited this port, the captain of which stated that he was not required by the Board of Trade regulations to provide a single bath on the vessel. It is an infamy that the Warrego should be supported by Australian money. We should insist upon proper accommodation being provided not only for officers and men, but also for the steerage and second-class passengers. If the Government do that they will have added to the monumental work which this Bill represents. I have no desire to delay the Committee, as there appears to be a general desire to make the measure as perfect as possible. I recollect an occasion upon which I acted as an officer on board a vessel coming through the Red Sea. I was obliged to stand in the alley-way, and I may tell honorable members that a Turkish bath was Heaven in comparison with that place.
– I regret that I cannot accept the amendment, because a ship which is in the tropics to-day may be out of the tropics ‘to-morrow. I will, however, promise that if the Government can do anything to make the vessels mentioned by the honorable member for Lang provide better accommodation for officers, seamen, and passengers, .it will be done.
Amendment (by Mr. Tudor) agreed to-
That sub-clause 2 be left out.
.- I would like to know what is intended to be- the effect of proposed new sub-clause (d). There are many vessels engaged in river trade which are employed only for the purpose of carrying timber to a mill, or perhaps of picking up butter. It is not necessary that the persons employed on board them shall remain there at night. Has provision been made to meet cases of this kind ?
– New sub-clause (d), which it is proposed to insert, reads -
In the case of river and bay ships - provide for the officers such accommodation as is prescribed.
That is intended to meet cases such as those to which the honorable member has referred.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 136 (Accommodation for seamen).
Amendment (by Mr. Tudor) agreed to -
That after sub-clause 3 the following new sub-clause be inserted : - “ (3a.) Sub-sections 2 and 3 of this section shall not apply to river and bay ships, but the owner of every such ship shall make such provision as is prescribed for accommodation for the taking of meals by the seamen and apprentices, and for their sanitary and lavatory ac- commodation, including bath-rooms.”
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clauses 137 and 138 agreed to.
House adjourned at 10.19 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 2 October 1912, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1912/19121002_reps_4_66/>.