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Tuesday, 14 October 2003
Page: 21386

Mr SIDEBOTTOM (9:05 PM) —I want to take this opportunity to raise a matter which I believe has been shelved by the Royal Australian Navy for one reason or another over a period of 20 years simply because it is not grand enough. I am speaking about the former Navy anti-submarine River class frigate HMAS Barcoo, which was commissioned in January 1944 and decommissioned on February 21, 1964. In a nutshell, the HMAS Barcoo Association has been endeavouring to honour its former ship by having one of the new navy ships given the name `Barcoo' to keep the Barcoo alive. Out of frustration at the constant rejection of the Barcoo name by the Navy, a constituent in my electorate of Braddon who served on the Barcoo, Mr Harold Rigney, brought the matter to my attention. Incidentally, Mr Rigney is the only member of the HMAS Barcoo Association living in my electorate and one of only a handful in Tasmania. The association itself has about 200 members.

When I asked why he thought the Navy had not chosen to name a new ship after the Barcoo, Mr Rigney replied, `I think it is because the Barcoo was named after the Barcoo River in Western Queensland and unfortunately it's a bit muddy and murky.' Maybe this is so, but to me the name Barcoo is very Australian. The Barcoo River has been immortalised by the great Australian poet Banjo Patterson in the well-known poem, A Bush Christening:

On the outer Barcoo where the churches are few,

And men of religion are scanty,

On a road never cross'd 'cept by folk that are lost,

One Michael Magee had a shanty.

The Barcoo River is unique in that it joins the Thomson River in the Barcoo Shire to form Cooper Creek—the only place in Australia, indeed perhaps the world, where two rivers flow into a creek. The Barcoo River was named in the late 1840s by the explorer Edmund Kennedy. Barcoo is an Aboriginal word which means water. The Australian Defence Force prides itself on continuing a longstanding naval tradition of naming new ships after former warships, naval personnel, towns, cities, bases and so forth. So why not continue this tradition and keep the Barcoo going? As recently as September this year, a new Armidale class patrol boat, one of 12, was named after the city of Launceston in Tasmania's north. The Australian Defence Force said that other new boats would be named Bathurst, Bundaberg, Albany, Pirie, Maitland, Childers and Broome, just to name a few, but Barcoo was nowhere on the list. It would seem to me that there may be a bit of snobbery; if the Barcoo River were bigger and better then it may have got a look in.

However, in true Aussie fashion, Mr Rigney and his fellow HMAS Barcoo Association members are not about the give up without a fight. There is no way that they are going to let this one go through to the keeper. In December last year, Mr Ian Thomas, the secretary of the HMAS Barcoo Association again wrote to Vice Admiral Ritchie, reinforcing the association's dream to have a new ship carry the Barcooname. He said in that letter, `Our association is well aware that there are no doubt many other ship associations pushing for their ship's name to be chosen for one of the 15 new patrol vessels, but we feel the Barcoo did a very sterling job for the Navy and the country over a long time and would be a very worthy choice.' Vice Admiral Ritchie replied, `No decision has been made regarding the naming of the patrol boats. However, if Barcoo is not selected as one of the patrol boats, it will be considered when the Navy next select names for an appropriate type of vessel.' The Vice Admiral went on to say, `In particular, HMAS Barcoo's gallant efforts during its bombardment campaign of Japanese positions in New Guinea during 1944 are widely recognised within the Naval community'.

So why will the Navy not give true recognition to this gallant ship and keep the Barcooname alive? Ships junior to the Barcoo—the Hawkesbury and the Burdekin—have been recognised. The Barcoo not only served during World War II but was in service almost continuously until its decommissioning in 1964. There is no question that the HMAS Barcoo gave good service to the Navy and Australia over a long period. Many of the peacetime crew are still joining the HMAS Barcoo Association today in an effort to keep the memory of the Barcoo afloat. It deserves to be kept afloat. It deserves to be the name of one of our naval ships. The Barcoo should live on as the name of one of our newest vessels. It deserves no less. HMAS Barcoo has earned this honour.