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Thursday, 28 November 1912

Senator RAE - I only went out of the chamber for a few minutes. The Minister has repeated statements made during the former discussions on the clause. I put it to honorable senators whether there is anything in the clause, as it left the Senate, which would tie the hands of any Minister in choosing the proper talent for the survey of ships. I venture to say that every possible class of talent should be engaged to secure the perfect survey of any ship. My difficulty in regard to the amendment of the House of Representatives is that it leaves the matter .so bald, vague, and inconclusive, as well as so ambiguous, that there is no saying what is provided for. The Minister, when the matter was last before the Senate, was asked by me to explain the ambiguities in the clause. But he failed to do so. Unless the English language has been altered considerably of late, the language of the clause, as amended, would imply that any person chosen for this work must be skilled in two out of the three specific qualities mentioned. He must be skilled in regard to wooden hulls, and in regard' to metal hulls and boilers, or in regard to machinery. It is admitted that the language is ambiguous. The very fact that different persons reading it come to different conclusions about it, is sufficient to show that. Let us consider the objections raised by the Minister to Senator McDougall's contentions. He states that a boiler-maker may know nothing about the strain or stress to which a boiler may be subjected under abnormal conditions at sea. Senator Needham says that a boiler-maker is the very man who should know these things. Allowing that such differences of opinion may exist, I say that the clause as it left the Senate does not confine the Minister to having to take the opinion of an incompetent boiler-maker, who may know nothing of strain or stress. The Minister may take the opinion of a person who is skilled not merely mechanically, but who has mechanical knowledge plus the knowledge obtained by theoretical study. We are making an absolutely retrogressive step in relation to the original clause. The Minister has referred to tying the hands of the Government in regard to appointments. Their hands will be tied in no other way than by compelling them to get the best skilled advice in every possible circumstance that may arise. This amendment, however, leaves the matter vague. It says that there are certain things that must be done. Take the question of examinations. The Minister has laid great stress upon the inadequacy of a mere technical examination. There is no one who is more ready than I am to admit that in any walk of life mere examination by rote upon theoretical knowledge may be wholly insufficient, and is not to be compared with practical knowledge. But the examination was to be in accordance with the regulations; and those regulations could prescribe not merely technical and theoretical knowledge, but any degree of knowledge concerning any sort of conditions that were considered necessary. They could prescribe that the person chosen should have not merely 4 knowledge of boilermaking in a mechanical sense, but also a knowledge of the stress and strain to which boilers are subjected at sea. The Minister tried to show by his argument that the examination would be a merely theoretical and technical one. In arguing that way, I cannot help thinking that the Minister had not even read the amendment, and did not know what it contained. The amendment distinctly states that the examination is to be of a practical nature. I contend that, while mere technical or theoretical knowledge may in any walk of life turn out to be practically useless, nevertheless, if you can find any one with practical knowledge plus theoretical and technical knowledge, he is a better man for any specific position than one who has neither the one nor the other kind of knowledge.

Senator Shannon - An ounce of practice is better than a ton of theory.

Senator RAE - That is one of those beautiful homely old proverbs which often pass unchallenged. But if you say that mere book knowledge is of no value, you go to the other extreme. The best man, I contend, is the man who, in addition to practical knowledge, has also acquired information from books, which, after all, contain the crystallized experience of persons who are able to write. It is just as foolish to base an argument entirely on the one kind of knowledge as on the other. The best man is he who has practical and theoretical knowledge combined.

Senator Shannon - This amendment does not bar him.

Senator RAE - But it does not provide for him. It is a loose, slipshod, useless provision as compared with the clause as it left the Senate. The clause originally provided that certain things must be done. The clause as amended does not. It leaves the matter undetermined and undefined to the Minister by regulations to determine what sort of man, what kind of skill, what degree of qualification, shall be required for the position; whereas under our provision all the matters are specified, not in such a narrow way as to tie down the Minister, but in such an exact way as to insure that they must do the things as a minimum, but can do as much more as they like. I think it is a piece of mere mulish obstinacy for the Minister to throw the work of the Senate on one side and accept this slipshod and rotten amendment which is foisted upon us by the will of some one in the other House. No justification has been advanced by the Minister in support of his motion. I am ashamed: of the whole business.

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