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Monday, 13 May 1985
Page: 1823

Senator LEWIS(5.25) —I move:

That the Senate take note of the paper.

The provision of patrol boats in this area is very well appreciated and is a marvellous idea. I had the pleasure of riding on board the patrol boat which we supplied to the Solomon Islands Government. The Solomon Islands Government is very proud of the boat. It is an excellent boat. This statement announces successful design for a new patrol boat to be supplied to some Pacific Forum countries for surveillance and enforcement of their maritime exclusive economic zones. The successful design is for a 165-tonne vessel measuring 31 1/2 metres. I know that the boat we provided to the Solomon Islands is along those sorts of dimensions, but it seems to me that we need some lateral thinking in regard to the designs of these boats. I recognise that this design was successful after consultation with participating countries. Consideration was given to its range, speed and accommodation. However, the participating countries see much kudos in having a 165-tonne big naval vessel whipping around with their flag hanging on it. I can understand their thinking along those lines, but it seems to me that the cost of maintaining such a vessel should be considered. I understand that these boats get along at about 28 to 30 knots. You, Mr Deputy President, would be one of the few people in this place who would understand how much fuel a vessel would eat when shifting 165 tonnes at about 29 or 30 knots. That is the sort of speed necessary to perform the role which these boats are performing.

Senator Mason —If you are silly enough to have a displacement hull.

Senator LEWIS —Senator Mason, who will speak later, tells me that the situation is even worse because such a vessel has a displacement hull; of course it has. Why are we not looking at something like an enlarged Shark Cat of something like 10 or 12 metres in length?

Senator Mason —Or a hydrofoil.

Senator LEWIS —Or a hydrofoil. It should be about 10 or 12 metres long with two outboard motors. The convenience of an Australian-designed outboard motor is enormous. If something goes wrong with one engine it is only a matter of lifting it off the boat and putting on a replacement motor while the other one is being repaired on shore. Similarly, a catamaran or hydrofoil could be trailed up out of the water on to sand. The cost of maintaining a 165-tonne vessel really bothers me. One could include a recoilless cannon, a 30-millimetre machine gun, which would be adequate armament for such vessels. We would probably then be in a position to supply double the number of boats at far less than the cost of this vessel. It is about time that we stopped this old-fashioned naval approach whereby these vessels have to have all sorts of accommodation. If we looked at, say, a three-man Shark Cat or hydrofoil-type boat we could provide all that is needed to perform its role, at far less cost and, in particular, at far less cost to maintain.