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Friday, 9 July 1920

Mr TUDOR (Yarra) .- On the second reading, I said this section had beenweakened by the Government insisting on adopting the provision agreed to by the Convention for the safety of life at sea. Apparently, those engaged in working a ship are not to be counted. A vessel of less than 1,600 tons may carry a crew of 100, but, they are not to count. Apparently, the view of the Government is that sailors' lives do not count for anything. I object to that view. I indicated then my intention to move an amendment to count all the persons, and not merely all the passengers on board a ship. This is one of the most important clauses in the Bill. Many men who have learnt wireless at the Marconi School in Melbourne are anxious to obtain ships; but the shipping companies will not employ them until compelled to do so. I am anxious, for the safety oflife at sea, to provide that every vessel carrying passengers, or carrying over twelve persons as a crew, must be equipped with wireless. The lives of the sailors are just as important to them as the life of any person in the community is to him. It is all very well for honorable members opposite, who represent the wealthy classes, to think that they are the only ones that count.

Mr Atkinson - There is no justification for that accusation.

Mr TUDOR - I think it expresses the truth.

Mr Laird Smith - Why does the honorable member limit the number to twelve? Are not the lives of crews of two or three just as valuable?

Mr TUDOR - I said every vessel carrying twelve persons, passengers or crew, should be equipped with wireless. Vessels which carry less than twelve are not likely to go into dangerous waters, although, of course, many lives have been lost on yachts and other vessels carrying crews of four or five.

Mr Laird Smith - There are vessels trading from here to Tasmania with only three, four, or five menon them.

Mr TUDOR - They are sailing . vessels. I believe every vessel, steam or sail, should be included; and if the honorable member will move that every 'vessel going from State to State shall be equipped with wireless, I shall support him. All seamen and firemen, whose working conditions, after all, are not the best in the world, are entitled to this safeguard. Why, then, do the Government fix a limit of twelve passengers? When section 281 of the principal Act was passed in 1912, the then Minister told me that it made quite sufficient provision for the safety of life at sea. It stipulated for wireless equipment on all vessels carrying " fifty or more persons, "including passengers and crew.5' We " have made rapid strides in radiotelegraphy since then, but the Convention for the safety of life at sea adopted the principle and the number laid down in our Navigation Act. '.Chat Act has not been proclaimed as a whole, and the proclamation putting parts of it into force has been for some reason inoperative. It could not be said that the war was the reason, because the proclamation was issued after peace was signed, yet within a few weeks of its issue there was a change of policy, and the parts of the principal Act which had been proclaimed were not enforced. Many efficient wireless operators were compelled to remain here during the war, and I' believe there are over 1.00 of them in Melbourne at this moment. There must be more in Sydney and other places, and they are all anxious that this provision should be brought into operation, because it will give them an opportunity of putting their training into practice. They will not get that chance so long as this provision remains inoperative. Every honorable member will admit that there is need for wireless equipment on sea-going vessels. Its value was proved quite recently, in the case of the oil-tank ship which was adrift in the Pacific. She had discharged her cargo of oil in New Zealand, and was coming to Australia, travelling light, met with an accident, and for some time

*was drifting about the ocean. Her supplies of fuel became exhausted, and in order to obtain enough power to drive the dynamo, and so operate the wireless equipment, it was necessary practically to break up and use the whole of her fittings. In all probability she was a vessel of about 4,000 tons, and would carry a crew of forty or fifty.

Mr Gregory - Such a vessel under the clause as it stands would be compelled to have wireless equipment.

Mr TUDOR - That is so ; but I am anxious to extend this provision so that every vessel carrying a crew of twelve would have to be equipped with wireless. The Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Greene) will probably say that no such requirement was embodied by us in the Bill of 1912. I am quite willing to learn that that Bill is not as up to date as should be a Bill passed during the present session. Since 1912 marvellous strides have been made with wireless telegraphy. When the principal Act was passed, wireless was practically in its infancy. For every vessel trading to Australia which carried wireless in those days, there are now at least ten or a dozen; so equipped. Ordinary passenger ships find their wireless plants very useful in obtaining news for the information of those on board, while other vessels are equipped with wireless solely for the purposes of safety. Safety is the chief consideration that I have in mind.

Mr Gregory - Since the honorable member would go so far in this case, he might as well make it compulsory for every home to have a telephone which could be used in case of fire.

Mr TUDOR - If the honorable member submits such a proposal I will consider it. Any proposal that I submit is treated with contempt by honorable members opposite.

Mr Bell - That is not correct. I remind the honorable member of what happened yesterday.

Mr TUDOR - Every amendment that I submitted yesterday while this Bill was under consideration was defeated. In regard to one amendment, I suggested to some members of our party that if it were moved by the honorable member Tor Hunter (Mr. Charlton), some honorable members from the other side would support it. As a matter of fact, since 1917 the Opposition in this House has not been able to carry one amendment which the Government have opposed.

Mr Burchell - Is that unusual?

Mr TUDOR - Most unusual. In the early days of Federation, when we were dealing with non-party measures, the Opposition frequently carried amendments which were objected to by the Government of the day. To give a concrete illustration, when the original Public Service Bill was before us I secured an amendment of clause 40 dealing with temporary employees, and also an amendment in regard to the minimum wage. I was then sitting in the Ministerial Corner, while the honorable member for Grey (Mr. Poynton), who was a member of the direct Opposition, also carried an amendment which the Government opposed.

Mr Gregory - We gave the honorable member last night a postponement of the clause relating to shipwrecked crews.

Mr TUDOR - That is so; but honorable members opposite did not support any amendment moved by me.

In the course of my second-reading speech I dealt chiefly with the question of wireless and the necessity for compelling all ships to carry efficient crews. Wireless equipment is all important for the safety of shipping. It has been the means of summoning aid again and again to vessels in distress. Subsequent to the wreck of the Titanic, and before the holding of the Conference for the Protection of Life at Sea, the Voltuna caught fire in the Atlantic Ocean. By means of wireless she summoned to her aid vessels of almost every nationality ; but owing to the heavy sea that was running, not one of them was able to launch a boat to go to the help of her crew. Ultimately, by means of wireless, she got into communication with an oil tank steamer, which, on arrival at the scene, poured large volumes of oil on the waters, and so settled them as to enable a rescue to be effected.

Mr Mahony - Why not give the Government time to consider this question by moving that the Chairman do now leave the chair?

Mr TUDOR - I wish first of all to hear the views of the Minister on this subject. I gave special attention to it on the motion for the second reading, and as I had the honour of piloting through the House the Bill passed in 1912, I think I am entitled to expect from him the courtesy of a reply. The Minister should state at once the views of the Government in regard to this question. I certainly am not " stonewalling " this clause. It is estimated by experts that on only about one day in five it is possible to launch a boat in the Atlantic. If a vessel has a list to starboard the davits on the port side are practically useless, and although a ship may be able to summon assistance, the chances of rescue are not great. But we should provide every opportunity of rescue, and that is why I plead for better conditions in regard to wireless. Many vessels that were torpedoed during the war remained afloat sufficiently long to summon assistance by wireless. Vessels that have lost their propeller have drifted in mid-ocean for days.

The honorable member for Parkes (Mr. , Marr), who was a wireless operator during the war, will realize the necessity for, proclaiming the Act, so that the men who were trained in wireless during the war but were not permitted to leave Australia, may have a greater opportunity of earning a livelihood at that profession. I shall listen to the Minister's explanation for altering the provision in the original Act, and if it is not satisfactory, I shall move the amendment I have indicated.

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