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Friday, 29 October 1920

Mr TUDOR (Yarra) .- Apparently the shipbuilding that has been carried on by private enterprise within the Commonwealth has proved a failure. Honorable members opposite have favoured private enterprise as against Government control, and some of them opposed the building of vessels at the Government yards at Cockatoo Island, Williamstown, Walsh Island, and elsewhere, saying that we could do better, and get ships built more cheaply, if we trusted to private enterprise. Now Messrs. Kidman and Mayoh ask to be relieved of their contract, and the Wallace Power Boat Company have been relieved of another contract. Were I asked to choose between the course adopted in the latter case and that now proposed, I would infinitely prefer the present procedure, because everything will be done in the light of day. The honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Mahony), in whose electorate a great deal of the shipping work has been carried out, knows more of these matters than I do, and, no doubt, will have somethingto say about them. Not only has private shipbuilding failed in the Commonwealth, but the ships which we had built for us at Seattle by private firms came to us in the condition of sieves.

Mr Watkins - And cost more for extras than their original price.

Mr TUDOR - Yes. The following members of this House and the Senate make up the Public Works Committee: - Senators Foll, Newland, and Plain, and Messrs. Atkinson, Bamford, Gregory, Mackay, Mathews, and Parker Moloney; but as this is a special matter, I think it had better be referred to a special Committee, composed of members familiar with the work to be investigated. In saying that, I in no way reflect on the ability or honour of the members of the Works Committee. Messrs.. Kidman and Mayoh say that they are willing to accept the verdict of that Committee, but possibly this House might treat the Committee's report as it has treated its report on the proposal to transfer the Notes Printing Office from the King's Warehouse to the Victoria-parade site.

Mr Hughes - If you do not agree to my proposal, Messrs. Kidman and Mayoh will say, "As you are insisting on a second voice, we must have the same." What is needed is finality. Without a decision in the manner I suggest, they will go to law.Some persons think a lot of the law.

Mr TUDOR - I have not much admiration for the law, except as a costly institution for suitors which benefits the lawyers. The more one knows of the law the less he likes it. I think that there should be a special Committee to deal with this matter.

Mr Hughes - The suggestion of a special Committee re-opens the whole case. What I propose is the result of long negotiations.

Mr TUDOR - I think that the matter should be dealt with by a special Committee. In no case should the Public Works Committee's decision be final, because its members, like other persons, are capable of making mistakes. It is a gross reflection on private enterprise that it has been unable to conduct shipbuilding satisfactorily either to those engaged in the work or to the Commonwealth.

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