4th Parliament · 3rd Session
The President took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– The Minister of Defence was good enough the other day to state that he would confer with the Minister of Home Affairs as to the nature of an inquiry which it was affirmed was being conducted into alleged discrepancies between the statistics and the electoral rolls with a view to making a statement to the Senate. Is he in a position to inform us what is being done?
– I have received the following statement from the Minister of Home Affairs : -
The Minister of Home Affairs of the Commonwealth and the Solicitor-General of New South Wales conferred with the Statistician of the Commonwealth and those of the States of New South Wales and Victoria, and it was agreed that some improvement should take place in the counting of the Inter-State migration by railway, the change being that urged some time ago by the Prime Minister on the State Premiers.
It is understood that the Statisticians of New South Wales and Victoria are conferring regarding the alleged error in the figures previously supplied by the New South Wales Government to the Commonwealth Statistician for the purpose of the migration count. Until their report has been received by the Commonwealth Statistician it is not possible to form any opinion as to the accuracy or otherwise of the Electoral Statistics.
A general discussion of this question would be premature until that report has been received.
– Will the Minister of Defence be good enough to convey to his colleagues a suggestion that, in view of the importance of having the electoral difficulty settled at once - a difficulty with which we shall be confronted next week - he should do all that he can to expedite the preparation and receipt of that report?
– The Minister of Home Affairs is, I am sorry to say unwell, but I shall see that the honorable senator’s suggestion is conveyed to the Department and personally urge that it should be complied with.
– Has the attention of the Minister of Defence been drawn to a statement which appeared in print a little time ago that a lad who was brought before the Police Court in Hobart for failing to attend the compulsory drills pleaded as his excuse that he was employed by a Commonwealth Department which would not allow him time to attend, and, if so, can he say whether the statement is accurate?
– Speaking from memory, I think that statement was the subject of correspondence between the Postal and Defence Departments. I shall have the matter looked up and give the honorable senator the desired information next week.
asked the Minister representing the Minister of External Affairs, upon notice -
– The answers to the questions are -
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– Inquiries are being made and the desired information will be furnished as soon as possible.
– Arising out of the answer may I ask the Minister if he or the Postmaster-General is aware that while news as to the details of the calamity was being anxiously awaited by relatives and friends throughout Tasmania and the other States the press were unable to obtain information until very late at night because of the ordinary rule as to the priority of telegrams, and will he in furnishing a reply advert to that particular circumstance? The question is being asked because the press were unable to obtain information until about midnight. In many instances it almost prevented them from bringing out their ordinary issue, to say nothing of the fact that relatives and friends could get- no information.
– I have read a statement to that effect in the press, but whether the facts are as stated by the honorable senator I am not in a position to say. I shall have inquiries made as to why such a long delay occurred in connexion with the despatch of important information when it was anxiously awaited, not by the public only, but by the relatives of the men who were concerned in the disaster.
– Arising out of the answer-
– Order. There was practically no answer given to the question because the Minister, as I understood him, said that he had not the information available to-day, but would give it later.
– What I desire to direct the Minister’s attention to in connexion with the question of Senator Keating is that it was not possible to obtain telegraphic information from Gormanston, the seat of the calamity, after 6 o’clock at night. The post and telegraph offices in that district were duly closed then, and the only means there was of communicating with the locality was through Queenstown. That is a circumstance which does not reflect very much credit upon the Department.
– Order. The honorable senator cannot debate the matter.
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are -
Bill read a third time.
In Committee (Consideration of House of Representatives’ message resumed from 31st October, vide page 4910) :
Clause 75 (Time for payment of wages on foreign-going ships).
House of Respresentative? Amendment. - After sub-clause 1 insert the following new subclause : - (ia) In cases where the. seamen are engaged on time or running agreement on an Australiantrade 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.
Upon which Senator Pearce had” moved -
That the amendment be agreed to.
Upon which Senator Chataway had moved -
That the word “first” be left out of theamendment, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “nearest banking.”
– I ask Senator Chataway not to press this amendment,, because I can assure him that it is entirelyunnecessary. The procedure laid down here will cause no inconvenience, but, on the contrary, will convenience the crew. I am’ informed that as regards the coasting trade, the steamship companies now have a practice which will make the amendment of the other House quite practicableand easy to carry out, and that as regardsships going to other ports, they alwaysmake arrangements to enable payments tobe made there, and that the provision will not involve any hardship upon the shipping; companies in its present form.
– I am not worrying about theshipping companies. If the Minister will assure me that the new sub-clause will not. entail any hardship upon the crew, and that they will get reasonable payments if they happen to get into port a day or two before the first of the month, I shall be pleased towithdraw my amendment.
– That is so.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Motion agreed to.
Clause 76 (Wages to be paid monthly on> Australian trade and limited coast tradeships).
House of Representatives’ Amendment. - Omit the clause.
– This amend-: ment is consequential upon the amendment to which we have just agreed, and therefore I move -
That the amendment be agreed to.
Motion agreed to.
Amendments in clauses 77 and 80 agreed to.
Clause 87 - (2.) If the seaman is so discharged elsewhere than at the port of discharge mentioned in the agreement, the master or owner shall provide him with a passage to that port or such other port as is mutually agreed to with the approval of the superintendent.
House of Representatives’ Amendment. - Omit “ superintendent,” insert “ proper authority.”
– This amendment is required for reasons given in connexion with a similar alteration in clause 48 and the insertion of a definition of “ proper authority “ in clause . 5. It is necessary, wherever “ superintendent “ afterwards appears, to substitute “ proper authority,” which in certain cases includes the superintendent. I move -
That the amendment be agreed to.
Motion 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, and with the written consent of the master, or proves such ill-usage on the part or by the authority of the master as to warrant reasonable apprehension of danger to his life or health if he were to remain on board.
House of Representatives’ Amendment. - Omit “this Act,” insert “law.”
– The reason for this amendment is that when a seaman is discharged abroad he’ comes under the provisions of the Merchant Shipping Act. and his discharge is subject to the sanction prescribed in that Act. This Bill makes no express provision as to sanction for the discharge of a seaman abroad, hence the reason for putting “law” in place of “ this Act.” I move -
That the amendment be agreed to.
Motion agreed to.
Clause 99 (Offences against discipline).
House of Representatives’ Amendment. - After the line “ Desertion,” in column 1, insert “ Failure or refusal without reasonable cause to join the ship or proceed to sea in the ship.”
– This and the following amendment, which practically deal with the same subject, are required to provide a punishment for men who, after signing on, fail to join, or refuse te go to sea, in their ships. The failure to join at the last minute plays right into the hands of crimps. These men are always on the watch to offer substitutes for absentees, and to pass off deserters from other ships in port, and also numbers of incompetent men who in ordinary circumstances would not be accepted. Crimps get from 10s. to£5 a head for men. The occupation is therefore highly profitable, and there is a direct inducement for them to carry on this work. The drugging pf men and filling them with drink, and putting them on board in a state of semiinsensibility occurs under this practice in supplying substitutes for men who fail to carry out their agreement. The amendment before the Committee is in line with the Merchant Shipping Act, and the New Zealand Act is framed on similar lines. I move -
That the amendment be agreed to.
– I have heard of cases where seamen have refused to join because of some defect in the ship. In many cases I believe that seamen have discovered after having signed on that there was something wrong with the ship, and refused to go in her.
– They had not seen the ship before they signed on.
– Exactly.I believe that under the law such men are liable to be taken summarily beforethe magistrate and punished. Of course, there is a proviso here about reasonable cause, but that means a lot of litigation. I think that the interests of the seamen ought to be fully safeguarded. Any one who has read the history of the merchant service of Great Britain can come to only one conclusion, and that is that there has been a great deal of brutality and sweating from the . dawn of the industry down to the present day. It behoves us in Australia to be exceedingly careful what we do in this connexion. The interests of the ship-owners are well looked after.
– This amendment is not in the interests of the ship-owners, but to stop crimping, as the Minister has explained.
– The Minister of Defence is in the same position as the average Scotchman is with his money. He is very economical about his breath. I did not hear what he said, and probably if I had heard him it might have saved me some trouble. I want, if possible, to safeguard the interests of the seamen. According to Senator Guthrie, this amendment has nothing to do with crimping, but, according to Senator Clemons, it has.
– And according to the Minister it has.
– I prefer to take the opinion of Senator Guthrie in this matter, because the Minister is not a shell-back, but something else.
– I said that the practice of men deserting at the last moment played into the hands of crimps who are always on the look out to provide for such cases, and who would drug men, and have done it, as the evidence taken before the Navigation Commission shows.
– There is a premium placed by this Bill on crimping. A man who can get hold of a sailor, drug him, and haul him up to some shipping office, is to get free.
– The Bill says something about £2, does it not?
– I thought I read something about that.
– It is absolutely forbidden.
– I cannot find the reference at the present moment. I ask Senator Guthrie whether I am right or wrong, and will take his word for it. What I maintain is that the interests of the seamen should be protected as far as possible. The shipping companies are perfectly well able to look after themselves. If they want to keep men in their employment there is one way of doing it, and one only. That is by paying them fair wages, and treating them as human beings ought to be treated. I remember now, where I saw the reference about the £2. It was in the Sydney Bulletin in connexion with crimping at Newcastle. It appears that the British seaman is paid the magnificent wage of £4 per month.
– When he touches a port in Australia, and hears of the wages paid in this modern land of promise, he hurriedly leaves his ship. In plain English, he deserts. I do not blame him. Every man is entitled to get as much for his labour as he possibly can. If British ship-owners object to men leaving ships inAustralian ports the remedy is to pay them decent wages, and feed them as men ought to be fed.
– Thereference in the Sydney Bulletin was to the existing practice, which this Bill is intended to prevent. The honorable senator can find evidence of that in the report of the Royal Commission on Navigation.
- Senator Guthrie says that the clause under consideration has nothing to do with crimping. Whom am I to believe?
– I never said that the clause had to do with crimping, but I saidthat the practice of finding substitutes encourages crimping.
– All that I am anxious for is that the position of the men shall be made as secure as possible.
– I thinkI can put to rest Senator Stewart’s fears in regard to men finding ships unseaworthy. First, I direct attention to an amendment with which we shall deal hereafter, numbered 91 in the schedule. We propose to omit clause 212 of the Bill, and to insert a new clause, the first portion of which declares that any person who sends a. ship to sea in an unseaworthy state shall be guilty of an indictable offence. Sub-clause 3 lays it down that -
A prosecution under this section shall not be instituted except by the consent of the AttorneyGeneral.
Sub-clause 4, to which I direct Senator Stewart’s particular attention if he will give up reading the Bulletin for a moment, provides that -
Nothing in this section shall subject the owner or master of a ship to any liability bv reason of the ship being sent or taken to sea in an unseaworthy state where, owing to special circumstances, the sending of the ship to sea in that state was reasonable and justifiable.
Furthermore, proposed new clause 21 2a provides that -
If a British ship is unseaworthy a seaman or apprentice belonging to her shall not be deemed to have committed a breach of his agreement by reason of his having refused to sail in her while she is unseaworthy; and any seaman or apprentice so refusing may claim his discharge unless the ship is made seaworthy within a. reasonable time.
So far, therefore, as concerns a seaman’s reason for refusing to go to sea because he considers the vessel unseaworthy, there is a clear remedy. As regards the other point, what is the position? A seaman in Great
Britain who joins a ship coming to Australia enters into a contract that he will work the ship to this country and back.
– For certain considerations, which are not always fulfilled.
– The consideration as far as concerns a British ship cannot be dealt with in this Bill because it relates to a British, not an Australian agreement. When that seaman comes to Australia Senator Stewart says that, attracted by high wages here, he may wish to break his agreement. Senator Stewart surely does not suggest that we should, in our law, lay down conditions to enable a seaman to break an agreement into which he has entered. If the honorable senator does not suggest that, our law is sufficient, because it provides that if the seaman does break his agreement he shall be liable to a penalty. The contention of the Department of Trade and Customs, on the advice of the Royal Commission, strengthened by evidence tendered at Newcastle, and by the knowledge of what the present practice is, is that this practice of desertion, and refusing to go to sea at the last moment, plays into the hands -of crimps in regard to foreign-going ships. It was proved before the Royal Commission that these. crimps watch foreign ships particularly, and that is why they do a lucrative trade in supplying substitutes at the last moment. Whilst it is true that there is a penalty upon a seaman who breaks his agreement under such circumstances, at the same time that very practice has led to crimping, which is against the best interests of the seamen themselves.
– And the provision lias sent a whole lot of sailors to gaol.
– What has? This provision has not yet been in operation.
– But there is a similar provision in the Imperial Act.
– That is bad, but it is not worse than placing sailors in the hands of crimps.
– The existing practice gives the crimps opportunities. The clause simply provides that when an agreement is made it is to be carried out.
– If this amendment is intended to prevent crimping it will absolutely fail. I -wish to give an illustration : A few years ago a ship called the Melville Island arrived at Queenscliff. The men on board refused to proceed to sea in her, not because of her unseaworthiness, but because of the treatment which they had received on board, and of the condition of the provisions. The men were brought before the Court at Queenscliff. There were thirteen of them, as well as a stewardess. They were ordered to go on board, but they refused. The master then brought them before the Court in Melbourne where the case was tried by Mr. Panton, P.M. They were sentenced to various terms of im- . prisonment ranging from ten to thirteen weeks for refusing to go on board the ship.
– That was not under this measure.
– But it was done under the Imperial law, of which this is an absolute copy.
– Not in that respect.
– Under this Bill the men could be similarly treated.
– Not if the ship were unseaworthy
– The ship was not unseaworthy. She was as staunch a vessel as ever went to sea, but she was not properly provisioned.
– That is also provided for.
– These men had not a penny to their names. When they were dragged before the Court at Queenscliff, they could not afford to fee a lawyer to defend them, and had to depend upon their own statements. When they refused to obey the magistrate’s order to go on board, they were brought before the Court in Melbourne by the master, who, of course, had command of funds to prosecute them. Mr. Panton dismissed the case against the woman out of sympathy, though she was just as guilty as the men were. He sent the crew to gaol. I -was in Court at the time. Mr. Panton ranged the men up before him to have a look at them, and ‘he gave them sentences on their mere appearance.
– That is merely an indictment against the Court, not against this Bill.
– It is an indictment against the law.
– No, against the administration of it.
– If the administration can be so bad, why give a magistrate such an opportunity? These men proved before the Court, to an absolute certainty,- that the rice with which they were supplied was half maggots, and that there was virtually no beef at all. The ship left South America absolutely short of provisions. I may relate my own experience : I once left Singapore on board a ship bound for Melbourne. We had sixteen days’ provisions on board. We were ninety-six days on the passage. If we had put into a port between Singapore and Melbourne, should I have been justified in refusing to proceed in the ship? The decision in the Melville Island case was that the men were not justified in leaving. The magistrate held that even if the men were starved, they had not a reasonable excuse for leaving the ship. The case cost the men something like£200 before they were done with it, which they could very ill afford. We are told that the amendment is intended to prohibit crimping. The crimp did not enter into the Melville Island case at all. The men believed that they had, to all intents and purposes, a reasonable cause for not going on board the ship.
– Such a case could not possibly occur under this Bill.
– Under the same circumstances, the same results could follow under this Bill. There is nothing to prevent it. If the amendment is intended to prohibit crimping, it will fail utterly. If on shore a man makes an agreement with an employer to work on a job, and does not like it after he has had a look at it, he can leave. But it is not so with the seaman. Generally he engages before he has seen the ship. Take the case of a ship lying at Queenscliff. The master engages a crew in Melbourne. A man has no opportunity of seeing the ship. He has no opportunity of knowing those with whom he is going to work. When he gets on board, he may find that the ship is not properly found, and that the officers are men with whom he cannot work. Why should he not have the right to say, “I am not going to sea in that ship “ ?
– He has the right.
– He has not.
– Clause 116 gives him the right.
– He has only the right to refuse to go to sea if the ship is unseaworthy.
– Or if the food is bad. Look at clause 116.
– The seaman must have experience on board before he can know that the food is bad. In the Melville Island case, the men had had experience of a trip from South America to
Queenscliff. But a seaman engaging inMelbourne for a ship lying at Queenscliff has probably never seen either the ship or the officers, and does not know whether hecan work with them.
– How could he tell whether he could work with the officers by merely looking at them?
-Colonel Sir Albert Gould. - It is as bad as the case of the magistrate who sentenced the seamen on their appearance.
– I am supposing a case where a seaman goes on board and finds that the officers are men with whom he cannot work. Why should he not have the right to leave the ship without having a penalty hanging over his head? If the Minister of Defence were working at his own trade, and found that he could not work with his “ boss,” he would drop histools at the end of the day, and therewould be no penalty hanging over his head-
– Does the honorable senator want the Bill to provide that a seaman shall go when he likes, and come when he likes?
– No, I do not; but I contend that a seaman who joins a ship should be able to give twenty-four hours’ notice that he mtends to leave, and he ought to be able to leave without incurring; a penalty. That is surely a very fair position. Honorable senators talk about ships being unseaworthy. Who is going to decide whether a ship lying in port is seaworthy or not? Every one who goes on? board a ship to make a trip believes her tobe seaworthy. He takes his chance. But if a seaman says, “ Here is a ship with a list 25 degrees to port, I am not going to risk my life in her,” he ought to have the right to go out of her if he likes, withoutincurring the risk of going to Pentridge.
– He can take that course under clause 48.
– Who is going to decide, then?
– The Minister.
– How can the Minister decide whether a ship is seaworthy or not, even with all his expert knowledgeto guide him ?
– Who is to decide, then?
– The sailor himself, if he says, “ I am afraid of my life.”
– Has he not to showreasonable cause for that belief?
– Of course.
– Does not the Bill exempt him if he has reasonable cause?
– I have pointed out that the sailors in the Melville Island case had reasonable cause, and yet they were sent to gaol.
– The Melville Island case has no bearing on this amendment.
– It has.
– I will show the honorable senator that it has not the slightest bearing.
– No doubt the Minister will be able to show that the clause only applies to men who have signed articles and have not joined a ship. But it goes further than that.
– The honorable senator has not read the clause.
– I have read it carefully, and know things about it which the Minister does not know.
– Read it again.
-Colonel Sir Albert Gould. - The honorable senator has imported a great deal into the clause which is not there.
– I have imported nothing into it. Say that a man signs on a ship’s articles in Melbourne, and that he has to proceed to Portland to join the ship. He has never seen her,and does not know whether she is seaworthy or not. When he gets to Portland he finds that the vessel is badly found, and that her seaworthiness is very doubtful. It is proposed to provide by this Bill that no man can raise an objection to the seaworthiness of a vessel on his own account. He must get three others to join with him in order to raise such an objection. Where, then, is the seaman’s individual liberty if he is not able to say, “ I doubt the seaworthiness of that ship, and I am afraid of my life to go on board her”?
-Colonel Sir Albert Gould. - Rightly or wrongly?
– Yes, rightly or wrongly. It is his conscientious opinion that his life may be lost if he goes to sea in the vessel.
-Colonel Sir Albert Gould. -He may say that in order to get out of his engagement.
– Under this Bill, unless he can get three others to take the same view, he will come under the penalty of this provision. The Minister is well aware that I am prepared to adopt the most stringent measures to put down the crimper. A crimp gets hold of a man and signs him on for a ship, and then prevents him joining the ship because he wants him for a future occasion.
– The crimp cannot do that under this Bill.
– He can. I have shown that it is possible for a crimp to sign on the same seaman for innumerable ships.
-Is the honorable senator going to help him to do that?
– No, I say that we should punish the crimp.
– So we shall under this Bill.
– Not sufficiently, but under this provision we are going to punish the victim of the crimp.
– No, we shall prevent a man playing into the hands of a crimp.
– It is on record that a celebrated New South Wales crimp sent away a doctor to San Francisco. If that doctor refused to go in the ship, he could under this provision be punished.
– In that case the agreement with the doctor would be void, because it would have been made in defiance of the Act
– But he was put on board the ship, and she went away.
– The doctor’s agreement would under this Bill be an illegal agreement, and he could not be compelled to go in the ship.
– But he did go in the ship.
– The honorable senator is overlooking the fact that the case he cites occurred under the State law.
– This Bill will not make a bit of difference in the matter. We should punish the crimp as much as honorable senators please, but we should not punish the victim of the crimp, and we should give a seaman an absolute right to say, “Although I have signed an agreement to work on this ship, I had not seen her, and, having seen her, I refuse to go to sea in her.” It was proved in the Melville Island case that the men were starved for ninety days, and yet the magistrate decided that they had not a reasonable cause for leaving the ship.
– Under clause 148 of this Bill those men could not have been sent to sea.
– They couldbe sent to sea.
– If under this Bill a vessel can go to sea in an unseaworthy condition it is a reflection upon Senator Guthrie’s own work, and on the Royal Commission of which he was a member.
– The Royal Commission never recommended the provision we are discussing now.
– They recommended clause 148.
– Why should seamen be treated differently from any one else? If I ask Senator Gould to take up a case for me, he has the right, when he sees the case, to refuse to do so, and I say that when a seaman sees his case - and all that he sees very often is a few yards of canvas and a firebar to keep him down - he should have the right to say,” I signed on for the ship, but I do not like her, and I intend to get out of her.”
– That is what every man says who immorally wishes to get out of a contract.
-I am not suggesting any immoral evasion of a contract. I say that a seaman should have the right to give twenty-four hours’ notice that he will not go in a ship.
– After signing an agreement to go in her ?
– That shows that we had better stick to the Merchant Shipping Act.
– Exactly ; this provision is a departure from the Merchant Shipping Act.
-If a seaman can show that a ship is unseaworthy, or that the food supplied is bad or insufficient, he may, under this Bill, refuse to go in her.
– What does it mean to ask a seaman to prove the unseaworthiness of a ship ?
– The seaman has not to prove that. That would be proved by experts.
– The seaman has to go to Court and employ counsel.
– What the honorable senator wishes is that a seaman should be allowed to break any agreement by merely saying that a ship is unseaworthy.
– No. Isay that he should have the right to say to the master, “ I give you twenty-four hours’ notice that I do not intend to go in the ship.” That is only a fair thing as between employer and employé.
– Would the honorable senator make that reciprocal?
– Would the honorable senator say that, after a ship has been twenty-four hours out, the master may dispense with any of the crew?
– They do that as it is. They put them ashore sometimes without twenty-four hours’ notice. If Senator Clemons has a clerk in his office, and does not want him, he gives him twenty-four hours’ notice “ to git.”
– Where does the honorable senator find that a salaried clerk may be dismissed at twentyfour hours’ notice?
– Salaried clerk! They do not pay them salaries.
– I suppose they get them for nothing?
– They very often get a premium from them for the right to work.
– Premiums are sometimes given for the right to work on a ship.
– Parents often pay£40,£50,and£60 to have their lads taught to be able seamen, and yet, under the provision we are now discussing, though the parent of a lad may have paid £60 to have him placed on board a ship, if he refuses to go ina ship he may be sent to gaol. That is not a fair thing, and I ask the Minister to withdraw this proposal. The Minister says that the object is to prevent crimping, but, under this provision, we shall be punishing, not the crimp, but the victim of the crimp, and that is what we ought not to do.
– I am very sorry that Senator Guthrie should have cited a number of cases that have nothing whatever to do with the amendment, which deals wholly and solely with new engagements. If Senator Guthrie wishes to give seamen, who have entered into an agreement, and have worked under it for part of a voyage, the right to break away at any time, he should move an amendment upon the provisions dealing with desertion. We are now dealing with the case of failure or refusal, without reasonable cause, to join a ship or proceed to sea in a ship
This amendment deals with new engagements, and the other provision which Senator Guthrie has really been discussing deals with agreements partly carried out. The Melville Island case appeals to the sympathies and sense of justice of every one. but, “ like the flowers that bloom in the spring,” it has nothing to do with this case. In the first place, there was no question of new engagements; the men came to Melbourne in a ship, and were being sent away in her.
– The charge was failure to join the ship.
– It was nothing of the kind. It was refusal to obey orders, because the men were in the ship, which was proceeding on her voyage when they refused to obey orders. Their reason for refusing was that they objected to the dietary scale. There is no doubt that they had reasonable cause for refusing to obey orders, and if this Bill had been law at the time, they would not have been convicted, and if a conviction had been recorded against them in a Police Court, an appeal against that conviction would have succeeded in any Supreme Court. Senator Guthrie makes the most rash statements. I am sorry to have to say that, in order to prove his case, he says things which he must know are not correct. He claims that I have said that we are trying to deal with the crimp in this provision. I never said so. What I said was that the practice of leaving things to the last moment tends to make the trade of a crimp a lucrative one. In clauses 26, 29, and 30, we have dealt with the crimp, and if we have not done so effectively the responsibility for that largely lies with Senator Guthrie, because he was a member of the Royal Commission who investigated the question of crimping, made certain recommendations which he signed, and which are embodied in those clauses.
– I have never raised any objection to those clauses.
– The honorable senator said that we are trying to deal with the crimp in this provision, and that instead of doing so we are penalizing the victim of the crimp. My reply to that is that if honorable senators will read clauses 26, 29, and 30, they will see that, acting on the recommendation of the Royal Commission, we have included provisions in this Bill dealing with the crimp and making crimping an illegal offence, and we provide penalties for it. I take the case suggested by Senator Guthrie. A man signs an agreement in Melbourne to join a ship at Portland. When he sees the ship he finds that the food supply is not what it ought to be. Now, I ask honorable senators to refer to clause 116, which says - 1 16. - (1.) If three or more of the crew of a ship consider that their provisions or water arc of bad quality, or deficient in quantity, they may complain thereof to a superintendent, who shall examine the provisions and water or cause them to be examined. (2.) If the superintendent, or person making the examination, finds that the provisions or water are of bad quality or deficient in quantity, he shall, by writing, require the master to provide provisions and water of good quality, o; sufficient in quantity, as the case may be, and to cease to use or supply to the crew any provisions or water found to be of bad quality, and the master shall comply with the requisition.
Penalty :Twenty pounds. (3.) The superintendent or person making the examination shall enter the result thereof in the official log-book. (4.) If the superintendent or person making the examination certifies that there was no reasonable ground for the complaint, each of the complainants shall be liable to forfeit out of his wages a sum not exceeding one week’s wages.
That provision protects seamen in connexion with the food supply.
– I said there was no protection for the individual seaman. Three or more of the crew are required to raise that objection.
– In the case of the Melville Island, the facts of the case are well known to all of us, and I say that, under the clause I have quoted, the men could have stopped that ship at any time, and could have recovered the penalty indicated from the master. Under this Bill he would have been compelled to rectify the state of affairs objected to.
– Is it of any use that a man should be able to recover penalties it in the meantime he may be compelled to go in a ship that is a floating graveyard ?
– The honorable senator refers to another matter. I am dealing just now with the question of the quality and sufficiency of food, and I have shown that in this connexion there is protection provided for the seamen in this Bill. A seaman will have no difficulty in getting two or more other seamen to join with him in making a complaint if thefood supplied to the crew is insufficient or of bad quality.
– Suppose there were only three in the ship?
– We are dealing with foreign-going ships, and there will be a crew of more than three in a foreigngoing ship. Now, where the terms of an agreement are bad, it will be found that, under clause 148, provision is made for the rescission of the contract. The clause reads as follows : - 148. - (1.) In any proceeding before any Court affecting ‘the relation between a seaman or apprentice and the master or owner of any ship, the Court may rescind any contract in existence between the parties on such terms as the Court deems just. (2.) This power shall be in addition to any other jurisdiction which the Court can exercise independently of this section. (3.) Any of the parties to any such contract may institute proceedings under this section for the rescission of the contract.
Now, with respect to the complaint that a ship may be unseaworthy, or, as Senator Rae has suggested, “ a floating graveyard,” if honorable senators will turn to the proposed new clause 312a, which the House of Representatives submits as an amendment, they will find that it provides that -
If a British ship is unseaworthy a seaman or apprentice belonging to her shall not be deemed to have committed a breach of his agreement by reason of his having refused to sail in her while she is unseaworthy ; and any seaman or apprentice so refusing may claim his discharge unless the. ship is made seaworthy within a reasonable time.
Then there are other clauses providing the machinery and procedure by which this is decided.
– When is a ship seaworthy ?
– The honorable senator knows the answer to that question. The Bill lays it down, and provides for a survey.
– A ship left Adelaide with her bows out, and she was considered seaworthy.
– Under this Bill such a thing could not occur. I am surprised at the honorable senator making this rash statement.
– It is a fact which you cannot deny.
– It is a rash statement. If the damage to a ship’s bow is of such a character as to render her unseaworthy, any seaman can stop her in any port, and if a survey proves her to be unseaworthy, she can be detained.
– What is your definition of seaworthy?
– That is a matter for experts to determine. I am not an expert on that question.
– The experts who built the Titanic.
– The machinery is provided to obtain a survey. If the honorable senator says that the means of determining the seaworthiness of a ship are not proper, all that I can say is that we have followed his advice in the matter.
– You have done nothing of the kind.
– If the honorable senator can show me where, . in the Bill, we have not followed the advice of the Navigation Commission on that question, I should like him to do so. He had an opportunity where he could to improve upon the existing Act, and I assume that he took advantage of the opportunity. We provide adequately for the protection of seamen, and I trust that the amendment will be agreed to.
.- I understand, from Senator Guthrie, that the Bill does not provide for the individual seaman, seeing that he has no right to move unless he can associate himself with others.
– That is as regards food ; but as regards the condition of the ship, he himself can act.
– It is easy for the Minister to say that an individual seaman can do this or that; but we know that he can do nothing of the kind. I was specially interested in the Melville Island case, which illustrates what can occur, and possibly may occur even under this Bill. I know the difficulty which was experienced by the seamen on the Melville Island. Why should not a seaman individually enjoy the same right as any other workman who sells his labour? It is an exploded idea that a seaman’s occupation differs entirely from other avocations ; but he has always been treated differently from other workmen.
– If a man ashore enters into a contract to perfprm certain work, he has to carry out the contract.
– Yes; but a landsman can release himself much more expeditiously, and he has not to enter into an agreement with two or three other persons for that purpose.
– In some cases, he has.
– I do not know of any cases.
– Take a shearing contract.
– Under this clause, if a seaman cannot secure the adherence of two or three other seamen, he cannot possibly take any step to help himself. Take, for instance, the case of the Melville Island.
– This law was not in operation then.
– It was an Imperial law under which the crew of the Melville Island were brought before the Court. The conditions on the vessel were such that they all united in a complaint when the opportunity arrived. The Queenscliff magistrate recognised the reasonableness of their complaint, and refused to comply with the demand of the captain that they should be sent on board. Not content with that decision the captain came down to Melbourne and lodged a complaint at the City Court, and Mr. Panton decided that the crew had no reasonable cause for their action, and the men were ordered to undergo certain punishment, to be incarcerated in a gaol, leaving the gaol at 8 a.m. next day, and to be delivered on the ship. Recognising the injustice of Mr. Panton’s decision, Mr. J. Wolff came to the rescue of the men, and practically took up their case, but the Governor of the gaol refused to admit him to take the affidavits of the men against their deportation. If he had not been able to secure a magistrate by 7 o’clock next morning the men would have been deported, and put on the Melville Island against their will.
– What was the ultimate result ?
– I went to the Melbourne gaol at 7 o’clock in the morning, and took the affidavits of the men. We appealed to the magistrate at the City Court to give us an order, but he refused our request, because Mr. Panton, had already decided the case, and he would not interfere. We had then to go to the Chief Justice, who granted us an order, with the result that the men were liberated.
– At a cost of about £200.
– At the same time the law was vindicated. A mistake was made by the magistrate in the City Court, but that does not prove that the law was bad.
– It proves that a magistrate can make any bloomer he likes, and is not penalized.
– After the crew of the Melville Island got the decision of the Queenscliff magistrate in their favour, they were’ helpless, because their wages were retained by the master. As they had not a shilling no lawyer was prepared to take up their case. During the whole of the time they were bandied about they had absolutely nothing. Suppose that ten or thirteen men cannot be brought into line, or that some influence is at work, what is likely to happen? One man may have a little more temerity than the rest of the crew. He may feel that he has no right to be subjected to a certain condition, but under this Bill he cannot withdraw from his engagement without suffering punishment and fine.
– That ought to be dealt with by amending the other clause.
– It is a matter with which we ought to deal. Why should not a seaman enjoy the same rights under this Bill as he enjoys under -the Merchant Shipping Act? I hold that a seaman should be treated in exactly the same way as an ordinary workman.
– I am informed that the Merchant Shipping Act gives no such power.
Senator Lt.-Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD (New South Wales) [11.41].- I am anxious to know what Senator Guthrie proposes to do. We have had a long discussion, and the honorable senator has roamed all over subjects which are in no wise affected by this very simple prevision. No doubt he has instanced cases of very great hardship, both individually and collectively, but do his remarks apply to the clause? Senator Barker has given us the history of the Melville Island case. What does it show ? It shows that the law was ample to protect the men, but that therehad been a misapplication of the law by a magistrate.
– At the cost of what?
.- At the cost of a great deal of money. But no matter what law may be passed, there may be a misinterpretation or a misunderstanding of it by magistrates. Circumstances may arise subsequently which show that a mistake was made, and the case is then taken to a higher Court, which points out what the law really is. I recognise the hardship of seamen having to incur a large expenditure, being placed in a false position, and being sent to gaol even for a limited period. But can we frame a law in such a way that there can be no mistake or misinterpretation of it? No reason has been shown why we should not make provision for these cases. Take the case of a ship which has engaged her complement of seamen and is ready to go to sea at a certain hour. At the last moment two or three members of the crew say that they do not like the look of the ship or the appearance of the skipper or the mate or the boatswain or the cook, and, therefore, they will not go with the ship. Is it reasonable to allow any seaman to take up that attitude? In such a case what is the position of the master? He cannot go to sea without his proper complement and he may lose valuable engagements in consequence of the conduct of members of his crew.
– Owners have no right to send men to sea in a floating coffin.
-Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD. - I agree with the honorable senator, but there is provision made to meet a case of that character. A ship cannot be allowed to go to sea unless the authorities are satisfied that she is seaworthy. If any seamen consider that a ship is not seaworthy they can make representations to that effect, and then the authorities will take action. They will insist, if necessary, on a survey being made before the ship is allowed to go to sea and a certificate to that effect being furnished.
– Can you tell me what would have happened if some sailor had left the Waratah at a wayside port?
-Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD. - That shows how mistakes may be made even after the most careful consideration has been given to the structure of a ship. It is most unreasonable for any honorable senator to take exception to a provision of this character. I think that the Minister has pointed out very clearly that the provisions of the Bill will meet the various objections raised by Senator Guthrie. A man who deserts is liable to a penalty, and a man who declines to join his ship after he has engaged is liable to a penalty. Why should we say that in one case the man shall be punished but that in the other he shall go free? If honorable senators can define a reasonable cause of failure to join a ship I shall offer no objection to the definition being put in the Bill. If they choose to say that if a seaman indicates that he has changed his mind, and does not want to go to sea, or that he does not like the look of the cook or the skipper, that shall be deemed to be a reasonable cause of failure to join the ship, welland good.
– No; strike out the clause.
– It would be absurd to strike out the clause, because then there would be no penalty provided, and a man could at the last moment, and, without any earthly reason, refuse to join his ship. This Bill is a very great advance in many ways upon the Merchant Shipping Act. Honorable senators should not consider that we have only one class in the community to deal with. We have to consider the interests of the owner and the shipper. We cannot build up a mercantile marine unless we consider the interests of all classes. I warn honorable senators that if they pass a Bill which is absolutely one-sided, they will act most unfairly, and will not do any good, because they will be destroying, instead of building up, a mercantile marine. Ship-owners will say, “ We will not register in Australia ; we will register in Hamburg, or some other foreign port.” They will do this to get rid of many of the restrictions that are embodied in this Bill in the interests of seamen.
– It does not mattertwopence where a ship registers. She can register in Hong Kong if she likes.
-Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD. - When a ship registers outside British jurisdiction, she works under different conditions from a ship registered in the British Dominions. There are many things which the Imperial Parliament might desire to enact in reference to navigation ; but they cannot do so as tar as concerns foreign shipping. We shall be committing a wrong if we legislate in such a way as will deprive this country of the opportunity of building up a mercantile marine of its own. I would sooner see ships which trade with Australia registered in Australia than elsewhere. But we cannot compel them to do so; and if we attempt the task we shall find ourselves involved in all sorts of difficulties. We may even involve the Mother Country in difficulties of which we shall have to share the responsibility. I trust that honorable senators will consider the clause in a reasonable spirit, and recognise the fact that many interests have to be borne in mind. If we allow a man to refuse to sail after engaging with a ship, and without reasonable cause, we shall make a serious mistake.
– Who is going to define what is “ reasonable cause”?
– Should the seaman define it?
– He should, if he thinks a ship unseaworthy.
– The seaman has a right to say, “ I will not go on board that ship.” I feel satisfied that what Senator Guthrie advocates would encourage crimping. A crimp would come along to a sailor and say, “ Look here, old man, I can find you a fiver if you will break your engagement.” If the seaman said, “Very well,” and broke the engagement, the crimp would have the opportunity of engaging him for another ship ; and so the thing would go on ad infinitum. When a man acts in collusion with a crimp, without any adequate reason whatever, he ought to be punished.
– There is a conspiracy law which can be put in motion against him then.
– Does the honorable senator want the conspiracy law to be put in force, and brand him as a criminal, instead of rendering him liable to a penalty? There may be unreasonable provisions in this Bill, but this amendment is most reasonable. I trust that the Committee will see fit to accept the explanation given by the Minister, who has met every objection.
– My contention is that if Senator Guthrie’ s position were maintained, it would be a move in the direction of encouraging the breaking of agreements of any kind whatever. If a seaman is to be free to leave a ship, and the ship-owner at the same time is to be free to discharge him, I do not see much necessity for entering into agreements at all. In the present case, if a seaman does, for the reasons stated by Senator Guthrie, leave a ship, the very best safeguard we can have is to maintain the clause as it stands. If a seaman thinks that a ship for which he has signed articles is unseaworthy, and refuses to sail in her, the matter will be brought under the notice of the Minister, who will instantly take action. But, on the other hand, if Senator Guthrie’s wish is carried into effect, it may mean that the seaman who is convinced that the ship is unseaworthy will leave her, and that other seamen, not so vigilant, will be taken on board. In that case, there will be no action by the Minister at all. If we maintain the clause as it stands, the mere fact of a seaman objecting to go to sea on account of the unseaworthiness of the vessel will call at tention to her condition, and the Minister will have to set the law in motion to find out whether or not the ship is unseaworthy.
– The honorable senator would make the sailor the monkey, to pull the nuts out of the fire
– If we follow the course suggested by Senator Guthrie, it simply means that a sailor who signs on a ship, and, having had a look at her, determines to leave her, will walk ashore, and nothing more will be heard about the matter. The law will not be set in motion. In that case, the master will engage the services of another man, and the unseaworthiness of the ship will not be brought under the notice of the authorities. Consequently, there will be fewer safeguards than by maintaining the clause in its present form. Therefore, the course recommended by Senator Guthrie would be exceedingly foolhardy. Although the clause may involve temporary hardship, it will, nevertheless, lead to calling attention to the unseaworthiness of ships, and will, in that sense, do great good. I shall vote for the clause, because I think that it will tend to prevent unseaworthy ships going to sea.
– The whole point of Senator Lynch’s argument is that a seaman may object to go to sea, and that his objection may bring the unseaworthiness of the ship under the notice of the Minister. But the honorable senator forgets that the seaman will render himself liable to a penalty. The honorable senator knows perfectly well that when he himself was going to sea, the mere fact of knowing that a penalty was hanging over his head induced him to put up with things rather than face the consequences. The Minister has alleged that I made a wrong statement concerning the Imperial law. I did not. I asserted that the Imperial Act of1906 did not impose any penalty upon a seaman who refused to join his ship. The Minister asserted that there is no such provision. I say that it was the Minister who made a wrong statement. The Imperial Act of 1906 provides that if a man fails to join his ship the superintendent may withhold his previous discharge. But there is no penalty.
– That is a pretty drastic punishment, is it not?
– It is not so drastic as the penalty of £20.
– What could the seaman do without his discharge?
– A discharge is not worth a snap of the fingers at the present time. The honorable senator could ship to-morrow as an A.B. or a fireman.
– Why did the Royal Commission make recommendations about discharges if they are useless?
– The honorable senator could not get employment on the coast without having his last discharge.
– There are hundreds of men going to sea to-day without discharges. How did the honorable senator himself first go to sea ? He ran away in a ship. Clause 65 of the Imperial Act of 1906 provides -
Where it is shown to the satisfaction of the superintendent that a seaman lawfully engaged has wilfully or, through misconduct, failed to join his ship the superintendent shall report the matter to the Board of Trade; and the Board may direct that any of the seaman’s certificates of discharge shall be withheld for such period as they think fit.
That section operates where there has been wilful misconduct. We, however, are making provision for punishing a sailor where there may have been no misconduct, but simply inadvertence. A sailor may miss his passage in a ship because of a wrong hour of sailing having been given him.
– That would be “ reasonable cause.”
– The whole point is that the clause would force men into Court.
– The Court might give protection to a man.
– A Court never gives protection to any one but the lawyer.
– The logic of the honorable senator’s argument is that there ought to be no agreement, and no navigation laws.
– We have decided that there shall be an agreement, and that it shall not be signed before a superintendent.
– The honorable senator is referring to coastal shipping.
– Is there any crimping in the coastal trade?
– This clause covers not only ships on which there may be crimping, but all cases in which a seaman may fail to join his ship. It is going back on the latest British legislation. In England there is no imprisonment for failing to join a ship. Why should there be a penalty here?
– There is disqualification in England.
– There is disqualification by the Board of Trade; but the Board of Trade may not give its decision for five years.
– And a seaman would be disqualified all that time.
– No; not until the Board of Trade had decided. The Minister would be well advised to withdraw the amendment altogether. The Minister has tried to saddle this provision upon the Commission, but the Commission made no such recommendation ..
– The clause carries out a recommendation of the Commission.
– I remind honorable senators that the Senate passed this Bill last year without any such provision, and it has been inserted in another place.
– The Commission recommended the abolition of imprisonment, and that has been provided for.
– If a seaman does not pay the fine of £20, what will happen? The Minister says that under this Bill we shall abolish imprisonment, but weprovide for it in another way. As a rule, a seaman has no goods upon which distress can be levied, and in such a case he will have to go to prison. So that we have not abolished imprisonment. I hope that if the Minister will not withdraw this proposal altogether he will submit something in the nature of the provision to be found in the Merchant Shipping Act.
– We have had a good deal of discussion upon a question for which I thought we had. arrived at a reasonable solution. So far as foreign seamen are concerned, I do not think that any Bill ever introduced in any Parliament contained greater safeguards than are provided by this measure. I say foreign seamen advisedly, because it is not necessary in this connexion to consider very seriously the position of seamen engaged in our own coastal trade. They will scarcely come under these provisions at all, because there is practically no desertion from the Australian coasting boats.
– What !
– There is certainly very little, and there was very little evidence of it given before the Navigation Commission.
– Senator Guthrie. has given no evidence of it.
– I have said that on many occasions men miss their passage inadvertently, and in such cases, under this provision, they may be fined ,£20.
– Ample provision is made to meet such cases. If a seaman has been misinformed as to the time of the leaving of his ship, that will be a reasonable cause for his failure to join it. If Senator Guthrie will read the recommendation of the Navigation Commission, which, in common with other members ot the Commission, he signed, he will see that this provision gives effect to that recommendation. I quote from page 30 of the Navigation Commission’s report-
And the law should be further amended so that any seaman may, by giving due notice, quit his ship without incurring criminal or civil liability. If he does not give notice, your Commissioners consider the case will be met by the forfeiture of all or any part of the wages, at the discretion of the Court, then due to him, together with the liability to bc sued for such damages as his employer may have suffered through his action.
– That is a different question altogether. How can a man who has failed to join a ship have wages accruing?
- Senator Guthrie says that a seaman will have great difficulty in getting his complaint properly stated before a Court. But in this Bill we provide that, if a man has a legitimate complaint, he has only to announce the fact to the master of the ship, and every facility must “be afforded him to go ashore, and make his -complaint in the proper quarter. The honorable senator has referred to what has happened recently, but he overlooks the fact that nothing has been changed since the time the Royal Commission inquired into this matter. * What happened in the past and what happened recently occurred under laws very different from this Bill. There is as much difference Between the navigation laws existing in the various States and this Bill as between chalk and cheese, and in view of the safeguards provided in the interests of foreign seamen, I am at a loss to understand how any reasonable person can condemn this measure. We could scarcely go further unless we decided to wipe out all agreements between ship-owners and seamen, and, so far as I know, no such proposal as that -has ever been suggested.
.-It appears to me that the principal difficulty in this matter will be to define what is “ reasonable cause.”
– We had better not define it. We had better leave that to the Courts.
– I want to go a step further. Some cases have only to be stated to show that they are reasonable, but it is often difficult to prove that a reasonable case is reasonable. Behind all this, however, there is a deep-seated, and absolutely justifiable want of confidence in the fairness of those who will have to adjudicate upon the reasonableness or otherwise of the cause pleaded by the seamen.
– Those who say that are utterly unreasonable.
– I do not care a snap for Senator St. Ledger’s opinion. I repeat that there is a deep-seated and justifiable want of confidence in the magistracy of this and other countries. There is a feeling that magistrates are utterly bigoted and one-sided in the administration of justice.
– What about the honorable senator’s bigotry now ?
– I am not speaking to Senator St. Ledger, but to honorable senators generally, who have more sense than the honorable senator. I can speak with wide experience, and I say that if there is an unreasonable class of men who are open to the influence of class bias, it is the magistrates of the country. So long as we have such a class administering the laws of this country, there can be no justification for putting more work in their hands than we can possibly prevent. 1 arn very glad to say that in many respects this Bill is a big improvement upon the existing State navigation laws, .but, in my opinion, it was immeasurably .better before the House of Representatives amended it. The members of the Government in the Senate very naturally will not oppose the amendments carried in the Bill in another place. There may be good and reasonable magistrates, but -I have never had the good fortune to meet them. The magistrates are, as a class, the most objectionable I know of in this country, both honorary and paid, and I happen to be an honorary magistrate myself. Taken as a class, they have no sympathy with the poor and distressed. Whatever the facts in a case may be, where the well-fed and prosperous employer is on one side, and the needy and probably illiterate worker is on the other, the worker goes down every time. I therefore say that wherever it is possible, we should enact definitions from which they cannot escape, and wherever that cannot be done, the law should be left as loose as possible. Senator Gould suggested that we should define what is a reasonable cause, but to do so would be to exclude everything that was not included in the definition, and that might be most unreasonable. At the same time, we should take it out of the hands of the ordinary paid magistrates to decide such questions. There might not be so much objection if we had a tribunal that would know something about the shipping business.
– I would sooner have the paid magistrate than an unpaid one.
– I would sooner have none than either. Senator Gould has said that, under any law, mistakes will occur. My complaint against the law is that when mistakes occur, the people in high authority never have to suffer for them. Honorable senators opposite, and, unfortunately, some on this side, tell us that it is human to be fallible, and that the poor devils of seamen will have to put up with these mistakes. They say that they should take their gruel, and say nothing about it.
– The honorable senator suggests that the mistakes always occur on one side.
– Yes; and I say that there is no penalty upon a magistrate for making even the most glaring blunder.
– Can he not be removed from the bench ?
– I am afraid that Senator Rae is going beyond, the amendment in discussing the question of the fitness or unfitnessof magistrates.
-I am connecting my remarks on that subject with the amendment, but I have no wish to travel over too wide a ground. I have referred to a feeling which is common amongst the working classes. It is for them that I am here to legislate. I do not care to be here for any other purpose, except, perhaps, to keep honorable senators opposite in their places.
– The honorable senator is a partisan, then?
– I am, by heavens! I say. as a partisan, and as one who comes here to try to redress the grievances which the working classes have suffered from for generations, that my object is to improve their position as much as possible in the future. The other side are well able to take care of themselves.
– The workers of last year are the bosses of this year ; the change in circumstances is so sudden.
– I say more power tothem. Much of the disinclination of people to bring actions before the Court isdue to distrust of the Courts. I say, from long experience, that that distrust is so amply justified, that we want, as far as possible, to remove the decision in these matters from the Courts.
– A very large prison population shares in that distrust.
– It is all very well for the honorable senator to talk about the prison population. It would be more to the point if he could say how many of those who are responsible for the prison population do not better deserve, because of their own criminal instincts, to be in prison themselves. It is impossible to draw a hard and fast line between the criminals who are in gaol and the criminals who ought to be there, but who have had sufficient cunning to escape gaol. In these cases, points might arise which could not be easily understood by persons without a personal knowledge of the shipping business, and the decision in such matters should be in the hands of persons who can at least understand what a seaman puts forward as the excuse for his action. Surely, the failure to join a ship should not, as is proposed, be penalized to anything like the same extent as desertion from a ship at any port of call, while she is on a voyage, when the difficulty of replacing the deserter might endanger the safe passage of the ship. Under this Bill, desertion is penalized to the extent of the forfeiture of a seaman’s wages, or a fine up to £20, and failure or refusal to join theship is to be treated as an offence of similar gravity. That seems to me to be quite unreasonable. I think it was Senator Lynch who said that agreements would be quite useless, if they might be terminated at a few hours notice by either side. As a matter of fact, an agreement might be equally valuable if it were terminable at a moment’s notice, because it would prescribe the conditions under which the employment is carried on, while it continues in force. The Minister of Defence made a reference to shearers, and said that a number of them require to join in a complaint to justify them in ceasing to work. I do not recollect anything of the kind in any shearing agreement that- I ever saw. But I do know that agreements with shearers are terminable at very short notice, and employers sometimes find no difficulty whatever in sacking men at a moment’s notice, and they have not to consult anybody in doing so.
– Is that under the agreement ?
– In the practical carrying out of the agreement, there is no difficulty in a squatter or his agent getting rid of a shearer at a moment’s notice, for the simple reason that, while the agreement technically protects the interest of the shearer, puts him on the same footing as the other man, yet, incidentally, through there being no standard of work fixed, he can allege that the work is not being done to his satisfaction, and the man has to go. While the shearer cannot leave without consent, the employer can discharge him without his consent or wish, in spite of all agreements or awards. Probably, under this Bill the big end of the stick will be in the hands of the employer, even although, technically, it gives the same rights to one side as to the other. If we are to have a penalty for failure to join a ship, we should have a more reasonable tribunal than an ordinary police magistrate to adjudicate. I mean somebody who is more in sympathy with and better understands the wants of the sailor. The penalty is out of all proportion to the offence, and, if it is not too late, I suggest that the amount should be considerably reduced.
– If it serves no other purpose, the speech of Senator Rae is extremely interesting as being an open and avowed declaration of anarchy.
– It was nothing of the kind.
– The honorable senator has said here, as plainly as words can convey, that if any individual entertained a bonâ fide, genuine disbelief in the integrity or impartiality of magistrates, that was an excuse for him to disregard their decisions.
– I did not. I said that distrust of the magistracy had been amply justified, and it is a deliberate falsehood for the honorable senator to say what he said.
– I rise to order.
– I rise to order.
– Order !
– I ask first, sir. that Senator Rae should be called upon to withdraw the statement that my remark is a deliberate falsehood.
– Order ! Senator Rae has risen to a question of order.
-i was the first to raise a point of order, and I have a right to be taken notice of.
– I did not hear the honorable senator.
– I cannot help whether you heard me or not, but I was the first to raise a point of order.
– The honorable senator has accused me of saying that any one who does not believe in the magistrates or authorities has a right to disregard any law. If he deliberately states that, it is an absolute falsehood.
– That is not a point of order, sir, but a repetition of the offence.
-i say that it is an absolute and deliberate falsehood.
– Order !
– I ask, sir, whether Senator Rae is in order in making that statement here concerning any member of the Senate?
– I ask Senator Rae to withdraw the statement that Senator Millen has given utterance to an absolute and deliberate falsehood. I intend to take a further proceeding, but I ask him first to withdraw his statement.
– I will not; because, if Senator Millen repeats the statement, I will say that it is not so.
– I ask the honorable senator to withdraw the statement.
– I will withdraw from the Chamber, sir, if you like.
– I ask the honorable senator to withdraw the statement.
Sentaor Rae. - I will not withdraw thestatement, because it is so. With all respect to you, sir, I would sooner leave the Chamber.
Honorable Senators. - Chair ! Chair!
– Order ! I ask Senator Rae to withdraw the statement.
– No, I will not. I never withdraw anything once I say it.
– The honorable senator ought to be made to withdraw from the Chamber, and no doubt the Chairman will take the proper course.
- Senator Rae might trust the Chair to take the necessary action to protect him; but, as a first step, he, in my opinion, must withdraw his statement.
– May I ask, sir, will Senator Millen first withdraw his statement, because, if I withdraw my statement, and he does not withdraw his statement, I shall have to make it again?
– There can be no qualification. I ask the honorable senator again to withdraw his statement.
– No, I will not, except on that condition.
– If a statement is made by one honorable senator, and another honorable senator takes exception to the statement by asking for its withdrawal, do not the rules compel an immediate withdrawal and the acceptance of the disclaimer ?
- Senator Rae did not take exception in that way.
– I cannot do what I am asked. The statement is false if Senator Millen said it, and, being false, I must stick to my words.
– I again ask the honorable senator to withdraw the statement.
– With all due respect to you, sir, I cannot.
In the Senate:
The Chairman of Committees. - I have to report, sir, that I left the chair because, during the proceedings of the Committee, Senator Rae made a statement which I considered it necessary for him to withdraw. I asked him to withdraw the statement, and he refused to do so, not merely once, but a number of times. He said that he would rather leave the Chamber. It seems to me, sir, that under the Standing Orders I had no course to pursue than to leave the chair and report the matter to you.
– A very disagreeable duty has fallen to my lot, but before taking the action which it is my duty to take I wish to make an appeal to Senator Rae. The Chairman intimated his intention to protect the honorablesenator against any imputation which may be objectionable to him, but the Chairman pointed out to him that he could not take that action until the honorable senator had first withdrawn the statement, which is against the Standing Orders. The honorable senator could have appealed for the protection of the Chairman against what he considered to be an improper imputation by Senator Millen. He did not take that course, but took a course which is against the Standing Orders. I appeal to him not to put myself and the Senate in a position which is most disagreeable. Surely hecan see that he will be fully protected if he withdraws this state ment, and I appeal to him to do so, otherwise I must take a certain course.
– Am I allowed to make a statement, sir ?
– Is debate to be allowed?
– The honorable senator can make a statement.
– The statement made by the Leader of the Opposition, to which I took exception, was made prior to my statement, and, therefore, in the natural order of things, he should withdraw his statement before I withdraw mine. That was my contention.
– That point is not before the President.
– I objected at once to what Senator Millen said. I said that the statement was not true ; he repeated his statement, and then I said it was a falsehood.
– But then you could have asked the Chairman to intervene.
– That is a mere technicality. I objected to the statement of Senator Millen, and, in the circumstances, I cannot withdraw my statement until he withdraws his.
– The Chairman of Committees has reported that in Committee Senator Rae made a statement which he thought was altogether out of order; that he ordered the honorable senator to withdraw the statement, and that, meeting with a refusal, he has reported the matter to the Senate. I have no option but to name Senator Rae to the Senate, and he now has the right to say whether he is prepared to withdraw the statement.
– Of course, if Senator Rae likes to withdraw the statement and express regret, that is all right, otherwise I assume that it will be the duty of the Minister to take action.
– I do not need you to tell me what I ought to do. I think that we should try to avoid taking action, if possible.
-I agree with the Minister.
– It is with a desire to give effect to the spirit which animated the last few words of the Minister of Defence that I takethe liberty of saying a few words here.
– Order ! I would point out to the honorable senator that he is slightly out of order.
– I asked you justnow, sir. if debate was to be allowed, and you did allowit.
– I understood, when Senator Rae got up, that he intended to withdraw the statement.
– He did not withdraw the statement, but made a speech.
– With the permission of the Senate, the honorable senator may speak.
– I do not want to say anything now.
– I have no intention of withdrawing the statement.
– I regret that, in the circumstances, I am compelled to move -
That Senator Rae be suspended for the remainder of the sitting.
– I second the motion.
– I call upon Senator Rae now to make a statement, or to offer an apology.
– I have nothing further to say, sir. I decline to apologize. I will not withdraw the statement, because what I said was right, and I should be doing my conscience an injury if I withdrew it.
– Is this motion debatable, sir.
Question - That Senator Rae be suspended for the remainder of the sitting - put. The Senate divided.
Majority … … 6
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
In Committee :
– When I was interrupted I was discussing an argument addressed to the Committee by Senator Rae. I do not propose, in his absence, to deal any further with the remarks that he made. But I should like to say a word or two with regard to the position taken up by Senator Guthrie.
– Do you not think you ought to withdraw the imputation upon Senator Rae, and get over the difficulty? You ought to be fair, at any rate.
– Does the honorable senator want any more trouble?
– Order ! These remarks are entirely out of order.
– I offered to make matters right, but objection was taken to. my speaking at all. I wanted to make the road smooth, but was blocked from doing so.
– A little generosity would not hurt you, anyhow.
– I tried to do the right thing, and was stopped.
– Previous to the incident that has occurred Senator Millen made a statement to which Senator Rae took exception. I take exception to the imputation cast upon Senator Rae by Senator Millen, and ask that it shall be withdrawn.
– I rule that the incident is closed as far as the Committee is concerned. Senator Gardiner will have another opportunity of referring to it if he chooses. Senator Millen must now confine himself to the amendment before the Chair.
– Shall I be in order, sir, in taking exception to yourruling that it is not in order for me to ask that Senator Millen shall be called upon to withdraw his imputation upon Senator Rae?
– I have given my ruling that it is not in order to refer to the matter further. If Senator Gardiner objects to my ruling, he knows the correct course to take.
– I wish to take exception to your ruling. The exception that I take to it is this : Senator Millen made a statement about Senator Rae that is absolutely false.
– Order ! The honorable senator must put his objection in writing.
– I take exception to the repetition by Senator Gardiner of thevery offence committed by Senator Rae. He has reaffirmed that my statement is false.
– It was false:
– I am not going to have imputations made that I have made false statements.
– Order ! I think that honorable senators ought to try to assist the Chair in maintaining order, and allow me to hear the remarks that are made. Senator Gardiner has. I understand, determined to dispute my ruling.
– First of all, I draw attention to the fact that he has called my statement false. I ask for that to be withdrawn.
– One thing at a time.
– I do not desire to say anything that is offensive to Senator Millen. I am quite prepared to withdraw the word “ false,” and to substitute something else that will mean the same - that his statement was absolutely incorrect.
– If Senator Gardiner does not intend to object to my ruling in writing, Senator Millen must proceed.
– I will put my objection in writing.
In the Senate :
The Chairman of Committees. - I have to report that, in the course of the proceedings in Committee, whilst Senator Millen was speaking to an amendment before the Chair, Senator Gardiner expressed a. desire that Senator Millen should withdraw a statement that had been made by him during a previous controversy. I ruled that Senator Gardiner was not in order in referring to the incident again, and that Senator Millen must confine himself to the amendment before the Chair. Senator Gardiner has disputed my ruling. He has put his objection in writing in the following terms : -
I desire to dissent from the ruling of the Chair. Senator Millen made a statement that Senator Rae took exception to. After Senator Rae was suspended, I asked that Senator Millen be asked to withdraw the offensive reference to Senator Rae. The Chairman refused to demand a withdrawal from Senator Millen.
In my opinion, as Chairman of the Committee, after an incident of the character that occurred has closed, the proper procedure to be followed is to proceed with the business before the Committee. I. therefore, refused to ask Senator Millen to withdraw the statement that had been made by him concerning Senator Rae in the previous argument, because it seemed to me that if I did that we should never reach finality. After an incident of that kind has been declared closed, and the Com mittee proceeds to business, we should never get finality if any other honorable senator could get up and ask that another honorable senator should withdraw something that had been said previously. I intimated to Senator Gardiner that, in my opinion, it was not in order to refer to the previous incident, but I told him that if he still took exception to something that had been said by Senator Millen there was a proper and correct method of referring to it. Taking the Standing Orders generally, and interpreting them in the interest of the conduct of business, I think I was right in declaring the incident closed, and in not permitting further reference to be made to it. Standing order 419 is very brief, but at the same time very definite, on this point. It says -
Every such objection must be taken at the time when such words are used, and will not be afterwards entertained.
The objection that Senator Gardiner was taking was to words which-
– The objection was taken at the time, and you made a definite promise about it.
The Chairman of Committees. - The objection that Senator Gardiner was voicing concerned words which had been used in a previous controversy. The statement made by Senator Givens in his interjection is not quite correct.
– Absolutely correct.
The Chairman of Committees. - He is not quite correct in saying that I made a promise.
The Chairman of Committees. - I will ask Senator Givens to recall the words thatI used.
– You said you would take steps to protect Senator Rae.
The Chairman of Committees. - Exactly ; but conditionally upon Senator Rae first obeying the Chair.
– Senator Rae has suffered his punishment.
The Chairman of Committees. - Conditionally upon Senator Rae obeying the Chair and withdrawing his statement.-
– But if Senator Millen used the expression which offended Senator Rae, he ought to be made to withdraw it. You should have kept him in order.
The Chairman of Committees. - Senator Givens is not fair in putting the matter in that way. I do not think that he could have followed or heard what I said at that particular time. I said that if Senator Rae withdrew his statement and obeyed the ruling of the Chair, I would see that he was protected. .
– It means that Senator Millen can tell lies till the cows come home.
– I wish to know whether that remark is in order? These remarks about lies have been made all the morning.
– Certainly Senator Blakey’s remark was not in order. He knows that statements like that must not be made. I ask him to withdraw what he said.
– On a point of order-
– Order ! I ask Senator Blakey to withdraw the statement, which he knows to have been out of order.
– Out of respect to you and the Senate, and considering the heat that has been imported info the discussion, I will try not to add any more fuel to the fire; and, hiding my own feelings, will withdraw the remark.
– On a point of order, I now ask whether Senator Millen was in order just now in saying that Senator Blakey has been making these statements - these lying statements - all the morning? I ask that Senator Millen shall withdraw his accusation against Senator Blakey.
– I heard Senator Millen state that statements had been made all the morning, but I did not hear him say that lying statements had been made.
– Senator Millen made that statement, and he said that the honorable senator had been making such statements all the morning.
– I ask Senator Millen did he make the statement : “ Senator Blakey has been making lying statements all the morning.”
– What I said was that Senator Blakey said that we were lying, or that I was lying. The honorable senator has just admitted that, and has withdrawn the statement.
– You, sir, ought to ask Senator Millen to withdraw his statement.
The Chairman of Committees. - I may be permitted to close my remarks by quoting standing order 419, which says-
Every such objection must be taken at the time when such words are used, and will not be afterwards entertained.
In my opinion, I had no option but to refuse to allow that question to be again referred to when the Committee resumed the consideration of the House of Representatives’ amendments.
– I move -
That the debate be adjourned.
– The debate on a matter of this kind cannot be adjourned. Standing order 265 provides that -
If any objection is taken to a decision of the Chairman of Committees, such objection must be stated at once in writing. The Chairman shall thereupon leave the Chair, and the Senate resume. The matter having been laid before the President, and senators having addressed themselves thereto, shall be disposed of ; and the proceedings in Committee shall be resumed where they were interrupted.
– What about the sessional order providing for the suspension of the sitting at1 o’clock.
– The honorable senator is right in calling attention to it. I shall resume the chair at 2.30 p.m.
Sitting suspended from1.8 to 2.30 p.m.
– I should like to offer a few observations on the objection to the Chairman’s ruling. I am of opinion that the ruling should be disagreed with. Our Standing Orders strictly provide that when an honorable senator offends against them he may be called upon by the Chairman to withdraw and apologize for any expression which was out of order. Every member of the Committee of the Senate, must, therefore, look to the Chairman for that protection which is his due. In the dispute which occurred before the lunch adjournment, a certain statement was made by Senator Millen, which was resented by Senator Rae. Senator Rae not only regarded the statement as inaccurate, but characterized it by a stronger expression. When he was called upon, very properly, by. the Chairman to withdraw that expression, he said that he would do so provided that Senator Millen, who made what he regarded as a very inaccurate statement also, withdrew that statement. Senator O’Keefe, as Chairman of the Committee, assured Senator Rae that he would have the protection of the Chair, but a condition precedent was that he should obey the ruling of the Chair, and withdraw his expression to which exception was taken. I agree that the Chairman of Committees took a very proper course in carrying out his duties. Ultimately, Senator Rae did not withdraw or apologize to the Committee, and he is now enduring the punishment meted out to him by the Senate for having disregarded the direction of the Chair. I have nothing to complain of up to that. But I want to know why, when Senator O’Keefe’s attention as Chairman was drawn to the matter afterwards, he did not carry out his promise, and “exact the same reparation from Senator Millen that he exacted from Senator Rae. The fact that Senator Millen’s statement was regarded as offensive by Senator Rae is proof positive that it should be withdrawn.
– The honorable senator admitted just now that it was a condition precedent that Senator Rae should withdraw and apologize for what he said.
– Certainly at that time, because that was the matter then before the Chair. But because Senator Rae did not comply with the Standing Orders, is that any reason why Senator Millen should be allowed, without punishment, to break them as he likes? That is what I want to know.
– Senator Millen was not proved to have made such a statement.
– The very fact that Senator Millen’s statement was regarded as offensive by Senator Rae is proof that it was contrary to the Standing Orders.
– But Senator Millen did not make the statement.
– I wish to be thoroughly impartial, and I do not think that Senator Millen will accuse me of doing anything that would be unfair to him.
– The honorable senator omits only one important detail.
– What is it?
– The Standing Orders provide that if an honorable senator is called upon by the Chair to withdraw any statement, he must do so. I have never been asked to do so.
– I am not quarrelling with Senator Millen. I am disputing the ruling of the Chairman of Committees.
– If Senator Millen is a man he will withdraw the statement now.
– It is not my business to ask Senator Millen to do so, and I am not asking him to do so. I point out that whether Senator Rae obeyed the Chairman’s ruling or not, it” was Senator O’Keefe’s duty, as Chairman, to enforce the Standing Orders in “the case of Senator Millen as well as in the case of Senator Rae. I do not complain of the action taken with respect to Senator Rae, but I say that the fact that Senator Rae refused to obey his ruling did not free the Chairman of
Committees from his duty to compel Senator Millen, as well as Senator Rae, to comply with the Standing Orders. Senator Rae is now enduring the punishment meted out to him by the Senate. He has fulfilled the law, and I now ask is Senator Millen to escape, presuming that he was guilty of a breach of the Standing Orders.
– Exactly, “ presuming?”
– I say emphatically that Senator Millen was guilty of a breach of the Standing Orders, because he made a statement which was regarded as offensive by Senator Rae. Senator Millen will not accuse me of trying to misconstrue anything he said. I listened very carefully to the honorable senator, and to Senator Rae’s speech, and I say fearlessly that the construction which Senator Millen placed on the utterance of Senator Rae was a very clever and entirely inaccurate representation of what Senator Rae really did say. As Senator Rae regarded it as offensive, the Chairman of Committees should have carried out his promise, and should have given Senator Rae that protection which was as much his due as was the punishment imposed upon him for disregarding the direction of the Chairman. I hope that honorable senators on both sides will see that a fair deal is meted out to; every member of the Senate. It has occurred more than once in this chamber that insinuations from the other side, which have been regarded as insulting and provocative of a breach of the Standing Orders on this side, have been totally disregarded, and no punishment has been inflicted upon the offenders. At the same time, honorable senators on this side have had, colloquially speaking, to toe the mark, to mount the penitent stool, and endure the punishment meted out by the Senate. If that kind of thing is to continue, honorable senators on this side will labour under a sense of grievance.
– The honorable senator is a humorist.
– I am not. I am stating absolute facts. The stoning of the frogs was humorous for the boys, but not for the frogs.
– We have been the frogs so far.
– If we are to be deprived of the protection of the Chair when honorable senators opposite make all sorts of statements about us, we shall have to enforce protection for ourselves. I am pleading that Senator O’Keefe, as Chairman of Committees was wrong in the action which he took on the point of order raised by Senator Gardiner. Senator Gardiner wished to know whether the Standing Orders were to be enforced with regard to Senator Millen as well as with regard to Senator Rae. I think the honorable senator took the right course in raising the point, and that the Chairman of Committees made a mistake in refusing to take the action which, I think, was demanded of him by the Standing Orders. .1 support the objection to the ruling of the Chairman.
– I should like before the discussion goes further to correct what appears to me to be a wrong impression in the minds of some honorable senators with respect to a position of this kind. It is evident that some friction has occurred. There have been hot words used. Senator Millen made some remarks in his speech which induced Senator Rae to use questionable language. If Senator Millen, or any other honorable senator, made any remarks which were objectionable to Senator Rae, Senator Rae should have risen in his place and called the attention of the Chairman of Committees to them. I am told that he did so, but I say that that was not done until Senator Rae had applied to Senator Millen an objectionable expression. It was Senator Millen who first called the attention of the Chairman to words which were to him objectionable. In the circumstances, Senator Rae was out of court, because he took the law into his own hands. My sympathy is with Senator Rae as much and more than it is with Senator Millen, who generally has an advantage on account of his coolness. He does not get into such a temper as some other members of the Senate do. They lose their heads, and take the law into’ their own hands.
– Senator Millen is very tricky at times.
– .Order !
– Is that in order?
– I will take your ruling, sir, as to whether the Vice-President of the Executive Council was in order in saying that honorable senators get into tempers, and lose their heads.
– I should like to know also if Senator Needham, is right in saving lam” tricky.”
– The VicePresident of the Executive Council will no doubt withdraw the words to which exception has -been taken. But if he had said that honorable senators sometimes get excited, that would have amounted to the same thing. As objection is taken to the statement that honorable senators lose their, heads, I ask the Vice-President of the Executive Council to withdraw the statement.
– If any honorable senator is offended at my saying that honorable senators lose their heads, I withdraw the statement, but I will say that at times they become so excited-
.- - Before the honorable senator continues I wish to ask whether Senator Needham wasin order in saying that Senator Millen is “tricky.”
– If honorable senators take these small points we shall watch them very carefully.
– The rule is that if an honorable senator says anything which is regarded by another as offensive, and is asked to withdraw the statement, it should be withdrawn. Does Senator Millen regard the statement referred to as offensive.
– I do.
– As the statement is considered offensive, I ask Senator Needham to withdraw it.
– I have only stated what I believe to be true, and consequently I shall not withdraw it.
– I have asked Senator Needham to withdraw his remark, because exception is taken to it. It was a personal remark, and I again ask that it be withdrawn, because Senator Millen takesexception to it.
– I believe what I said to be true, and I shall not withdraw, it.
– I have no option but to name Senator Needham to the Senate for disobeying the Chair.
– In accordance with my duty in the circumstances, I move -
That Senator Needham be suspended for the remainder of the sitting.
I regret to have to do anything of the kind, but if honorable senators will take up such an attitude as that adopted by Senator Needham, they must be prepared to put up: with the consequences.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I have no desire to continue the debate at any length. I say that when an honorable senator uses expressions which are objectionable to another, the honorable senator objecting to’ their use should take exception to them there and then. It is not the business of other honorable senators to do so. Senator Rae did not take exception to what was said by Senator Millen until after he had used an objectionable expression towards that honorable senator. If he had done so before that,- he would have been in court. As he first took the law into his own hands he did wrong. If an honorable senator objects to any statement made, he should do so at once. If that course was not laid down I might, on being called to order next week, ask that some other honorable senator should withdraw something which was said last week. Such a thing would be ridiculous. I hope that in future if any honorable senator makes use of words which are regarded as offensive by another, attention will be called to the fact straight away, arid honorable senators will not retaliate upon others in their own way. Otherwise they ought to recognise that they are out of court. I hope that the little breeze which has taken place to-day will be like the recent storm, and bring about a few nice, quiet, peaceful days.
– Having taken exception to the ruling of the Chairman, I wish to make a statement. I have not taken this course out of sympathy with Senator Rae. but in the exercise of my rights under the Standing Orders. When Senator Rae used language which, I may say incidentally, was not objectionable, but justifiable, towards Senator Millen, I rose to take exception to the language used by the latter ; and the Chairman, having called upon Senator Rae to withdraw his statement, refused to hear my objection. The objection I took was that Senator Millen had used language of an offensive kind, and I wished to put that matter before the Chairman, but he refused to hear me, because he said that he could deal with only one matter at a time, and that was the withdrawal of Senator Rae’s harsh statement - harsh as some persons think, but true, as I think.
– Order ! The honorable senator must withdraw a statement of- that description.
– All right, sir; I withdraw the statement, because I do not want to get out of order, or to provoke de bate. The position I rose to take was that Senator Millen had made a statement which was not only objectionable to Senator Rae, but was objectionable to, and resented by, all honorable senators on this side ; but the Chairman refused to hear me, because he had called upon Senator Rae to withdraw a statement, and could deal with only one matter at a time. The incident was continued by the vote which excluded Senator Rae. Immediately Senator Millen resumed his speech in Committee, I waited for a little while to see if a withdrawal was forthcoming, but after he had uttered two or three sentences, I found that he was not going to withdraw his statement. I then asked the Chairman to call upon the honorable senator to with-draw the statement to which objection had been taken, not only by Senator Rae, but by myself, and he ruled that the incident had passed. I claim that my only opportunity to take exception to the statement was the occasion when I did. When I rose before, I was ruled out of order because the Chairman was dealing with Senator Rae as an offender against a rule of the Senate. When I rose on the second occasion, it was only after a sufficient interval had passed in his speech to find out that Senator Millen did not intend to withdraw the statement. It has been the custom, sir, when an honorable senator makes a statement to which exception is taken, not only by the honorable senator to whom it is addressed, but by the Senate itself, that that statement must be withdrawn, and, therefore, I hold that Senator Millen should be called upon to withdraw his statement, which was most objectionable, and to put it mildly, a misrepresentation of the truth.
– Is that in order?
– Is not that in order, sir?
– Well, a mistake.
– Honorable senators on the other side have a habit of saying what they like, and then withdrawing the statements afterwards.
– We have a good master in the honorable senator.
– I do not intend, sir, to deal with the question of order, because I was absent when the incident occured. Immediately the matter cropped up in the Senate, I rose to ask your ruling, but you did not see the necessity to give a ruling at the time. I desire to know, sir, whether it is the presiding officer or the senator to whom a remark has been applied who has to determine whether it is - offensive, and must be withdrawn ? Suppose, for instance, that I apply to an honorable senator a remark which I consider mild and inoffensive, but which he regards as offensive, must the opinion of the senator, or that of the presiding officer, prevail? i can see that if every little remark which is made across the floor has 10 be withdrawn at the request of the honorable senator to whom it has been applied, the proceedings of the Senate will come into ridicule.
– The standing order is unqualified.
– That is exactly what I desire to know from the President.
– If an honorable senator considers at the time a remark is uttered that it is out of order, he has the right to call the attention of the Chair to the remark, and it has then to decide ; but if a senator takes exception to a remark, or a name which has been used by another senator, as being offensive - that is, offensive to him personally - it has always been considered that it adds to the dignity of debate to require that the remark or the name should be withdrawn.
– I should like the permission of yourself, sir, and the Chamber, to make some remarks, a few of which, although I think necessary for the elucidation of the position, may perhaps be slightly outside the scope of the specific question before the Senate. I want to remind you, sir, and the Senate, of the circumstances which led to the present position. Senator Rae made a speech, and I followed him. I ask the Senate to accept the assurance, which I make now in all sincerity, that, in endeavouring to summarize his speech for the purpose of basing an argument upon the summary - whether I did so accurately or not is a matter of opinion - I thought that I was doing it accurately. Senator Rae had the right to take exception to my remark there and then, and ask me to withdraw it. But. instead of doing that, he launched an accusation which was tantamount to a charge that I had told a deliberate lie. I asked then, sir, that that remark should be withdrawn, and you know what followed, I admit at once the force of the standing order which calls upon any honorable senator who has used words outside the Standing Orders to withdraw them. I should have no hesitation now, or at any time - Senator Rae having pointed out to me that I have incorrectly stated his argument - in withdrawing my remark or asking for a correction. The reason I did not do it when the Committee resumed was because Senator Rae was absent. If honorable senators will turn to the record in Hansard when it appears - I have not seen it - they will find that I specifically referred to the fact that I preferred not to continue that portion of my address in his absence. I had intended, when he was present, to explain to him, sir, as I tried to do when you were in the chair before, but which I was interrupted in doing by an objection, that I had no wish to misrepresent his words, and that, if I have been inaccurate, I would withdraw anything to which he took exception. The opportunity was denied to me before. I thought it better to wait until Senator Rae was present, in order that he could say what it was that he objected to, and could be present when I made an explanation. Whilst I am quite willing, when Senator Rae is present, or at any time, to do the fair and reasonable thing by any honorable senator, may I finish with an appeal to honorable senators, for the credit of the Senate, to take the view I am trying to emphasize - that we owe something to the Chamber and to ourselves - and not to make a storm in a teapot over what, after all is said and done, is only a little misunderstanding between two honorable senators.
– I -wish to emphasize the point made by the Vice-President of the Executive Council, and that is, that the offending senator has placed himself out of court. I trust that the Senate will stand loyally by the Chairman, for the simple reason that he promised the protection of the Chair to Senator Rae, who, however, took the law into his own hands. In the circumstances, I think that we are in duty bound to stand by the ruling of the Chairman.
– From the explanations which have been given, it is abundantly clear that no exception was taken to the remark made by Senator Millen until after exception had been taken to a remark of Senator Rae.
– Why repeat that statement ?
– Because it is correct.
– The very denial of Senator Rae was an objection, and you know that well enough.
-I know that the Chairman gave every fair opportunity to Senator Rae to put himself in the proper position. It would have been a very simple matter for the honorable senator to have said, “ Well, sir, as you have told me that the words are disorderly and should be withdrawn, I withdraw them at once ; and now I ask you to request Senator Millen to withdraw his statement.” The Chairman has, I submit, correctly interpreted the standing order, which provides that an objection to any words must be taken at the time of their delivery, and that, if that opportunity is allowed to pass, nothing can be done afterwards.
– I took exception immediately.
– No action was taken until after Senator Millen had taken exception, and then it came back rather in the way of retaliation and reply than anything else. It is, of course, regrettable that there should be any trouble in regard to the behaviour of any honorable senators in the Chamber. I want honorable senators to realize that the Standing Orders exist for their protection, and that it is desirable that, when any trouble arises, it should be dealt with immediately, and the decision of the Chair should be obeyed, whatever it may be. I submit, sir, that standing order 419, coupled with the statements which have been made to you, must show abundantly that exception was not taken at the right time, and that the Chairman had no alternative but to go on with the business in the way he desired.
– It seems to me that, if Senator Rae had any reason to think that what Senator Millen was saying was offensive to him, that was the time for him to draw the attention of the Chair to the matter.
– That is what the VicePresident of the Executive Council said, and who could say it better?
– Who could sav it better ?
– What is the use of repeating it?
– I am pleased if, in one sentence, I have concentrated a statement of the whole position. I may mention, without trying to add fuel to the flame, that some time ago, when I thought that an expression was out of order, I rose to order at once, and pointed out that an honorable senator on the other side was probably disorderly. The matter was settled in about ten minutes, and I hope that, in the circumstances, this matter will be settled now.
– The exception taken by Senator Gardiner to the ruling of the Chairman reads -
I desire to dissent from the ruling of the Chair. Senator Millen made a statement that Senator Rae took exception to. After Senator Rae was suspended, I asked that Senator Millen be asked to withdraw the offensive reference to Senator Rae. Senator O’Keefe refused to demand a withdrawal from Senator Millen.
As I understand the proceedings, Senator Rae had made a speech, and then Senator Millen made a statement, which may or may not have been out of order, but which apparently was offensive to Senator Rae. According to the standing order, the duty of Senator Rae atthat time was to have asked that the words of Senator Millen be taken down and withdrawn but Senator Rae apparently used somewords which were offensive to Senator Millen. Senator Millen called attention to the matter first, as far as I can gather from the debate. Then Senator Rae was dealt with by the Senate. Now Senator Gardiner says that he, at the time, wished to call attention to the disorderly remark of Senator Millen. I quite realize that the Chairman of Committees might, having one matter in hand, not have noticed-
– He noticed and refused.
– Or he may have wished to deal first with the point that had already been raised. Indeed, it would have been impossible for him to deal with anything else. Only the one matter could have been dealt with at the time. When the Senate had dealt with Senator Rae, Senator Gardiner says that he again asked the Chairman to proffer a request to Senator Millen to withdraw the remark which apparently had given rise to the whole Incident. The Standing Orders are very explicit on the point that the senator who takes exception to words which have been used shall take a certain course. Standing order 266 lays it down that -
The Chairman shall direct words objected to to be taken down in order that the same may be reported to the Senate.
In this case, apparently, the words objected to were not asked to be taken down. I do not know what the words were. I do not know whether the Chairman of Committees knows what they were. The words should have been taken down immediately, and the senator who used them should at once have been asked to withdraw them. This is a very peculiar case, because the honorable senator who first took exception to the words used did not do what the standing order requires; and when the matter was brought up again it does not appear that any one could have stated what were the words which Senator Millen was desired to withdraw. The Chairman of Committees has stated that, in his opinion, it would be impossible to reach finality if senators were allowed to bring up matters affecting an incident after it had been closed. I realize that difficulty, and also the difficulty that the words objected to were not taken down. Under the circumstances, I do not see that it is possible to do anything but uphold the ruling of the Chairman of Committees. Honorable senators know what the Standing Orders require. They are aware that an objection to words must be taken at the time, and will not afterwards be entertained. I, therefore, have to rule that the Chairman of Committees was right in this case. He could, had he chosen, have asked Senator Millen to withdraw the words, but under the Standing Orders there was no duty imposed upon him to make such a demand.
– To put this matter right, and to obtain a final decision, so that honorable senators may know where they stand.I move -
That the President’s ruling be disagreed with.
I do so on the ground that, in my opinion, the ruling is subversive of the proper protection of honorable senators in the Senate, and that it is not in accordance either with the spirit or the letter of the Standing Orders.
– The honorable senator must hand in his objection in writing.
– I will do so, sir.
- Senator Givens has given notice, in writing, that he objects to my ruling - on the ground that it would be subversive of the due protection of senators, and is not in accordance with the spirit and letter of the Standing Orders.
Under the Standing Orders, this matter must stand over until the next day of sitting, unless the Senate decides to deal with it forthwith.
Bill received from House of Representatives, and, on motion by Senator Findley, read a first time.
Motion (by Senator Findley) proposed -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– I wish to inform the Senate that the general opinion of honorable senators has been taken regarding the closing of the refreshment rooms on Tuesday next. It has been decided that the rooms shall be closed on that day.
– I should like to ask the Honorary Minister whether, on Wednesday next, it is intended - after disposing of the objection to the President’s ruling, which must take precedence - to proceed with the Navigation Bill, or to interpose other business?
.- The intention of the Government is that after the motion submitted by Senator Givens is disposed of, the Senate will proceed with the amendments to the Navigation Bill. Afterwards we shall deal with the New South Wales redistribution scheme.
– I assume that the Navigation Bill amendments will be finished before we deal with the redistribution?
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 3.13 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 1 November 1912, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1912/19121101_senate_4_67/>.