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Wednesday, 4 October 1911
Page: 1017

Senator DE LARGIE (Western Australia) - - Some amendments have been circulated by Senator Guthrie, whose absence I am sure we all deplore. In view of the interest that the honorable senator takes in matters of this kind, and has taken in this Bill, it would be a great mistake, in his absence, not to afford the Committee some opportunity to discuss the amendments he took so much trouble to bring before us. This schedule provides that -

The number of firemen and trimmers required for steam-ships shall be in the proportion of at least one fireman or trimmer for every three and a half tons of coal consumed per diem.

The first amendment which Senator Guthrie proposes in this connexion is to strike out the words " and a half," fixing the amount of coal consumption per man per day at 3 tons instead of 3J tons, as provided for in the schedule. We have just been discussing the basis of the manning scale for engineers, and it is determined by the nominal horse-power of engines. In this case, the basis proposed to be adopted to determine the manning scale for firemen and trimmers is the daily coal consumption. There are various ways in which this matter might be determined. In some cases it is determined by the grate area of the stokehold, in other cases by the nominal, by the steam capacity of the boilers, and so on. So far as I have been able to form an opinion, I think that the quantity of coal handled by the firemen is the best guide to adopt. There is a report on the subject by the Manning Committee, appointed by the Board of Trade, in the Old Country. I shall take the liberty of reading an extract from their report. They say -

The evidence which we have received establishes the fact that, other things being equal, the weight of the coal to be trimmed and burnt per day is the best measure of the amount of work to be done, and, therefore, of the number of men to be employed as firemen and trimmers. There are many minor causes for making the work to be done below greater or less; such, for example, as the shape and arrangement of the bunkers and their relative proximity to the stokeholds, the type of boiler (whether single or double ended), the heights of the boiler furnaces above the stokehold floor, the kind of coal employed, the ash hoists fitted, &c. It appears to us impossible, however, to provide in all ships for these, and many other minor circumstances affecting the work to be done ; and it has become obvious during the progress of our inquiry that shipowners, shipbuilders, and engine-makers are all giving increasing attention to such details, with the object of reducing the labour below decks to the lowest possible point. Some provision for exceptional cases may have to be made, but, in framing a manning scheme, we have taken as the basis the weight of coal to be consumed per day, and have dealt with firemen and trimmers, and. with the service of the boilers only, as distinct from the work of the engine-room. We are quite aware that other matters besides the consumption of coal have played a prominent part in the discussion of this subject.

I think I have read sufficient to show that the Board of Trade have approved of the consumption of coal as the best guide for the manning scale for firemen and trimmers. Because of their greater experience and wider knowledge of shipping we shall be perfectly safe in following their example. Three and a half tons of coal per day per man is not a low standard. We have to consider that the circumstances of shipping in Australian waters differ from those of shipping generally. Our Australian ships, for instance, do relatively a much greater amount of trade in tropical waters than do the ships of the Old Country. In a mild climate it may be assumed that the same quantity of coal could be handled with greater comfort than in a tropical climate. It should be more easy to handle the same quantity of coal on the comparatively mild southern coast of Australia than in the tropics in the North Queensland and Pacific Islands trade. There should be some distinction made in the manning scale to meet these differing circumstances. I find that this principle is recognised by the Manning Committee of the 'Board of Trade. They propose that the amount of coal handled daily per man in the tropics shall be one-half ton less than in milder regions. In this Bill we make no such distinction, and, considering that we have a greater relative percentage of shipping in tropical waters, I think we should recognise that distinction. For the benefit of honorable senators I shall read the recommendation of the Manning Committee -

Adopting this principle of coal consumption as a basis for the manning of the boiler-Toom, the question arises how much coal is at present practically consumed per man per day .in the furnaces of merchant steamers? Mr. Ramsay -

Mr. Ramsay,I may explain, is the principal officer of the Board of Trade who was delegated to investigate the matter, and report his opinion to the Committee -

Mr. Ramsay,whom we have just quoted, and :who is a good authority on the point, says, " Experience has shown that generally the proper humber of men, exclusive of the engineers and donkeymen, for . vessels trading in temperate climates, is obtained by dividing the coal consumption in 24 hours by 2^." In other words, firemen and trimmers contribute on an average, in temperate climates, 2^ tons each per day to the ship's consumption. But in this estimate, as in that of some other well-informed witnesses, no allowance was made for the detachment of men for service as greasers, &c, and as some allowance should be made for this, and as' other witnesses favoured a somewhat larger consumption per man - as, moreover, we have only to fix the maximum work per man, and the minimum number of men - we have decided to report that a consumption of 3 tons of coal per day should be the allowance for this purpose in temperate climates (excluding the -home trade), and 2± tons when trading in tropical waters.

It will be seen that the quantity of coal which a British fireman is asked to work in temperate climates is half a ton less than the quantity which is fixed in this Bill. If we insist upon a fireman in the tropics handling tons, whilst a British fireman is only asked to handle 2 J tons, our law will not be so considerate as the British law. Generally speaking, our industrial laws lean more to the humane side than do British laws ; but in this instance the opposite will be the case. I think that the Minister should consider whether there is not a way of improving the state of affairs which is disclosed in the Bill. I hold that too much work is asked of a man, and that the quantity of coal per man fer diem ought to be brought into conformity with the recommendation of the Manning Committee. If we take that course our law will be more satisfactory. It will not place any great hardship on the ship-owners, because they can afford to give as much consideration to firemen as can British ship-owners. There is not the same keen competition amongst ship-owners in Australia as there is at Home, and the profits of Australian ship-owners are much greater than those obtained by the mercantile marine of the Old World. We should extend consideration to a class of men who, I daresay, .are the hardest worked in the community. I know of no work which has a more brutalizing effect than stoking in a vessel. Our aim should be to try to ease the work as much as possible, and that can be done, here without placing a hardship on the ship-owners. I ask the Minis- ter to accept the amendment which was given notice of by Senator Guthrie, and which I now move - '

That the words " and a half " be left out.

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