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Thursday, 28 November 1912

Senator PEARCE (Western Australia) (Minister of ' Defence) . - There is very little material difference between the old. and the new schedule. The scales have been rearranged for the sake of clearness, and, incidentally, one or two anomalies and omissions have been rectified. The only real difference in the scale of deck officers - as set out in scale 1, as printed - is that river and bay ships running under 20 miles are not to be required to carry a mate. I propose, however, to move an amendment on this to the effect that all river and bay ships certificated to carry 500 or more persons shall carry a mate, irrespective of the distance run. In scale 2, engine-room officers and greasers, several minor alterations have been made. In the old scale, for instance, there was no provision whatever for River Murray boats, whose run extends over hundreds of miles. Then, again, it was not clear whether the boats classified under the heading, " Running under 100 miles," were river and bay, or limited coast-trade vessels. There was further no provision in regard to limited coast-trade ships with engines over 85 nominal horse-power. The formulae for the calculation of nominal horse-power of engines were also badly expressed. These defects have all been remedied in the new scale. Apart from these more or less formal matters, it was clear that the scale did not substantially comply with the spirit of the proviso to clause 12, in that the second and third coast engineers were not afforded under it any reasonable facility to qualify for the higher rating of second-class engineer. An essential qualification for a certificate in this latter grade is that the applicant shall have served as engineer on watch on engines ot not less than 66 nominal horsepower. The only provision in the scale fur a second-class coast engineer to take charge was in the case of limited coasttrade ships having engines under 55 nominal horse-power. Thus the lower grade men were effectually blocked from advancement to higher grades. The matter was the subject of strong protests from the lower grade men. The Minister for Trade and Customs and the AttorneyGeneral gave considerable personal attention to the matter, and arranged a conference of representatives of the Engineers Associations concerned. The matter- was very fully discussed, and the result is embodied in the new scales for river and bay and limited coast-trade ships. A man can now, on completing the necessary service, and passing the prescribed examinations, work his way in time from the stokehold to the top of his profession. At the same time, there will be no lowering in the qualifications required of applicants for the higher-grade certificates. These are fixed by the Board of Trade, and the certificates are good throughout .the British Dominions. Still the way is provided for men of ability and application to fight their way up, whereas in the original schedule such was not the case. No alteration has been made in the scales for the Australian-trade and foreign-going steam-ships. There is, however, a further amendment that I now move on the amendment made by the House of Representatives, viz. -

That the amendment be amended by inserting in part (t.) of Schedule I., paragraph (iii.), after "departure" the words "or certificated to cammore than 500 passengers".

This provision, it may be explained, is designed more particularly to provide for a mate in the larger ferries running in Sydney Harbor. Thirty-four of these are certificated to carry over 500 passengers, one - the Bellubera - can carry no less than 1,494 persons, and another - the Burra-Bra - 1,439. Ten, in all, are certified for 1,000 and over. A number of new vessels of the larger size are now building. The greatest danger to which these boats are exposed - and it is a very grave one - is that of collision, with the panic so often' incidental to such occasions. The masters of these ferries are invariably themselves at the wheel, and cannot, under any circumstances leave the wheel-house. Unless we provide for a mate in these boats there will, in the event of collision, be no officer whatever on deck, and in the absence of some one in authority, who could take charge and direct the passengers as to the behaviour necessary for their own safety, the crowd would almost inevitably get out of hand, with probably terrible and unnecessary loss of life. This is the principal reason for the addition now proposed to the scale suggested by the House of Representatives. Apart, however, from the question of collision, it appears very necessary that, in these larger ferries, there should be some responsible officer on deck, available to relieve the master of some of the responsibility cast upon him, and, in the case of the master meeting with some accident, or being suddenly overcome with illness, qualified to temporarily take charge of the boat. It may be pointed out that in the scale, as it left the Senate, provision was made for a mate in every river and bay ship over 50 , tons net register. The present proposal is not nearly so drastic as that. The average tonnage of the thirty-four Sydney ferries affected is 141 tons net. There are only eleven of them under 100 tons net, the smallest being the Lady Denman, of 65 tons net, certificated to carry 542 passengers. The provision for river and bay ships, when amended as now proposed, will read - " Over 50 tons, running more than 20 miles from place of departure, or certificated to carry more than 500 passengers "... a first or only mate.

Motion agreed to.

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