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Friday, 4 December 1914

Senator MILLEN (New South Wales) . - It is very comforting for the Committee to have Senator Needham's assurance that at some future date he will do the right thing. If it is in the competence of the Committee, honorable senators should make up their minds now as to what should be done, and should not trust to what may happen in another place.

Senator Russell - Do not honorable senators trust to the drafting of regulations every day in the week?

Senator MILLEN - This is not a question of the drafting of regulations. Honorable senators are being asked to decide a very simple question. We are asked to say whether we shall leave certain positions open to two kinds of mechanics, or to only one. I quite recognise that a shipwright and a carpenter have something in common, inasmuch as for certain work they use similar tools. I have no difficulty in deciding what course I should take in this matter, because I asked myself whether if I were building a house I should call in a shipwright or a carpenter. A shipwright and a carpenter might apply for the job, and both might be skilled mechanics, but I should prefer to engage the man who ordinarily did the kind of work I required done. When we are dealing with vessels a shipwright may be called a ship's carpenter, while an ordinary carpenter is not a ship's carpenter. It seems to me that the shipwright is the proper man to employ for this work. I am confronted with a little difficulty in dealing with the question, because I understand that at the present time a number of carpenters are employed for this work on various vessels, and have fulfilled the duties of the position satisfactorily for years. We should not by any legislation of ours turn those men out of their occupations.

Senator McDougall - There is no desire to do so; this applies only to new appointments.

Senator MILLEN - I am quite aware of that. There is a principle generally recognised by Parliament when legislating to alter the existing state of affairs, and it is, so far as it may be done with safety to the public, to respect what may be termed existing interests.

Senator Keating - The saving of existing rights.

Senator MILLEN - Just so. That principle has been followed in connexion with the registration of dentists, various medical Bills and midwifery Bills. It has been declared' that those who at the time of the passing of the legislation are in reputable practice, and can satisfy some examining authority as to their competency, shall not be disturbed. I think that it should be possible to do something of that kind in connexion with this Bill. Let us decree, as I think we ought, that these positions shall, . in future, be secured to competent shipwrights, and at the same time provide that carpenters who are not shipwrights, but who have been filling these positions satisfactorily, shall be allowed to continue to hold them. It seems to me that that would be not only a sensible method of solving the difficulty, but would adequately meet the not unfair claims which have been presented for our consideration by circular and other means on behalf of those whom I have indicated.

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