15th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the Hon. J. B. Hayes) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– In view of the fact that an important industry is awaiting development in Tasmania, can the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs give an assurance that the legislation necessary to provide for the payment of a. bounty on newsprint will be introduced during the present sittings?
– That matter is now under the consideration of the Government, and I hope that it will be dealt with shortly.
Dab win GAOL
Senator Brand brought up the report of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works on tho proposal for the erection of a gaol at Darwin, Northern Territory.
– I draw the attention of honorable senators to the fact that the reply to be given to-day to several questions on notice relating to the activities of tho Defence Department is that the information sought is being obtained. In view of the fact that the head-quarters of the department are in Melbourne, and that the department is working under great pressure, I ask honorable senators to give two days’, instead of one day’s, notice of questions relating to defence matters, in order that complete answers may be supplied to them.
– Has the attention of the Minister representing the Minister for Health been directed to an article in the British Medical Association’s journal in which it is stated that 18 per cent, of the children in western Queensland are suffering from malnutrition, and that 13.3 per cent, of the children in north-western Victoria, and 23 per cent, in New South Wales are similarly affected? It has already been revealed that in South Australia the proportion of under-nourished children is 14 per cent., and that in the whole State of Victoria 21 per cent, of the children of pre-school age similarly suffer.
– I have seen the figures to which the honorable senator has referred. Only this week the National Health and Research Council met in Canberra to discuss this and other matters. I am hopeful that ere long the Department of Health, in conjunction with tho health authorities of the various States, will submit a scheme to deal with the problem mentioned by the honorable senator.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce, upon notice -
– The Minister for Commerce has supplied the following answers: -
Darwin GARRISON COMMANDER - Manufacture of Arms and Munitions - Contrasts.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– A reply will be furnished to the honorable senator as soon as possible.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for ‘Defence, upon notice -
What amount is to be expended during the year 11)38-39 on -
– The information will be obtained, and a reply will he furnished to the honorable senator as early as possible.
SenatorFRASER asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The information will be obtained, and a reply will he furnished to the honorable senator as early as possible.
asked the Leader of the Senate, upon notice, -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follows : -
Members of Parliament
asked the Minis ter representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– Inquiries will be made, and a reply will be furnished to the honorable senator as early as possible.
Settlement of Jews
asked the Minister representing the Minister for External Affairs, upon notice -
– The Minister for External Affairs has supplied the following answers: - 1 and 2. The conditions governing the immigration of Jews into Australia would apply substantially also to the Mandated Territory of New Guinea, and are as follows: -
close dependent relatives of persons already settled in Australia, subject to satisfactory maintenance guarantees;
The Government has already announced that it would not be prepared to entertain any block settlement plan of alien migrants, and that it was considered that aliens should be distributed through areas where they were most likely to be assimilated in the general population.
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
If so, will the Government amend the Public Service regulations so as to provide for the admission of suitably-qualified technical college students by -
– The Prime Minister has furnished the following replies to the honorable senator’s questions : -
The qualification for appointment to the Commonwealth Service as cadet engineer, Third Division (or for the transfer or promotion of an officer as cadet engineer) is -
The Public Service Board does not recom mend the variation of the existing training scheme, which has been formulated to meet the peculiar conditions and requirements of the Postmaster-General’s Department and which provides for four years’ training as a cadet, and for two years’ study in mathematics and physics at a university as prescribed for the engineering or science course, and, in addition, for examination as arranged by the Commonwealth Public Service Board in the departmental subjects of line construction, transmission, telephone equipment and telegraph equipment. Whenever, in connexion with the filling of an office in the Commonwealth Service requiring engineering qualifications, applications are invited from persons outside the Service, the claims of an applicant who holds the diploma of a technical college are given due consideration.
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The Treasurer has supplied the following answers to the honorable senator’s questions : -
The purchasing power of the £1 note today is 46.57 per cent. of what the purchasing power of the sovereign would be if such coin were in circulation. I am unable to point to any particular authority which has been responsible for the increased price of gold in Australia at present as compared with its price in 1929, and the consequential difference in purchasing power between the £1 note and the former sovereign. There are many factors which have contributed to this difference. These factors include -
Senator SHEEHAN (through Senator
Cameron) asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Is it a fact that the Leader of the Government stated, on the 20th October, in answer to a question in respect of the 40-hour week for federal public servants, that the Government’s policy had already been announced, viz., that it considers that before there can be any general adoption of shorter hours in Australia the full facts regarding the economic effects must be ascertained; as previously announced, the Government would be prepared to do anything in its power to facilitate the determination by the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration of the question of a shorter working week?
If so, in view of such answer, will the Government now inform the Federal Public Service Arbitrator that it has no objection to his making an award for the Federal Public Service which would include the 40-hour working week, and which would be in conformity with the opinion reported to have been expressed by the Arbitrator after investigation that such provision should be made?
– The Prime Minister has supplied the following answers : -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce, upon notice -
– The Minister for Commerce has supplied the following answers : -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce, upon notice -
– The Minister for Commerce has supplied the following answers : -
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice -
What was the cost to the Government of the conference of delegates of Approved Societies on the National Health and Pensions Insurance Scheme, held at Canberra on the 24th and 25th October, 1938?
– The Treasurer has supplied the following answer : -
The information is being obtained and will be furnished as soon as possible.
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice -
Senator ALLAN MacDONALD.The Treasurer has supplied the following answers’: -
The only delays contemplated in thu operation of National Insurance are: -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
Have any representations been made to the Government by the British Government concerning the entrance of European refugees to Australia?
Senator ALLAN MacDONALD.The Minister for the Interior has supplied the following answer: -
Questions relating to the entry of refugees have been raised but no specific representations have been made by the British Government for their admission into Australia.
asked the Munster representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The Prime Minister has supplied the following answers : -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Externa] Affairs, upon notice -
– The Minister for External Affairs has supplied the following answers: -
Outcrops of high-grade magnetite ore occur in several places, Owing to the absence of developmental work, even surface consteaning, it is difficult to form an estimate of the true extent of the ore bodies.
asked the Leader of the Government in the Senate, upon notice -
Will the Leader of the Government inform the Senate what measures the Government intends to submit for consideration before the close of the sittings this year?
– The Government proposes that the following measures shall be passed by both Houses before the Christmas recess: - Budget and Estimates 1938-1939, Ministers of State Bill, Apple and Pear Organization Bill, Income Tax Assessment Bill, Land Tax Bill, Motor Industry Bounty Bill, National Health and Pensions Insurance Bill (No. 2), Defence (Visiting Forces)
Bill, Defence Equipment Bill, War Pensions Appropriation Bill, Mortgage Bank Bill, States Grants Bill, Science and Industry Research. Bill, Seamen’s Compensation Bill, Newsprint Bounty Bill, and, if time should permit, a Patents Bill. In view of delays which might occur in another place it is most difficult for me to indicate exactly when new business will he placed before the Senate.
Bill read a third time.
– I have received from Senator McLeay a letter tendering his resignation as a member of the Regulations and Ordinances Committee, and, as Leader of the Senate, nominating Senator Herbert Hays to fill the vacancy.
Motion (by Senator McLeay) - by leave - agreed to -
That Senator McLeay be discharged from attendance as a Member of the Standing Committee on Regulations and Ordinances and that Senator Herbert Hays, having been nominated under Standing Order No. 36a, be appointed in his stead.
Debate resumed from the 16th November (vide page 1509) on motion by Senator Allan MacDonald -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– in reply - I was very pleased, indeed, to hear the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings) say that he heartily commended this measure. At this stage I need only add that both my predecessor and I devoted considerable time to an endeavour to make this bill as nearly perfect, and as generous, as possible. With respect to the exhibition of petulance by the Leader of the Opposition last evening, when he complained of my failure to proceed with this- measure, I may explain that the delay was due to the fact that the honorable senator had not contributed his usual second-reading speech. I anticipated that in regard to so humane a measure he, Senators Keane and Cameron and others would make speeches. But having been disappointed in that respect, I was justified in deferring further discussion of the bill. I thank the Opposition for its support of this measure.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 3 agreed to.
Clause 4 -
After section live of the principal act the following sections are inserted: - “ 5a. In addition to any compensation payable by the employer under this Act in respect of personal injury caused to a seaman by accident arising out of and in the course of his employment, the employer shall pay the cost, not exceeding in any case the sum of Twentyfive pounds, of such medical, surgical and hospital expenses in relation to the injury, as are, in the opinion of the Minister administering this Act, reasonably necessary:
– I appreciate the efforts of the Government to make this measure more acceptable to those who will benefit by it, but there are minor defects which the Opposition wishes to remove. I move -
That the words “Twenty-five” be left out with a view to insert in lien thereof the words “ One hundred “.
I consider that £25 is insufficient to cover medical, surgical and hospital expenses. Although the bill is an improvement on the existing act the amount is below that provided in other legislation. For instance, in the Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act of 1930 provision is made that in addition to any compensation payable by the Commonwealth under that act to, or in respect of any employee, the Commonwealth shall pay the cost not exceeding in any case the sum of £100 of such surgical, medical and hospital treatment in relation to the injury as is, in the opinion of the Commissioner reasonably necessary. In these circumstances, the Government should agree to the amendment which 1 have moved. The life of a seaman has many extraordinary angles, and his work differs considerably from that in “other industries. As the Queensland and Victorian workmen’s compensation acts provide higher medical benefits than those provided in this bill. I trust that the Government will accept the amendment.
Senator ALLAN MacDONALD (Western
Australia - Assistant Minister)[3.37 . - I have already mentioned that the Government considers that ‘this is a very generous measure. Senator Armstrong has moved that the amount payable in respect of hospital, surgical and medical expenses shall be increased from £25 to £100. I regret very much that the Government cannot accept (the amendment. The only workmen’s compensation act which provides for the payment by the employer of hospital, surgical and medical expenses up to £100 is the Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act of 1930 which applies only to Commonwealth employees. The Commonwealth Government is in a position to be more generous to its employees injured in tho course of their duties than is any private employer, and the Workers’ Compensation Act of New South Wales, whch is probably the most generous in respect of injuries to workmen, .fixes £25 as the maximum amount for which an employer shall be liable in respect of hospital and medical treatment. Contrary to what has been said by Senator Armstrong, the Victorian Workers’ Compensation Act fixes a maximum of only £10 for both medical and hospital treatment. The acts of Queensland, South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania provide for the payment of medical expenses, plus burial expenses, only in cases where no compensation is payable, that is, where death occurs as the result of the injury, and there are no dependants. The amounts payable by the employers in the different States are: Queensland £50, South Australia £20, Western Australia £100, and Tasmania £25. In the present Seamen’s Compensation Act no provision whatever is made for the payment of medical or hospital expenses except in respect of a seaman without dependants. In such case a sum of £30 is provided to cover both burial and medical expenses. Honorable senators will note that in that case no ordinary compensation would be payable. Under this bill provision is made for the pay,-“ ment by the employer of medical and hospital expenses up ito £25, and burial expenses up to a similar amount in the event of death and if the deceased sea man leaves no dependants. Having regard, not only to the generous provision proposed to be made by this bill, but to the considerable benefits* which seamen receive under the Navigation Act with respect to wages, surgical, medical and hospital treatment and maintenance during incapacity due to illness or accident, and their relative award provisions, it is considered that the amount provided to cover medical and hospital expenses is reasonable and equitable.
.- Recently I have had brought under my notice cases in respect of which payment of an amount of £25 would not be sufficient. I have in mind particularly the position of an unfortunate seaman who, for some years, had a latent growth on one of his legs. Not long ago, in the course of his employment, he was struck a blow which, although not serious enough in itself to warrant a claim for compensation, aggravated the trouble and caused a dangerous swelling of the leg. He could not prove that his condition was a direct result of the blow, but the company employing him has acted generously and is paying his hospital expenses, which will probably amount to a considerable sum. Another case, instanced by Senator Arthur, is that of a man who has suffered an injury to his eyes, and may require expensive ophthalmic treatment, for which £25 will probably be insufficient. In all social legislation the Commonwealth should give a lead to private employers. The Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act provides for compensation to the amount of £100. There is no reason why the Seamen’s Compensation Act should not be brought into line with it.
.- I support the amendment moved by Senator Armstrong. For ten years I have been a member of the Launceston Hospital Board, and my experience is that in hundreds of cases, treatment of injuries due to accidents costs more than £25, the maximum fixed under the State act. Hospitals, therefore, have to make a remission of all charges in excess of that amount. The bill should provide compensation to the amount of £100, or, at least, £75. Hospitals then would not be penalized in the treatment of serious accident cases.
– The clause does not stipulate that in every case £25 shall be paid by way of compensation for injuries sustained by seamen. All it does is to fix the maximum at £25 ; the actual payment may be anything from £1 to £25. The clause states: the employer shall pay the cost, not exceeding in any case the sum of £25, of such medical, surgical and hospital expenses in relation to the injury as are, in the opinion of the Minister administering this act, reasonably necessary. ff Senator Armstrong’s amendment to raise the maximum to £100 be accepted, the compensation to be paid will still rest with the Minister. Does the Minister agree on this point?
– That being so, the reasons given by the Minister for his opposition to the amendment are rather weak. _ Should the amendment be accepted every claim for compensation would not necessarily result in the payment of £100. As I have shown, it might be any amount from £1 to £100. Our opponents talk sympathetically of the dangers and hardships encountered by seamen in the course of their work, but when a proposal such as this is submitted to provide justice for these men in their claims for compensation, the narrowness of the soul of the tory government is revealed. In fairness to those who follow this arduous occupation, adequate provision should be made for compensation in case of injury. I myself have worked on ships and can speak from personal knowledge of the conditions. There will be a grave danger of injustice if the compensation be limited to £25.
– I support the amendment. Although Senator Allan MacDonald apparently considers it reasonable to provide £100 for medical, surgical and hospital expenses for Commonwealth employees injured in the course of their work, he thinks £25 is sufficient for seamen in private employment. Senator Lamp, who is a member of a hospital board in Tasmania, said that in hundreds’ of cases £25 would be inadequate to pay for the cost of treating occupational injuries; but I could mention instances in which £100, or even £200, would be insufficient to cover the hospital expenses of seamen involved in accidents. I recall the case of a man who fell from the crow’s nest of a ship, and sustained a fractured pelvis. Both of his legs were broken.
– Did that happen at Bankstown ?
– No, it occurred on a transport, when I was being invalided home from the Great War. Such an accident might happen to any seaman. If the Government considers that £100 is required to meet the expenses in connexion with an accident to a Commonwealth employee, it should at least be sufficiently reasonable to admit that, in respect of a seaman in private employment, similar provision should be made.
– That is the maximum amount for which we ask.
– Yes. The shipowner is, as a rule, able to recover the medical and surgical expenses of his injured employees from an insurance company. Surely a maximum of £100 is not an excessive sum to provide in respect of a seaman who is maimed. I recall the case of a man, not a seaman, who has been attending hospital for three years. He has required expert medical attention, and his expenses will exceed £200. If adequate compensation be not available to seamen who are injured, they will be forced to enter public hospitals, the finances of many of which are already in a serious condition. Honorable senators opposite are humane, and they must realize that £25 is insufficient, in many instances, to meet medical, surgical and hospital expenses of injured seamen. The Minister would have the final voice in determining what is a reasonable sum to allow in each case.
, - Honorable senators on this side are as anxious as members of the Opposition are to see that seamen are adequately compensated for injuries sustained in the course of their employment. No sum could fully compensate an employee for total and permanent incapacity. All the money in the world would not compensate for blindness or for the loss of limbs. We are dealing now with the shipping industry on the Australian coast. Provision has been made in other Commonwealth legislation for a certain standard of wages and living conditions for seamen in the employ of Australian companies. Those conditions, I think, are unequalled in any other part of the world; but, no matter how anxious the Government may be to assist the seamen - I have personal knowledge of the arduous nature of their work - there is a limit beyond which we cannot go. Consideration has to be given to the cost that will be imposed on the Australian shipping industry. Should that cost be too heavy, the only result would be the withdrawal of the Australian mercantile marine and the substitution of overseas ships registered in other than Australian ports. I ask honorable senators opposite to remember that we are not now dealing with the Commonwealth purse, but with a private industry in which business. is highly competitive. In providing for a contribution by the employer which has not previously been required of him, we have fixed what we consider to be the reasonable amount of £25. A seaman who falls from the crow’s nest of a ship, and is seriously injured, requiring long - weeks and sometimes years of medical or hospital attention will be covered by this measure. Therefore, it is not reasonable to suggest that the Government is callous or ungenerous in limiting the sum which the Minister may authorise to £25. Senator Brown suggested that the Minister might not be reasonable regarding this £25.
– No; I said that power is to be vested in the Minister to fix a sum which he considers reasonable.
– A simple method is followed at the present time to provide a reasonable sum to cover the expenses of a seaman who is injured. Representatives of the shipping company concerned, and of the Seamen’s Union sit in a court of arbitration to determine the amount of compensation to which’ the injured employee is entitled. The case referred to by Senator Armstrong of a man suffering from a tumour, resulting from an accident, is hardly relevant to the present bill. Machinery is provided for such an employee to obtain redress through the channel of arbitration.
– I support the amendment, and I do so because of the statement just made by the Assistant Minister (Senator Allan MacDonald). Under the law of Western Australia, an employee who meets with an accident in the course of his employment is entitled to expenses for hospital and medical attention amounting to £100. The Assistant Minister has stated that no sum, however large, would fully compensate him for the loss of his eyesight or of a limb. Probably it would be foolish to limit the medical expenses to the maximum sum of £25, because, in the course of time, the injury might prove more costly to the employer than if the maximum allowance for medical attention were now increased to £100. Several X-ray examinations might be necessary before and after the patient had left hospital, and, if the whole of the allowance had been used, the employee”, probably anxious to return to work, might overlook the fact that a re-occurrence of his injury or a relapse would result in the injury becoming semipermanent or permanent. When the time came for a final settlement, the sum required as compensation might be much larger than £100. Therefore, the Government should consider the wisdom of accepting the amendment. Since a. lumper is entitled under the law of Western Australia to medical expenses to the amount of £100, as compared with the maximum of £25 proposed under this bill, the Government should consider the advisability of making the Commonwealth law in this matter conform to that of the State. The amount to be paid by the employer would depend on the nature of the injury; itwould not necessarily bc £100. I hope that the Assistant Minister will accept the amendment.
– One honorable senator opposite said that the amendment had been recommended by the medical adviser of one of the unions. I do not wish to speak harshly of the medical fraternity, but I desire to know whether there is any risk of the additional amount benefiting doctors rather than the injured seamen.
If an assurance were given that the additional money would be paid to the disabled seaman, honorable senators might regard the amendment more sympathetically.
– The only inference to be drawn from the Assistant Minister’s statement is that acceptance of this amendment might lead to the bankruptcy of some of the shipping companies.
– I did not say that.
– The Assistant Minister emphasized the intense competition between the shipping companies, and said that they could not meet further payments for the insurance of their employees. I should like him to tell us what additional amount a shipping company would have to pay in premium in order that the benefit might be increased to £100.
– No one could say what the additional cost to the shipping companies would he, because if the maximum payment were increased to £100 the cost of- hospital treatment, surgical appliances and medical attention would increase immediately.
– That is a reflection on the medical profession.
Senator ALLAN MacDONALD.That happened in Western Australia, and I fear that it would happen in this instance. I am not able to express an opinion as to the cost to the shipping companies of an increase of the maximum payment.
I remind ‘Senator Fraser that under the Western Australian legislation £100 is paid only when there are no dependants of the injured person. The bill before the committee provides for a payment up to £25 irrespective of dependants or of the survival of the injured person.
– I wish to emphasize that acceptance of the amendment would not necessarily mean that £100 would be expended. On the contrary, the existence of an increased maximum payment might lead to lower expenditure, because shipping companies would take action to prevent seamen from incurring unnecessary risks.
Knowing that they would be liable for expenses amounting to £100, the companies would be more careful to guard against risks than if the amount payable as compensation were lower. If the maximum were increased to £200 the companies might actually pay less than if the maximum were £10.
– That is a good point.
– The amendment would have the effect which we all desire, namely, a reduction “of the number of accidents to the irreducible minimum. In Europe, where there is little or no provision for compensation, the employees are exposed to greater risks than are Australian seamen. I agree with the Assistant Minister that there must be a limit to the amount payable by way of compensation, but he made no attempt to explain what the limit should be. He did not set out to prove that the limit has been reached at £25. According to the Assistant Minister, the medical profession is likely to take an unfair advantage of legislation fixing a higher maximum.
– I did not say that.
– The implication is there. The Assistant Minister said that if the amount of compensation were raised, medical and hospital expenses and other costs would increase. I submit that it would be easy to deal with any members of the medical profession who made any attempt to take undue advantage of the act. The fears of the Assistant Minister are unfounded.
– Honorable senators opposite may not realize that the Opposition is not asking that the amount to be paid to an injured seaman shall necessarily be £100. We on this side ask only that the hands of the Minister shall not be tied by a limit of £25. In cases of severe injury, unavoidable incidental expenses might make a limit of £25 unreasonably low. An increase of the maximum to £100 would not necessarily mean that that amount would be expended in every instance. Although £25 might not be sufficient, £30 might meet the situation. At a later stage, Senator Armstrong will move a further amendment to include other expenses, because the term “ medical expenses” does not cover charges made by druggists and chemists, or the cost of an ambulance to convey the injured person to his home or a hospital. Payments in respect of workmen’s compensation represent a tax upon employers ; the money does not come from the taxpayers generally. That, however, is not a reason for making unreasonable demands. I was astounded to hear the Assistant Minister SkY that if the maximum payment were increased, doctors, chemists and others would immediately increase their charges. His statement agrees with my estimate of the ethics of private enterprise. I am pleased to have confirmation of my views from such a trustworthy source as the Assistant Minister. 1 ask the committee to treat seriously this and the other amendments which will be moved. The Opposition proposes to divide the chamber in respect of each of them, for it believes that the seamen aTe as worthy of proper treatment as are the members of any other section of the community. If the Assistant Minister be not prepared to accept £100 as the maximum payment, he might consider a compromise at, say, £50. Should he express any such willingness, the Opposition would be prepared to meet him. In the meantime the Opposition presses for an increase of the amount to £100, in order to give greater latitude to the Minister than he now has.
– The Assistant Minister (Senator Allan MacDonald) was under a misapprehension when he said, that the act of Western Australia provided for a maximum payment of £100 only when the injured person had dependants. I have handled a number of compensation cases in that State, and I have yet to know that the act contains any such limitation. T should like the Assistant Minister to cite the section which contains that proviso.
– There is a great diversity of opinion as to the maximum amount which should be paid. In fixing the amount at £25, I take it that the Government must have had some guiding principle. It would be interesting to know the reason for fixing the amount at £25, particularly when injured public servants may be paid £100. Why is it that a seaman, who follows a hazardous calling, may not receive more than £25? Until we are informed exactly of the basis on which the” Government arrived at this maximum of £25, we cannot say whether the amount is equitable or not, particularly when the Assistant Minister admits that in respect of The Public Service a maximum of £100 is allowed in similar circumstances. The Assistant Minister might submit that any increase of this maximum would be a very heavy levy on shipping .companies. I admit that it would harshly affect the smaller shipping concerns, but not all of the shipping companies.
.- I am familiar with this class of legislation, and I know that Senator Fraser is correct when he says that the maximum allowed under the Western Australian act is £100. I remind honorable senators, however, that the insurance premium rate in that State is higher than that operating in any other State, and, probably, that is one reason why manufacturing does not thrive so readily in Western Australia as in the other States. Every honorable senator will agree that costs of this kind must inevitably increase the cost of production, and, in this instance, although the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings) says that it is not a tax on the people of the Commonwealth, it will really be a tax on those who ship their goods from one State to another on coasting vessels. I have no doubt that should the companies which control 80 per cent, of the coastal shipping trade of Australia find it necessary to add this cost to freights, they will do so. I am not now discussing the equity of such action, but simply the business aspect.
– Does the honorable senator admit that these costs will be added to shipping freights?
– Yes. Any extra cost which the companies are obliged to incur, will necessarily increase the costs of production and will, in this case, be added to freights. Any increase of production cost must be taken into consideration in this way, irrespective of the kind of business affected. We cannot get away from that fact. Therefore, any shipping company which can pass on this extra cost will do so. I should have thought that honorable senators opposite would have welcomed this measure in so far as it provides for this payment of £25, whereas no amount at all has been provided hitherto. That is a distinct improvement. I quite appreciate Senator Lamp’s suggestion that a maximum of £25 will be insufficient to pay hospital fees. At the same time the Assistant Minister is incorrect in saying that the maximum is only £10 in Victoria. It is now £25 in that State. Our experience in Victoria in connexion with most cases of workers’ compensation, however, is that immediately a worker is injured, he is picked up by the ambulance and taken to hospital. When special allowances are (provided for medical or other expenses, the injured man, provided that his injury was not serious, went to his medical adviser, and when the medical fees exhausted the allowance of £10, and the man had not been cured, he was forced to go to the hospital, which was then obliged to give him free treatment. The medical man had already got the whole of the compensation. Perhaps this difficulty could be overcome by apportioning certain amounts in respect of ambulance, medical and hospital treatment. None of the State governments has exhibited any desire to make particular sums available in every case, and neither should this Government do so, because an unscrupulous medical adviser might be enabled to collar the lot, leaving nothing for the hospital. I have found, from personal experience, that a grave danger exists that the system will bc abused if large amounts are provided. In any case, the rates proposed in this measure will involve a good deal of money, with the result, probably, that the compensa tion premiums will have to be considerably increased. We should not attempt to foster opposition to so humane a measure us this, which, after all, gives to the injured man the right to consult his medical adviser in respect of ordinary ailments. In this, and in other respects, it is a big improvement on any previous arrangement.
– [ thought I had made clear in my previous remarks bow this maximum of £25 was fixed. The maximum amounts allowed under workers’ compensation legislation for medical and hospital treatment in the various States are - Victoria, £10; New South Wales, £25; Queeusland, £50; South Australia, £20; Western Australia, £100 ; and Tasmania, £25. In the four last-named States, however, these amounts are applicable in cases in which death occurs, and the deceased is not survived by dependants. No such stipulation is made under this measure. Senator Leckie suggested that the Western Australian act does not contain a provision of that kind. I refer him to that act. He will see that -the section starts with the words, “ Where death results from the injury”; and, further down, in section 3, he will find the words, “ if he leaves no dependants “. I assure honorable senators that when I cite State legislation I am quoting from current acts.
– What is the maximum under the New South Wales act ?
– In respect of what?
– We are now discussing surgical, medical and hospital benefits.
– The maximum is £50.
Senator ALLAN MacDONALD.That includes burial allowance.
.- I have had a great deal to do with the Tasmanian Workers’ Compensation Act, and I know that it provides a maximum allowance of £25 for hospital or medical treatment, without any restrictions whatsoever, and injured workers in that State have no difficulty in obtaining that maximum amount. The conditions mentioned by the Assistant Minister (Senator Allan MacDonald) do not apply at all.
– I cannot understand why a Minister should misquote the provisions of a State’ act. It is common knowledge that a maximum allowance of £50 is provided under the Workers’ Compensation Act of New South Wales. When the Assistant Minister (Senator Allan MacDonald) deliberately attempts to mislead honorable senators, be must expect interjections.
– I object to the honorable senator’s statement that I am deliberately attempting to mislead honorable senators. What I said was that the Workers’ Compensation Act of New South Wales, and similar acts of the various States, provided most generous allowances for injured workers, whilst the New South Wales act fixed the amount for which an employer should be liable at £25 in respect of hospital treatment, and a similar amount for medical treatment.
Question put -
That the words proposed to be left out (Senator ARMSTRONG’S amendment) be left out.
The committee divided. (Chairman - Senator James MCLACHLAN.)
Question so resolved in the negative.
Senator ARMSTRONG (New South
Wales) [4.39].- I move-
That after the word “ expenses “ the words “ and of drugs, medicines, and appliances and ambulance services “ be inserted.
I believe that the omission of those words is due merely to an oversight on the part of the draftsman, because if the measure is to afford benefits to seamen, it is only logical to assume that the cost of drugs, medicines, appliances and ambulance services should also be included. In New South Wales, the ambulance service charges £2 2s. for conveying to a hospital, persons seriously injured, and such charge should be covered by the bill. I believe that the Government is of the opinion that the cost of drugs, medicines and appliances is included in “medical, surgical and hospital expenses,” but it would clarify the position if the words embodied in my amendment were inserted.
– I have always been under the impression that the cost of drugs, medicines, appliances and ambulance service is covered by “medical, surgical and hospital expenses “. Personally I do not think “the words proposed to be inserted are necessary, but if their insertion will assist the passage of the bill. I shall favorably consider their inclusion. I am afraid, however, that the wording must be more specific. For instance “appliances” may include the cost of acrutch, but such cost is, I understand, included in “ medical, surgical and hospital expenses “.
– I agree with the Assistant Minister (Senator Allan MaeDonald) that it is frequently understood that “medical, surgical and hospital expenses “ include the expense to which Senator Armstrong has referred, but there should not be any doubt in the matter. There is no obligation on the part of those responsible for the administration of the act to meet the cost of such services if they are not specifically provided for. The committee has already decided that the amount payable in respect of hospital, surgical and medical treatment shall not exceed £25, and we wish to ensure that the cost of drugs, medicines, appliances and ambulance service shall be covered.
– I believe that the position is already completely covered, the only doubt in my mind being in relation to the word “ ambulance “. I suggest that after the word “ hospital “ the word “ ambulance “ be inserted. There is no doubt that the cost of drugs and normal medical expenses is covered, but there may be some doubt as to whether the cost of an ambulance service” is included in hospital expenses.
– I appreciate the helpful suggestion of Senator A. J. McLachlan. Animated as we are by a desire to be fair, we understand that the cost of services such as I have mentioned is covered by “hospital, surgical and medical expenses.” But should a case go to court and become the subject of legal argument a clearer definition of the costs would be an advantage. It is our duty as legislators to make the measure as clear as is possible because one-half of the trouble which occurs in the courts is due to the indefinite language of legislation. In these circumstances, I trust that the Assistant Minister will accept my amendment.
Senator ALLAN MacDONALD (Western Australia - Assistant Minister) [4.48 J. - If the amendment be adopted consequential amendments in the same clause will be necessary. I should like an opportunity to consider the proposal carefully, and after having done so, I shall, if necessary, re-commit the clause in order to have .the amendment inserted.
– In view of the undertaking given by the Assistant Minister, I ask leave to withdraw my amendment temporarily.
Amendment - by leave withd rawn
– I move -
That after the word “ Act “ second occurring, “the words “ after consultation with the seaman’s medical adviser “ be inserted.
It should not be left to the Minister to determine what is “ reasonably necessary “. I suggest the addition of the words mentioned so that the Minister shall have to consult with the seaman’s medical adviser before deciding what expenses are reasonably necessary. The amendment is reasonable and I trust that it will he accepted.
– The adoption of the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings) would mean that the Minister could not do anything until he had consulted with the seaman’s medical adviser.
– He could not come to a final decision.
Senator ALLAN MacDONALD.The section provides that the Minister administering the act shall determine the amount of medical expenses, up to a maximum of £25, which he considers necessary, having regard to the nature of the injury. It is possible that, in the exercise of his discretion, the Minister will desire to confer with the seamen’s medical adviser, the Commonwealth Medical Inspector of Seamen at the home port of the ‘ incapacitated seaman, or even to have the benefit of the opinion of the Director-General of Health.
– The amendment would not prevent him from doing that.
– Yes; because under the amendment the Minister could not do these things until after consultation with the seaman’s medical adviser. The Minister should be unfettered in the exercise of his discretion. No such amplification as that suggested by the amendment is contained in the Commonwealth Employees Act, the New South Wales Compensation Act, or in any other of the more important State .compensation acts. The words proposed to be added by Senator Collings are not necessary or or desirable. Therefore the Government cannot accept the amendment.
– I regret the Minister’s statement. The objections which he has offered to the amendment exist only in his imagination. There is nothing in this clause requiring the Minister to consult with the Commonwealth DirectorGeneral of Health. The insertion of the words proposed would make it read -
In addition to any compensation payable by the employer under this Act in respect of personal injury caused to a seaman by accident arising out of or in the course of his employment, the employer shall pay the cost, not exceeding in any case the sum of £25, of such medical, surgical and hospital expenses in relation to the injury as are, in the opinion of the Minister administering this Act, after consultation with the seaman’s medical adviser, reasonably necessary.
The Minister would have complete freedom, before or after consulting with the seaman’s medical adviser,’ to get the opinion of any other authority. I do not know how many authorities he might desire to consult, ‘but in justice to an injured seaman, one should he the seaman’s own medical adviser. I cannot understand why the Minister should imagine that there is some sinister motive behind this amendment. We on this side do not care now many authorities are consulted by the Minister, but we shall do all in our power to ensure that one authority is the injured seaman’s medical adviser.
– I direct the attention of the Leader of the Opposition to the effect on the clause of the interpolation of the words contained in his amendment. In its present form the clause makes provision for the payment of medical, surgical, hospital and other expenses to an injured seaman. The amendment would fetter the Minister in the exercise of his discretion because consultation with the seaman’s medical adviser would be a condition precedent to action by the Minister. In some cases there might be interminable delay if consultation with a seaman’s medical adviser were made mandatory. The Minister could not arrive at a decision. Furthermore, in the event of that medical adviser’s death, no payment could be made. The insertion of the amendment would not have the effect desired by the Leader of the Opposition; on the contrary it might, in some cases, prevent the Minister from giving the relief contemplated under this proposed new section. In the event of an accident, surgical or medical treatment would be urgently necessary. The nature of the treatment and its cost would appear in the records of the hospital or surgery where it was given, and the first duty of the Minister, in case of dispute, would be to produce the record. The addition of the words suggested by the Leader of the Opposition, might operate to the detriment rather than to the advantage of a seaman claiming compensation. The clause as drafted permits the Minister to act in whatever way he thinks fit.
– I am interested in legal technicalities mentioned by Senator A. J. McLachlan, but they carry no weight with me. The Minister administering the act would be the only individual concerned in fixing reasonable compensation for hospital, surgical or medical expenses incurred by an injured seaman. We have just been told that the Minister might desire to consult certain authorities. I have no desire whatever to prevent that; but I am very definitely of the opinion that a seaman’s own medical adviser and the seaman himself would be in the best position to know what compensation is reasonably necessary. The suggestion that ‘because my amendment would make it mandatory for the Minister to first consult a seaman’s medical adviser, it might cause delay, seems to me to be an attempt to cloud the issue. It is not right that the Minister should decide what payment shall be made without first consulting the medical adviser of the injured seaman.
– The amendment would make consultation with the medical adviser of an injured seaman a condition precedent to the payment of compensation.
– Of course. We say, however,- that the Minister, if he so desired, might consult whatever other authorities he pleased. Our contention is that in fairness to an injured seaman, his medical adviser should be consulted.
– Why make prior consultation mandatory?
– The suggestion is timely. The insertion of the words, “if so requested by the seaman”, after the word “ Act “ in the last line of the clause, will probably be acceptable to the Leader of the Opposition.
– I have no objection to the suggested alteration if it meets with the approval of the committee.
.- Whether it be made mandatory or not for the Minister to consult the medical adviser of an injured seaman, the absurdity of the amendment is so apparent that I am surprised that the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings) should have submitted it. All that the Minister could consult a seaman’s medical adviser about would be the reasonableness or otherwise of the fees charged by the doctor himself. The amendment is not capable of any other interpretation.
, - The more one studies the proposed new section the more dangerous it appears to be. It gives the Minister full power to assess the hospital, medical, and surgical expenses incurred in respect of an injured seaman. In one case the Minister might assess these expenses at £11 10s., but later the injured seaman might be expected to pay an additional £5 15s.
– Surely the honorable senator does not suggest that the Minister would arbitrarily fix upon an amount of £11 10s.?
– No ; but since we are considering legislation which will vitally affect the interests of seamen we should state its terms clearly, so as to avoid misunderstanding or difficulty in its administration. I approve the amendment because it would assist the Minister in determining what would be just compensation, and the interests of an injured seaman would be safeguarded. At first I thought that the clause was quite a reasonable one, but, after studying it carefully, I came to the conclusion that an amendment was desirable, and the best suggestion that has been made is that of the Leader of the Opposition. Senator A. .T. McLachlan pointed out that a difficulty might arise in the event of the death of the medical adviser of an injured person; but, under the amendment, the injured person would not be confined to a particular doctor. The medical adviser would be the doctor selected for the purpose by the injured worker.
Question put -
That the words proposed to be inserted (Senator COLLING’S amendment) he so inserted.
The committee divided. (Chairman - Senator James
Question so resolved in the negative.
Senator ALLAN MacDONALD (Western
Australia - Assistant Minister) [5.11]. - I move -
That, before the proviso to proposed now section OA, the following proviso be inserted: - “ Provided that an employer shall not be liable to ‘pay the cost of medical, surgical and hospital expenses both independently of and also under this section: “.
The necessity for the proviso arises from the fact that medical expenses are additional to compensation, and would not come within the scope of section 5, under which an injured seaman is specifically prevented from receiving compensation under both the Seamen’s Compensation Act and other acts. He must elect as to which act he will take advantage of. Honorable senators will agree that it is not equitable that an employer should be put to the expense of providing for medical treatment under two separate acts in respect of the one injury.
Amendment agreed to. 5b. Where a seaman sustains, by accident arising out of and in the course of his employment, any of the injuries specified in the first column of the third schedule to this act, the compensation payable under this act shall, when the. injury results in total or partial incapacity, be the amount specified in the second column of that schedule opposite the specification of the injury in the first column, less any amount received” by the seaman under the first schedule to this act, or by way of wages under any act, Imperial act or State ‘et, and less the weekly cost of maintenance of the seaman for which the employer is liable under any such act, during any -period of his total incapacity arising from his injury :
.- I move -
That, af tei’ the word “ incapacity “, the words “if the seaman so elects” be inserted.
I have submitted this amendment on behalf of Senator Arthur. Representatives of the Seamen’s Union have conferred with members of the Opposition, mid, after careful consideration of the hil], several proposed amendments have been circulated. The proposed new section 5b corresponds with section 12 of the Common wealth Employees Compensation Act 1930. The corresponding provision in the New South Wales act is section 16, which permits a worker to elect whether he shall take the lump sum provided for in the relevant schedule, oi whether he shall take weekly payments. Proposed new section ob, as it now reads, limits a seaman’s right to compensation to the amount specified in r lie second column of the third sc’hedule in respect of each listed injury, less any amount received by the seaman under the first schedule. We do not know of any case which involved consideration of the question whether a worker covered by section 12 of the Commonwealth act was limited to the amount so specified, even in a case where the weekly payments might, or would have, exceeded such amounts. The section is, however, open to that construction, and, for that reason, and for the purpose of definitely conferring a right of election on n seaman, we suggest that the words mentioned should be added.
An anomaly might arise if the proposed new section means what we believe it does in its present form, inasmuch as the seaman might be permanently and totally incapacitated when suffering none of the injuries specified in the first column of the schedule, and in that event his right to (receive .weekly payments would not be exhausted when he received payments aggregating £750. The seaman who is permanently and totally incapacitated by reason of his having sustained one or more of the injuries specified in the first, column of the third schedule would be limited to £750. That schedule corresponds with the third schedule to the Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act. If also corresponds to a great extent to the schedule contained in section 16 of the Workers’ Compensation Act of New South Wales. Attention is drawn to the fact that the injuries in respect of which £750 is-specified as the amount payable almost certainly involve total and permanent incapacity. These remarks have particular application to the position which arises where such injuries are suffered, because, if the injured seaman has not the right to accept weekly payments, he , cannot recover more than £750. Accordingly, it i3 submitted that the words “if the seaman so elects “ should be inserted in the proposed new section 5b, having particular regard to the fact that £750 does not appear to be sufficient compensation for a seaman who is permanently and totally incapacitated. The advisers of the Seamen’s Union, in collaboration with several members of the Opposition, have examined practically every detail of the bill, and this amendment is regarded as a particularly desirable one.
– During my speech on the second reading of the bill, I explained that the purpose of the proposed new section 5b is to provide certain improved allowances in respect of definite and specified injuries. I indicated that a seaman who had lost the index finger of his right hand might receive, through weekly payments, in respect of such injury a relatively small sum which was not in any degree commensurate with the disability which he would suffer for the rest of his life. Under the proposed amendment, he would receive a lump sum payment of £150. If the seaman were given the option to elect to have a lump sum in preference to weekly payments, it is conceivable that such election might act detrimentally to his own interests, or the interests of his dependants. For example, a seaman who lost a leg would, under the provisions of the proposed new section 5b, be entitled to receive, by way of compensation, a lump sum of £600. If, having the right to elect to accept a lump sum payment of £600, he did not do so, and later was unfortunate enough to die from some cause not associated with the accident, or bc killed in a street accident, the weekly payments would cease on his death, and his dependants would be the losers. The seaman concerned might have drawn his weekly payments for a relatively short period. In the interests of both the injured seaman and the shipowners who are required to meet the liability, it is considered that the payment of definite sums in respect of specified injuries is most desirable. For those reasons, I cannot, accept the amendment.
. - This is an amendment on which the Opposition is particularly keen. The proposed new section as it stands is exceptionally dangerous. It provides that a man who incurs an injury to his arm by which he is totally and permanently incapacitated, may get compensation to the limit of £750. If he loses his arm he can get only the scheduled sum, although he may be permanently and totally incapacitated. As a matter of fact, the employer might benefit if the amendment is accepted, for an employee might elect to accept weekly payments. In its present form, the proposed new section is particularly dangerous to the injured seaman, because he has no option. All that Ave ask is that the simple words “if the seaman so elects “ shall be inserted. After .all, the seaman is the person who is injured, and, therefore, the person most concerned. Under this legislation he will be given certain rights. We ask that he shall be the person to say which of the benefits he will accept. I emphasize that these amendments are the result of close collaboration with the representatives of the seamen. Unless the Assistant Minister (Senator Allan MacDonald) can show that serious harm would follow the acceptance of the amendment, I ask him to accept it.
.- I confess that I do not understand what the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings) desires. Is a person who has lost an arm, for which the schedule provides £600 by way of compensation, to have the option of saying that he will take either £600 or £750?
– That is not intended ?
– Then what is intended ?
– Apparently the Leader of the Opposition thinks that if the seaman does not make an election he will come under the provisions of the principal act.
– He should be given the option of deciding whether he would accept the lump sum to which he was entitled, or waive that claim, and continue to draw the weekly sum payable to him because of .total and permanent incapacity.
– He wants to have the option of saying whether he will take £600 cash down or £750 spread over a period ?
– That is right.
– Should he die, his dependants would be left unprovided for.
– If the schedule says that he should get a certain sum, he should not have the option of saying that he would take more in deferred pay* ments. What is the use of prescribing £600 if we do not stick to that sum? If the Leader of the Opposition argued that £600 was not sufficient, I could understand him.
– Cannot Senator Leckie see that the injured seaman may eventually become so much better that he is able to undertake some kind of employment? All that we ask is that he shall be given the right to select which of the two things-
– What is the other thing?
– It is shown in the schedule.
– There is no alternative in the schedule.
– If honorable senators will study the third schedule to this bill they will see that it corresponds to the third, schedule of the Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act and also to the schedule contained in section 16 of the Workers’ Compensation Act of New South Wales. I draw attention to the fact that an injury in respect of which £750 is specified as the amount payable almost certainly involves total and permanent incapacitation. The provisions of the third schedule have particular application to the position which arises where certain injuries are suffered, because if the injured seaman has not the right to accept weekly payments he cannot recover more than £750. The Opposition asks that the words “ if the seaman so elects “ shall be inserted in the clause, having particular regard to the fact that £750 does not appear to be sufficient compensation for a seaman who is permanently and totally incapacitated. We do not ask that he shall get either one or the other, but that he shall have the option to say whether he will accept the amount specified in the schedule, or prefers to take weekly payments during his incapacity. The limit is £750, but the amount may be less than the specified amount if the injured seaman goes back to work of any kind.
– That is not in the bill.
– If the honorable senator reads this clause in conjunction with the third schedule he will find that both these things are provided for in the bill. All we are asking is that an injured seaman shall be given the right to elect under which part he will take his allowance, that is, whether he will take his compensation in weekly payments, or in a lump sum.
Senator ALLAN MacDONALD (Western
Australia - Assistant Minister) [5.34]. - The principal act contains no schedule of disabilities in respect of which compensation is payable. This measure is designed to rectify that position by definitely specifying the disabilities in respect of which a seaman will be entitled to compensation, and the amount of compensation payable in respect of each specified injury. Henceforth, he will know what amount he will be entitled to in respect of an injury, and his employer will know exactly what he will have to pay. If the proposed amendment be adopted, a claimant may do himself, and his dependants, a very grave injury by electing to accept his compensation in weekly payments. I cited, for instance, the case of a man who loses an index finger. Under the schedule embodied in this measure he would be entitled to £15.0 compensation, but if he were enabled to elect to take his compensation in weekly payments, and did so, say, at the maximum rate of £3 10s. a week, and, as is usually the case with injuries of this kind, he recovered within ten weeks, he would receive only £35 instead of £150. I repeat that it will be in the interests of the seamen themselves to reject the amendment.
– The amendment proposed by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Senator Keane) is not so abstruse to me as it seems to be to some honorable senators opposite. It simply proposes that the injured seaman “should be given the option of taking his compensation at a weekly rate instead of in a lump sum. Senator Leckie could not understand how a mau, instead of receiving £600 compensation in a lump sum, might receive £750 by taking his compensation in weekly payments.
– 1 merely asked if that was what was intended in the amendment; I oan understand it all right. “
– I hope that other honorable senators opposite also understand the amendment. After all, the seamen themselves are most concerned in this matter, and their union leaders, after consulting them on the subject, have asked the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings) to press for this amendment.
– Is the honorable senator sure of that?
– Yes. The union leaders, after consultation with the men, have stated that they desire the measure to be amended as proposed by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. Furthermore, they have arrived at this conclusion after taking the best legal advice available. In view of the statement made by the Assistant Minister (Senator Allan MacDonald) in his opening remarks that the Government wants to do something for the seamen - and I believe that it does - he should be prepared to meet the wishes of the men as expressed in this amendment.
– I fail to see why the Government cannot accept the amendment, because it merely proposes that an injured seaman shall have the option of accepting his compensation either in a lump sum or in weekly payments. I point out that during his period of sickness he must be paid weekly, and when he resumes work the total amount he has received will be deducted from the amount of compensation to which he will he entitled in respect of his injury. The Assistant
Minister (Senator Allan MacDonald) suggested that a man who loses an index finger, for instance, would be better advised to accept the lump sum, but I point out that should he accept his compensation in that way and subsequently suffer a recurrence of his injury, either through another finger, or some other portion of his hand becoming affected, he would have no claim to further compensation.
– What total amount should he be allowed in weekly payments ?
– The maximum compensation specified for the injury he had sustained.
– How could that possibly be to his advantage?
– Does not the honorable senator’s difficulty arise from the fact that specific injuries and specific amounts are provided for? Under the first schedule of the principal act, which it is proposed to amend by clause S of this measure, tho honorable senator will find a very different set of conditions.
– We arc now dealing with the injuries and amounts of compensation listed in the third schedule, and all that the amendment seeks is that the injured seaman shall be given the option of saying whether, under’ the third schedule, in respect of either total incapacity or partial injury, he will accept a lump sum or weekly payments. Immediately he accepts his compensation in a lump sum he will have no further claim in respect of that injury. However, should he desire to have the compensation spread over a certain period in weekly payments he should be entitled to that arrangement-
– In that way the honorable senator will be doing him an injustice.
– I admit that I know of cases in which the part of a finger had to be amputated and, after a lump sum of compensation had been agreed upon and accepted by the employee and there had been a recurrence of the injury, the employee was debarred from applying for any further compensation. I admit that cases of that kind are likely to arise, but it would not happen under the third schedule where the amounts are definitely set out.
– How could the amendment benefit an injured man in a case of that kind.
– The only benefit an injured man would receive under this amendment would be that he would be given the option of taking his compensation in a lump sum or in weekly payments. He is asking for that option. I point out that such an option is allowed under the Workers’ Compensation Act of Western Australia.’ As Senator Herbert Hays suggests, a man might be foolish to elect to take his compensation in a lump sum. Nevertheless, the seamen desire the right of making that choice, and should a man make a mistake it would be his own fault. A man, on recovering from an injury, might be unable to carry on his occupation as a seaman and might desire to purchase a small business. In such circumstances he would naturally elect to take his compensation in a lump sum. The Government has no reason to reject the amendment, particularly as it is a definite request by the seamen themselves. It would involve no extra cost to the employers.
– What would happen to a man who immediately elected to take his compensation in weekly payments? Would he not lose his other right ?
– No ; he would still retain his other right, and the bill enables him to obtain it by collecting the remainder of his compensation in a lump sum.
– From Senator Fraser’s remarks T gather that, under the amendment, it is intended to give an injured seaman the right, at any time during the period of his injury, to elect whether he will take the balance of his compensation in a lump sum, or continue to take it in weekly payments. Such a request is unreasonable. Apparently, it is proposed that if an injured man had been receiving £3 10s. a week for six months he would elect to take the balance of his compensation in a lump sum.
– Such a provision would defeat the real purpose of this measure, which is to clarify the position generally hy specifying amounts of compensation to be payable in respect of specific injuries. To my mind any man who elected to take his compensation in weekly instalments instead of in a lump sum would do himself an injustice. The amendment instead of clarifying the position would merely continue the old practice of making assessments in respect of each injury.
– .1 cannot understand how we manage to get into arguments on matters which are obviously simple. In order to explain more clearly the very slight alteration proposed in the amendment I shall read proposed new section 5b -
Where a seaman sustains, by accident arising out of and in the course of his employment, any of the injuries specified in the first column of the Third Schedule to this Act, the compensation payable under this Act shall, when the injury results in total or partial incapacity, be the amount specified in the second column of that Schedule opposite the specification of the injury in the first column, less any amount received by the seaman under the First Schedule to this Act, or by way of wages under any Act, Imperial Act or State Act, and less the weekly cost of maintenance of the seaman for which the employer is liable under any such Act, during any period of his total incapacity arising from his injury:
Provided that a seaman shall not, in respect of personal injury caused by any one accident, bc entitled to receive as compensation under this section an amount exceeding Seven hundred and fifty pounds in addition to such expenses as are awarded to him under section five a of this Act.
Should a seaman lose a limb he would be entitled to the £600 specified in the schedule, but should he merely injure it and be incapacitated sufficiently long he would be entitled to weekly payments up to £750. In the Queensland act it is definitely laid down that, “Nothing in the schedule shall limit the amount payable during total incapacity except the maximum amount payable under this act “. The maximum amount payable under that act is £750. Under this bill, should a seaman lose a limb in the course of his employment he would be entitled either to £600 or to weekly payments amounting to £750, and after that, he could not receive any more. Surely it would be fair to allow the seaman to elect whether he would accept a lump sum or weekly payments ? He would have to decide whether he would take £600 in a lump sum or receive weekly payments. It has been suggested that such a right of choice might be injurious to a seaman ; but on the other hand it might benefit the employer.
– It might be dangerous.
– Surely it would not be dangerous to give an injured seaman the right to elect what he should do. I know of numerous cases in which the injured person has sought a lump sum and the employer has informed him that as his condition is improving he will soon be able to resume work. On the other hand the employer may inform the employee that as his condition is not likely to improve he should draw the money in a lump sum. All that I want to ensure is that in such cases a seaman should have the right to elect which of these courses he would adopt. I know that he could not have it both ways.
– This position is somewhat complicated, and I am rather inclined to agree with the Leader of the Opposition that if an injured person is given the right to elect it may not really amount to much. According to the proviso an injured person cannot receive more than £750, and I am afraid that if this legislation is not considered carefully we may do something injurious to seamen. As the Assistant Minister has promised to re-commit this clause I suggest that he ask the Crown Law authorities to examine the position because it is not quite so simple as some suggest. If the amendment were withdrawn, temporarily, it would also give the Leader of the Opposition an opportunity to study the proposal further. The bill expressly provides that £750 shall be the maximum amount payable, but if this legislation be carefully studied, and read into the principal act, it may be found that the position is not as some suggest.
– A few moments ago I interjected that the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition might he dangerous in that it would enable an injured seaman, should he so desire, to forgo his claim to the difference between £600 and £750. A seaman would, in the first stages of his injury, be entitled to claim the amount specified in the first schedule which may involve a total PaY.ment of £750. Should the amendment be agreed to, an injured worker would have the right to elect whether he would accept a lump sum payment of, say, £600 before he had recovered from his injury. Does not the existing act provide for a lump sum payment in the event of the loss of a finger, foot, arm, or eye, as provided in the third schedule of this bill? In most workmen’s compensation legislation provision already exists whereby a worker has a legal right to demand a lump sum payment of the compensation to which he is entitled. I understand that there is no such provision in the Seamen’s Compensation Act.
– That is what this bill proposes to remedy.
– Provision has been made for a lump sum payment to bc made when an injured person has recovered sufficiently to enable a computation to be made of the compensation to which he is entitled. If the bill so provides all that the amendment will do is to give the seaman the right to forfeit, before he has properly recovered, the difference between £600 and £750.
– The honorable senator is quite wrong.
– I do not wish to give the seaman the right, while suffering from an injury, to barter away that to which he is entitled.
– There appears to be some misunderstanding concerning the effect of the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings). The bill provides that weekly payments shall be made in respect of certain injuries. Should the injury be one of those specified in the third schedule, a fixed lump sum payment will be made, and the claimant will have no option. Should the injuries not come within that category the employee must accept a weekly payment. In both cases a limit is fixed. The fixed amounts are in respect of certain injuries shown in the third schedule. The weekly payments provided in the first schedule must not exceed £750. I agree with the Leader of the Opposition that the claimant should have the option. A man who has been injured in. such a way that he cannot follow his usual avocation may wish to receive compensation in a lump sum. in order to enable him to purchase a small business. Should he wish to do so, the cash would be available to enable him to make a fresh start. On the other hand, should he be a married man with a family, it might suit him better to accept weekly payments. I believe that there is a lot of merit in suggesting that there should not be a hard-and-fast rule, because under both schedules the maximum is fixed. In some instances it would be rather dangerous to give a claimant the right to draw a lump sum. An injured married man might be requested by his wife to accept weekly payments in order to ensure that there shall be a regular income at least for a time. Should a claimant have no alternative but to accept a lump sum payment, if addicted to alcohol, he might spend the lot in hotels, and leave his family stranded. It is rather dangerous to compel a claimant to take his compensation in a lump sum, and I suggest that he be allowed to take it in instalments, or what is even better, that he have the opportunity to elect the way in which it shall be paid.
– There is not the danger in my amendment that some honorable senators suggest. The real danger is that a claimant under the third schedule must take, say, £600, in a lump sum because the bill provides that such payments shall be made in accordance with the third schedule. Our desire is to safeguard the interests of an injured seaman by affording him the option of accepting a lump sum as compensation or continuing to draw weekly instalments until the total amount payable under the first schedule has been exhausted. Although I do not follow Senator Wilson’s reasoning, I agree with his conclusions.” This proposed new section will be a danger unless the words which we propose should be inserted are inserted.
– Has the honorable senator considered whether the amendment might deprive an injured seaman of some benefit under the proposed third schedule?
– I am willing that consideration of the amendment should be postponed until the Government’s legal advisers have had an opportunity to examine it. But I do not wish the issue to be confused. It is possible that, under the amendment, a man might elect to accept something less than he could otherwise receive under the third schedule.We say that if an injury results in total incapacity, the injured seaman should be given the option of weekly payments until he exhausts the proposed lump sum provided in the third schedule.
– I shall have theproposed amendment further examined during the dinner-hour, and, if necessary, will have the proposed new section re-committed.
Amendment - by leave - withdrawn.
Amendment (by Senator Allan MacDonald) agreed to -
That the proviso, proposed new section 5b, be left out.
the death of a seaman is caused by any of those diseases, and the disease was caused, within twelve months prior to the date of incapacity or death, by his employment as a seaman, the employer who last employed the seaman shall, subject to this act, be liable to pay to the seaman or his dependants compensation . . .
– I move -
That the words “or death,” paragraph (b), be left out.
We on this side are advised that under the proposed new section as drafted, the dependants of a seaman who died from any of the diseases mentioned in the fourth schedule might he unable to receive compensation. Such compensation is payable only if incapacitation occurs within twelve months of contracting the disease. If the words “ or death “ are allowed to remain, dependants of a person who was incapacitated within the prescribed period, but died two or three months later, would he ineligible for compensation because the disease had been contracted more than twelve months prior to death.
– It seems to me that the proposed amendment would not alter that position unless the word “incapacity “ also were omitted.
– Apparently the object of the Government is to limit the scope of compensation claims. The proposed new section will throw upon claimants the obligation to prove that incapacity had arisen as a result of a disease contracted within twelve months prior to that incapacity.
– That is not why the words were included.
– Our advisers are of the opinion that under the section as drafted, death must occur within the twelve months if the dependants are to draw compensation.
Sitting suspended from 6.15 to 8 p.m.
– If the words “or death “ were retained, the rights of seamen would be unduly limited. If an employee, who contracted a disease in January , and became incapacitated about November of the same year, made application for compensation, and proved that the disease had been contracted within the previous twelve months, he would have the right to draw compensation. If, after receiving compensation for a few months, he died in the following March, his death would have occurred fifteen months after the date when the disease had been contracted, and, because of that fact, his dependants would receive no compensation. That is one interpretation of the proposed new section as drafted. I understand that the Crown law authorities state that it is immaterial whether the words “ or death “ be retained or deleted; therefore, I ask the Minister to accept the amendment.
– I see no justification for the contention that the omission of the words “or death’” would improve the position of a disabled seaman; but, as I am advised that the words are not essential, I have no objection to their deletion.
Amendment agreed to.
Amendment by Senator Collings agreed to -
That, at the end of sub-section (1), proposed section 5c, the following words be inserted: - “and, for the purposes of section 0 of this act, the date of incapacity shall be deemed to be the date of the occurrence of the accident “.
– I move -
That, after the word “ shall “, proposed new sub-section (2), the words “if so required” be inserted.
There might be occasions when the employe]’ would not require the employee to supply information as to the names and addresses of other employers of the seamen during the twelve months prior to the date of his incapacity. If, however, the employer asked for the information, it should be mandatory on the employee to furnish it.
– I accept that amendment.
Amendment agreed to.
.- I move-
That, :lt the end of proposed new section 5 (o), the following new sub-section be inserted : - “ (5) For the purposes of section 0 of the principal act, the disease shall be deemed to have been caused at the time of the seaman’s incapacity “.
I have moved for the insertion of these words because it is not clear whether section 6 of the principal act applies to diseases mentioned in the fourth schedule. If it does not, there appears to be no limitation of the period in which the seaman may claim compensation. Paragraph 4 of proposed new section 5c seems to indicate that certificates from a duly qualified medical practitioner and a medical inspector of seamen are to be regarded as conclusive in the seaman’s favour, in the absence of proof to the contrary. This paragraph corresponds with sub-section 5 of section 10 of the Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act 1930. “We suggest that the time of the contraction of the disease should be taken to be the time when the incapacity was first discovered.
I was inclined to accept this amendment, but I am advised that, from a drafting point of view, its meaning is not quite clear. I suggest that the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings) would achieve his object if he moved to add, at the end of paragraph 1 of proposed new section 5c, the words “ and, for the purposes of section 6 of this act, the date of incapacity shall be deemed to be the date of the occurrence of the accident “.
– I am prepared to adopt that suggestion.
Amendment - by leave - withdrawn.
– I move-
That after proposed new sub-section (5c) the following new sub-section bc inserted: - ” 5d. Notwithstanding anything contained in this act, a seaman shall not, in respect of personal injury caused by any one accident, be entitled to receive as compensation under this act an amount exceeding Seven hundred and fifty pounds in addition to such expenses as arc awarded to him under section five a of this act.”
The effect of the proposed new subsection is to limit to £750 the amount of compensation payable in any circumstances. It will be noted that the proviso has application only to- proposed subsection 5b.
– The proposed new sub-section appears to provide that, in respect of any particular industry, no man shall be entitled to receive more than £750 as compensation, If that be so, it takes away rights now enjoyed under the principal act, for under its provisions there is no limit to’ the amount payable to men who are totally and permanently incapacitated. The proposal of the Assistant Minister (Senator Allan MacDonald) is in lieu of the last paragraph of proposed sub-section ob, which has been deleted. I do not understand exactly what is proposed to be accomplished by the new sub-section.
– Does the proposed new sub-section deny the right of a seaman to sue under common law?
– It limits to £750 the amount which may be paid to him.
– As this is a most technical bill, the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings) may desire to re-commit certain clauses after further consideration of amendments. Should he desire to do so, the ‘Government will offer no objection. 1 suggest that the committee proceed with other clauses, about the meaning of which there can be no doubt.
– I am grateful to the VicePresident of the Executive Council (Senator McLeay) for his assurance. I wished to give the Acting Minister an opportunity to explain his proposal really, but I shall now give to the Senate my interpretation of it. If agreed to, the proposed new section will mean that in no circumstances will an injured seaman be entitled to receive more than £750. Under the existing legislation, an injured seaman may continue to collect his weekly amount as long as his incapacity lasts. Under the Minister’s proposal payment will cease after £7.50 has been paid, even though the seaman is still incapacitated. Naturally, the Opposition is opposed to the proposed new subsection, because it takes from the injured seaman rights which ho now possesses.
– I should like to know what is meant by one accident. It may happen that, as the result of an accident, a seaman loses the sight of both eyes, has a leg broken and becomes paralysed in his lower limbs. The schedule provides compensation amounting to £750 in respect of the total and incurable paralysis of limbs or mental powers. A similar sum is provided for the loss of both eyes. Are we to understand that, in such an event, the injured man could not be paid more than £750?
– The meaning is clear; £750 is the maximum amount which may be paid as compensation to any recipient.
– At present, th& weekly payments may continue indefinitely, so long as the incapacity lasts. The Opposition does not want that to be altered.
Senator ALLAN MacDONALD.One of the purposes of the hill is to stipulate the amounts to be paid as compensation for specified injuries. In the third schedule the maximum amount specified for any injury is £750. The proposed new sub-section will limit to £750 the amount of compensation to be paid to any recipient. There must be a maximum.
– We do not agree with that contention. If a man continues to suffer, he should continue to receive compensation.
Senator ALLAN MacDONALD.The responsible view is that there must be a limit. Payments cannot, like the brook, go on for ever.
– The Acting Minister has supplied me with just the ammunition that I require. Having said that the responsible view is that there must be a limit to the amount of compensation, he added that payments could not, like the brook, go on for ever. We contend that as there is no limit to the injury - it may go on indefinitely - there must not be any stoppage of the compensation to which the injured man is entitled. It must be paid for as long as the incapacity lasts.
– Senator Armstrong asked by interjection whether the proposed new sub-section denied to a seaman the right to sue under the common law. Obviously, it does not. It is important for us to understand that at common law a seaman has the right to claim for the full amount of the damage suffered if his employer has been negligent. In such circumstances, there is no limit whatsoever to the damages he may claim.
– What if the employer has not been negligent?
– If he has not been negligent, he is not a guilty party. Under the Seamen’s Compensation Act, compensation must be paid to an injured seaman even though the employer has not in any way been negligent. That is an extraordinary liability to place upon an employer. As the Acting Minister says, it is imperative that there shall be some limit, otherwise a perfectly innocent employer, who had in no sense been negligent, might be forced into bankruptcy because, a seaman in his employ had unfortunately been injured or become sick.
– Would not the employer bo insured?
– I can assure the honorable senator that if there were no limit to the employer’s liability, great difficulty would be experienced in insuring employers at all. Insurance companies will insure employers against negligence, for the reason that they know that employers take steps to ensure that there shall be no negligence. Similarly, they will insure when there is a limit to their liability. The suggestion that there should be no limit to the liability of the employer, even though he has not in any sense been negligent, is unthinkable. I support the contention of the Assistant Minister that there must be some limit in this respect. There is no limit where negligence is proved. If an employer has been negligent, he must answer for the consequences ; but for an innocent man to have an unlimited liability placed upon him would be unjust.
.- I cannot understand why this amendment was introduced at this late hour, especially when it covers an aspect of insurance which was not discussed with the representatives of the men most concerned. I have a recollection of an arbitration award giving full compensation rights to men who were injured, or became ill after signing on or after leaving port. I confess that I do not like the idea of limiting to £750 the amount payable to an injured man by way of compensation. As has been pointed out, a seaman would not need to be ill for very many months before he exhausted the maximum of £750. I should like the Assistant Minister to take this opportunity to explain the relationship between the provisions of the Navigation Act and those of this legislation, so far as they deal with privileges and benefits to seamen.
– There, is quite a close relationship between the privileges provided for seamen under the Navigation Act and those provided under this compensation legislation, but a considerable time would be required to deal with thai: relationship in detail. In any case, it is not material to the consideration of this measure. At the moment we are discussing a proposed new section, which fixes the maximum compensation payable at £750, and, in doing so, we are only following the usual practice in workers’ compensation legislation. Each State act fixes the maximum amount of compensation payable. Therefore, there is nothing novel in this amendment. It is not very involved, and, I submit, honorable senators will be well advised to adopt it, in order to enable the industry to know exactly to what it ia committed under this measure.
– What are the maximum amounts fixed under the workers’ compensation legislation in the States?
– They are- New South Wales, £1000; Queensland, £750; Western Australia. £750, phis medical expenses; South Australia, £700; Tasmania, £600; and Victoria, £800, plus ambulance, medical and hospital expenses.
– The proposal of the Government to limit the maximum of compensation payable to £750, is not in keeping with the remark made by the Assistant Minister (Senator Allan MacDonald) that the Government is anxious to do something in the interests of the seamen. It has been said that if the committee agreed with the contention of the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings) that nothing should be done to stop weekly payments to a seaman before he recovered from his injury, many employers might, be forced into bankruptcy.
– That would be quite possible.
– Yet, there is nothing to prevent an injured seaman from suing his employer at common law and claiming damages in excess of £750. What would be the position of an employer if one of his employees were awarded damages in excess of that amount ? The jury has not yet been born which would award damages so low as £750 to a man who, through the negligence of his employer, met with an accident which resulted in his becoming totally and permanently paralysed ? And in such circumstances the employer would be obliged to pay. Mr. J. T. Lang, when Premier of New South Wales, introduced a measure compelling the so-called captains of industry in that State to insure their employees against accident, with the result that all of them would be able to meet damages awarded against them in a case of the kind which I have just described.
– Insurance in respect of workers’ compensation is compulsory in each of the States.
– In that case, the argument advanced by honorable senators opposite that the fixation of a maximum in excess of £750 would involve the bankruptcy of many employers is merely a quibble. If an employer insures his employees against accident, he will have no difficulty in providing a greater measure of compensation. On this point, honorable senators opposite, apparently, are again endeavouring to mislead the committee. I suggest that the Government should not proceed with the amendment proposed by the Assistant Minister.
Another point concerns the position of seamen in New South Wales who might meet with an accident which would entitle them to the maximum amount of compensation. Would such men, because they happened to be seamen, be deprived of a measure of compensation equal to that to which other workers in that State are entitled under the State Workers’ Compensation Act ? That point is uppermost in my mind. I cannot believe that honorable senators opposite are of opinion that the sum of £750 is a fair amount to fix as the maximum compensation payable to an employee who is permanently incapacitated through accident. I prefer to believe that, as was the case when they opposed the Opposition’s amendment to increase the medical allowance from £25 to £100, they are merely supportingthe Government on this point because they regard it as a matter of Government policy, and are, therefore, bound to support it. I urge them to abandon that attitude on this occasion. In view of the fact that the maximum compensation payable under the Workers’ Compensation Act of New South Wales is £1,000, it is unreasonable to fix the maximum under this measure at. £750. One would expect the Government to specify an amount at least equal to that prescribed under the act of New South Wales. Indeed, it could reasonably be expected to fix it at a greater amount, say, £1,250. Honorable senators opposite have an opportunity to extend a measure of social justice to the seamen by supporting their claim -for a greater maximum. The Government has also acted unfairly towards the seamen, I suggest, in proceeding with this measure without giving them and their legal advisers an opportunity to peruse the amendments now being proposed.
– This proposed new section was previously contained in the principal act.
– If a comparison be made between the words which have been deleted and those proposed to be inserted it will be seen that the provision is not the same. It is of vital importance to the seamen that, in respect of total incapacity, a maximum amount of compensation should not be fixed, and the action of the Government in limiting the amount at £750, is grossly unjust. This amendment was not circulated sufficiently early to enable us to submit it to thos.e who are watching the seamen’s interests. If the Government fixes the maximum amount of compensation to be payable in the event of total incapacity at £750, the seamen will have little for which to be thankful.
– Will the Assistant Minister explain whether this measure will supersede Section 132 of the Navigation Act, which reads -
Where a seaman or apprentice belonging to a ship registered in Australia is left on shore at any place in Australia, in any manner authorized by law, by reason of illness or accident in the service of the ship incapacitating him from following his duty, he shall be entitled -
Under that section the wages of a seaman, who is incapacitated, continue until he has recovered, but under this proposed new section the total compensation payable to such person will be £750.
– If this proposed new section be agreed to, the maximum amount of compensation payable in the event of total incapacity will be £750. If that will deprive an injured seaman of the right which he now enjoys under workmen’s compensation legislation, the committee should be so informed. The Minister should supply additional information in order to enable honorable senators to cast an intelligent vote. The Assistant Minister has been asked certain questions, and it would appear that he does not intend to supply the information sought.
– The Assistant Minister should withdraw the amendment because he does not appear to know what it means.
– I do; I have already explained it.
- Senator Fraser asked whether this measure will supersede the Navigation Act, and that information has not yet been given.
– I may inform Senator Armstrong that I know exactly what the proposed new section means, and I. have already explained it. It definitely fixes the maximum amount of compensation payable to an injured seaman. The amount provided in the bill, which has not been selected at random, is an average of the maximum amounts provided in various State workmen’s compensation acts. New South Wales provides a high maximum amount, whilst other States, such as Tasmania, provide a lower amount. There is no ambiguity about the new section, and I deny the assertion of some honorable senators opposite that the legal advisers of the seamen were unaware of this provision, because the third schedule, in which the maximum amount is provided, has been available for some weeks. During my second-reading speech I distinctly stated that the debate on the bill would be adjourned in order to give an opportunity for interested parties to study its provisions, and, if they felt aggrieved concerning the benefits provided, to submit suggestions. The proposed new section is practically the same as that which appeared in the bill when “it was first circulated, and the representatives of the seamen and other interested parties were aware that the maximum amount of compensation to be payable under this measure would be £750. I have already mentioned the benefits to which seamen are entitled under the Navigation Act, and I may now state that where such benefits are not included in the Seamen’s Compensation Act, seamen will not be deprived of any privileges. They cannot, however, expect to claim for an injury or disability under both acts. If a seaman wishes to be protected under the Seamen’s Compensation Act he must elect to remain under that act. His privileges under the Navigation Act aro in no way interfered with by this legislation. In most cases, the privileges under the Navigation Act have no relation whatever to the assistance proposed to be afforded under this bill: i
– I trust that the Assistant Minister understands that the Opposition has no desire to impede the passage of the bill, but there are certain principles for which we have to fight. Senator Wilson said that we cannot deprive the seaman of his right at common law. That may be so until he accepts compensation under this legislation, but as Boon as he does so his common law rights disappear entirely. The Assistant Minister has said that’ the Government has taken an average of the maximum amounts payable in the various States. That may be all right from the standpoint of the Government or an employer, but the injuries of seamen cannot be averaged in the same way. Under the bill as originally drafted the weekly payments to an injured seaman would continue so long as he was incapacitated; but should the proposed new section be adopted, a seaman who became paralysed or blind, a fate worse than death, would not be able to get compensation in excess of £750. This is a matter upon which the Government will not give way, but the Opposition intends to oppose the amendment with all the strength at its command. If our amendment be not accepted we shall resist the passage of the bill to the last division.
.- The crux of the discussion is that instead of this being a measure from which the seamen are to gain an advantage, it will adversely affect them in many ways. As Senator Eraser has said, the Navigation Act gives certain specified benefits to seamen. If a seaman is insured and is injured in the course of his employment he receives compensation equal to his usual weekly wage until one week after he recovers. Under this measure the maximum payment will be £750. All the shipping companies are protected through insurance with powerful companies which we are not obliged to protect. They all seem to be carrying on quite satisfactorily without special protection from this Parliament. If this measure be passed without our amendment an injured seaman may receive the maximum amount as compensation, and after it has been spent he will ‘ look to ‘ the Commonwealth for an invalid pension. Therefore, the bill merely proposes to remove the burden of compensation for injuries received by seamen from insurance companies, which can well afford to carry it, and place it upon the people of the Commonwealth. It is the duty of this Parliament to safeguard, first the interests of injured seamen, and secondly, the people of the Commonwealth, leaving the insurance companies to fend for themselves. Recent figures show that these insurance companies are extraordinarily wealthy and need no protection. We do not approve of a statutory maximum of £750 as compensation for injuries received. We do not think the limit should be even £1,000. We contend that the benefits conferred upon seamen by the Navigation Act should not be prejudiced by this measure. That legislation has been in operation for many years, and so far as I can gather, no insurance companies have been forced into bankruptcy as a result of it. I do not like delaying the passage of a measure such as this. I was very encouraged by the second-reading speech of the Minister in charge of the hill (Senator Allan Macdonald) and the remarks of the Leader of the Senate (Senator McLeay). Government supporters approved the bill, as a piece of legislation for which Australian seamen have been waiting for some years. The Government has also been helpful in accepting some amendments moved by honorable senators on this side. But now we have reached a most important section, and a united front is presented by Government supporters in an endeavour to penalize the seamen by taking away from them benefits conferred by the Navigation Act. I support the Leader of the Opposition in opposing the Government’s proposal.
.- The remarks made by my colleagues in opposition to the Government’s proposal have been very mild. Shorn of its trimmings, it contains no element of humanitarianism. As my leader (Senator Collings) has said, no matter howlong a seaman may live in agony after an accident, he is not to receive one penny more than £750. There is truth in Emerson’s statement that “ the cheapness of man is every day’s tragedy “. Because the Government believes that seamen are cheap, it is not disposed to give to them more than they can be forced to accept. Those who are opposed to the amendment are influenced by purely mercenary motives; there is not one ounce of humanitarianism in the Government’s proposal.
– If the honorable senator asked the seamen at Fremantle, whether he or I is the more humanitarian, he would get a fitting answer.
– The Minister should not lose his temper because I am getting under hia skin. If he had any humanitarianism in his make-up he would see the force of the arguments from this side of the committee. Should this amendment be not accepted, a. man who may have given the best years of his life in the maritime service will be in danger of being thrown on the industrial scrapheap if he becomes totally and permanently incapacitated through, possibly, the negligence of his employer. The maximum compensation payable Ls to be £750. If the Government can satisfy claimants with a lesser amount it will no doubt do so. The same conditions operate in respect of employees in other industries under our existing wage system. The unemployed do not receive more than the dole because, for the time being, they can be forced to accept it. Seamen are in precisely the same position. If they were organized to the same degree as are legal or medical practitioners, and . were receiving £50 or £100 a month, we should find the Government proposing to give thorn much more by way of compensation than is provided under this bill. The Government is not concerned in the slightest with how much disabled seamen deserve or are entitled to get. Because their labour is cheap, the maximum compensation is to be a paltry £750. While posing as friends of the seamen, supporters of this measure are endeavouring to limit the amount of compensation payable. The Government should be criticized in no uncertain terms, and its supporters should not be allowed to leave this chamber with the impression that they have succeeded in gulling the Opposition into the belief that the Government, in introducing this legislation, is actuated by humanitarian motives. The Government is not willing to give to the seamen one penny more than the absolute minimum which they can be forced to accept. As workers’ organizations become stronger - and they certainly will in the near future - the Government will find it increasingly difficult to impose on them conditions such as those contained in this bill. In my opinion, if a worker is insured he should, in the event of injury during his employment, be paid compensation equal at “least to the basic wage for the Test of his life. He should not be forced on to the industrial scrap-heap after payment of a paltry £750.
– When the Minister was moving tho second reading of this measure, I had a firm conviction that, if only we examined it closely enough, we would find the proverbial “ nigger in the woodpile.” I was not mistaken. I feel safe in saying that the intention is to supersede the Navigation Act, which has given some measure of protection to Australian seamen for so many years. The purpose of the bill is to limit the medical and other benefits given to seamen under the Navigation Act.
– I thought the honorable senator approved” of the bill?
– I do, but not of the proposal to limit payment, in the event of complete incapacity, to £750. The Minister has admitted that this measure will supersede the Navigation Act. Evidently that was the reason for its introduction. I tell the honorable gentleman definitely that the seamen at Fremantle will not accept the provisions of this bill in substitution of the Navigation Act. I shall not record a vote in favour of depriving the seamen of any benefits enjoyed by them under the Navigation Act.
– The committee is not discussing the Navigation Act.
– But, when this measure becomes law, very little will be left to the seamen of the benefits in regard to compensation which they now enjoy under that act.
– I am impressed by the repeated statements by the Assistant Minister (Senator Allan MacDonald) that he is anxious to do something to help the seamen; yet, under the present proposal, they would be deliberately robbed of benefits now received. Earlier in the discussion, the Assistant Minister implied that medical and hospital fees would be raised if the amount allowed under this bill for such expenses were increased from £25 to £100. If a serious accident occurred, and it would be more profitable to pay a lump sum of £750 by way of compensation instead of a weekly allowance which might continue for 30 or 40 years, the medical and hospital bills might reduce that amount by £200 or £250, Therefore, a permanently incapacitated employee who had a family dependent on him would be in a hopeless position if he were left with only £500 or £550. Let the . Assistant Minister imagine himself in ‘ the position of such a seaman. If we allowed the insurance companies and the big shipping companies to get off with such a provision as that proposed by the Government, we should be throwing on the shoulders of the taxpayers a burden which should be carried by those companies.
– The Opposition displays a lack of understanding of the provisions of the hill. Under the present act, a seaman, on becoming incapacitated, is entitled to 50 per cent, of his average weekly earnings during incapacity. If, for example, he lost a finger, he would probably be incapacitated for only about a fortnight, and, consequently, would draw 50 per cent, of two weeks’ wages on account of that injury. Under the present proposal, he would receive for the loss of a finger a lump sum of £90.
– Does the honorable senator say that the loss of a finger would not cause more than a fortnight’s absence from work?
– Many employees have returned to work a fortnight after the loss of the joint of a finger, hut, whether the period be a fortnight, a month or six weeks, the employee would, under the present law, receive only 50 per cent, of his average weekly earnings for that period. Under the amendment now proposed, the injured employee would receive a maximum amount of £750. The Opposition has said that the seamen welcome the introduction of this hill, because they know that the. measure is a vast improvement on the present act. That is why the Leader of the Opposition has been instructed to support it, but now the Opposition wants to have it both ways. It not only desires the payment of a fixed sum which may be greatly in excess of the actual loss sustained by the seaman-
– The honorable senator said that the employer would become bankrupt, if his liability were unlimited.
– If he did, that might cause loss to the seaman. As far as I am aware, the shipowners are not compelled to insure against injury to their employees. Under the act, no fixed sum is provided for, but under the amendment there would be a fixed payment which has no relation whatever to the loss suffered. The seamen have said, and rightly so, that they much prefer the payment of a fixed sum for a specified injury. That is why the Opposition sup ports this very wise proposal, but it now goes back on the whole arrangement and wants both the fixed amount and a weekly amount without a maximum. Its attitude is most unreasonable.
– I cannot allow the remarks of Senator Wilson to go unchallenged. The seamen have never said that they prefer a fixed sum, and, even if they had that would have nothing to do with the present amendment. At an earlier stage of the proceedings the Opposition asked that an injured seaman should be given an opportunity to say whether he preferred a lump sum or a weekly payment fixed in accordance with his previous earnings. The amendment provides that the injured seaman shall not, in any circumstances, be able to get more than £750. The seamen have never had an opportunity to express an opinion on this proposal. We on this side, and not honorable senators opposite, represent the class to which the seamen belong.
– We do also.
– Honorable gentlemen opposite have not been returned to this chamber by the votes of the seamen. The Opposition is united in its determination to resist this amendment in every possible way. We know that the Government will probably. succeed in this proposal, but we are determined that the issue shall -not be camouflaged. I have worked with seamen, and I have been brought up among them. I am familiar with their daily lives, their hopes and aspirations. Let us imagine that we have before us a seaman who has been, injured through no fault of his own oi- of his employer, but merely in the course of his ordinary daily avocation. The seamen play an important part in the life of this nation. If some of the things that are happeing on the other side of the world wore to take place in Australia, an appeal would be made to the seamen to do a job which no other section of the workers could do. Let us take the case of one of these men who has been injured. He may not be a gentleman and he may not be well educated, but he is essential to the economic structure of the nation: Suppose that he is paralysed or totally blind. An honorable senator opposite says to him, in effect, “I do not care what it costs you to get relief after your accident. I do not care how many weeks you were in hospital. I do not care what dependants you may have, or whether, as the result of your injury, the future of your family is black, indeed. All I am concerned about is that you will not get the £1,000 to which you would be entitled under the New South Wales law or the £800 payable in Victoria, or the £750 payable in Queensland ; but you must take £750 regardless of what it is worth to you, and not another penny will you receive”. No honorable senator on the other side of the chamber could look that seaman in the face, lying on a hospital bed, and tell him such a story as this amendment would require us as his friends to tell him. I implore honorable senators, whatever they may have done in regard to previous amendments, or whatever may be their attitude to amendments that may be submitted subsequently, not to sear their souls with the crime of being a party to this heartless proposal.
– Following representations made by Senator Armstrong in regard to expenses incurred in respect of such things as drugs and ambulances, I ask permission to amend the proposed new subsection by deleting the words “expenses ns are awarded to him” and substituting the words “ payments as are made “. The proposed new sub-section would then read - 5d. Notwithstanding anything contained in this act, a seaman shall not, in respect of personal injury caused by any one accident, be entitled to receive as compensation under this act, an amount exceeding £750 in addition to such payments as are made under section 5a of this act.
Amendment amended accordingly.
– The Assistant Minister (Senator Allan MacDonald) has not explained to my satisfaction the reason for the proposed, alteration. I. think that I can claim not to be of a suspicious nature, but . on this occasion I confess that I am suspicious. As, however, I may be entirely wrong I propose to state my suspicion in order that the Minister may put me right if I am wrong. The expenses awarded might amount to £50, but the payments made to the seaman under section 5a might total only £25. What would happen with respect to the remaining £25 which had not been paid? If I am wrong, I shall admit it; but, if not, the Opposition will oppose the amendment.
– One is inclined to suspect that the Minister thought that by agreeing to the payment of an extra £25 he would be able to buy over the Opposition. After all, only £5 may be awarded as expenses. In addition to the maximum payment of £750 by way of compensation it is proposed to pay expenses ranging from £2 to £25 subject to the consent of the Minister. The Opposition desired that the amount should be £100, but honorable senators opposite claimed that £25 would be sufficient. I desire to know whether such payments as are made under section 5a will come out of the £7.50 payable as compensation ?
– An injured seaman will get the £750 in addition to that sum. There is no alteration.
Question put -
That the proposed new section, as amended, be agreed to.
The committee divided. (Chairman - Senator James McLachlan.)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Proposed new section as amended agreed to.
Clause as amended agreed to.
Clauses 5 to 7 agreed to.
The first schedule to the principal act is amended -
by omitting clause (1.) and inserting in its stead the following clause: - “ (1.) The amount of compensation under this act shall be -
where death results from the injury -
if the seaman leaves any dependants wholly dependent upon his earnings, a sum equal to his earnings in the employment of the same employer during the four years next preceding the injury, or thesum of Four hundred pounds, whichever of those sums is the larger,but not exceeding in any case Seven hundred and fifty pounds:
if he leaves no dependants, the reasonable expenses of his burial, not exceeding Twentyfive pounds;
– I move -
That after the words “ fifty pounds “, paragraph (i), the words “, and, in addition, thesum of twenty-five pounds for each dependent child under the age of sixteen years “, be inserted.
The amendment seeks to provide for the payment of £25 for each dependent child under sixteen years of age, in addition to the maximum compensation of £750. A similar provision is already included in the Workers’ Compensation Act of New South Wales. It is reasonable because in cases in which compensation is payable at death, the person in respect of whom it is payable had probably suffered a prolonged illness which had almost exhausted the full amount of £750 before his death. Many cases of that kind are on record, and in such circumstances dependants under sixteen years of age are left without any income whatsoever. I am aware that in some cases no compensation is payable prior to death, because very often accidents prove fatal immediately. It would be very difficult, however, to discriminate between the two kinds of cases. This Parliament usually looks for precedents in support of proposals of this kind, and, as a similar provision is already in operation in the Workers’ Compensation Act of New South Wales, that requirement is fulfilled. I do not, therefore, anticipate any objection to my amendment.
– In mentioning the Workers’ Compensation Act of New South Wales in support of his amendment Senator Cunningham selected the only piece of legislation of this kind, which includes a provision similar to that embodied in his amendment. That act provides an allowance of £25 for each child under sixteen years of age, but no similar provision is made in the workers’ compensation legislation of any other State. The Government considers that no further payment, as suggested by the honorable senator, is warranted. Under this clause it is proposed to amend paragraph c of clause 1 of the first schedule to provide for the payment of an amountof 7s. 6d. a week in respect of each dependent child under the age of fourteen years in cases where total incapacity for work results from the injury. No provision of this kind is contained in the principal act. The Government, therefore, considers that it has gone as far as it possibly can in this direction, and I regret that it cannot agree to the amendment.
Question put -
That the words proposed to be inserted (Senator Cunningham’s amendment) be so inserted.
The committee divided. (Chairman - Senator James McLachlan.)
Question so resolved in the negative.
– I move-
That the words “ twenty-five “, paragraph (iii), be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the word “ thirty “.
I do not propose to elaborate my argument in favour of the amendment, but I accuse the Government in this connexion of what I consider to. be a particularly mean acf. The appropriate section of £he principal act reads - if he leaves no dependants, reasonable expenses of his medical attention and burial not exceeding thirty pounds.
I cannot understand the parsimony which has actuated the Government to bring down such a miserable amendment as this.
– The answer is obvious; we are making provision elsewhere in the bill for -medical expenses.
– This afternoon an amendment proposed by the Opposition, to increase the allowance for medical expenses from £25 to £100, was defeated, and now, in relation to an injured seaman who has died, the Assistant Minister throws up the matter of medical expenses. A dead man does not require medical expenses. In any case, under this clause, the Government, proposes to reduce the allowance for burial expenses from £30 to £25. I appeal to the Assisant “Minister to allow his better feelings to triumph for once to-night and to agree to the granting of the extra £5, as proposed in my amendment, to the unfortunate dependants of a man who meets with a fatal accident.
– The position is not as has been stated by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings). Under this measure we are increasing the allowance for medical expenses and burial combined, from £30 to £50, and under this particular clause we are adjusting accordingly the amount which covers burial expenses only. This clause has been responsible for holding up the measure for some time, because the Government desired to exercise the greatest care in order to ensure that the amount finally fixed for burial expenses would be reasonable. The amount of which the Leader of the Opposition complains was not fixed without careful consideration. Inquiries were made from four different undertakers in industrial districts of Melbourne, or in localities where seamen usually reside, and the quotations for a funeral, including a new grave, a casket, hearse, one mourning-coach, clergyman’s fee, and advertising expenses were: £20 14s., £17, £15 3s., and £21 5s. In these circumstances honorable senators must admit, that the amount of £25 is reasonable. The £30 provided in the present act covers medical and burial expenses, but separate provision is now being made in respect of each item. The best way in which to state a case is to state it accurately. I have done so. For these reasons the Government cannot accept the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition.
– -I am not only astounded, but also horrified at the way in which the Government has fixed the amount at £25 instead of £30 as provided in the existing act. Apparently the Government sent its representatives to make inquiries from the cheapest undertakers they could discover in certain industrial areas in Melbourne, and in that way obtained what it considers a fair price for a funeral to meet the needs of an ordinary citizen. The experiences I have had in connexion with deaths in my own family, and in working-class families known to me, disclose that no undertaker is prepared to conduct a decent funeral for £17 10s. The estimate includes the cost of only one mourning-coach; but the average seaman would have at least half a dozen good union comrades who would wish to attend his funeral. Seamen have to be buried, not only in Melbourne, where the Assistant Minister (Senator Allan MacDonald) or his departmental satellites went “ sticky-beaking “ around amongst the cheapest undertakers in order to obtain a low quotation, but also in other centres. I ask the Assistant Minister in all sincerity if he can possibly be happy in the knowledge that he has sponsored a proposal under which an unfortunate seaman is to have the cheapest and nastiest funeral that could possibly be provided. I trust that he will be fair in this matter, and accept the amendment which I have submitted.
– I am astounded to find that the Assistant Minister (Senator Allan MacDonald) arranged for his representatives to make investigations in certain industrial centres in Victoria in order to ascertain the average cost of conducting a funeral. Apparently those inquiries were undertaken merely in order to give some peace of mind to large employers or insurance companies who may have to meet the cost of disposing of the body of an unfortunate seaman. Apparently quotations were obtained for the cheapest possible funerals. Does the Assistant Minister think that at the rates quoted any funeral director would supply a hearse, one mourning-coach, a good quality casket, a new grave, and meet the cost of advertising? When so-called distinguished citizens pass away, the Government provides State funerals at the expense of the taxpayers, but when a friendless seaman dies it considers the cheapest possible funeral is sufficient. Instead of providing State funerals for distinguished citizens, the Government should arrange for one of the undertakers from whom the Assistant Minister obtained quotations to conduct the burial. Seamen are quite as good in every respect as many of those for whom the Govern ment provides State funerals. Unfortunately, I have had occasion to negotiate with undertakers in connexion with funerals, and I know of none who would carry out a burial at the prices quoted. Moreover, the price varies according to the circumstances of those with whom the undertaker is dealing.
– At what price would Labor Motor Funerals conduct a burial?
– Unfortunately that organization is not operating in Victoria where the- representatives of the Assistant Minister made investigations. If the Minister’s satellites who obtained the quotations had stipulated that an oak, maple, or cedar casket had to be supplied, a much higher price would have been quoted. Apparently the Assistant Minister had his officers chasing around the slums of Melbourne in order to get the lowest possible quotations. His action in this respect is despicable, to say the least of it.
– The action of the Government in this respect is a further confirmation of the fact that it is influenced by mercenary motives. It now proposes that seamen shall be buried at pauper rates. Merely because it has been influenced by public opinion to grant a few extra pounds for medical benefits it now proposes to insult the corpse by reducing the funeral rates by a paltry £5. I have read the utterances of many who are now dead and gone, but I have yet to read anything more despicable or contemptible proposed in the name of a national government than the proposal now before the committee. I have never known class bias and class distinction to be carried to such an extent. It is almost inconceivable that in these enlightened days we should revert to the dark old days when human beings were treated as cattle. The Assistant Minister must know that the amount provided is ridiculously low.
– I support the amendment. The clause stipulates that the amount payable shall not exceed £25. I suppose the Government had in mind the possibility of a seaman being buried at sea, in which case the cost of burial would not be anything like £25. The Opposition is not asking for something that is unreasonable. There is no doubt that in many parts of Australia the cost of a funeral would exceed the amount stated by the Minister. I hope that the Government will accept the amendment.
– I should like to know whether, in obtaining quotations for burials from four firms, the Minister specified a certain cemetery, because no funeral director could give a firm quotation in the absence of that information. Also, did the Minister inquire into the cost of cremation? If the Government persists in its opposition to the amendment, it is obviously considering the interests of influential insurance companies which will be called upon to pay for the funerals.
– I understand that cremation costs slightly less than an ordinary burial. I also point out that at least one friendly society provides £20 for the burial of a deceased member, and £10 in respect of a member’s wife. That is paid out of a fund to which members contribute. By arrangement with his executor, a seaman could provide for a more costly funeral than would be given under this legislation.
Question put -
That the words proposed to be left out (Senator Colling’s amendment)be left out.
The committee divided. (Chairman - Senator James McLachlan.)
Majority . . 2
Question so resolved in the negative.
Amendment (by Senator Allan
MacDonald) agreed to -
That after paragraph “(d)” the following paragraph be inserted: - “(da)” by omitting from the proviso to clause6 the words “ person to whom the expenses of medical attendance and burial “, and inserting in their stead the words “ persons to whom payments in respect of medical, surgical and hospital treatment, ambulance services and burial expenses “ ; “
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
After the second schedule to the principal Act. the following schedules are inserted: -
Compensation for Specified Injuries.
.- I move-
That after “ loss of both eyes “, the words “ loss of an only eye “ be inserted.
This is an additional item to’ the third schedule and the compensation payable will be the maximum of £750.
Amendment agreed to.
Description of Disease.
Poisoning by benzol or its homologues.
Poisoning by carbon monoxide.
Dermatitis produced by oil or grease or dust or caustic or corrosive liquids.”.
.- I move-
Thatall words after “Dermatitis”, be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following words: - “ Pneumonia.
Any disease contracted in the course of or as the result of the employment.”.
The Opposition considers it unwise to specify causes of dermatitis. An employee might contract that disease through handling the slings or trucks used by men suffering from dermatitis. “ Oil or grease or dust or caustic or corrosive liquids “ are not the only things that might cause dermatitis. If an employee contracted the disease as the result of his employment, there should be no inquisitorialprobing as to how he contracted it.
If the Minister had been advised that dermatitis could be produced only by “ oil or grease or dust or caustic or corrosive liquids “, there might be some justification for the inclusion of those words, but I - contend that their inclusion would merely increase the difficulties of an injured seaman in obtaining compensation to which he was entitled. I certainly think that pneumonia and pleurisy should be mentioned among the specified diseases, because seamen are very liable to them.
– Particularly firemen.
– Several months ago, when representatives of the Seamen’s Union approached the Minister for Commerce (Sir Earle Page) and myself in regard to seamen’s ‘duties and compensation, the subject of occupational diseases was discussed at length. The Minister for Commerce, being a medical man and a surgeon of prominence, immediately asked how one could determine the cause and effect of occupational diseases, and say definitely whether a disease or its aggravation had resulted from a seaman’s employment. It was admitted that it would be difficult to specify occupational diseases in general terms, and that is the reason why the Government has included in. the schedule only four diseases. Medical authorities have been consulted from time to time, and not one has suggested general terms suitable for inclusion in this measure, on account of the difficulty that would arise in determining specific limits of occupational diseases. There- font I regret that the Government cannot accept the amendment. It has considered the matter from all points, and not- from the parsimonious aspect suggested by some honorable senators opposite.
– Why particularly select the ailments mentioned in the schedule?
Senator ALLAN MacDONALD.They have been selected in accordance with the considered opinion . of medical men conversant with the occupational diseases of seagoing workers. Most of the diseases mentioned in the schedule were referred to by the representatives of the Seamen’s Union who conferred with the Minister for Commerce and myself in Sydney. The union representatives, having a good knowledge of the occupational diseases of their members, mentioned dermatitis and also pneumonia, pleurisy and other diseases which they suggested could be caused by employment in the shipping industry. I point out, however, that any person is liable to contract pleurisy. A person might contract it before becoming a seaman, or after ceasing to be one.
– I was sorrY to hear the Assistant Minister’s reply to the very reasonable amendment submitted by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings). He seems determined that there shall be a limit to the ailments to be specified as resulting from the occupation of a seaman. He said that a seaman could contract pleurisy on shore. Of course, a seaman could do that, and he could also contract dermatitis or any of the other diseases specified in the schedule. Seamen are not particlarly liable to the diseases mentioned. The Opposition claims that, if pleurisy or pneumonia be contracted by such employees, they should be entitled to compensation on that account. The quarters provided for them on colliers and trawlers are by no means palatial. Rather is the accommodation such that nobody would choose to avail himself of it for a. longer period than was absolutely necessary. On such vessels men live in veritable rabbitwarrens and rat-holes. The seaman who emerges from a hot. engine-room or stands for hours on the bridge of a vessel is very liable to contract pneumonia or pleurisy, or both. If a seaman contracted such a disease on shore, his employers would probably notice that he was sick when he rejoined his ship. The men in charge of vessels are not so simple as to allow a sick man to go aboard. Whilst I am prepared to listen to arguments submitted on behalf of the Government, I have heard nothing from the Minister in charge of the bill to convince me that the diseases mentioned in the amendment should be omitted from the schedule. Dermatitis is merely a skin disease, and I fail to see why the Government has qualified “dermatitis” with the words “ produced by oil or grease or dust or caustic or corrosive liquids.” There are many ways in which dermatitis could be contracted. A steward would have no occasion to touch oil, grease, caustic or corrosive liquids, but he could easily contract dermatitis through contact with a passenger. That man is to be debarred from receiving compensation although the disease from which he suffers is just as serious whether contracted in one way or another. It would appear that the purpose of the fourth schedule is to limit the liability of employers and insurance companies. I believed the Leader of the Senate (Senator McLeay) and the Assistant Minister in charge of the bill (Senator Allan MacDonald), when they said that they wanted to make this legislation something of which we all could be proud, an enactment that would minimize friction between employer and employee. Now it would appear that the chief object of the Government is to protect, not the seamen in whose interests the bill is supposed to have been introduced, but their employers and the insurance companies. If that be not the reason, why is dermatitis to be qualified? It is a disease which a “ seaman may contract in the course of his employment. Most skin diseases are easily contracted, so easily, in fact, that according to some advertisements, four out of every five persons are affected. If, in the course of his employment, a seaman who previously was free from skin disease becomes affected, ho should be compensated, lt is even more difficult to understand why compensation, is not to be paid to seamen who contract pleurisy or pneumonia, for no one will deny that they are diseases which seamen, who are exposed to all weathers, are likely to contract.
– I do not know that that is correct.
– It seems a logical conclusion. A man living under conditions such as exist on small coastal steamers is particularly liable to contract these diseases. Germs are about us wherever we go, and not least on board ship. Freedom from disease is difficult if the conditions under which men work encourage contagion.
– Climatic changes are more severe on land than on water.
– That may be, but the conditions of life generally on board ship are conducive to the contracting of these diseases. For instance, a fireman may leave the heated stokehold to get some fresh air on deck, and the sudden change of atmosphere may give him a chill. Should he go straight from his work to his bunk, he is no more certain to escape, because he remains in a stifling and disease-laden atmosphere. The request of the Leader of the Opposition is reasonable. Indeed, he might have asked for the inclusion of other diseases about which doubt exists. There can be no doubt of the risk of contracting pleurisy and pneumonia. If we ure honest in our professed desire to help the seamen, and to compensate them for diseases and accidents which befall them while engaged in their occupation, we shall include both pleurisy and pneumonia, and not qualify dermatitis.
.- In my opinion, a general qualification such as is contained in this amendment, is sound. Under the heading “ sickness and accident “ Judge Dethridge in an award which applied to seamen, said -
If an employee belonging to a ship - (o) receives any hurt or injury or contracts disease in the service of the ship; or
suffers from any illness (not being venereal disease, or an illness due to his own wilful act or default, or to his own misbehaviour), the expense of providing the necessary surgical and medical advice, attendance and medicine, and also the expense of the maintenance of the employee until he is cured or dies, or is brought or taken back to the port where in accordance with his agreement, he is entitled to be discharged, or such other .port as is mutually agreed upon with the approval of the proper authority, and of his conveyance thither, and in case of death the expense (if any) of his burial shall be defrayed by the employer, without any deduction therefor from his wages.
In the light of that statement I. cannot see why the Minister should refuse to accept the amendment of the Leader of the Opposition. A shipmaster does not generally employ men who are physically unfit, or are maimed or injured. If a general qualification can be contained in an arbitration award, the Assistant Minister should be willing to accept the amendment.
. - I suggest that any embracive clause in this bill would not be in the best’ interests of this legislation and our desire to provide for seamen the maximum amount of compensation possible. In the opinion of medical officers, there would be extreme difficulty in associating certain diseases with the occupation of a seaman. The diseases which a seaman is most likely to contract are enumerated in the fourth schedule. Lead poisoning is provided for because of the association of members of the crew, particularly deck hands, with lead paint. Poisoning by benzol or its homologues is included for the reason that benzol is used as a fuel in certain internal combustion engines which may occasionally be used in shipping. Provision is made in respect of poisoning by carbonmonoxide, owing to the fact that carbonmonoxide is the chief harmful constituent of exhaust gas from internal combustion engines, whether of the Diesel type or driven by lighter fuel. Moreover, leaks in the exhaust system of motor ships may affect seamen. Dermatitis, produced by oil or grease or dust, or caustic or corrosive liquids, is provided for because a chronic inflammatory condition of the skin of “ oilers “ or “ greasers “ of motor ships is fairly common. Caustic or corrosive liquids may be used in cleansing metal on a ship, or may be handled in the cargo. Any inflammation of the skin as a result of these liquids would be included. Various types of dust, such as cement, may be handled as a cargo, and cause skin disease among seamen. Such cases also would come within the scope of the proposed new section 5c. As regards the general application of pneumonia, rheumatism, pleurisy and other respiratory diseases,- the highest medical opinion is that it would be difficult to regard them as industrial diseases. It would be a simple matter for a seaman to contract pleurisy, pneumonia or rheumatism while on shore: and several days later, when the disease made itself manifest at sea, it would be difficult to say that it had, or had not been contracted while the seaman was following his occupation. For these -reasons the Government, on medi cal advice, has decided to restrict the fourth schedule to the diseases mentioned therein.
– The medical profession has not found it difficult to associate certain diseases with mining where men work in an impure atmosphere. In consequence of the liability of miners to contract certain diseases, legislation has been enacted to make compulsory the provision of proper ventilation. Similar legislation has been passed in respect of certain phases of sea-faring life. Any ohe who has experience of life on hoard ship knows that stewards are not housed under the same favorable conditions as apply to first-class or even second-class passengers. Pleurisy and pneumonia are common diseases among stewards. Senator Armstrong said that on small coastal vessels the accommodation provided for seamen is far from satisfactory. Those conditions apply also on large steamers. Many stewards scarcely see the sun for days; they are below deck where the ventilation is imperfect. When his work for the day is finished, a steward goes to his “gloryhole “, where be may be associated with men suffering from various diseases, not to a degree sufficient to prevent them from working, but still sufficient to infect others. Senator Armstrong referred to a fireman coming out of the stokehold into the cold air and contracting a chill. One can understand medical practitioners in the pay of the insurance companies saying that it is difficult to associate certain diseases with specific occupations; but if these men were economically free to give their honest opinions, instead of being afraid of losing their livelihood, they would express different opinions.
– The mere statement of the honorable senator does not prove that he is correct.
– I know tha’t medical practitioners in the pay of insurance companies have declared men to be perfectly sound, and not entitled to compensation when such has not been the case. Many such decisions have been contested successfully. In Victoria, a Workers’ Compensation Board, has been set up in order to prevent the victimiza- tion of injured workers by medical practitioners.
– I must ask the honorable senator to confine his remarks to the amendment before the Chair.
– The Assistant Minister (Senator Allan MacDonald) said that he must be guided by medical opinion. I am endeavouring to show that medical opinion cannot always be relied on.
– On what “would the honorable senator rely?
– I am prepared to rely on the evidence of medical practitioners who are members of a board, and cannot be penalized by either insurance companies or shipowners for stating their honest convictions.
– Then the honorable senator would still accept medical opinion ?
– Yes, under certain conditions. Where economic interests have to be served - when their livelihood is at stake - doctors are not different from lawyers and other members of the community. Medical opinions are not always reliable.
– I ask the honorable senator not to pursue that line of argument.
– Due almost entirely to the conditions under which seamen are forced to work, pleurisy and pneumonia are more prevalent than any other disease among them.
– .Where did the honorable senator get his information from?
– Experience is the greatest teacher, and I speak from experience gained as a ship’s fireman and as a steward. I am also a life member of the Stewards’ Union. Honorable senators who have enjoyed a comparatively sheltered life, and have graduated, more or less, in scholastic incubators, do not realize the working conditions obtaining iu this industry.
- (Senator James McLachlan). - Order! The honorable senator must address himself to the question before the Chair.
– Honorable senators opposite cannot speak from experience in this matter, but,” in order to deprive the seamen of their just due, they are prepared to rely on theoretical abstractions. It is very difficult to assess compensation in respect of insidious diseases, such as pleurisy and pneumonia, contracted in the course of employment of this kind.
. Senator Cameron endeavoured to convince honorable senators on this side of the conditions under which ships’ stewards work and live. I am quite sure that he has not convinced himself that what he said was correct. He would lead us to believe that he speaks from experience, but honorable senators generally will take with a grain of salt his account of the conditions under which stewards live. He suggested, for instance, that working conditions on board ship are not controlled in any shape or form, whereas the honorable senator himself must know that, due to the provisions of the Navigation Act, Australian seamen and stewards enjoy conditions superior to those under which seamen in any other port of the world are obliged to work. The Navigation Act, which has been in operation for about twenty years, also lays down standards of accommodation to be provided for seamen and stewards. The honorable senator obviously knows nothing about the subject at all. If he did, he would know that, on passenger ships, stewards perform much of their work in the saloons and enjoy the same fare as the passengers. The Navigation Act specifies the minimum cubic area of space which must be provided in cabins used by the ship’s crew. Employees, through their able representatives, can air before their union or in the Arbitration Court any complaints which they may have. The honorable senator should not indulge in such flapdoodle. He may convince the man in the street with such tarradiddles, but, I suggest, honorable senators will completely discount his remarks. He should leave it to union leaders among honorable senators opposite, who are better qualified to do so, to speak on behalf of these employees. The honorable senator, by his remarks, proved that his knowledge of seafaring conditions is antiquated.
– In reply to the last remark made by the honorable senator who has just resumed his seat, I point out that the seamen have fully reviewed the proposals embodied in this measure and, through their union leaders, have asked members of the Opposition to press this amendment.
– I quite believe that.
– In that case, we can expect the honorable senator to support the amendment. I cannot understand why the Government is not prepared to accept it.
– The Assistant Minister gave the Government’s reasons for opposing it.
– He also gave the Government’s reasons for reducing the funeral allowance by £5, andI was so disgusted on hearing them that I was obliged to leave the chamber in order to recover. Any one who has any knowledge of the conditions under which seamen are obliged to work will admit that they are more liable to contract pleurisy and pneumonia than are workers in any other occupation. I trust that the amendment will be supported by at least some honorable senators opposite.
Question put -
That the words proposed to be left out (Senator Colling’s amendment) be left out.
The committee divided. ( Chairman. - Senator James McLachlan.)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause as amended agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments.
Motion (by Senator McLeay) proposed -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
.- I enter an emphatic protest against the answer given by the exPostmasterGeneral (Senator A. J. McLachlan) to a question which I asked on the 3rd November. My question read -
What was the fee paid to Richard Tauber for his broadcasts and concerts in Australia?
The answer was -
For obvious reasons particulars of fees paid to all artists are confidential.
As the people’s money is used to pay the fees of overseas artists, including Richard Tauber, we, as representatives of the people, have a right to know how it is expended. The Melbourne Herald of yesterday stated that the Australian Broadcasting Commission proposes to bring a number of overseas artists to Australia; but I contend that the money to be expended in that way should be used to train promising Australian artists, many of whom are highly qualified. The ex-Postmaster-General, in opening the annual convention of the Australian Federation of Commercial Broadcasting Stations, said -
I regard as a serious deficiency in the programmes of commercial broadcasters the absence of items calculated to make Australia and its culture and achievement better known to radio listeners. Commercial stations are doing very little to foster an Australian sentiment. Truly Australian programmes would be far more acceptable than some of the records from overseas.
As records made by prominent overseas artists are brought to Australia for broadcasting purposes there is no need to pay unnecessarily high fees to induce the artists themselves to visit Australia. The records provide all that is required. Even the ex-Postmaster-General, who declined to give me a definite reply to my question, said that commercial broadcasting stations are doing very little to foster Australian sentiment. The Australian people have a right to know the fees paid to visiting artists, whether they were popular with the Australian people, and whether their concerts were a financial success. This Government will notbe in office indefinitely, and when a change of government occurs we shall be able to ascertain the actual fee paid to Mr. Richard Tauber and other artists engaged by the Australian Broadcasting Commission.
– in reply - I regret that some honorable senators adopt a parochial view and overlook the benefits which the Australian people derive as a result of visits by prominent overseas artists. The honorable senator who gave the reply to which Senator Lamp objects is not now a member of the Government, but I shall see that his complaint is brought under the notice of the present PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Archie Cameron).
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were pre sented : -
Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act - Report of theRepatriation Commission for the year ended the 30th June, 1938.
Customs Act and Commerce (Trade Descriptions) Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1938, No. 108.
Seat of Government Acceptance Act and Seat of Government (Administration) Act - Ordinances of 1938 -
No. 26-Canberra Community Hospital (No. 2).
No.27 - Liquor (No. 2).
Senate adjourned at 11.24 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 17 November 1938, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1938/19381117_senate_15_158/>.