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Thursday, 30 April 1931


Senator DUNCAN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Is the honorable senator not proving that the dockyard received more consideration from the Bruce-Page Government than it has from this Government ?


Senator DUNN - I am merely giving the history of the dockyard. Cockatoo Island was once owned by the Government of New South Wales, but, in 1913, it came under the control of the Commonwealth Government. At that time it was brought up to date by the introduction of modern machinery and plant at a cost of over £1,000,000, and it has been stated that the total cost to the Commonwealth Government was in excess of £2,000,000. Notwithstanding the huge amount of money which has been spent on its equipment and maintenance weeds are now growing in places where work was once actively undertaken, and valuable electrical and other equipment exposed to the weather is seriously deteriorating in value. Insufficient money is available to employ the necessary electricians and fitters to keep the machinery which is outside the shops in a proper state of repair.


Senator E B Johnston - Why does not the federal member for the district endeavour to do something?


Senator DUNN - I understand that he is now telling the people of South Australia something about Mr. Lang. Further, as Cockatoo Island is an important adjunct of our defence system it should not be . neglected. Some years ago 4,000 men were actively employed in the dockyard, but to-day there are only about 300 artisans and labourers engaged. The number of workmen employed from 1916 to 1927 was as follows :- 1916, 2,500; 1917, 1,800; 1918, 2,350; 1919, 4,500; 1920, 3,450;, 1921, 1,500. . . . 1927, 1,000. Although there are fewer than 550 officers and men now employed, 100 men are shortly to be dismissed.


Senator Foll - Does the dockyard get much private work?


Senator DUNN - It has tendered for large quantities of outside work, but has been prevented by constitutional difficulties from entering into contracts. In the Bunnerong case the dockyard authorities submitted a tender for work which was to cost approximately £1,000,000, but their right was contested in the High Court, which held that as the dockyard was a government undertaking it could not engage in private work.


Senator Reid - On what work are the men at present engaged.


Senator DUNN - Principally in the construction of aeroplane masts, masts for wireless stations and a little general work that comes from time to time. The dockyard authorities also tendered for the supply of a large quantity of 9 feet water pipes for a pressure tunnel required by the Water and Sewerage Board of New South Wales, and if the contract had been accepted, at least 100 men would have had employment for eighteen months, but the decision of the High Court in the Bunnerong case prevented the dockyard receiving the contract. From 1916 to 1927 the men employed at the Cockatoo Island Dockyard received wages amounting to over £12,000 weekly, whereas the present weekly wages paid amount to less than £3,000. In these circumstances, one can imagine the difficulties confronting the tradespeople in Leichhardt, Rozelle, Annandale and Balmain, many of whom have been compelled to go out of business. Most of the men who were previously employed in the dockyard are now depending on the dole.


Senator Herbert Hays - Shipbuilding at Cockatoo Island has always been costly.


Senator DUNN - I admit that, but the standard of living enjoyed by the Australian workmen is much higher than that enjoyed by those engaged in similar work in other countries and with whom they have to compete. If shipbuilding is to be discontinued in Australia the nation will be faced with serious difficulties in the years to come. A dislocation of the ship-building industry affects also the iron, steel and other industries. Moreover, there are thousands of young men who should be learning the work of shipbuilding and its allied trades, who are now standing around the street corners in Sydney. They have no opportunities to attend technical schools or obtain practical experience in work which should be undertaken in Australia. If plans were prepared and preparations made for laying down the keel of even one steamer for service in the Tasmanian trade employment could be found for '400 men, who would support 1,200 dependants, for a little under two years.


Senator Herbert Hays - What would such a vessel cost?


Senator DUNN - I cannot give an estimate of the cost. The authorities have pleaded with this Government to make £500 available to enable plans and specifications for such a vessel to be prepared. If one vessel were constructed the cost of subsequent vessels of a similar type would be considerably lower as the same plans and specifications could be used. But when we asked the Prime Minister to make available £500 for expenditure upon this work, he " came back at us " with the rejoinder that the money would be provided if honorable senators would kindly pass the Fiduciary Notes Bill. That is where the matter now rests. The re-painting of the buildings at Cockatoo Island would give employment to 100 professional painters, and painters and dockers, for about two months. Repairing and reconstructing wharfs would keep 60 carpenters and assistants in employment for about six weeks. The building of new sanitary blocks and sanitary tanks would engage 60 men of various trades for about two months. The repairing of the crane and rail tracks would keep 60 labourers employed for about six weeks. Forty fitters and their assistants would be employed for six weeks in repairing machines ; twenty plumbers and assistants for six weeks in repairing water, hydraulic and air mains; twenty boilermakers, sheet-iron workers and assistants for six weeks in repairing roofs, chimneys, &c, and 60 boilermakers, shipwrights and assistants for three months in building a new caisson for No. 2 dock. It will be seen that the above programme would afford employment to over 400 men for from one month to three months, and would benefit about 1,200 of their dependants.

In his policy speech, delivered on the 19th September, 1929, the Prime Minister, after referring to the building of steamers for the Tasmanian trade, went on to say -

Cast your minds back. Some of you perhaps will have had actual and bitter experience of it; some of you will have read of it; and others will have heard of it from the lips of their fathers - the long, stern struggle of the workers of this country in the days that preceded Federation, for better conditions, for wages that would keep soul and body together, for a little leisure, a little pleasure, a little of life's sunshine.

I know as well as the Prime Minister what struggles the working class have had. If he is a Labour Prime Minister, if he has at heart the interests of the working class, why did he not stand up for them when he attended the Imperial Conference only a few months ago? So far as I can see, he and those who sur- round him at the present time have divorced themselves from the working class. Whether I am in this Parliament for four or five months or for ten or twenty years, I shall always be a Labour man; but I shall be in a different category from that of the Prime Minister. He can talk this bunk and tripe when he is appealing to the people, yet he can do nothing for the thousands of men and women who to-day are hungry on the Balmain Peninsula; and Mr. Theodore can tour South Australia, and other States abusing those of us who believe in effecting certain financial reforms. The machinery and buildings on Cockatoo Island can be exposed to the weather, and go to rack and ruin for all that the Prime Minister cares. He is not concerned about the struggles of the working class. The sooner he understands their position, as I know it to be, the better it will be for himself, and for those who are associated with him. He sought the opinion of Bear-Admiral Sir William Clarkson in regard to the type, and the construction cost of two vessels for the Tasmanian service, when it was well known that that gentleman's brains were as deeply encrusted with barnacles as was the hull of the battleship Mildura on the river Torrens.

Although there is ample provision at Cockatoo Island for the construction of aeroplanes, it is the policy of the Government to have them constructed in Great Britain. I witnessed at the last Royal Agricultural Show in Sydney a display in which a bombing machine, doubtless of the latest type that has been brought from England, participated. In a casual conversation with one of the officers of the Royal Australian Air Eorce I asked whether it was possible to build aeroplanes of that type in Australia. His reply was : " If the workmen of Australia were given the opportunity to build aeroplanes in this country, they could do so." The firm of which one of the greatest airmen of the present generation - Air Commodore Kingsford Smith - is a director or manager, has placed orders with Cockatoo Island for the building of the wings of its aeroplanes. If such an expert has confidence in the workmen at Cockatoo Island, surely this great political joss, the Prime Minister of Aus tralia, this great Labour leader, this mountebank masquerading in the name of Labour, can come off his perch and give a practical demonstration of his confidence in the Australian workman to construct aeroplanes. He does not hold that confidence in them.

Many Australian merchants and business people, for reasons known only to themselves, place their orders in England when they require any vessels to be built. The Manly and Port Jackson Steamship Company on different occasions recently has had its vessels built in the Old Country, although for many years they were built at Mort's Dock. It was possibly the influence of the shareholders, who wished to draw larger dividends, that was responsible for the adoption of such a policy. The same thing applies to the North Shore Ferries Company. These companies appear to overlook the fact that they have been built up by the great mass of the people of Australia.

Effective steps are taken by the United States of America to prevent any American shipping firm from having its vessels constructed in other countries. If a firm in Boston, New York or San Francisco placed an order in Great Britain, Germany, France, Norway or Sweden, it would be compelled to pay customs dues amounting to the difference between the cost of the vessel if constructed in the United States, and the price charged in the country where it was built. That is clearly set out in a letter received by Mr. S. Shearer, general secretary of the Federated Shipwrights' &c. Association of Australia, from Mr. W. B. Hamilton, Collector of Customs, United States Customs Service, San Francisco, California, of which the following is a copy: -

Replying to the various inquiries made in your letter to N. S. Farley, of this office, under date of the 4th ultimo, you are advised as' follows : -

(a)   The Government of the United States pays no subsidy, bounty or other unit per ton to ship-builders. The Tariff Act of 3rd October, 1913, provided for the free entry of materials for the construction of vessels and their machinery and free entry of articles for their outfit and equipment of all vessels built in the United States, either for foreign or domestic owners and for free entry for repairs of naval vessels or other vessels owned or used by the United States and vessels registered under the laws of the United States; but this provision of said Tariff Act was repealed by the Tariff Act of 21st September, 1922.

(b)   There are no concessions granted by the American Government or port authorities to vessels built in the United States excepting that the Tariff Act of 1922 provides, in section 313 thereof, that, upon the exportation of articles manufactured or produced in the United States with the use of imported merchandise, the full amount of duties paid upon the merchandise so used shall be refunded as drawback, less 1 per centum of such duties, and that "the provisions of this section shall apply to materials imported and used in the construction and equipment of vessels built for foreign account and ownership or for the Government of any foreign country notwithstanding that such vessels may not, within the strict meaning of the term, bo articles exported." You will see therefrom that no drawback of duties is allowable to vessels built for citizens of the United States, such drawback being allowed only when built for foreign account.

(c)   No American citizen or company can place orders for the building of vessels or procure any class of vessels from another country and be allowed to engage in the coastwise trade of the United States, but such citizens or companies may purchase foreign-built vessels but such vessels are allowed to engage only in trade with foreign countries or with the Philippine Islands and the Islands of Guam and Tutuila when wholly owned by citizens or corporations organized thereunder or under the laws of any State thereof, the president and managing director of which shall be citizens of the United States. Foreignbuilt vessels registered pursuant to said provision shall not be allowed to engage in the coastwise trade of the United States, and if such vessels do engage in such trade all merchandise carried is subject to seizure and confiscation, and if any passengers are carried, there is a penalty of $200 for each passenger so carried coastwise in foreign-built vessels or in American-built vessels which may have been sold foreign and registered under a foreign flag.

Section 466 of the Tariff Act of 1922 provides that the equipments or any part thereof, including boats purchased off, or the repair parts of materials to be used, or the expenses of repairs made in a foreign country upon a vessel documented under the laws of the United States, or a vessel intended to be employed in such trade shall, on the first arrival of such vessel in any port of the United States, he liable to the payment of ad valorem duty of 50 per centum on the cost thereof in such foreign country; and then, if the owner or master of such vessel shall wilfully and knowingly neglect or fail to report, make entry and pay duties as herein provided, such vessel, with her tackle, apparel and furniture, shall be seized and forfeited.

(d)   No law has yet been passed in the

United States to foster or assist ship-building industry or the promotion of the American Merchant Marine in the way of bounty or subsidy, although this matter has been frequently discussed in the maritime journals for many years, and many efforts have been made to induce the Congress of the United States to provide subsidies or bounties for the American Merchant Marine.

You say that you understand that subsidies or bounties were paid by the Governments of Germany, Spain, France, Italy, and the United States. As explained, no subsidies have been paid by the United States. Possibly all of the other countries mentioned by you have paid subsidy or bounty. Some years ago France paid bounties or subsidies, as this office understands, according to the number of miles travelled by vessels under French registry, and, in order to secure the greatest amount of bounties, various sailing vessels travelled from France all round the world by the way of Tasmania to this port in order to get in the greatest number of miles for their bounties, but it is understood that this bounty or subsidy has been greatly modified or entirely discontinued, inasmuch as none of such vessels has arrived at this port for several years.

The following, in addition to the questions propounded by you, may be of interest: -

Section 21 of the Merchant Marine Act of 1920 provides that from and after 1st February, 1922, the coastwise laws of the United States shall extend to the island territories and possessions of the United States not now covered thereby provided that, if adequate shipping service is not provided by said date, the President shall extend the period for the establishment of such service in case of any island territory or possession for such time as may be necessary for the establishment of adequate shipping facilities, and provided further, that this provision shall not take effect with reference to the Philippine Islands until the President of the United States, after a full investigation of the local needs and conditions, shall, by proclamation, declare that an adequate shipping service has been established as herein provided, and fix a date for the going into effect of the same. In the last few months there has been considerable agitation is the United States to extend the coastwise laws to the Philippine Islands, but, so far, no action has been taken, and very recently the newspapers stated that the Filipinos have filed a protest with the authorities at Washington against putting into effect the coastwise laws of the United States in respect to the Philippines.

Many countries, possibly all, require vesselscarrying passengers to be inspected, and the carrying of the necessary equipment of lifesavins: and protection of property, but section 26. Merchant Marine Act of 1920, provides that cargo vessels, documented under the laws of the United States, may carry not to exceed sixteen persons, in addition to the crew, between the United States and any other port foreign or domestic, and between foreign ports, and such vessels shall not be held to be passenger vessels or vessels carrying passengers within the meaning of the inspection laws and rules and regulations thereunder, provided, that, nothing herein shall be taken to exempt such vessels from the laws, rules and regulations respecting life-saving equipment, and provided further, that, when any such vessel carries persons other than the crew, as herein provided for, the owner, agent or master of the vessel shall first notify such persons of the presence on board of any dangerous articles us defined by law or of any other condition or circumstance which would constitute a risk of safety for passenger or crew, and provided further, that the privilege bestowed by this section on vessels of the United States shall be extended in so far as the foreign trade is concerned, to the cargo vessels of any nation which allows that like privilege to cargo vessels of the United States in trades not restricted to vessels under its own flag, and provided further, that failure on the part of the owner, agent, or master of the vessel to give such notice shall subject the vessel to a penalty nf $500, which may be mitigated or remitted by the Secretary of Commerce upon a proper representation of the facts.

It is hoped that all of the questions propounded by you have been satisfactorily answered, but, if there is any further information you desire, it will be supplied upon your request therefor.

In case you desire to read in full the laws mentioned in this communication, it is suggested that you call upon the American Consul at Sydney, as no doubt he has full copies of the' laws mentioned in this letter.

Respectfully,

W.   B. Hamilton,

Collector of Customs.

To-day men and women on Balmain Peninsula are living on the dole and are being evicted from their homes. The deputation that waited upon our " humane " Prime Minister asking that they be given the right to work, proved conclusively that the relief work suggested at Cockatoo Island would provide employment for 400 men and sustenance for 1,200 of their dependants. Even though the farmer is affected by slackness or depression he does not neglect his ploughs, tractors and out-buildings. The Prime Minister, in his policy, speech, went on to say -

It is well that ve should not forget it. It is well that we should remember the men who fought the battle for us.

I was one of those who fought the battle for this country. I intend to fight no more battles of that kind. Continuing, the Prime Minister said -

Many of the young and happy folic who live to-day have no conception of the conditions of the past.

What I am concerned about are the conditions of the present. As a supporter of the Lang policy, and a member of the Beasley federal group, I remind the

Prime Minister, and the Treasurer as well as that monument of legal intelligence, the Attorney-General, that I and my colleagues are very much concerned about the distress and starvation prevalent among women and children in Balmain. The Prime Minister added -

One could go on telling of these pitiful things, painting tragic pictures of the past.

And so the word-spinning Prime Minister continued with his story. I tell him now that there is a real fight on, and he must stand up to it. Before he became Prime Minister he went to the coal-fields in New South "Wales and told much the same tale, making many promises to the coal-miners, who afterwards found that he had let them down. While I was Government "Whip I was reprimanded many times for fighting the case of the coal-miners on the floor of this chamber, but I saw no reason to apologize for anything I had done in the interests of the working classes. In any case, I was never happy in that position. I again appeal to the Senate to force the Prime Minister at an early date to honour the pledges contained in his policy speech with regard to the shipbuilding industry in this country.







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