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Wednesday, 7 July 1920


Mr GREENE (RICHMOND, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for Trade and Customs) - The British Act, which is based on the Convention, has gone beyond that, and provided that vessels trading around the coast of the British Isles shall carry wireless; and we are following in the same direction.


Mr TUDOR - That is a proper step. One result of the war has been to make, the whole of the shipping companies more careful in regard to life-saving provision; and when we were dealing with our original measure it was brought under my notice that on only about one day in five is it possible to launch a boat at sea.


Mr Burchell - And there must also be additional rafts and boats.


Mr TUDOR - That is so. No doubt vessels are now better equipped for emergencies than they were before the war. There is no reason, however, why we should not go beyond what the Merchant Shipping Act provides.


Mr Fenton - 'Why should we not lead in regard to wireless as in other matters?


Mr TUDOR - The Minister assures me that the Bill makes better provision in this regard than was made in the original Act.


Mr Fenton - Even that may not be good enough.


Mr TUDOR - Quite so. The Convention, which was held as the outcome of the Titanic disaster, largely followed the Australian Navigation Act, and, as the Minister stated, very few material alterations are necessary in our Act to meet the requirements of the Convention. Article 16 of the Convention, which we have not followed, states - - For the application of the Articles contained in this chapter and in the corresponding part of the regulations annexed hereto, the ships defined in Article 2 are divided into " new ships " and " existing ships."

New ships are those the keel of which is laid after the 1st July, 1915. The following Articles of this chapter, namely, Articles 17 to 30, are applicable to them in full.

Other ships are considered as existing ships. Existing arrangements on each of these ships shall be considered by the Administration of the State to which the ship belongs, with a view to -improvements providing increased safety where practicable and reasonable.

In Article 39 it is provided -

For the application of the Articles contained in this chapter and of the corresponding part of the regulations annexed hereto, the ships defined in Article 2 are divided into new ships and existing ships.

New ships are those of which the keel is laid after the 31st December, 1914.

Other ships are considered as existing ships.

It will be observed that the two dates are different. I think that, so far as new ships are concerned, we should make provision not only for life-saving and for protection against fire, but also for the accommodation of the crew.

Section 39 of the original Act provides in relation to the rating of seamen -

A superintendent before whom a seaman is engaged shall refuse to enter a seaman as A.B., O.S., greaser, or fireman in the agreement, unless the seaman gives to him satisfactory proof of his title to be so rated.

By clause 13 of the Bill it is proposed to amend that section by providing -

(3)   No seaman shall be rated as "greaser" who has not served six months as fireman at sea.

(4)   No seaman shall be rated as " fireman" who has not served six months as a trimmer or fireman at sea.

(5)   No seaman shall be rated as " shipwright " or " ship's carpenter . " who has not served an apprenticeship as shipwright, or three years at sea as ship's carpenter, as the case may be.

(6)   After the expiration of twelve months from the commencement of this Division, a seaman shall not be permitted to engage in any capacity unless he satisfies the superintendent that he can pull an oar and handle a boat:

Provided that this sub-section shall not apply to the engagement of a seaman who has not previously served at sea.

What I take exception to is the following provision in the clause: -

(7)   Notwithstanding anything contained in this section, persons rated as greasers, firemen, shipwrights, or ship's carpenters, before the commencement of this Division, shall continue to be entitled to be so rated.

After all, if a boat gets stove in, only the shipwright or the carpenter can do the repairing work; and the shipwrights and ships' carpenters point out that if men are employed with no practical experience, it will be like living in a fools' paradise. The superintendent, or the man in charge at the port, should not give a certificate or clearance to any but practicalmen.

I realize that this is not in any sense a party measure: and I am anxious to see the whole of the Navigation Act proclaimed without further delay, so that all concerned - seamen and passengers alike - may enjoy its advantages. An exception has been granted to vessels on the north-west coast of Australia; and it is possible that, unless this were so, there would be no shipping trading from Premantle to Broome and Geraldton, and so on, to Singapore.


Mr RODGERS (WANNON, VICTORIA) - It is a weakness in the Bill that a concession has to be made.


Mr TUDOR - It is felt that if a concession is made in relation to certain ports of Australia, similar concessions may be granted to other ports. The question of the employment of coolie and other coloured labour is being discussed at the Seamen's Conference now sitting at Genoa, and there is a fear that if certain vessels are allowed to employ such labour, application for its employment in other directions may be made. However, the seamen, no doubt realizing the difficulties on the north-west coast, have not, I think, offered any objection to the exemption, though they have a fear such as I have just expressed.


Mr Gregory - The conditions there are abnormal.


Mr TUDOR - They are. Persons have been given permission by the Government to sell ships for other than thecoasting trade on condition that they are replaced by modern, uptodate vessels; but one of the big shipping firms here which received permission to sell a vessel that was engaged in our coastal trade has not replaced it. We all know that on account of the abnormal conditions which have obtained during recent years, steamers which were constructed for £8 per ton fully equipped, have been sold for from £70 to £80 per ton.


Mr Burchell - No vessels which were engaged in trade along the northwest coast of Western Australia have been sold.

Mr.TUDOR. - That is so. But the shipping companies should be kept up to the agreement into which they entered with the Government to replace vessels that may be taken off the coast as soon as possible.


Mr Riley - Are there any penalties at tached to their failure to carry out that agreement?


Mr TUDOR - I do not know. They were all anxious to sell vessels, because in China and elsewhere they were able to find a ready market for ships for which it would be difficult to obtain a sea-going certificate to-day. Vessels which had been lying up creeks and on mud-banks in other parts of the world, and which had practically been relegated to the scrapheap were brought into service once more because of the shortage of shipping caused during the war.


Mr Stewart - "We are well rid of many of them.


Mr TUDOR - But that fact does not dispose of my statement that we are short of shipping in Australia to-day. As a former seaman, the honorable member knows that the law relating to that class requires to be improved.


Mr RODGERS (WANNON, VICTORIA) - Admitting that, suppose that every country enacted special navigation laws of its own, how would the world's shipping get on ?


Mr TUDOR - The honorable member must know that the Convention which was held in London after the .wreck of the Titanic, and to which such pointed reference was made the other evening by the Minister for Trade and Customs, was representative of the chief maritime nations of the world. I regret that there are not sufficient copies of that Convention available to permit of every honorable member being supplied with one.


Mr RODGERS (WANNON, VICTORIA) - I am objecting to the diversity of laws which would be operative under the conditions I have indicated.


Mr TUDOR - If the honorable member will read the Convention in question he will see what' it did in 1914, prior to the outbreak of war, was practically to. bring the navigation laws of other countries into conformity with the law which we enacted in 1912. The men employed upon our ships who do the most' laborious work have not been treated as they should have been, and I desire to see their accommodation improved.


Mr Riley - Any improvements which have been effected in . their conditions have been due to their own organization.


Mr TUDOR - I stated that earlier in the debate. I am merely asking that those conditions should be stabilized, and that we should place upon our statute-book a Navigation Act which will be as up-to-date as was the Navigation Act' of 1912. In Committee I shall move an amendment in regard to shipwrights, but if the Minister will give me an assurance in regard to the installation of wireless telegraphy on board our coastal vessels, there will be no need for me to move an amendment in that connexion.







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