4th Parliament · 1st Session
The President took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
Senator VARDON presented a petition from twelve taxpayers in the State of South Australia, praying the Senate to reject the Land Tax Assessment Bill.
– Will the VicePresident of the Executive Council afford to honorable senators a little time in which to discuss the questions to be included in the. census return? He is aware that to some questions very strong exception has been taken. I do not desire todelaythe business of the Government by moving the adjournment of the Senate, but I do trust that before the census paper is finally approved the honorable senator will afford to honorable senators an early opportunity to express their opinions regarding some of the questions.
– This matter can be discussed any evening on the motion for the adjournment of the Senate. Later, I shall afford to honorable senators an opportunity to express their opinions by asking the Senate to adjourn a little earlier than usual, that is, if we make good progress with the business.
– Before the paper is finally adopted?
– The Vice-President of the Executive Council was good enough to tell me yesterday that if it were repeated to-day, he would answer the following question which I asked yesterday -
Will he inform the Senate of the persons, firms, or papers who applied for, or have been granted, the Press Cable Subsidy, and also the terms of the arrangement under which such payment is to be made?
– The information I have received is that the Department has no knowledge of whom the shareholders in the Press Service Cable Company are. It is a limited liability company. The managing director is Mr. Temperley, and the secretary is Mr. Douse.
– I desire to again ask the Minister representing the Minister of Home Affairs the following question -
Is it intended to appropriate for defence purposes any part of the park lands surrounding the city of Adelaide without the authority of an Act of Parliament passed byboth the Commonwealth and State Parliaments?
I ask the honorable gentleman to be good enough to give, not an evasive, but a straightforward, explicit answer.
– This question is similar to one which was asked yesterday by the honorable senator.
– I want a straightforward answer.
– I am of opinion that it was a thoroughly straightforward answer which I gave yesterday.
– It was most evasive.
-The honorable senator must know that if the negotiations are carried on to the satisfaction of both the Commonwealth and the people of the State no harm will be done. In any case it is not intended to appropriate the land. It is intended to exchange it with the consent of the State if anything is done in the matter.
– Forty acres for five.
– Will the VicePresident of the Executive Council, on an early date, make a statement to the Senate in regard to the steps which are being taken by the Government in connexion with the alleged existence of combines or trusts in Australia ?
– I shall obtain the information as soon as possible, for the benefit of honorable senators.
Motion (by Senator Chataway) agreed to-
That a return be tabled concerning the natives of Papua engaged under the provisions of the Native Labour Ordinances as at the 30th June, 1910, showing -
The number of such natives employed in each division in agriculture, mining, or other occupations respectively.
The number which came from each division for agriculture, mining, or other occupations respectively.
The death rate amongst such labourers in each division(a) in agriculture ; (b) in mining; (c) other occupations.
The average length of contracts and rates of wagesin each division (a) in agriculture ; (b) in mining ; (c) other occupations.
Motion (by Senator Stewart) agreed to-
That a return be made to the Senate showing
The number of men in the General Division of the Postal Service in Queensland who have received no increases - (a) within the last five years; (b) within the last six years; (c) within the last seven years; (d) within the last eight years ; (e) within the last nine years ; (f) within the last ten years.
And the respective salaries these officers are now drawing.
In Committee (Consideration resumed from 29th September, vide page 3924) :
Clause 48 - (1.) An agreement may be made for a voyage, or, if the voyages of the ship average less than six months in duration, may be made to extend over two or more voyages, and agreements so made to extend over two or more voyages are in this Act referred to as “ running agreements.” (2.) A running agreement shall not extend beyond six months from the date thereof :
Provided that every such agreement shall, in any case, remain in force until the ship reaches a port of destination, and the crew shall be considered engaged when the agreement is first signed, and discharged when the employment ends.
Upon which Senator Guthrie had moved -
That the words “ any case,” line 10, be struck out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “ the case of a foreign-trade ship.”
.- The points which have been raised by the amendment are somewhat difficult to deal with. The Government have not had time in which to decide whether the clause should be altered in the direction suggested, and in order to afford time for fuller consideration, I move -
That the clause be postponed.
Motion agreed to; clause postponed.
Clause 49 -
In the case, of Australian trade ships and limited coast-trade ships, the agreement may, notwithstanding “anything in this Act, be made with either owner or master.
– I move -
That the words “ either owner or “ be left out, with a view to insert “the” in lieu thereof.
I submit this amendment because I contend that a man ought to know exactly whom he is making an agreement with, and is to be responsible to. Large steam-ship companies, like the Howard Smith Company, the Huddart Parker Company, and the Adelaide Steam-ship Company, own thirty or forty steam-ships, which are employed in different trades. A man who is signing an agreement with a company of that kind does not know either who his owner is, or the trade he is to be employed in. When a man is about to make an agreement, he asks, “ What trade is the ship employed in? What will be my chances of reaching my home sometimes during the tenure of the agreement ? “ If, for instance, a man is domiciled in Melbourne with his wife and family, he will naturally say, “ I shall ship in a vessel which will enable me to get home once a month, or, at least, once in two months.” If a man has to sign the agreement with the owner of a vessel, and he can be transferred to another vessel of that owner, he may be sent to a place with no possibility of reaching his family during six months. It is absolutely unfair to ask a man to enter into an agreement, under the impression that he is signing on to a ship which will visit his home port, at any rate, occasionally. It will be quite sufficient if we provide that the agreement shall be made with the master, from whom he can ascertain the trade in which he is to be employed. In Australia all the steam-ship companies are limited liability companies virtually with managers. The owner of a ship is absolutely unknown to a man, and cannot be reached, if there is a breach of the agreement, whereas if the agreement were made with the master only, any breach could be remedied. The New South Wales Act contains a fairer provision than this clause, because it provides that a man must be twenty-four hours in port before he can be transferred from one ship to another, and if he does not like a proposed transfer he can give his notice and leave. This Bill contains no provision to enable a man to legally leave his ship. He can be transferred from one ship to another ship of a company, or from one trade to another trade, without being given an opportunity of legally leaving. In the Australian trade the agreement is generally made for six months, but at certain ports, generally the home port, where the articles are drawn up, a seaman has the right to give twenty-four hours’ notice . to leave, and the master has the right to give twentyfour hours’ notice to discharge a man. A ship, whose trade is virtually between Sydney and Melbourne, can arrive here to-day, and a man knows exactly when he will again have an ‘ opportunity to get to his home, but under this clause he could be transferred to a ship leaving Melbourne to trade on the north-west coast of Australia, or between Queensland ports, and he would have to fulfil his agreement before he could visit his home. All I ask is that the agreement shall be made with the master and for the ship in which he is to be employed, and not for all- the ships of an owner. I hope that the Minister will recognise the justice of my amendment by agreeing to it.
– I quite appreciate the hardships imposed upon seamen which have been depicted by Senator Guthrie. But I would point out that his amendment would not in any way remedy those hardships. It merely provides that a seaman’s agreement, instead of being made with the master or the owner of a vessel, shall be made with the master. Its adoption would not prevent the troubles to which the honorable senator has referred.
– If the owner of a vessel has power under a seaman’s agreement to transfer him from one ship to another, or from one trade to another, the same agreement will allow somebody else so to transfer him. I need scarcely point out that the master is the servant of the owner, and sometimes even masters are transferred from one ship to another and from one trade to another. So that, if a seaman signed an agreement with the master of a vessel, he would have no guarantee that he would not be .so transferred. To achieve the purpose which he has in view, Senator Guthrie would require to impose some limitation on the agreement.
– This amendment will provide only a part of the remedy.
– The question of whether a seaman’s agreement is made with the master or the owner of a vessel does not affect the position at all. Senator Guthrie makes some very startling statements in his advocacy of his amendments. For example, he has declared that if a seaman enters into an agreement with the master of a vessel, he will possess some remedy against transfer, but. that if his agreement be made with the owner of the vessel he will have no remedy. Yet we know that in all these cases the ship itself is liable.
– The ship is the guarantee all the time.
– -A seaman cannot sue the ship, and he cannot sue the owner.
– The master -is sued as the representative of the owner. I appeal to the honorable senator not to press his amendment, because its adoption will not help him one iota.
Senator McCOLL (Victoria) [10.481 - What objection is there to inserting in this Bill a provision under which a seaman will be at liberty to engage to serve in two ships belonging to the same company? If he be willing to do so, why should he not have the privilege? Every man is not married, and there may be men whom it would suit to engage to serve upon two vessels.
– I 3111 sure that if any honorable senator were looking for employment, he might say, “ I can work with John Brown, but I should not like to work with William Jones.”
– That is very rough 011 William Jones.
– I know men in Adelaide who would not object to work for Senator Vardon, but who would strongly object to accepting employment with other printers. The reason is obvious. Some employers work under fair conditions which insure that their employes shall be reasonably comfortable - whilst others do not. Under this clause a seaman may say, “ I want a ship. Such and such a vessel is engaged in a certain trade, the food on board is good, and the master is a man with whom I can work.” Under these circum stances he may be prepared to accept employment upon that vessel. But he may further say, “ Upon another ship the accommodation is miserable, the food is. bad, and I know that I should not be able to work with the master.” Under these circumstances, ought he not to have the. right to decline to accept service on the latter vessel? The Merchant Shipping Act provides that a seaman’s agreement shall be drawn in a certain form. That agreement specifies a certain ship, and sets out the port of destination. But in this clause we are asked to provide that a man shall sign articles with either the master or the owner of a vessel. Under it a seaman may sign an agreement to serve on an Inter-State vessel belonging to Archibald Currie and Company, and be immediately afterwards transferred to a ship trading to Calcutta.
– Could that be done?
– I think so. Although the text of the clause affirms that the agreement shall be made with the owner or the master of a vessel,, the marginal note declares that it is an agreement to serve on more than one ship.
– The marginal note is not the law.
– In the New South Wales coastal trade what I have stated is the law. There, however, a man cannot be compelled to transfer to another vessel until he has been in port twenty-four hours, during which period he may give notice of his intention to leave the vessel.
– Could not another master be appointed to the same ship?
– Yes. The owner ought not to have discretionary power to transfer a seaman from one ship to another at his own sweet will.
– The honorable senator’s- amendment would not prevent that.
– In conjunction with other amendments which I intend to move it would. What would the honorable senator say if he were asked to enter into an agreement for three years to serve a colliery proprietor, who had a mine at Powlett River, another at Newcastle, and a third in Queensland, in any of those collieries ? Yet he thinks that a seaman ought to agree to serve upon one ship, and be liable to transfer to another at the caprice of the owner. I would further point out that when an agreement is made with the owner, the seaman has no redress if that agreement be not observed. Action has first to be taken against the master. The Government will be well advised if they agree to my amendment.
– There are some advantages in making the seaman enter into an agreement with the master only.
– In our coastal trade a seaman’s agreement is for six months, and the owner or master has the right to give him. twenty-four hours’ notice of his intention to discharge him at any time that the vessel is in the home port. Similarly the seaman has a right to give twenty-four hours’ notice of his intention to leave the ship. But, under this clause, he may be prevented from giving that notice, because the moment his vessel arrives in the home port, he may be transferred to another vessel.
– If he signs articles with the owner, does he not agree to serve upon one ship?
– No. The intention of the clause is that he shall be liable to serve upon any ship belonging to the same owner. The agreement, I contend, ought to be made with the master.
– Suppose the master died whilst the ship was at sea?
– The agreement would then continue with the master who succeeded.
– Can a seaman exercise a choice of making an agreement with the master or with the owner?
– If a number of men went to the Shipping Office, and refused to sign on with the owner of a ship, it would be said that there was a strike. Only last week there was trouble on board a ship that arrived in Sydney. The whole of the firemen gave their legal notice and left. The news was at once widely distributed, and everybody said that a strike had taken place.
– What was the cause of their leaving?
– Overwork. The newspapers throughout Australia said that the ship was stuck up because the firemen had struck; and it was only by means of negotiations, that were fairly carried out, that a general strike in Australia was averted.
– That is too simple altogether.
– The statement is quite true. Here was a ship laid up for want of firemen. According to the agreement between the owners and the seamen, the detention of a ship twenty-four hours means the termination of the agreement. We were just within two hours of that period when the dispute was settled, and a general maritime strike throughout Australia was averted. That is the position that will occur under this clause if it is not amended, because I feel certain that men will refuse to make agreements with owners which would permit them to be transferred from one ship to another.
– I do not profess to have anything like Senator Guthrie’s knowledge of navigation, but I do understand an agreement made between employer and employe. We can all heartily sympathize with the endeavour that the honorable senator is making, but if he alters the Bill as desired, I cannot see how he will effect his purpose. He desires that when a man engages to serve on a ship he shall have the right to remain in that ship just as though he had engaged to serve in a factory. But if the amendment were agreed to the honorable senator’s purpose would not be effected. It is evident that a workman who signs an agreement is bound by its terms. The alternative is to refuse to sign an agreement which, under certain circumstances, might compel him to be transferred against his will from one ship to another. The position that should be taken up by seamen is that they should be sure that the articles that they are asked to sign are such as would not compel them to be made slaves of.
– That is what we are asking for.
– But this amendment would not effect that purpose. The Bill does not prescribe any form of agreement. It simply provides that in the case of an Australian-trade ship or a limited coast-trade ship an agreement may be made with the owner or master. The Bill enables an agreement to be made, but it does not prescribe what the agreement shall be. It might embody all the provisions contained in clause 44, or it might embody several other terms that are not laid down there. I cannot support the amendment.
– I do not know whether the amendment proposed by Senator Guthrie would carry out what he insists upon; but it appears to me to be a very desirable amendment to make if it will achieve its purpose. If a seaman makes an agreement with the Adelaide Steam-ship Company, that company can place him on any vessel or send him on any route. But suppose that an agreement is made with the master of the Cooma. That means that the seaman making the agreement is to serve on the Cooma. As long as it remains in force it is an agreement with the master of that ‘particular ship. If the master is transferred during the term of the agreement, the agreement still continues with the next master, because it is an agreement made with the master of that particular ship, and the seaman cannot be removed from that ship to another without his own consent. That is what Senator Guthrie seeks to achieve.
– Does he achieve his purpose ?
– One thing is evident on the face of the thing, and that is that if this clause passes as it stands, and an agreement is made with the owner of any particular ship, the owner, in the absence of some special provision, would be able to place the seaman on any ship. The agreement made with the master of a ship, however, is not a general agreement to serve a steam-ship company. No doubt the master is the agent of the company, but only as far as the particular ship of which he is master is concerned. He is not a general agent of the company.
– Could not the owners put the master in any ship?
– No doubt they could, but the agreement would .remain with the master of the particular ship, and not with the man who happened to be master. The agreement would not be with John Jones, master of the Cooma, but with the man who occupied the position of master of the Cooma. If the particular master were transferred, the agreement would run with the next master of the Cooma.
– It depends on what the agreement contains.
– If a man enters into a general agreement with a steamship company, he could be sent anywhere, and transferred to any ship or to any place.
– What Senator Guthrie wants to do is to prevent a man being sent with the ship he actually signs with if that ship is transferred to some other trade that would prevent him from getting to his home.
– If a man signs with a ship trading between Melbourne and Brisbane, he expects to get home once in three weeks. But if he enters into a general agreement with the steam-ship company
– He can enter into a general agreement with the master.
– He cannot.
– I have before me now an agreement which proves my statement.
– The man can only enter into an agreement with the master as long as the master is on a particular ship. I think that Senator Guthrie’s amendment is in the right direction, and shall support it.
– There is a section in the Merchant Shipping Act which has been omitted from this Bill. That section makes provision as to what the agreement with a seaman shall contain. It provides that the master of every ship shall enter into an agreement to be called the agreement with the crew. The master, not the owner, is responsible under the Imperial Act. It provides, also, that the master is not to carry to sea a man who has not signed the agreement, that the agreement shall be in a form approved by the Board of Trade, and shall be dated at the time of -the first signature upon it. It is to be signed by the master before a seaman signs it. The particulars that the agreement has to provide for are, the nature and as far as practicable the duration of the intended voyage; the approximate period of the voyage, and the places in the world to which the ship is to go; the number and description of the crew; the time at which the seaman has to be on board ; the capacity in which he is to serve ; the amount of wages he is to receive, and so forth. All that has been left out of this Bill. Honorable senators say that the amendment would not achieve my object, but it would partly achieve it. If a man makes an agreement with the owners, he may have to serve in any ship belonging to them.
– Let the honorable senator look at section 116 of the Merchant Shipping Act.
– It provides that-
Agreements may be made either for service in a particular ship or for service in two or more ships belonging to the same owner.
I have admitted the existence of that provision in the Merchant Shipping Act. There is a similar provision in the New South Wales Act, but there is a further provision in that Act ( that no man shall be transferred from one ship to another without being given sufficient time to give his legal notice to leave.- Under this clause, a man arriving at 12 o’clock in Melbourne in one ship might be transferred to another ship ready to go to sea in an hour, and so would be unable to give his legal notice to leave if he objected to the transfer.
– We do not consider that the question raised is of sufficient importance to warrant the taking up of so much time in its discussion. If, therefore, Senator Guthrie will withdraw his amendment, I shall be prepared to move one which I think will meet what he desires, to some extent. I am prepared to move the omission of the words “ of Australian-trade ships and,” with a view to inserting at the close of the clause the words “ in the case of Australian-trade ships the agreement shall, notwithstanding anything in this Act, be made with the master.” Is the honorable senator prepared to accept that?
– I could not accept that.
– Then I ask the honorable senator to be good enough to withdraw his amendment temporarily that I may move the amendment I have indicated.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Senator PEARCE (Western Australia - Minister of Defence) [11.20J. - I move -
That the words “ Australian-trade ships and “ be left out.
I have already indicated die amendment that would follow if this be agreed to. We do not recognise that the difficulty which Senator Guthrie has referred to will arise, but the amendment I now move would provide for an agreement in connexion with limited coast-trade ships being made either with the owner or master, and in the case of Australian-trade ships covering InterState trade with the master only. That should meet the honorable senator’s objection.
– I do not think the Minister can fully realize the extent of .the trade within the limits of a State. His amendment proposes that in connexion with that trade the agreement may be made with the owner or master. If it were made with the owner a man might be transferred from one ship to another. I refer the honorable senator to the conditions operating in Western Australia. A ship may be trading between Fremantle and Albany, and another vessel be longing to the same owner may be trading between Geraldton and Wyndham. Under the amendment a man employed on a ship trading between Fremantle and Albany who might be living at Fremantle, and would be able to get to his home every week, might be transferred to the vessel trading between Geraldton and Wyndham, which would take him away from his home altogether. The same thing could happen in the Queensland trade. The Australian United Steam-ship Navigation Company run a number of boats from Brisbane to the north. A man serving on a vessel at Brisbane might be transferred to a drogher in one of the rivers in the north.
– If he signs art agreement with the owners containing a clause under which that could be done, he would know what he might expect.
– I want to prevent such agreements. I admit that this provision is to be found in the Merchant Shipping Act, but the conditions in theshipping trade of Great Britain are very different from the conditions in Australia. For instance, a company may have halfadozen boats running between Liverpool and the Isle of Man, and it is very often convenient for them to transfer their men from one of their ships to another. But, in that case, the vessels make a trip that takes only about eight hours. The samething occurs between Glasgow and Belfast, between Dover and Calais, and between other ports. The conditions on the Australian coast are very different. A company may have a vessel trading between: Port Adelaide and Port Pirie. It may be found that- trade is to be had between Port Pirie and some other port, and a manwhose home is in Adelaide may find himself transferred to a vessel that is tradingaway from Adelaide all the time. It is easy to see that if a man makes an agreement under which he is employed in oneship engaged in a particular trade, it may be a very great injustice for him to be transferred to another ship engaged in adifferent trade.
.. - I think that Senator Guthrie might verywell accept the amendment moved by the Minister of Defence. It will provide for all that Senator Guthrie asks, so far as the Inter- State trade is concerned.
– But not so far as theState trade is concerned.
– But there are limits to that trade. It must, under the Bill, be within a limit of 400 miles, and in most cases it would be found that it would be less.
– I shall have no objection to accept the amendment if the Minister will allow me, at a later stage, to insert the provision of the New South Wales Act under which no man can be transferred from one ship to another inside of twenty-four hours, thus leaving him time to give his legal notice to leave if he objects to the transfer. The Hunter River Company run the steamers Newcastle and Namoi between Sydney and Newcastle, and if they wish to transfer a man from the Newcastle to the Namoi they are unable to do so without giving him sufficient time to put in his notice to leave.
– But the custom is to accept the notice even a day before the ship gets into port.
– No; that is not the custom. It is stipulated in the Act that the notice must be given and received in port, and notice cannot be given on a Saturday, and very properly so, because if it were a master might not be able to procure men in time. I shall let the amendment go, but will deal with the matter later by proposing the insertion of the provision in the New South Wales Act to which I have referred.
Amendment agreed to.
Amendment (by Senator Pearce) agreed to -
That the following words be added to the clause : - “ In the case of Australian-trade ships the agreement shall notwithstanding anything in this Act be made with the master.”
Clause, as amended, agreed to-.
Clauses 50 and 51 agreed to.
Clause 52 -
The master of every foreign-going ship shall, within forty-eight hours after arrival in any port of destination or upon the discharge of his crew, whichever first happens, deliver the agreement to the superintendent.
Penalty : Fifty pounds.
– A verbal amendment is required in this clause to make it more clear. I move -
That the words “of destination” be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “ in Australia.”
– I have no objection to the amendment.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clauses 53 to 57 agreed to.
Clause 58 - (1.) The person engaging or discharging any seaman shall pay the whole of the prescribed fees, and may retain from the wages of any seaman engaged or discharged such proportion of those fees as is prescribed. (2.) All such fees, with costs, may be recovered from any such person in a summary manner.
– I move -
That the word “ prescribed,” line 2, be left out, with a view to insert after “ fees “ the words “ prescribed in schedule IV.”
If the amendment be carried, I intend to ask the Government to submit a new schedule, in accordance with the last New Zealand Act, so as to make it clear both in the body of the Act and in the schedule what the fees are, and also what proportions the owner and the seaman have to pay. I am not sure that the fees are not scheduled to the Merchant Shipping Act. I can see no possible objection to the amendment.
– What is the practice now ?
– I do not know whether, in the case of any State, the fees are scheduled to the Act. Both the manning scale and the food scale are scheduled to this Bill, but, unless my amendment is made, the Parliament will have no information regarding the fees to be paid.
– In the Merchant Shipping Act the words used are “ as prescribed.”
– So far as it is consistent with the administration of an Act, all such matters should be specifically set forth in a schedule. In many measures which we have passed rather too many things have been left wholly to regulation. My amendment involves an answer from the Government on two points, namely, whether they will proceed in the way I have proposed, and, if so, whether they will construct a schedule to be attached to the Bill.
– I would remind the Committee that it is desirable to frame our measures on uniform lines. Various methods have been adopted in the States withregard to fees. In some States the fees payable under an Act have been set forth in a schedule. That has been done apparently in New Zealand, but that has not been the practice with the
Commonwealth Parliament. In our Acts all fees have been left to be prescribed by regulation. The regulations are laid upon the table of each House, and it is open to any honorable senator to submit a motion disagreeing with them. Obviously it is not wise to start a new departure in the case of this Bill unless very strong reasons can be given. There are very good reasons why the manning scale should be scheduled to the Bill. It involves a principle, and therefore it should not be subject to alteration by regulation from time to time. In some States the fee payable under the Navigation Act is comparatively small. I am informed that in Victoria it is 3s., of which the owner pays 2s., and the seaman1s, and that in some States it is 6s. The fees vary. I am not prepared at present to say what fee the Government will be prepared to prescribe. We have first to” ascertain what the maintenance of the Mercantile Marine Office is likely to cost. We desire to do justice as between the States, and, as I said, the fees vary considerably. This is entirely a question of draftsmanship. But the amendment will make quite a revolution in that regard.
– I do not think that it would be a serious revolution.
– Suppose that the amendment were made, and it were decided at some time to increase or to reduce the fees or to alter the proportion payable by the parties, it would be necessary to bring in a Bill for that purpose.
– On the other hand, either House may disagree with a regulation when it is tabled.
– That is so. This is a very simple matter, and as the clause has been drafted in accordance with our practice in framing legislation, I trust that the Committee will not agree to the amendment merely for the sake of making an alteration.
– The object is to avoid government by regulation.
– The only argument which has been advanced in favour of the amendment is that it follows the practice in New Zealand. But certainly that has not been the practice in the Commonwealth.
– I agree with the Minister that it is wise to leave the amount of the fees to be settled by regulation. I am aware that in many State Acts, more especially where lawyers are concerned, the fees are fixed. In our Local Courts Act, for instance, the fees are laid down. I do not think that we ought to hamper this measure by putting in too many schedules. A large number of things have to be paid for at the Mercantile Marine Office, though not amounting to much. A seaman has to go there seven or eight times during a half-year, or a dozen times in a year, to be engaged and discharged through no fault of his own, but simply through the vessel being laid up or through being transferred from one ship to another. It will be a very heavy tax upon him if he has to pay fees every time. In every other case when a man is entering into an agreement the employer supplies the stationery and the pen and ink. Why should not the employer of a seaman pay for the making of the agreement? There is no employe who is taxed to the same extent as is the seaman through the Shipping Office. He has to pay for shipping and for being discharged.
– What are the fees?
– The charge to the seaman is1s. for shipping, and1s. for discharging, and his payments may amount to 24s. or 30s. a year.
– What is the necessity for making a charge at all?
– That is what I want to know. When Senator St. Ledger’s amendment is disposed of, I shall move the amendment I have indicated. I recognise that the Mercantile Marine Office ought to earn a revenue sufficient to meet the expenditure, but it ought to be provided by those who employ the men. At present the ship-owner is responsible for the payment of the fees, but permission is given to him to deduct a prescribed amount out of the seaman’s wages.
Senator Lt.-Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD (New South Wales) [11.43].- The Minister has urged the desirability of dealing with a matter of this kind by regulation, but he overlooks to a certain extent the very strong objection which has always been taken to legislation by regulation. It is a mistake to give to the Executive too much power in that regard. When the fees payable are set forth in a schedule, any one who gets a copy of the Act can see what they are. But when it is provided that the fees payable are such as may be prescribed by regulation, it is necessary for a person to get, not only a copy of the Act, but also a copy of the regulations. Unfortunately, the regulations made under an Act are never bound up with the Act in the statute-book. Of course, one may get a copy of an Act with the regulations attached, but there is no certainty as to how long they will remain in force. I might, for instance, buy a copy of this measure after it is enacted, with the regulations attached, but, in the course of twelve months, they might be replaced by others.
– In one month.
– Yes. Even in one month a change may be made. I would further point out that the assent of both branches of the Legislature must be obtained to any Statute, whereas either branch of it may disagree with a regulation, in which case such regulation can have no effect. Whilst I recognise that to some extent it is necessary to legislate by regulation, we ought to avoid legislation in that way as far as possible. Under this Bill we know very well that certain fees will have to be paid. If we know the probable amount of the fees, why should we not specify them in the Bill ? They would then remain operative until the Parliament in its wisdom saw fit to alter them. The Minister has stated that we are laying down the practice of dealing with matters by regulation. I say that we should leave nothing to regulation which can reasonably be effected by Statute.
– Please quote me correctly. I said that in the matter of fees we had adopted the practice of dealing with them by regulation.
– I have no wish to misrepresent the Minister of Defence, and I accept his statement with the fullest confidence. But I say that we can reasonably determine the amount of these fees. At this stage it is better to specify them by Statute than by regulations which may be repealed and re-enacted from time to time.
– All fees payable under the Merchant Shipping Act are prescribed by regulation.
– That may be so, but it is undesirable that we should do more by regulation than is absolutely necessary, and yet Act after Act is passed by this Par liament leaving a good deal to be done by regulation. We all know that one Ministry may regard a matter from a certain stand-point, and that its successors may regard it from an entirely different standpoint, with the result that the desired alteration is effected by regulation.
– Every honorable senator will agree that these marine offices should be made to pay their own way. This Bill is really intended to effect a consolidation of the navigation laws of Australia. Hitherto each State has enacted its own navigation laws. Each has charged different fees, because it has had to regulate them by the amount of revenue which it has received. At the present time the Minister cannot foresee what fees ought to be charged by the Commonwealth, because he cannot forecast the revenue which will be obtained. Experience alone can teach us what those fees ought to be. We might prescribe that they should be the minimum fees existing in Australia, and six months hence we might find that as a result the Government were losing a considerable sum, so that it would then be necessary to increase them. The Commonwealth is shouldering a responsibility which has never been assumed by any of the States in that it is providing not merely for the employment of superintendents, but also for seamen’s inspectors, and these officers will have to be paid by the Crown. Consequently it is impossible to specify in this Bill the fees which should be charged. Until we know what our revenue is likely to be, it is better to deal with this matter by regulation.
– I move-
That all the words of sub-clause 1 after “ fees,” line 3, be left out.
– That will have the effect of making the wholeof the cost of drawing the agreement fall upon the ship-owner.
– Exactly. When an employer is engaging seamen, he ought not to be allowed to deduct from their wages any proportion of the fees. I know of no other calling in life in which the workman has to pay a fee in this connexion.
– It is done in all registry offices.
– But this is not a registry office.
– I did not say that it was.
– The fees connected with the drawing up ofthe agreement ought to be paid by the employer.
– Even if the amendment be agreed to, I am not sure that the seamen will not have to pay part of the cost of drawing up the agreement. In some States, under the Employers’ Liability Act, employers are liable to pay compensation to workmen injured in their service. Yet we know that employers do deduct from their employes’ wages a sum sufficient to cover the cost of insuring those employes, although, under the law, they are not supposed to do so.
– Can the Minister give us an instance in which that is done?
– It was done in my own case for years. I had 5d., 6d., and 9d. per week deducted from my wages for years, although the law imposes on the employer the obligation to insure his employes. If we allow the clause to remain in its present form, the seamen will know exactly how much they are liable to pay. The employer will be able to deduct only so much, whereas, if we strike out the words which Senator Guthrie desires to delete, we shall have no guarantee that the employer will not deduct the whole cost of the agreement. There will be no prohibition upon him not to do so. At present a seaman is only required to pay a proportion of the cost of drawing up the agreement. In Victoria that proportion is represented by one-third, which amounts to 6d. But if we agree to the amendment, the employer will probably deduct the whole of the cost of drawing up the agreement. Consequently, the Committee may very well allow the clause to pass in its present form.
Question, that the words proposed to be left out, be left out - put. The Committee divided.
Majority … … 5
Question so resolved in the negative.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 59 - (2.) When a seaman is discharged from a limited coast-trade ship of less than fifteen tons gross registered tonnage, the master shall sign and forthwith send to the superintendent a discharge of the seaman in the said form, attested by a witness.
– I move -
That the word “ send,” line 4, be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the word “ deliver.”
This clause makes provision for a discharge to be given to a seaman. If the master simply had to “ send “ it, he might say that he had done so, although the discharge might never reach the seaman. I want the discharge to be delivered at the Shipping Office, so that the seaman will be sure to get it. Whether a seaman gets future employment or not depends upon whether he obtains his discharge.
– The amendment is a very reasonable one, and the Government accept it.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clauses 60 to 64 agreed to.
Clause 65 - (1.) When the crew of a ship or any of them, immediately upon the expiration of their agreement, enter into a new agreement to serve in the same ship, then it shall not be necessary -
Senator GUTHRIE (South Australia) seaman’s agreement expires, he has an absolute right to get his discharge. The clause would work detrimentally to the interests of seamen. A man might re-engage for a period of five years, and his conduct might be thoroughly good throughout his term of service. But because he wanted to leave at the end of that time, the master might be annoyed with him, and might give him a bad discharge, covering the whole five years. I think a man ought to have a discharge given to him at the end of every six months. I shall vote against the whole clause.
– Are we to have no explanation from the Government? It is an abnormal condition of things for an honorable senator to assail a whole clause, and announce his intention of voting against it, and for no defence to be offered by the Minister.
– I hope that the Leader of the Opposition will not expect a Minister to get up in regard to every proposal that is made, whether it be a matter of importance or otherwise. We desire to see this Bill pushed through the Senate as rapidly as possible. I was quite prepared to take the verdict of the Committee upon the clause. I have every confidence that a seaman will get a fair discharge if his conduct has been good. Every seaman knows the position he is in. If he is prepared to remain in a ship at the end of six months, it must be because he is content with the treatment he receives from the captain and officers, and believes them to be fair-minded men. If they are not, he will not re-engage on any consideration. I attach little importance to the process of making alterations in a Bill for the simple purpose of amending it. That practice is against good principles of legislation. I hope that the Committee will pass the clause asit stands.
– If the Minister would look at this matter from the seaman’s point of view, he would realize that there is much to be said for SenatorGuthrie’s contention.. Take the case of a man who re-engages on a ship. He may serve under one master for two years. As he re-engages he does not get his discharge, and perhaps has nothing to show that his conduct has been good during two years of his service. The latter part of his time may be served under another master. Every one who has been at sea knows that the comfortable working of a ship depends enormously upon the attitude of the master towards his men. Though the seamen might have served for two yearswithout any complaint being made against him, the new master or new officers might be men of different disposition, with the result that at the end of his new term the man might give notice to leave. The master would have to give him a discharge for the whole term of his service. Instead of giving him a good discharge, the master might give him a “ decline to report,” which means “ I prefer to say nothing about him.” The master could not give him a bad discharge if he were an able and competent seaman, but giving a “decline to report “ would mean that when he went to look for another engagement it would be said,” We do not want that sort of chap.” If, on the other hand, a man got his discharge every six months, when he wished to re-engage on another ship he would have three good discharges from the shipbe left and one “ decline to report “ discharge. He could present those discharges, knowing that it would probably be assumed that the last was due to a change of masters.I have served with men with whom I could not get on at all. The Leader of the Opposition shakes his head, but there are some men that angels could not agree with. There was one man with whom I could not work, and I took advantage of the first opportunity to give him notice, because I wanted to get out of his ship. Of course, I do not know what his version of the matter would be. If the Minister will consider what I have said, he will see that,under this provision, the practice permitted might, in some cases, prejudice a man in getting employment. It should not be forgotten that the seaman is charged shipping fees when each agreement expires, and, that being so, there is no reason why he should not get the piece of paper which would constitute his discharge.
– Does the honorable senator say that fees are charged on every re-engagement ?
– Yes, because new articles are made out. If the seaman were given his discharge at theclose of every engagement, he would not be prejudiced when again seeking employment.
-Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD (New South Wales) [12.19].- This is notby any means an unimportant matter. The Government are introducing a clause which is almost entirely novel. It finds no place in any shipping laws of which we are cognisant, except those of New South Wales. When a departure from the ordinary practice is proposed in connexion with a matter which has engaged the attention of the Board of Trade, some reason should be advanced in support of it. I find in the memorandum containing suggestions from the Board of Trade regarding the Navigation Bill, laid on the table some time ago, the following reference to this clause : -
The amendment proposed does not make the clause harmonious with the Imperial law, and it is further open to the practical objection that it would mete out different treatment to seamen serving under the same agreement. This clause would not apply to seamen shipped in the United Kingdom, but would apply to a seaman shipped in New York on the same articles.
Then this important statement is made -
Discharge certificates are of increasing importance to seamen, and the effect of the clause would apparently be that seamen immediately re-engaged would have no record of their previous voyage.
I understand from Senator Guthrie that it is very desirable that a seaman should have such a record in the shape of a discharge. It would indicate the voyage on which he was employed, and also the character and reputation he bore. It must be admitted that that would be of value to him in seeking re-engagement. I agree with Senator Guthrie that it would be better to eliminate the clause.
– I am surprised at the view of this question taken by some honorable senators. Is it not self-evident that the fact that the character and work of a seaman was so good as to lead to his reengagement would be quite sufficient to satisfy a future employer that it would be safe to engage him.
Sentor Turley. - Not necessarily.
– I think it would. But, apart from that altogether, I can indicate the importance which I attach to the matter by saying that, if the objection is pressed, I shall not call for a division. I hope that no further time will be wasted in discussing the question.
– Although the opposition to this clause is by honorable senators who have had considerable experience at sea, that does not weigh very much with me, because I am satisfied that, in actual practice, the only thing that carries weight with an employer is a man’s last discharge. He may have a sheaf of discharges three feet high, but a new employer will take notice only of his last discharge. Senator Gould quotes the Board of Trade on the necessity of keeping a record of a seaman’s service. Unless a man were haunted with a suspicion through life that he would be charged with having been engaged in some questionable practice, such a record would be of no use to him.
– The point is that a man’s last discharge might be a bad one.
– In actual practice on the Australian coast, men are engaged for six months, and then re-engaged for another six months, and so on, and it would involve only unnecessary duplication of clerical work to issue fresh discharges at the close of each engagement.
– A statement has to be sent to the superintendent with regard to the seaman, and it would be no additional trouble to give the discharge.
– It would only mean filling in a printed document.
– We should, where we can, avoid the unnecessary duplication of clerical work. When a seaman is leaving a ship, he is entitled to receive a certificate of discharge, but it would be perfectly useless to give him a discharge at the close of every six months’ engagement on the same vessel.
– He pays for it.
– I do not know that he does. The shipping company pays the expenses.
– No; the seaman has always to pay fees in connexion with every new agreement.
– This would only add unnecessarily to the clerical work which would require to be performed ; that would, in turn, increase the shipping , fees, and might have some effect later on the seaman’s wages. The only object a man could have in keeping discharges for all his service would be to prove that he had not been engaged in any unlawful act while he had been serving on board a ship. But, without such discharges, he could prove an alibi if he were charged with having done anything contrary to the law. I shall support the retention of this clause, which has been adopted in the New South Wales Act, because I believe it to be a useful innovation. I know that I am in this matter pitted against an honorable senator who has had a lengthy experience of seafaring, but I am able to say that, in my own experience of seven years, I found that notice was taken only of my last discharge. I repeat that what honorable senators suggest would only add to the fees charged for clerical work, and might end in a reduction of seamen’s wages.
– Surely Senator Lynch has greatly exaggerated the amount of work involved in the filling in of these discharges. One would think that we were about to throw upon the ship-owners the responsibility of writing out reams and reams of papers, and having them carefully engrossed and witnessed. What is the discharge which is to entail that tremendous amount of labour? It is a thing which happens, I suppose, once in six months, and the filling in takes a few seconds. That being so, it cannot be said that we ought to decide for or against the clause on the ground of the work which it will entail.
– What is the purpose?
– I am coming to that. The next point made by the honorable senator was that a seaman ought not to be loaded down with a tremendous bundle of discharges, beneath which his shoulders would probably break. He is not required to carry the discharges if he does not wish to do so.
– Somebody has to pay for the labour of writing them out.
– The labour involved in that is too insignificant to engage our attention if there is an advantage anywhere else. The honorable senator’s next point was that the seamen would not want to carry a swag of discharges. There is nothing to compel him to do so, if he does not wish to carry anything but his last discharge. It will be quite optional with him. If he is of the same mind as the honorable senator, he will keep his last discharge and tear up the previous ones. But when the law places upon him the obligation to pay, he should have the right to obtain the thing for which he pays.
– He ought to get a receipt.
– Exactly. In the Bill we have provided that when a seaman signs on an agreement, and that carries with it a right to a discharge, he pays as much for the discharge as for the agreement, and, therefore, he is entitled to the equivalent provided “by the Act. The payment which he makes when the agreement is signed is a payment for the work done by the Shipping Office, and for his discharge. Whilst Senator Lynch may think that an employer only looks at a man’s last discharge, I, though an employer in a limited way, entirely disagree with him. If a man comes to me, and shows a reference from an employer for two or three months, and there is a big gap behind it, I am not so well impressed as I am with a man who can produce certificates from employers covering a period of three or four or five years. It is an advantage in some circumstances, and with some employers, to see more than one reference or discharge. If a seaman desires to keep his certificates, he should be at liberty to do so. I propose to support the amendment.
– Whilst I was listening to Senators Guthrie and Turley, I thought a good deal of their arguments, but my experience in engaging men leads me to believe that there is much force in what Senator Lynch has said. Sometimes when a man puts in an application for the position of engine-driver, you get a sheaf of references. A man may have been all right when one reference was given, but afterwards he enters other employment, and his character may alter. Everything depends upon the last reference. As a rule, one-half of the references are not looked over, but the last discharge is always read. A man may have a discharge showing very good conduct for twelve months’ service, but on his last discharge, for six months’ service, “bad conduct” may be written, or perhaps no comment at all. One-half of thedischarges are mere matters of form.
– No ; no man can get a ship without producing his last discharge.
– That may be the rule at sea, but it is not in mining. When a man comes along with a reference from his last employer, very little notice is taken of it. If, after a day or two, a man is found to be competent, he is retained, no matter what his reference may be. If a man has the best reference under the sun, but is not able to do his work, he is not retained. I am well aware that many references are merely given to get rid of men. Such employers do not care what may become of the men, or who may suffer. My experience is that a good man can get work whether he has a reference or not.
– A man gets to be well known to the captains of vessels on the coast, and if his record is good he can always get work.
– No; a shipping master will not sign on a man unless he produces his last discharge.
– That may be the rule at the Shipping Office, but it is a very harsh one, I think. If a man goes before the shipping master with an ordinary discharge - that is, a discharge without comment - I suppose he will get work?
– He has a job to get it.
– If a man has to produce his last discharge, and it is a poor one, of what use are his “ good “ discharges? In my opinion, the discharge which is of value is the last one. I always End that when a law imposes additional work upon any one, an extra charge is made to the men concerned. I do not think it. is very vital whether the clause is retained or omitted.
– The Vice-President of the Executive Council has said that this is an unimportant matter. A bigger battle has never been fought in England than that which has been fought over this very question. The Shipping Federation has made strong approaches to the Board of Trade to adopt the continuous book. My amendment involves the same thing as the continuous book, and is submitted for a special purpose. A man signs an agreement for six months, and at the end of that period he signs his release from the agreement. Why should not the owner of the ship give him his release in the shape of a discharge ?
– Because he is not leaving the service.
– The man has carried out the agreement, and has been released from the articles. For the next six months new articles are taken out, and a fresh agreement is signed.
– Are the articles different ?
– They may be.
– The honorable senator knows that in practice they are not.
– No. Let me point out what harm can be done unless my amendment is made. Only a short time ago a man who had obtained a good discharge every half year for five years came to me with a complaint. A new master of the ship did not want the .nian, and “ discharged him with a “ bad “ discharge, after having obtained discharges marked “ very good,” and leaving him with a “ decline to report “ discharge.
– Senator Lynch says that the only discharge which a man cares about is the last one.
– I placed the man’s career before the owners of the ship, and they asked the captain to withdraw the discharge and give him another one, which he did. If I had not intervened - that is, if his “good “ discharge had not been renewed - the man would have had to present a “ bad “ discharge to the shipping master ; otherwise he could not get a ship. He was one of the best men who have sailed out of Australia, but simply as the result of a little pique on the part of the new master he was dismissed with a “bad” discharge. Let me point out to Senator Sayers the difference between a seaman and an engine-driver. When a master has picked his crew, he has to depend upon their past records, because once they are on board he has no means of testing them until they get to sea, and then he has to keep them. On the other hand, an enginedriver who cannot attend properly to his engine can be immediately discharged and replaced.
– If you can get a man.
– There is a likelihood of getting an engine-driver, but a ship-master cannot get another seaman in any circumstances. My amendment is not moved for the purpose of making an alteration, but it involves a great principle against which the seamen of England are fighting, with the approval of the Board of Trade. Surely if a man pays for his shipping and discharge, he is entitled to get what is due to him, which includes a discharge at the end of every six months. .
– Let us take a vote.
– After the Minister has tried to impress upon honorable senators on the other side that my amendment is of no consequence, surely I have the right to show that it is of some consequence.
– But the honorable senator is taking such a long time to do it.
– I shall take just as long as I think is necessary to explain the position to Senator Sayers, who has admitted that he does not know much about a seaman’s discharge. 1 recognise that some proposals which I have submitted have been defeated because I did not occupy sufficient time to explain them to the Committee.
Senator CHATAWAY (Queensland) (12.46]. - I had a private conversation with Senator Guthrie just now, but I am still unable to understand whether a seaman pays for his discharge as well as for Ins engagement. It appears to me that under this clause he is required to pay a lump sum to cover both his engagement and his discharge.
– I have never paid for a discharge in my life.
– 1 lake it that Senators Guthrie and Turley have an intimate knowledge of the practice which obtains
– Senator Lynch is also a practical man.
– I was not aware of that. It appears to me that under this Bill the seaman will be required to pay a lump sum to cover both the cost of his engagement and of his discharge. That being so, at the end of his engagement he should be refunded a certain proportion of the money which he has paid. That object, I think, could be attained by amending sub-clause 2, so as to provide that the statement which the master of a vessel is required to deliver or send to the superintendent shall include a report on the conduct, character, and qualifications of any seaman who has been re-engaged. We should thus have on record reports of the qualifications of men who had been reengaged from time to time.
– But a man will not be re-engaged if he is not worth ltengaging.
– Unless he obtains discharges, he will have no record that he has been re-engaged. It seems to rae that as he pays a lump sum for his engagement and discharge, it is only reasonable that when he asks for his discharge it should be compulsory on the part of the master or owner to give it to him. I agree with Senator Millen that, from an employer’s point of view - and during my life I have employed a good many men - it is very much more satisfactory to have the testimony of four or five employers regarding an employe than, it is to have the certificate of only one employer ‘who may have employed him for four or five months-
– Which would the honorable senator prefer : A good certificate from an employer for twenty years of service by an employ^, or a good certificate from twenty employers for one year’s service by him?
– I would prefer a progressive individual who has been constantly employed by different employers to a conservative who has remained in one job for twenty years. The latter would be absolutely hide-bound, and would certainly have got into a groove which would prevent his services being worth very much i’o anybody.
Senator McGREGOR (South Australia - Vice-President of the Executive Council) [T2-54l- - Although Senator Guthrie, whom Senator Chataway consulted, may have placed the main features connected with this question before him, I do not think that he called his attention to the fact that the fee for engaging and discharging a seaman is to be prescribed by regulation. Consequently, the more work there is imposed upon the Shipping Office, the greater will be the amount of that fee. This fact must be taken into our consideration. But as a serious difference of opinion exists amongst honorable senators in regard lo this matter, I move -
That the clause be postponed.
Senator CHATAWAY (Queensland) LI2-S5]- - I desire to make my position perfectly clear. I spoke to Senator Guthrie upon only one point. I asked him how often a seaman had to pay for his engagement and discharge. I did not consult him in reference to the whole argument, and he did not put his views before me.
Motion agreed to.
Clauses 66 to 76 agreed to.
Clause 77 -
In cases where the seamen are engaged ob time agreement on an Australia-trade or limited coast-trade ship, all wages earned shall be paid monthly not later than the second day of each month, or thereafter within forty-eight hours after the ship first arrives at any port in Australia at which there is a bank.
Senator GUTHRIE (South Australia; [12.57]. - I move -
That the words “ forty-eight “ be left out, with U view to insert in lieu thereof “ twentyfour.”
I think that within twenty-four hours after the arrival of a vessel in a port at which there is a bank, the wages which have been earned during the previous month should be paid to the seamen.
– Suppose that the vessel arrives on a Saturday afternoon?
– Sunday does not count.
– What if Monday be a holiday ?
– Holidays and Sundays do not count.
– I think that the amendment is a very reasonable one. But I would point out to the Committee that the question relating to holidays would also arise if we required the wages earned by seamen during the previous month to be paid within forty-eight hours after the arrival of their vessel in port. For instance, a ship might arrive in port on the evening of Good Friday, and the banks would not reopen until the following Tuesday. But in connexion with any business which the law says shall be transacted within a given period these dies non do not count.
Senator Lt.-Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD (New South Wales) [12.59].- I have no objection to the principle that a sailor shall receive the wages due to him within twenty-four hours after the arrival of his vessel in port.
– I may inform the honorable senator that the provision to which I referred just now is contained in the Acts InterpretationAct. That Statute will govern the provisions of thisBill.
– That being so, no objection can be urged to the clause. I merely suggested that a ship might arrive in port on Saturday afternoon, because I thought that, although no difficulty would be raised in nine hundred and ninety-nine cases out of a thousand, trouble might be created in the thousandth if any question could be raised by a technical construction of the law.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.30 p.m.
Clauses 78 to 81 agreed to.
Clause 82 -
A seaman’s right to wages and provisions shall be taken to begin either at the time at which he commences work, or at the time specified in the agreement for his commencement of work or presence on board, whichever first happens.
– This clause is not quite clear. I know that it is copied from the Merchant Shipping Act, but I never understood why it was inserted in that piece of legislation. Will the Minister explain what is meant by “ presence on board “ ?
– The meaning of the clause is fairly obvious. The seaman does not suffer in any case. If he begins work on his ship before the time specified in the agreement, he is to be paid from the time he goes on board. If, however, he does not go on board until the time specified, he has to be paid from the time the agreement commences. The clause makes the seaman’s position perfectly safe.
– The engagement of a seaman might terminate on a certain day, and he might be re-engaged on the same day. It is not clear whether, under this clause, he could, under such circumstances, claim two days’ wages for the one day’s work. I think the New Zealand Act provides that, if a seaman is discharged, and re-engaged on the day of his discharge, his wages under the new agreement shall commence on the following day.
– The ship-owners would take care that they did not pay two days’ wages for one day’s work.
– I do not see why we should not insert a proviso to cover such a case as I have instanced.
– This clause is copied from the New Zealand Act, word for word.
– I have looked the matter up, but I regret that I have not an exact reference to the New Zealand Act, which, however, I thought contained a proviso such as I desire to have inserted here. A seaman’s agreement might terminate at 12 o’clock on a certain day. He would have to be paid up to that day. He might then make a fresh agreement. Under the clause as it stands there is a possibility of his being able to demand to be paid for the first day of the new agreement, although he had been paid for the last day of the old agreement, the two days being the same. I move -
That the following words be added - “ Provided that, if by reason of the termination of the agreement with the crew by effluxion of time, a seaman is discharged, and he is reengaged on the day of his discharge on” the same ship, his wages under the agreement shall commence on the following day.”
– Senator St. Ledger’s amendment is entirely unnecessary. I have looked through that part of the New Zealand Act dealing with wages, and find that it contains no such provision. Section 76 of the New Zealand Act is precisely the same as this clause. If a seaman’s time under an agreement expired at 12 o’clock on a particular day he would get his discharge; and if he signed on the same ship again, his wages would commence from the time he signed on. The honorable senator is raising an imaginary fear.
– After the explanation of the Minister, I shall withdraw my amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 83 agreed to.
Clause 84 -
The right to wages shall not depend on the earning of freight; and every seaman and apprentice who would be entitled to demand and recover any wages, if the ship in which he has served had earned freight, shall, subject to all other rules of law and conditions applicable to the case, be entitled to claim and recover his wages, notwithstanding that freight has not been earned.
But in all cases of wreck or loss of the ship, proof that any seaman has not exerted himself to the utmost to save the ship, cargo, stores, and equipment, shall bar his claim to wages.
– The proviso to this clause is not, I think, as clear as it might be. I should like to know whether it is intended that if a seaman has hot exerted himself to the utmost at the time of a wreck, that shall be a bar to his claim to wages, not merely during the time within which it is contended that he did not exert himself to the utmost, but for the whole term of his agreement, which might be three years.
– He has to be paid his wages every month.
– That is only in the Inter-State trade, and this clause applies to foreign-going ships.
– Foreign-going ships registered in Australia.
– Does the seaman not receive payments as he goes along?
– He may not receive a single penny, and when he does receive advances he has to pay for them. We are doing away with advance notes under this Bill.
– Does the honorable senator mean to say that this reform law will not provide for occasional payments on account of wages?
– It does provide for that.
– If a ship is leaving port on a voyage which may not occupy more than six months, the seamen under the usual practice would sign articles for three years to go to any port in the known world. I wish to know whether under the proviso to this clause a seaman for the reasons stated may forfeit the whole of his wages.
– No; because he will have been paid some on account, under clause 76.
– In any case, he would not have three years’ wages due to him.
– How does the honorable senator know that?
– Has the honorable senator ever known of a seaman who, after travelling round the world for three years and putting in at a number of ports, had not drawn a penny of his wages?
– Yes, I have.
– Under clause 76 a seaman may get advances.
– That is a new provision. I am speaking of the practice in the past. Masters have often charged for advances. When rupees in India were at1s.10d., I have had to pay 2s. 3d. each for them to get money that I had earned myself. I wish to know whether under this clause a man who has not exerted himself to the utmost at the time of a wreck may forfeit the whole of the wages due to him under his agreement, or only wages due for the times during which it is said he did not exert himself.
– I do not think that the clause is indefinite at all. It means that a seaman who does not exert himself to the utmost in the circumstances set out would forfeit the whole of the wages due to him. I say without hesitation that a man who would be guilty of such conduct would deserve to lose all the wages due to him. Wrecks may occur on desert islands or at places far from the reach of the law, and we must have provisions to assist in preserving strict discipline in such cases. Senator Guthrie has tried to bolster up his objection to the clause by inducing the Committee to believe that when a seaman signs a three years’ agreement he does not receive any wages until the termination of the agreement. Under this Bill such a thing would be impossible.
– That may be.
– We are dealing with this Bill and not with other legislation. Clause 76 provides -
The master or owner of every foreign-going ship registered in Australia shall pay to every seaman at the prescribed times, his wages or prescribed portions thereof :
Of course, in the case of ships engaged in the coasting trade the Bill provides that the wages are to be paid every month. But in the case of foreign-going ships registered in Australia, clause 76 would apply, and the regulation would undoubtedly prescribe that payment should be made at such intervals as would enable seamen to have some cash when they reached a port. The clause is quite definite, and necessary.
– I believe that the clause is definite, and it ought to be definite. I can mention a case in point. I was wrecked on the Dacca in the Red Sea, and though some of the men and passengers worked like Trojans on the occasion, and no one could have done better, a portion of the crew took a boat, ripped up passengers’ luggage, and rowed away, leaving the rest of the crew and passengers to their fate, whatever it might be. Could any punishment be too great for such men?
– They should be punished criminally.
– Such men should be punished in every possible way. I believe the men I refer to were afterwards tried before the British Consul and got three months’ imprisonment each in a gaol at Suez or Port Said.
– That was far too light a punishment.
– I agree with the honorable senator. Such men are not deserving of the name of men. I think that the clause might provide for very much more severe punishment for men -who will not do their utmost to save the lives of people at a wreck.
Senator GUTHRIE (South Australia) £2.55]. - I am not defending men who will not do their utmost to save life where necessary. I should have no objection to such men being punished criminally. I object that under this clause. a man who may be charged with having failed to do his utmost at the time of a wreck may be called upon to forfeit ,=£50 or £60 due to him in wages. I point out to honorable senators that a ship might come into Melbourne that had been round the world. Some of her crew might have ^50 or £60 due to each of them in wages. Others might join in Melbourne, and as soon as the vessel got outside the Heads again she might be wrecked. Under this clause there would be no penalty upon those who had just joined the vessel in Melbourne, whilst other members of the crew might lose £50 or £40 in wages. I should be prepared to support a proposal for a criminal prosecution of men under the circumstances stated, but such conduct as is dealt with in the clause should not be a bar to a claim for wages. I ask who would benefit by this provision? I take it that the ship-owners would stick to the money, though after the ship was wrecked they would have nothing to do with it, and it would be in the hands of the underwriters. They could keep wages forfeited in this way as a plum. I can mention a case that occurred within half-a mile of my own house. A ship came to the powder buoys at Port Adelaide with 200 or 30c tons of dynamite on board stowed close to a cabin that was discovered to be on fire. The alarm was so great that the police interfered with the church services and turned the people out of all the churches in Port Adelaide to avoid the possible effects of an explosion. The crew of the vessel tried to put out the fire, but were unable to do so with the equipment on board.
– They did their utmost.
– The honorable senator might let me finish the story. He may say that they did their utmost, but they did not succeed in putting out the fire, and the fire brigade came down the river with a float, got alongside the vessel and put the fire out, but the men when they got to Sydney were all dismissed from the ship for leaving it. Under this clause a man may be charged with not having done his utmost at the time of a wreck, and he would have to prove before a Court that he had done his utmost.
– No, it would be exactly the other way about.
– What does that matter? There is a big question involved in this clause. ‘ I do not know whether Senator St. Ledger as a lawyer has looked into the matter, but it is a debatable question whether a seaman is entitled to wages or not after a wreck takes place.
– He is entitled to salvage in addition to wages.
– Under the clause, the wages of a seaman will cease whenever his ship is lost. If he goes to work after that event, it will be for somebody other than the owner, and outside his agreement. Honorable senators want to provide that if, after the agreement is ended, a seaman does not exert himself to save the ship’s stores, and equipment, he shall forfeit all the wages which he has earned.
– The lives of people may depend upon that.
– They may not. The clause does not refer to the lives of people, but to stores, equipment, and crew.
– People will want the stores to live on.
– The seaman is not paid for that. A passenger is just as necessary as a member of the crew to save the stores and equipment. What punishment is it proposed to inflict upon a passenger who does not exert himself?
– He paid for the right to travel in the ship, but the seaman is paid for working her.
– He is only paid while he works.
– The honorable senator is pleading for cowards.
– No; I am pleading for justice.
– It is obvious that once a ship is lost, a seaman cannot save anything.
– But a ship may not be entirely lost. If she is in such a position that she is abandoned, then she is lost.
– If a ship is abandoned, people cannot be expected to go back.
– Under this clause they are expected to go back. What does the “ loss “ of a ship mean ? A ship may be on the top of a rock, but she is lost. The Australia, for example, was lost at Port Phillip Heads, but for months could be seen all the time.
-Colonel Cameron. - Would not “ wrecked “ be the correct term to use?
– Whether a ship is wrecked or lost, under this clause the crew are required to exert themselves to the utmost, and, if they do not, they are to be punished. Who will be the judge of the danger which a crew are called uponto face? It will not be the seaman. He is not to be allowed to have a soul of his own, but is expected to obey every command. Even though a man may be running into certain danger and be conscious of it, honorable senators want to enact that if he disobeys, the command, he shall forfeit all the money which he has earned. As a matter of fairness, we should not enact such a provision. If honorable senators want to provide that a man who refused to render assistance in a case of shipwreck or loss shall be imprisoned or hanged, I am prepared to go to that length. But I am not prepared to bar a man’s claim to his wages, the loss of which might not affect him, but would affect his wife and family. I hope that a clear definition will be made.
– I hardly think that Senator Guthrie can mean what he has stated. A seaman is guilty under the clause of failure to exert himself to the best of his ability to save the ship, and Senator Guthrie comes along, and says to his wife and children, “ My good people, 1 feel all sympathy for you. Either your husband’s wages must be forfeited, or he must be hanged. Out of my great mercy for you, I shall hang him.” I do. not think that the honorable senator meant what he said, but if he did, the man’s wife and family would be the last to thank him.
– I wish to point out to Senator Guthrie that before an owner or master can deprive a man of his wages, the latter has to show that the man did not exert himself to the utmost. There is no injustice done in the matter, because prima facie his claim for wages holds good in the case of a wreck or the loss of the ship. Senator Guthrie says that, under the clause, a man may be asked to tread hot plates, or to do something of that sort. That is not a matter of exertion, but a matter of courage. If strong evidence is given that a seaman, hid himself when he ought to have been looking after the sails, or that an engineer hid himself when he ought to have been at his post, and that he could not be found when he was wanted, does the honorable senator contend that a man who has disobeyed not only the law of the land, but the law of humanity, ought not to be deprived of his wages ? The lien on a seaman’s wages is one of the strongest and most easily enforced liens which any workman has.
– When it is over
– He has his claim all the time.
– What claim has he after the ship is lost?
– He has a double claim, namely, a claim against the master, and a claim against the owner all the time, and his lien can never be got rid of. The lien on the seaman’s wages is strong in every Act.
– And particularly strong in this Bill.
– Yes. With regard to the protection of a seaman’s wages, the Bill provides for summary procedure at every port which he visits. What more can we give him?
– If the vessel is lost or wrecked, what becomes of his lien ?
– He has his lien all the time in every Court of law.
– But suppose that the owner is out of the country?
– We cannot provide for every case which can be imagined, but a seaman has his claim against the owner, the master, and the executors. He has every possible lien to enforce his right to wages up to a certain point.
– Up to the time the vessel is lost.
– In a case of shipwreck or total loss, before a man can be deprived of his wages and lien, it must be shown affirmatively that he behaved as a coward. When that fact is shown in a Court of law, why should he not be deprived of the wages accruing due?’ As Senator Pearce has pointed out, men who are engaged in foreign-trade ships draw a large proportion of their wages.
– They have not in the past.
– The Bill contains ample provision for a seaman to allot his wages, or to direct where or how they shall be paid. He is drawing upon them all the time. This clause only refers to the wages accruing due at the time, and not to the wages which he has earned, because they may be appropriated to a large extent. Only the amount accruing due, which in many cases is remarkably small, is in jeopardy under the clause. It will only be in jeopardy when a man has not exerted himself, as he ought to have done on the ship in a case of wreck, but before he can be deprived of that amount, the owner or master must go into a Court and prove affirmatively that he was a dastardly coward. Surely when that onus is thrown upon the master or the owner of a vessel, we ought to declare that a seaman who does not exert himself to the utmost in time of emergency shall not be able to enforce his claim for any wages which may be due to him.
– I should have every sympathy with Senator Guthrie in the objection which he has raised, if there were anything really serious in it. But as Senator St. Ledger has pointed out, there is good reason for providing that a seaman ought to forfeit the wages accruing to him under certain circumstances. I would point out to Senator Guthrie that clause 76 amply safeguards the seaman against injustice in respect of the payment of his wages. Under that provision a seaman who is in receipt of -£4. or £5 a month may apportion a large amount of it to his wife and family.
– Up to 50 per cent, of it.
– It is obvious, then, that, if his vessel be wrecked, and he fails to exert himself to the extent that he should to save her, he can be penalized only to the amount of the wages due to him which is still in the hands of the owner. That may not be very much. On the other hand, if the owner unduly delays the payment of wages due to the seaman, the former is required to pay the latter double the amount of those wages.
– Two days’ pay for one.
– The owner has to give the seaman two days’ pay for every day that he delays the payment of the wages due. Consequently, the sailor is amply protected. I am sure that no honorable senator wishes to protect the seaman who shirks his duty. Senator Guthrie has admitted that a shipwreck may occur, and that the sailors may not exert themselves as they ought to in endeavouring to save the vessel. But a ship is never wrecked while there is a possibility of saving her. It is during the time that she occupies a perilous position that everybody on board should exert himself to the utmost to save her. If a seaman does not so exert himself, I do not think that the punishment provided by this clause is too severe. I hope that Senator Guthrie will not insist upon delaying the passing of the provision.
– The Vice-President of the Executive Council has argued all round this question, but has failed to touch it. When a ship is lost, or wrecked, the seaman’s agreement is at an end, and his wages cease.
– His agreement is not at an end.
– I have here the last return of Lloyd’s Register of British and foreign ships which have been totally lost, or condemned. Under the heading of “Lost” appears the name of the ship Barossa, of 911 tons. She was lost whilst on a voyage from Riga to Frederickstown
– What has that fact to do with the clause which is under consideration ?
– I desire to show that this ship, which was capsized off Cape Frederickstown, was afterwards righted, towed into harbor, and broken up. Does the Vice-President of the Executive Council think that the crew of that vessel, after she had been lost, and after their agreement had terminated, ought to have stood by her, towed her into port, and assisted to break her up?
– Does the honorable senator call breaking up a ship “ saving a wreck “ ?
– That is the position. I have had experience of a wreck. My wages ceased from the hour the vessel struck, and on one occasion I was four weeks before I reached another port.
– But the honorable senator was not struggling for four weeks to save the wreck.
– If, after a vessel struck, the wages of the crew did not cease, I should have no objection to the clause. The ordinary workman receives his wages every Saturday; but the sailor gets paid only once in a while, and his money is constantly in jeopardy. During the whole time that his agreement is in force, the ship-owner holds a considerable sum of money belonging to him, so that the owner is in a position to compel him to do his bidding.
– Would the honorable senator offer a premium for cowardice?
– No. But the cowardice is on the part of the owner, who will not pay wages to a seaman after they have been earned.
– I do not think that Senator Guthrie is as serious over this matter as his language would lead us to believe, otherwise he would have moved an amendment. He has referred to the latter portion of the clause, which provides that proof that any seaman who has not exerted himself to the. utmost to save his ship in case of “wreck” or “loss” shall bar his claim to wages. Now, if honorable senators will turn to Chambers’ Dictionary, which I regard as a better authority than is the book which was quoted by Senator Guthrie-
– It is impossible to get anything better than Lloyds.
– I have never before heard that Lloyds is an etymologist. I have always understood that it is a company that gambles in insurances. In Chambers’ Dictionary “wreck” is denned as meaning “ shipwrecked property,” and “loss” as “destruction, defeat - that which is lost.” If Chambers be an authority on the subject, it is clear that a “wreck,” or “loss,” means that, for all practical purposes, a vessel has disappeared. She may possibly have been abandoned to the underwriters.
– Work has ceased upon her, otherwise the agreement of the seamen would hold good.
– The second portion of the clause reads -
But in all cases of wreck or loss of a ship, proof that any seaman has not exerted himself to the utmost to save the ship, cargo, stores, and equipment shall bar his claim to wages.
If it were necessary to meet Senator Guthrie’s view that the expressions “wreck” and “loss” do not necessarily refer to a past event, that object might t be attained by altering the word “has” to “ had.” May I suggest to the Minister in charge of the Bill, that, in addition to a seaman exerting himself to save the ship, cargo, stores, and equipment, he ought also to exert himself to the utmost to save human life.
– That is everybody’s duty.
– I move-
That after the word “ ship,” line 12, the words “human life” be inserted.
– I do not know that any objection can be urged to the insertion of the words proposed. But I do not like accepting amendments on the spur of the moment, even though they may appear to be desirable, because I do not know the bearing which they possibly may have upon other parts of the Bill.I suppose that the passengers on a passenger ship might be held to have the same relation to that vessel as cargo would have to a cargo ship. I will allow the amendment to go on the voices, on the understanding that if, after reconsideration, it is thought to be undesirable, I shall, at the recommittal stage, move to leave it out. In regard to Senator Guthrie’s contention, I would point out that a wreck is not a wreck in the legal sense when a ship strikes a rock. A wreck does not occur legally until the captain has abandoned the ship with the intention of not returning.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 85 - (2.) Where a seaman, whose service terminates by reason of the wreck or loss of the ship, has been engaged by the run, he shall be entitled to a proportionate part of the wages to which he would have been entitled on the termination of the run, subject to all just deductions, and that proportion shall be calculated up to the termination of his service.
– Sub-section 2 of clause 85 deals with the case of seamen who are engaged “ by the run.” The proposal here made differs from the corresponding provision in the Merchant Shipping Act. It provides that in case of a wreck the seamen shall be paid only a proportionate amount of the wages to which they would have been entitled had the run been completed. Suppose that a ship left Adelaide for Newcastle and was wrecked at King Island. Under this clause the seamen on board who were engaged by the run, would only be paid a proportion of what was due to them, calculated on the basis of the proportion of the journey that had been completed. The proposal is absolutely unfair. The old practice was that, if a vessel was not able to fulfil her contract, men shipped by the run were paid for the full run. Let me mention a case that has happened. A ship was fitted out in Melbourne to be sent to Newcastle. Her crew was short, and the owners decided to take a couple of men from Melbourne to Newcastle to make up her complement. The men were ordered on board at night. When they got on board the master told them that the run to Newcastle was cancelled, and that the ship was going to Port Pirie. The men immediately took up the position that they had not engaged to go to Port Pirie, but to Newcastle. Under the existing law they were entitled to their runmoney as if they had gone to Newcastle. But under this clause, if that ship had gone outside the Heads and afterwards returned, the men engaged by the run would only have been paid a proportionate amount, and would have been brought back to Melbourne or landed at some other place at which they had not engaged to go. I move -
That the words “ a proportionate part of,” line 4, be left out.
– I should like to know whether a ship-owner, in engaging men for a run, is under any obligation if the vessel is wrecked before the run is completed to carry the seamen on to the port of destination? If that is not so, it seems to me that Senator Guthrie’s contention is well founded. But on the other hand, if the owner is under an obligation to carry the seaman on, the case has a different aspect.
– I do not think that there is any obligation on the owner, if a wreck occurs, to carry the seamen to the port of destination. The wreck terminates the service.
– Then, I think that the merits of the case are with Senator Guthrie. It certainly is hard that men who, having engaged for a run, are wrecked before they have an opportunity of earning anything worth speaking about, should neither be carried to their port of destination nor paid the sum for which they contracted. They would find themselves stranded, all their belongings gone, and without means to take them home.
– Suppose that the honorable senator’s sheep died in the middle of the shearing season, would he pay the shearers ?
– If I were sending a lot of sheep from the Gulf inland, and arranged with a number of men to go that trip, and they were willing to perform that duty for a certain sum, the mere fact that my sheep died on the road would not relieve me of my obligation to pay them for going from the one point to the other. It would not be their fault that the sheep died. It is true that many drovers take men on at a moment’s notice, and that they are liable to be dismissed at a moment’s notice. But that is not the position of the sailor. He cannot be dismissed at a moment’s notice, nor can he leave at a moment’s notice. He is engaged to go from one port to another.
– To work a ship.
– And he is prepared to work the ship.
– The ship is not there to work, if she is wrecked.
– That is not the sailor’s fault. I ask myself what is a fair proposition. It does seem to me to be entirely fair to say that when seamen start out with no hope of earning a .reasonable sum until they have finished a certain journey, they should be entitled to the wages for which they contracted to make that journey.
– I think that Senator Guthrie has made out- a very good case for his amendment. If we leave out the words “ a proportionate part of “ the clause will still leave the wages “ subject to all just deductions.” Those words will meet every reasonable case. It is only fair that if a seaman is engaged for the run, and through no fault of his the vessel meets with disaster, he should receive the wages due to him, “ subject to all just deductions.” Senator Guthrie does not propose to eliminate those words. ‘
– - I do not understand the meaning of the term “ engaged by the nin.”
– It means for one trip ; for instance, from here to Adelaide.
– Does it mean that a certain sum of money is paid, no matter how long the voyage takes?
– Yes ; a lump sum for the voyage.
– Is that always the case, or is a seaman sometimes paid “a certain amount every week during trie run?
– No; always a lump sum.
– If a lump sum is paid for the run there is a good deal of force in Senator Guthrie’s contention, but if so much per week were paid during the run, there would not, of course, be so much in it.
– The seaman gets so much for the job, whether it takes a week or a month.
– If that be so, I think the contention of Senator Guthrie may be regarded as a very reasonable one.
Motion (by Senator McGregor) agreed to-
That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn until Wednesday next.
Senate adjourned at 3.47 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 30 September 1910, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1910/19100930_SENATE_4_57/>.