1924: MP calls for wireless on ships to be compulsory

Auckland Star, 9 Aug 1924, p 7


(By Telegraph.—Special to “Star.”)

In the House of Representatives to-night sympathetic reference was made to the Ripple disaster, and a protest was voiced against the absence of wireless installation on the vessel.

“I rise to speak of one matter only, and it is a matter of life and death,” said Mr P Fraser (Wellington Central). “The hearts of the whole people of New Zealand have been stirred during the last two days in connection with sad news about the steamer Ripple, and the fate which apparently has either overtaken her, or what she is enduring at the present time. We are hopeful that instead of the tragedy revealed by the lifeboat and the body which have come ashore, that still the ship herself has gone further up the coast, and has sought and obtained some harbour of refuge, but we do not know — we have no means of knowing. There is no wireless installation aboard that ship — to the discredit, be it said, of the Parliament of this country, which has not seen to the matter earlier.

“This matter has been brought up repeatedly on the floor of this house. I, personally, have brought it up, and also other members. There is a question on the Order Paper at present. The question is by the member for Grey Lynn (Mr Bartram), and is to ask the Minister of Marine whether, in the interests of the travelling public, he will give instructions, or if he has not the power to do so, if he will bring down legislation this session, compelling the installation of wireless in all coastal vessels? Then this very important note is added. During the overhauling of the SS Arahura her place on the Napier and Auckland run was taken by the SS Manaia, which was not equipped with wireless. Quite recently she experienced a very trying time, and was lost sight of for hours in one of the worst gales experienced on the East Coast, and disaster might easily have occurred. A wireless installation would have enabled assistance to be called in such a case.

“I find,” continued Mr Fraser, “that the Ripple, and the ship Futurist, which was sent out to search for the Ripple, are both without wireless. The Futurist may have been the best searching ship available in the harbour at the time she was sent out. I do not know — that is a matter for experts to determine – but one thing we do know, and that is she is not equipped with wireless. Nobody knows where she is at present, and nobody knows what the result of her search has been. Consequently, no word can be expected from the trawler until she returns to port, unless she is able to signal to some o£ the sheep stations along the coast. I ask that this should be stopped for all time round the New Zealand coast.”

Reform and other Members: Hear, hear.

“This Parliament has power, and Government has power, and I am going to appeal to the Premier and ask him to tell us definitely to-night that from now onwards no ship, passenger or cargo vessel, will leave our ports without wireless installation so that the men who go down to the sea in ships and battle with the waves, and upon whom so much of the prosperity of the country depends, and who always play their part nobly and well, will have their ships equipped with a most scientific and up-to-date method of communication. Everybody in this country is watching anxiously, and hoping against hope, even when they fear the worst in regard to the Ripple.”

The Premier made sympathetic reference to the disaster and to the mourning which had been caused in many homes. He did not wish to prejudge anything, because there won’t be an exhaustive inquiry into what had taken place, and an attempt, [?] successfully to find [?] of what had occurred. [?] the Minister of Marine [?] say that nothing would be left undone to prevent a recurrence of the disaster such as had happened at our doors.

Additional paragraph breaks added to improve readability. Some words in the final paragraph are illegible.