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A Ftp WELCOME

FIREMEN ON THE STEAMER K WEEROONA ON STRIKE.

MINISTERS AND GUESTS UN ABLE TO MEET THE FLEET.

'A GRATUITOUS INSULT TO \ THE PRIME MINISTER.' Melbourne. .Tiilv 23.

At the last minute the firemen on the ,Weel'O.ona refused to move the vessel and thus prevented the Commonwealth /Minis ters and their 1,000 guests from going out ito meet the American Fleet. The men ?aidjhey would not work until the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) either left the ship or gave a written apology for the 'mali- cious lies and insults he has heaped upon .the seamen.' ? Assured that Mr. Bruce

,wa« not on Doara, me men aemanqou a guarantee of £100 that Mr. Bruce was Jiot there. After consultation with other Ministers -and officials Senator Pearce' de cided to cancel the trip. ? The Weerooua had' on board members ?f the Commonwealth Government and their guestsi including the Consuls and representatives of other countries, official*, ' army, and navy leaders and their wives, and Mrs. Coateit (wife of the New Zealand Premier). While the guests were goiiig aboard the firemen held a meeting in the stokehold. At five minutes 'before uoon the captain sounded the eiren, and - stragglers hurried . aboard. Noon struck. .The minutes clicked by, but the Wce roona's moorings were untouched. . Seuator Pearce (accompanied by the

Minister for -Work* and Jfcuhratfs)* the Assistant 'Minister (Senator ; Crawford), and the Vice-President oi the Executive Council left the 'VVecroona and4 had^ a hurried consultation ' oil the pier; The olfiiiers 'of the Government and' the^lup ping company conveyed to the 'Minister* the decision tfi-d demands' of the firemen. A suggestion was made to the aBSeinbled Ministers that volunteers should be called to man' the stokehold. ' Several o£ the guests offered their ? services.' Then a pro pogal was made Out the naval ratings should be brought in to take the place of the strikers. The' Ministers considered these suggestions, but S(inator_ Pearce, 'with the concurrence oii his colldagueSg de cided that in view of the delicate situa tion on the watqrfronl, the wisest course was to cancel the trip. ? ' , :

At 12.30 \SenaTor 'Pearce mounted the gangway from the- head' ofii which' he ad dressed the crowded decks. He said:— 'Ladies and gentlemen, I regret to eay {hit the firemen on this boat have 'refused to take the vessel out dtt the' last 'fdqmerit. They have offered a gratuitous Jiiuult -to the Prime Minister' of: this, country-^ We have been ' invited to parley with ' these men.' We refuse ? absolutely -to do bo. (Loud cheers.) i'liejvhave suggested that a certain eum qi money should -be put jip. We have 'refused to treat with them in any way : 'jrliate'ver.' We arc 'able ' to secure the necessary men to man the ship, but a volunteer crew would involve

illtr uuiujiau^, -tuu ijjib -we aiu uul /#rt pm-fld to do. (Cheers-) We have no desire that the company should suffer. ? We re gret very much the inconvenience you nave been put to, but we invite you to leave the ship. We regret very much our inability to curry., out the invitation we extended to you.' At ' the moment the firemen were de-' mauding that he should leave the ship Mr. Bruce was at his oflice. Senator Pearce explained later ..that the Prime Minister had decided not to travel down the bay by the Weerodna, because the vessel wculd not return ' in time to Miable him to greet Admiral Coontz. -'Melbourne.— The Prime Minister, refer ring to the action of the firemen on the Weeroona, said:-- '-While the firemen were demanding that I should be- delivered to them I was miles away from the scene. The statement that I knew of the little joke, and liad taken the precaution not to board the ship was not correct. I had no breath of the farce. If I had I cer tainly would have seen that the guests

of the Commonwealth -were T»ot .. incon venienced.' ?'?--. -.??'?? .--?'.' Mr. : Bruce, said he brid' iuteuded to board the Weerooua, but had been de tained at his office' till it was too Inte to' go oji board at noon. '1 was so obli vious that anything uutoward bad ..hap pened,' he said, 'that I left .jny office and motored' witlr Mrs. -.Bruce., down the coast to witness the arrival, of the ships. At 4 o'clock Senator Peace told me of the incident,' Mr. Bruce'. declared, that it was the most incredibly foolish and stupid, thine he -head heard of men doing.; . 'Certainly, he said, 'it is - a Bplen-' did object lesson . to the public .on job

control, and should bring a Veahsatidn of its meaning to' everybody.' He. re gretted that such an episode should have occurred at such a time,, but he trusted too imuch' ? importance would not: be at-; tached to. it by the American visitors. 'It ..was the action of. a few misguided, men,' he said, .'and an example of job, control of the most idiotic, and .' stupid kind.' r:.. . . ' . -i . - .-.;?: . *.'WU1 the Coi»mohw.ealvh. Government, do anything to punish these in'eu?' he was asked. ? . . - .??:''? . 'Well,'. .Mr. .Bruce replied, .'the legal position has been examined, but the men employed on the Wearoonia arc subject to Slate jurisdiction.- only.' : . #. -The vessel; 'if appears, comes within the -class of river and port steamers, over which the State has exclusive legal autho rity, ' ? '

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