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Thursday, 15 May 1924

Mr GREGORY (Swan) .- I do not know what object would be gained if this matter were referred back to the Public Works Committee. So far as I can judge, it has been very fully investigated by that Committee. Unfortu- nately, I was in the hospital when a division was taken, but I was present when the report was finalized. If honorable members look at the division list they will find that Senator Barnes, Senator Lynch, Senator Reid, Mr. Jackson, Mr. Mackay, and Mr. Mathews voted for the motion to carry out the work, and Mr. Blakeley voted against it. The evidence clearly showed that if the training depot was to be continued, this accommodation must be provided. As one of the principal witnesses said, if the Navy is to be continued, in order to give proper accommodation to these men, the extensions must be made. The question at once arises, are we to continue our Navy t If honorable members opposite are opposed to its continuance they will vote against the motion. If we are going to continue it and have sufficient ratings there, surely we must take care to see that the accommodation at the depot is at least reasonable. The Minister (Mr. Stewart) asked that reasonable accommodation should be provided for the complement of men required there. It is for *;he House to decide whether that work shall be carried out or not. This cannot be now regarded, as was originally intended, as a sub-naval base. I do not think the honorable member for South Sydney (Mr. E. Riley) was quite fair in -raking a charge of extravagance. He was Chairman of the Public Works Committee at the time, and he knows that when we went down there the question of extravagant work did not come before the Committee. The Committee had no voice whatever in regard to one of the most appalling pieces of extravagance I have ever seen - the building of a wharf on dry land. The honorable member for South Sydney was silent about it in this House. He did not mention it in any report. It was never dealt with; it did not come within the purview of the inquiry by the Committee. He can tell honorable members that we curtailed a lot of the proposals that were made for extensive buildings, particularly the workshop. To some extent we must class the whole of the work as extravagance. It was I who then drew attention to the extravagance, probably because I was sitting in opposition . This work was initiated by Admiral Henderson's report. A Labour Administration made the appointment of the engineer, and was carrying out the work when we vent there. Honorable members are aware that I have been a member of the Public Works Committee for a very long time, and have had a good deal of experience on it. In defence work we have the Naval Department, the Defence Department, and the Aviation Department, carrying out very big schemes, involving the expenditure of enormous sums of money. Each is working as a separate Department. I suggest that it would be advisable to have the whole of this work under the control of an expert Board subject to the Minister. I would prefer the Board to' be inside, rather than outside, the Department.

Mr Fenton - There is one already.

Mr GREGORY - There is a Council of Defence, it is true; but that body would not meet the requirements of the situation. A great deal of expenditure is being incurred at the present time in connexion with various activities of the Department, and it seems to me that information concerning them might well be gathered by a group of experts for the guidance of honorable members. There is waste under the present system. The honorable member for South Sydney (Mr. E. Riley) was in error when he said just now that a Labour Government was not in power when the Flinders Naval Depot was started. It was a Labour Administration that started the work at both the Flinders Depot and Cockburn Sound. I well remember, two years after work had started, getting evidence from Mr. Settle, who had been brought out to. draw up the plans. Large sums of money had already been expended. The idea then was that Flinders should be converted into a sub-naval base. As a matter of fact, it is useless for that purpose, but is quite suitable for a naval training depot. If we are to continue the Australian Navy we must have the additional buildings to give reasonable accommodation for the men to be trained there. I ask honorable members to look at the proposal in this light. Are we going to continue the Australian Navy? If so, we must have ratings properly trained, and must give the men reasonable accommodation. If we are not going to continue our present naval policy, then the motion should be rejected.

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