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Thursday, 2 August 1934

Mr GREGORY (Swan) .- If the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) had moved that the proposed vote be reduced by £1, as an intimation to the Government that in the opinion of the committee the cruiser should be built in

Australia, one could not have taken strong objection to the course followed by him; but, if his amendment were agreed to, no effort would be made to give Australia efficient naval defence. According to the expert advice received, some expenditure to ensure better naval protection is required, and a suitable vessel can be procured from Great Britain for about £1,000,000 less than the amount that would have to be expended if it were built in Australia. Machinery suitable for rolling the requisite steel plates is not obtainable in this country, and most of the armament and special equipment would have to be imported from Britain. Surely it » is preferable to save that £1,000,000, and spend it in developing Australian industries. Some time ago, the Tariff Board investigated the cost of building in Australia steamers exceeding 1,000 tons register, and it stated in its report that a duty of at least 75 per cent, would be necessary to ensure that any considerable proportion of this work would be done in Australian dockyards. When Mr. M. Charlton, formerly Leader of the Opposition in this Parliament, was Chairman of the Parliamentary Committee of Public Accounts, that body made an exhaustive report regarding the conditions then obtaining at Cockatoo Island Dockyard, and it showed the impossibility of carrying out work there at a reasonable cost.

All the naval experts, I understand, agree that the cost of building a cruiser of the Leander class in Australia would be excessive, and that great delay would occur in its construction. Every effort should be made to bring about disarmament; but, when other nations are strengthening their armaments, it would be madness on our part, if we failed to afford adequate protection for our people.

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