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Friday, 4 December 1914

Senator NEEDHAM (Western Australia) . - I indorse what Senator McDougall has said, and support the attitude he has taken up. The shipwright is the man who should be employed for this kind of work. It would, in my opinion, be wrong for the Committee to agree to the amendment, but I am prepared to vote for it in the meantime in order that while it is under consideration in another place a further opportunity may be afforded to the Minister, and the two organizations concerned in the question, to consult as to the best means .of making up their differences of opinion. I had some experience in the shipyards of the River Clyde. I assisted as a boilermaker's labourer in the construction of wooden and iron vessels of from 10 tons up to 15,000 tons, and I am in a position to say that the shipwright is the man who is held actually responsible for the construction of a vessel, practically from the time of the preparation of the plans until the ship is launched. Even when the angle iron bars that constitute the frame of an iron or steel vessel are taken from the furnace and put into shape, and the boilermakers' assistants prepare the frames, they cannot be taken from the board for transport to the keel in the shipyard until the shipwright has first examined and passed them. As a matter of fact, with the exception of the engines and boilers, everything else in connexion with the construction of aship must be passed by the shipwright, - who is the responsible man. He is familiar with every bulkhead, every door, and every pump, and he knows what to do should anything happen to the ship. No one can deny that a carpenter is a very handy man on board ship, and I have no wish to shut such men out of employment. But when it is a question of the safety of life at sea, the shipwright is the man who should be engaged in this work. I have said that I am prepared to support the Minister in his amendment for the reason only that I hope that while the Bill is under consideration in another place the clause may be, after consultation, framed in such a manner as would meet our views. If that is not done I shall be prepared when the Bill comes back from another place-

Senator Turley - It may not come back.

Senator NEEDHAM - If I am to understand that this is the final stage of the matter I must oppose the amendment, but I am prepared to support it if I can get the assurance of the Minister that another opportunity will be afforded to mould the clause in the way which has been indicated.

Senator Guthrie - Take no chances.

Senator NEEDHAM - I would like to hear what the Minister has to say on that point. It is possible, as Senator Lynch has said, that some men now engaged as ships' carpenters might be displaced, but the important consideration with me is the safety of life at sea. When a crisis occurs we must have a man on board the ship who knows what to do, and the loss of employment by a few men is not too great a sacrifice to make to secure the safety of life at sea.

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