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Friday, 4 December 1914

Senator MCDOUGALL (New South. Wales) . - I do not wish honorable senators to think for a moment that I desire to deprive any man of the opportunity to earn his living. We have been told that some men have been at sea as ship's carpenter for half a lifetime. As one who knows something of the coastal shipping, I can say that there is not one dozen of such men on the whole of the Australian coast. My complaint is that under the clause an opportunity would be given to ship-owners to foist incompetent men on to ships. If the

Minister is right in his contention that the provision was designed to save these men from losing their positions, in my opinion he has gone to work in the wrong way, because in all shipping trades there is a trade definition. In the shipping trade there is no such thing known as a " ship's carpenter," but there is a shipwright. In iron ship-building it is the custom of the trade for the shipwright to do the work of laying down a vessel on the scrieve board. The shipwright is a man who is thoroughly acquainted with the architecture of the ship, and knows at all times where to put his hand on the sluice doors, which are there for the purpose of life-saving. There is another class which should have been mentioned in this clause, and that is the ship's joiner. By leaving out the word " joiner," and inserting the words " ship's carpenter," the Government make the provision mean anything or nothing. A ship's joiner, in the ship-building trade, is a man who does the internal fittings of a ship, such as cabins and other things. If a man has served his time as a ship's joiner he may know something about a ship, but a ship's joiner is not mentioned here at all. The clause simply refers to a " ship's carpenter," which means anything. If the term " ship's joiner " had been used, we should have exactly what the definition meant. The Minister says he has done his best to bring these unions together.

Senator Russell - The trades.

Senator MCDOUGALL - There should be unions if there are trades; if the men are not unionists they ought to be. In New South Wales there is not one shipwright working who is not a unionist. If the desire of the Assistant Minister is to bring these men together, I would like to see them come together. In New South Wales we have Demarcation Boards sitting to define these very things. The law of Victoria is different from our law. I believe that here the men cannot get Demarcation Boards brought into existence, but if they could it would be a good thing, and save a lot of time and trouble to shipwrights, joiners, and iron ship-builders. I would remind the Minister that the Government have lately appointed a Director of Navigation. I am quite content to leave it to that officer, with his ability and knowledge of sea-going vessels, to say who shall be a ship's carpenter. A ship's carpenter only comes into existence when he goes aboard a ship. Previously he has been either a shipwright or a ship's joiner. I Urn told that the Director of Navigation has already expressed the opinion that no one should go to sea as a ship's carpenter who is not a qualified shipwright. In good weather a carpenter or a joiner may do very well aboard a ship, but in bad weather, when there are breakages, and rafts have to be constructed and other things done, a ship should carry a man who has a knowledge of ship construction, which a ship's joiner, or even a ship's carpenter, cannot possibly possess. It can only be possessed by a man as a result of having had, as Senator Guthrie has stated, years of experience on a ship. If any men have had years of experience on a ship as a ship's carpenter, I, for one, would not be willing to deprive them of their living. I know a man who has been employed on the coast for many years. He served his time in the same establishment as I did, but as a ship's joiner, and a very competent one he is. He came to be foreman of the establishment, but unfortunately the dearth of shipping requirements in Australia caused that place to be closed at that time. He was thrown adrift, and has been a ship's carpenter ever since. He does not claim now to be a shipwright, but he claims to have gained that experience by being a ship's joiner, in the first place, and by going to sea as a ship's carpenter. I do not wish to deprive the man of his living. I consider that the suggestion of Senator Guthrie is a "good one, and if the Ministry will agree to the suggestion, I think it will suit me. I am not here in the interests of any union, nor in the interests of any one but the travelling public, and their requirements have to be met by putting competent men in the position of officials on vessels. Too long have we regarded the carpenters on ships as simply " old chips." My opinion is that these men should be subjected to the same severe test of examination as is an engineer or an officer. In the principal Act we made provision for testing the qualification and the competency of firemen. If the Government are unwilling to accept the advice of Senator Guthrie - the

Samuel Plimsoll of Australia - in this matter, and bring the men together in such a way as he has suggested, I shall be compelled to vote against the proposal to make the definition of a ship's carpenter so loose that a " wood butcher " - which, as Senator Story has pointed out, is sometimes applied to a carpenter - may at any time be put on a vessel in his place.

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