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Wednesday, 28 September 1910

Senator LYNCH (Western Australia) . - I move -

That the following words be added to the clause - " Provided also that in the case of an applicant for a third engineer's certificate, no indentures of apprenticeship to the engineering trade shall be required."

I wish to repeat my objection to legislating by regulation, particularly in a matter of this kind, where such a radical departure is proposed to be -made. The Minister has already declared that the Government desire that the way shall be open to a person occupying the humblest position in the stokehold of a vessel, to rise by gradations ro the top of the engineering profession. That being so, we should place the position beyond all doubt by specifying our intention in the Bill. We are all anxious to remove obstacles from the path of those who desire to qualify themselves as engineers. Why, then, should we not express our intention in the Bill in clear and unmistakable language? Why should we leave it open to any Minister, by means of a regulation, to defeat the will of Parliament? Senator Sayers has referred to the great danger which would result from allowing incompetent persons to take charge of machinery at sea. I quite agree with him in his contention. But I would point put that breakdowns frequently occur at sea with which engineering skill is powerless to cope. For instance, none of the steamers of less than 8,000 tons, trading to Australia, carry a lathe aboard, so that all repairs which may have to be effected upon them while at sea must be effected by the use of the hammer, chisel, and file. If the propeller shaft of one of these steamers be broken it cannot be repaired. That is what happened to the Monowai the other day, and we all know that she had to be towed into Sydney Harbor.

Senator de Largie - -Does this clause make any reference to apprenticeship?

Senator LYNCH - No. Yet the regulations may do so. Of course, it has been urged that these cases can be met by regulation. But I recognise that we may have in power a Minister who is a strong believer in craft unionism - that is, of making one particular branch of trade a close preserve for the persons who follow it. Seeing that the Committee wish to provide means of promotion to persons who choose to qualify themselves as engineers, we ought not to leave this matter to a regulation which may be altered at the whim of a Government, or of a Minister. We should be courageous enough to plainly declare our intention in the Bill. Under this measure the sphere of employment of a third-class engineer will be circumscribed. He will not be able to take charge of any steam vessel of more than fifty nominal horsepower.

Senator Sir Josiah Symon - Where does the honorable senator find that?

Senator LYNCH - In the schedule. Up to the present time the bar to his progress has been that shop service has been insisted upon.

Senator de Largie - There is no mention of shop service in this clause.

Senator LYNCH - But shop service has been required, ai.d that circumstance has prevented men from rising to a higher grade than that of third-class engineers. Like the low-caste Brahmins of India, they have not been able to step out of the groove into which they were bom. The opponents of my amendment appear to attach a lot of virtue to the proviso to this clause, which reads -

Provided that the regulations shall be so framed as to allow any holder of an engineer's certificate to serve in such ships, and for such voyages, and in such capacities as will enable him to qualify for a certificate of the next higher class.

I hold that the words " next higher class," are fatal to that provision, because they presuppose that a person must possess an engineer's certificate before the clause becomes operative.

Senator de Largie - So he must.

Senator Henderson - Surely the honorable senator would not grant a certificate to a man without any qualification ?

Senator LYNCH - I am not suggesting any such foolish arrangement. I repeat that the proviso presupposes the possession of a certificate before the clause becomes operative.

Senator Sir Josiah Symon - The honorable senator wishes to open that avenue to persons who have no certificates.

Senator LYNCH - Exactly.

Senator Sir Josiah Symon - But not to an entirely unqualified man?

Senator LYNCH - No. I wish to remove the obstacle under which he has laboured hitherto, and under which he was required to produce indentures that he had served a certain period in the engineering trade. My object is to safeguard the interests of those persons who are endeavouring to obtain a third-class engineer's certificate. My proposal is a very simple one, and will merely express in plain words the intention of this Committee.

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