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Friday, 4 December 1914

Senator GUTHRIE (South Australia) . - I think that as the result of a consultation the Assistant Minister is rather inclined to accept a suggestion such as I have thrown out. It will call for a little consideration by the Minister and by honorable senators. I think that we can get over the difficulty by allowing the word " shipwright " to remain in the schedule, and defining what a " shipwright " shall mean. It will be competent for the Committee to define " shipwright" to mean anything it likes. I feel strongly that a man to be efficient on a ship ought to possess a knowledge of the ship. That is the position I have taken up right through. I have tried to meet those who think that an injustice is going to be done to men who have filled these positions in the past, and I admit that there is a good deal in their argument. I think it would be very fair to adopt the principle which pervades the Merchant Shipping Act, in which it was enacted that men who had held the positions of masters, mates, and engineers, and were able to show their discharges prior to the passing of the Act, should be entitled to certificates of service, and not to certificates of competency. An option was given to a ship-owner to choose between one class and the other. In the same way the Imperial Parliament dealt with seamen's certificates. It provided in .the case of an able seaman that he should produce four years' discharges before he could get an able seaman's certificate. On the articles, as a rule, the men whose case we are discussing are defined, not as shipwrights, but as carpenters. I think that, as a matter of course, every ship-owner who wanted to insure the safety of his ship employed a shipwright. Yet in the Act these men were defined. If the carpenter of a ship had an assistant, he was called the " carpenter's mate." The same rule applies in the Navy to-day, but does any honorable senator think that the Navy employ men who are only carpenters? No, they take very good care that the men rated as carpenters on a ship are shipwrights. The only difference existing at the present time between the Minister and myself is that I want to lay it down in the measure that any man who has served on a ship for three years prior to the passing of the Act, either as carpenter or as shipwright, shall be rated as a shipwright. The Minister seems to be insistent that any man who has served an apprenticeship in a ship-building yard shall be rated as a shipwright. But such a man might be a cabinet-maker or a boiler-maker, or a blacksmith. Surely we are not going to rate these men as shipwrights. Yet if we limit employment in that capacity to men who have been for three years at sea, in a very short time their ranks will be exhausted by reason of death. Consequently, we must provide for the introduction of fresh men, and I desire to bring in those who have served their apprenticeship on board ship as shipwrights, and not as carpenters, cabinetmakers, boilermakers, or blacksmiths. I think that the Assistant Minister will recognise the justice of the claim which I am putting forward. We need not interfere with the men who are at sea to-day, and who have three years' service to their credit, but in future we must insist upon the employment of only qualified shipwrights in the capacity of shipwrights on board vessels.

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