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Wednesday, 12 October 1910

Senator PEARCE (Western Australia) (Minister of Defence) . - This clause is an extension of a similar clause appearing in the Bill of 1908. That Bill provided that -

A steam-ship in respect of which a certificate of survey granted by the Board of Trade of the United Kingdom has been issued, shall, whilst that certificate remains in force, but subject to the succeeding provisions of this section, be exempt from survey under this Act.

The clause then set out the requirements. The provision has been extended in this Bill by the insertion of the words " or recognised by the Board of Trade." Senator Guthrie says that the Board of Trade does not require survey certificates for nonpassenger ' ships, but it recognises Lloyd's certificates of surveys, and Lloyd's recognise the certificates of other institutions, such as the Norwegian Bureau Veritas, which has a similar standard to Lloyd's.

Senator Guthrie - But some of these vessels may have no survey certificates.

Senator PEARCE - The fact that Lloyd's recognise the survey certificates of these other institutions shows that they conform to their own requirements. That is why we propose in this clause that if the Board of Trade issues certificates, we shall recognise them, and that if the Board of Trade recognises certificates, we also shall be prepared to recognise them.

Senator Guthrie - There is no law compelling the Board of Trade to recognise these certificates.

Senator PEARCE - It is the usual practice of the Board of Trade to recognise them. It seems to me that the clause represents a fair and equitable proposal.

Clause agreed to.

Clause 207 agreed to.

Clause 208 - (1.) All steam-ships registered in Australia or engaged in the coasting trade shall, if required by the regulations, be divided by transverse water-tight partitions in the prescribed manner, and have water-tight false bottoms. (2.) The master and owner of any such ship which goes to sea without compliance with this section shall be guilty of an offence.

Penalty : One hundred pounds.

Senator. Lt.-Colonel Sir ALBERTGOULD (New South Wales) [5.55]. - I move -

That the words "and have water-tight false bottoms " be left out.

The marginal note to this clause is very misleading, unless the intention is to suggest navigation laws which do not contain such a provision. I have no objection to the first portion of the clause requiring that transverse water-tight partitions shall be provided. That appears to me to be a very wise provision. But I do take great exception to the provision for water-tight false bottoms. I point out that there is no provision requiring these water-tight false bottoms in either the New South Wales Act of 1 90 1, or the New Zealand Act of 1903. There is a strong objection to insisting that water-tight false bottoms shall be provided in ships registered in Australia and engaged in the limited coast-trade. The provision would very materially interfere with coast-trade ships trading to ports in which there is only a light draught of water to be obtained. In the case of such vessels every ounce of unnecessary weight, and every cubic foot of unnecessary space demanded, must add to the inconvenience and loss of the ship-owners. When I referred to the matter on the second reading of the Bill, I gathered from interjections made by Senator Guthrie that he believed this provision would not materially interfere with the construction of vessels. I think the honorable senator was not correctly advised, because a water-tight false bottom must add to the weight of the ship, and so must reduce her carrying capacity.

Senator de Largie - This applies to all ships registered in Australia or engaged in the limited coast-trade, and the trip between some ports on the coast is often as bad as any oversea voyage.

Senator Lt Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD - I am prepared to admit that at once. I say that the extra weight of the water-tight false bottom would materially reduce the carrying capacity of the ship. I take it that the false bottom would cover the whole of the bottom of the ship, and would have to be raised above the true bottom of the ship. It must therefore restrict the space which would otherwise be available for the stowage of cargo. I have here a letter from the Superintending Engineer of the Newcastle and Hunter River Steamship Company to the manager of the company. He writes -

I have the honour to draw your attention to Division No. 208 in reference to water-tight false bottoms.

This will be detrimental in adding weight to the hull and consequently increased draught of water when light, and less carrying capacity when loaded.

Besides this, double bottoms in vessels of small tonnage will necessarily be so confined that they will almost be inaccessible for cleaning and cement washing and through want of attention tank tops, filters, and reverse bars will be shortlived.

These are very important objections, apart from those to which I have already referred.

Senator Needham - The additional weight would be infinitesimal.

Senator Lt Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD - I remind the honorable senator that the writer of the letter I have quoted is a superintending engineer of one of. the oldest shipping companies in New South Wales owning vessels trading between Sydney and Newcastle. He says that these false bottoms will be detrimental in adding weight to the hull, and, consequently, increased draught of water when light, and less carrying capacity when loaded. I do not think the honorable senator will be prepared to pit his knowledge of this matter against that of a man whose profession it is to thoroughly understand it. I place great reliance upon the opinion of such a man. Realizing these difficulties, we should surely eliminate this provision from the clause. Hitherto no such provision has been embodied in the law relating to ships trading to Australia. It is not contained in the Merchant Shipping Act or in the New Zealand Shipping Act. For many years a large number of light draught steamers have been trading along the coast of New South Wales, none of which has been fitted with a watertight false bottom. It is true that one of these vessels is occasionally lost, perhaps as the result of bumping upon a bar ; but, in every respect they are admirably fitted for the trade in which they are employed. Many of the companies have been engaged in that trade for scores of years, and in no instance have they considered it necessary to adopt watertight false bottoms for the safety of their ships. Although they have increased and improved the equipment of those vessels, nothing has been done in that connexion. Of course, in the case of a steamer worth only a few thousand pounds, the fitting of a watertight false bottom may not be of much consequence. But I would point out that it has not been found necessary to hamper vessels costing £60,000 or ,£70,000 by restricting their cargocarrying capacity or by adding to their draught. I ask the Minister why this provision has been introduced. He may reply that its object is to protect our passengers, our ships, and their cargo. But ought we unnecessarily to lessen the power of vessels to negotiate bar harbors and to carry a reasonable amount of cargo unless a strong case can be made out in favour of that being done?

Senator Needham - Ought we not to safeguard human life?

Senator Lt Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD - Is is our duty to do that as far as we possibly can. But in dealing with this matter, we have to consider what are reasonable and proper provisions to make. We know that a ship is not permitted to proceed to sea unless she is in a seaworthy condition. In dealing with a provision of this character we ought to be very careful how we interfere with our shipping trade. We ought not to impose too great restrictions upon an industry to which we expect to owe so much in connexion with the future development of this country. We must not make it impossible for ship-owners to carry on an efficient service at remunerative rates. We must also recollect that people have settled in the various States in the belief that their produce will be carried to market, at reasonable freights. I ask the Minister to consent to the elimination of this provision.

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