I move amendment No. 1:—
Before Section 4 to insert the following new section:—
Section 19 of the Principal Act is hereby amended by the substitution therein of the following sub-section for sub-section (2) there of:—
(2) A member of a harbour authority who is absent for more than six consecutive months from the meetings of such harbour authority shall vacate his office unless the harbour authority decides that there is good reason for such absence.
I put down this amendment as the operation of the Principal Act has brought about an anomalous position. Under the provisions of that Act, a member of a harbour board becomes automatically disqualified if he is absent from 50 per cent. of the meetings in any consecutive period of six months. The men who sit on these boards are mainly drawn from business interests and it is difficult for them to keep an account of their attendances. The manager, however, has to keep a constant check on their attendances. I think there should be some stated period provided for so as to enable members to keep in touch with the matter. There is no notice given to members of the fact that they are liable to be disqualified. They are automatically disqualified under the terms of the Act.
Then, again, there is no credit given to them for attendance at committee meetings. Some of the most important functions of these boards are delegated to committees from time to time. But under the existing provisions attendance at a committee meeting does not count. A member becomes disqualified from membership if he misses 50 per cent. of the meetings in any consecutive period of six months, although the holiday period may intervene or other things of that kind. I suggest to the Minister that that position ought to be remedied. It may not appear to be a very major matter, but I think it is a matter of importance. As I say, the members get no notice of the matter, even if they are absent on holidays or anything else; their disqualification is automatic. I think there ought to be some period set down. I am not inclined to press strongly for a period of six months as set out in the amendment. In fact, there is a slight error there, as six consecutive meetings was my intention. I think a period of three months would meet the matter. The present position, however, needs to be altered.
I do not know of any institution or board having a similar procedure. As I said, a member may have attended several committee meetings but there is no credit given for these attendances. If a member is absent from 50 per cent. of the actual board meetings, he is disqualified. If the Minister thinks the period six months mentioned in the amendment is too long, I think a period of three months ought to be provided for.