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Thursday, 3 December 1914

Senator LYNCH (Western Australia) . - This question is not a new one. We know that when attempts were made in the past to test the qualifications of persons engaged afloat and ashore, and to issue to them certificates of qualification, they caused no end of uneasiness, heart-burning, and dissatisfaction on the part of those who had faithfully followed an occupation, although they might not have had certificates at all. Senator Guthrie will support my statement that when the first attempt was made to issue certificates to sea-going masters, and also to engineers - that is, to persons who had been engaged as masters and engineers without certificates - their position was taken into account, and allowance was made for the transitionary period which would naturally follow the issue of the certificates. Prior to the introduction of the Merchant Service Bill of 1861 in the Old Country those who had been engaged as ship-masters or engineers were given what were known as certificates of service, enabling them to follow their occupations without hindrance or question, until, of course, the time came when they would be no longer able to do their work. But it was never proposed, as some of our shipwrights have proposed, to draw a line sharp and deep, and to bring about an alteration in the employment of the men ; in other words, to ask that men who had rendered faithful and competent service should be discharged, and replaced by other men.

Senator Bakhap - We ought to prevent that, if possible.

Senator LYNCH - Yes, and that is what I am determined to attempt to do. On the one hand we have the shipwrights, who claim that all persons engaged on board a ship in that calling - that is, in looking after the gear and tackle, and particularly the woodwork of the ship, and in many other ways - shall be shipwrights, and nothing but shipwrights; whereas the position of the carpenters is that quite a number of them have been engaged as ship's carpenter for many years, and have given general satisfaction, and that, therefore, they should not be discharged simply because we have passed a measure through Parliament. We should follow the course which has been adopted in similar circumstances in the past, and that is, to allow men who, technically speaking, may not be qualified, to retain their positions until they become unable to further discharge their duties. If we cannot issue certificates of service to them, we should specially provide that men who have given satisfaction in the past and proved their competency, should be entitled to remain in employment until the new order of things can be properly introduced. If we simply insert in the Bill a provision that none but shipwrights shall be employed in tho future, we shall inflict very serious hardship indeed on men who have been so employed in the past.

Senator Findley - I think that the amendment gives the relief which you desire.

Senator LYNCH - There is no security to entitle the ship-owners to continue to employ men who have given them satisfaction in the past in the position of ship's carpenter. This is an amendment of a permissive character, and that is what I do not like.

Senator Findley - The men you refer to will have qualified for their work.

Senator LYNCH - Yes.

Senator Findley - That is what the amendment says.

Senator LYNCH - So far as I understand the Minister's statement an option is given to the ship-owners to employ in the place of these men qualified shipwrights or qualified carpenters. Through its very elasticity the amendment will enable ship-owners to discharge old servants if they are so inclined, and to employ in their stead new men. I think that in order to hold the scales fairly between the contending parties we should insure some security of tenure to men who have given faithful and competent service.

Senator Bakhap - In the circular we have received it is stated that some of the men have been at the employment for half a lifetime.

Senator LYNCH - I know from personal experience that that is so, and that is why I am not inclined, merely at the request of a body, to agree to no transition period being allowed before the new order of things is established. I hold that any body of men who ask, or insist, that a sudden or an abrupt termination shall be put to an old order of things is making an unfair request. I am not inclined to support any proposal which may have the effect of rendering the position of these men more insecure than it has been in the past. In some of the States a proposal has been made for the abolition of barmaids. Some Parliaments have agreed that women should no longer be employed in hotel bars, but no one has proposed the immediate discharge of women at present earning their livelihood in that manner. What has been proposed is that they should be permitted to continue in their present employment for a time, during which they may be able to make arrangements to secure employment in some other walk of life. That gives consideration to people who have carried on a service, and at the same time to the desire of the community to introduce a new order of .things.

Senator Findley - Is not the honorable senator presupposing that these ships' carpenters will be discharged?

Senator LYNCH - I am afraid that they will. I do not like this proposal, because it does not give to men who have been engaged in this kind of work in the past the security to which I think they are entitled.

Senator Russell - Could the honorable senator not leave that to regulation ? We must have some limit of time.

Senator LYNCH - The difficulty is to determine what the limit should be. The shipwrights say. " Let these men who have given faithful service in the past be discharged, and let their places be filled by skilled men." If the ships' carpenters did not give satisfaction, their employers would not continue to employ them. I say .that this proposal for a- sudden departure from the old order to the new is unfair, and is against abstract justice..

Senator Senior - That is if the deparIture is sudden.

Senator LYNCH - That is what the shipwrights are asking for. They are asking that these men, who have given satisfaction for years, should be discharged, and qualified members of their union employed in their place. In asking that, the shipwrights union is asking too much. I object to any body of men, no matter who they may be, asking; that, on the passage of an Act of Parliament, one set of men shall, be deprived of their employment, and of their means of livelihood, to give place to another set of men. I ask the Government to consider the matter carefully before they agree to the discharge of men who have given years of faithful service in a particular employment merely because of a provision agreed to in any Act of Parliament. I do not think that the proposal made by the Government will overcome the difficulty. It will enable ship-owners to discharge these men-

Senator Guthrie - And take on others who are cheaper.

Senator LYNCH - That is one of the difficulties. Rather than permit that to be done, we should make special provision in the Act to enable these men to secure certificates of service entitling them to continue the performance of the duties in which they are now engaged, as long as they are able to perform them, without interference by any other organized body of labour. This is not a new trouble; but the difficulties which the proposal is intended to meet have hitherto been settled in an amicable way. I shall not by my vote bring to an abrupt termination the services of these men, when I know that in the past it has been possible to pursue a course which has led to a fair and reasonable adjustment of a difference between the two bodies of men concerned.

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