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Thursday, 2 August 1934

Mr E F HARRISON (BENDIGO, VICTORIA) - They have. Some people state that the purpose of our cruisers is to repel raids. I should like to correct that idea. Raids on cities are not usually made by ships if there is any possibility of their being opposed by land defences. In the first place, the attacking cruiser is very expensive, and only a limited number of them is available. Cruisers carry only a limited amount of ammunition, which, if used in attacking an enemy town, is not available for repelling enemy ships should any be encountered on the way home. It is far better to seek out the enemy wherever he may be, and prevent him from attacking you. We, however, have not a sufficiently strong naval force in these waters to pursue those tactics, so that the most we can do is to use our cruisers to prevent commerce raiders, such as the Emden, Konigsberg, Wolff, and Moewe of the last war, from attacking our sea-borne trade. In order to run down such raiders, cruisers of the latest type will be needed, because the commerce raiders of the future will be both fast and well armed.

I deprecate the suggestion of the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway) that we should take measures to find out what the people of this country want in the way of armaments. I am convinced that there is a growing desire among the people of Australia for the provision of adequate defence forces such as we have not had since Labour " broke " defence in 3929. We have been left defenceless, and at the mercy of the nations of the world, our only, satisfaction being that Groat Britain would undoubtedly do her best with her own depleted forces to help one of her children in, time of need. We are in the habit of saying that we are in a position to look after ourselves, and yet we have leaned on Great Britain over a period of years, and have failed to do our share in providing for the defence of the country. In actual fact, the defence vote for some years now has amounted to only half what is spent each year on spirituous liquors in Australia, only onethird of what i3 spent on beer, and very little more than one-third of what is spent on tobacco.

Mr White - It amounts to less than the cost of a wireless licence per head of population.

Mr E F HARRISON (BENDIGO, VICTORIA) - I am confident that when these facts are placed fairly before the public, they will not fail to back up the Government's defence programme.

Honorable members of the Opposition have said that this cruiser should be built in Australia. As an Australian, I favour giving every pennyworth of work possible to Australians, but I do not believe that it would be wisein this case to do as honorable members suggest. It is true that we have assembled a cruiser in this country previously, but we have not the plant, despite what honorable members say, for rolling the necessary parts of the hull and frame. Further than that, we have not in this country the necessary shops to turn out the intricate machinery, which would be required only once every five years, and which is available overseas. The work which has been done on cruisers at Cockatoo Island Dockyard has been firstclass work. Also, the work done on the seaplane carrier, Albatross, has been excellent; but how much of the construction of that vessel was really Australian work ? I think it can be definitely stated that as much as two-thirds of the material was imported as well as most of the machinery. There is no doubt that this ship could be assembled here, but it is a matter of time. Thegreater part of the useful life of the Brisbane was spent in the safety of Cockatoo Island Dockyard owing to the length of time occupied in building it, whereas the cruiser of the Leander class is expected to be here by August next.

Mr HOLLOWAY (MELBOURNE, VICTORIA) - Then it has already been laid down and must be nearly completed ?

Mr E F HARRISON (BENDIGO, VICTORIA) - That has been admitted. It was being built for the British Government, but Great Britain is allowing us to purchase' it at cost price because of the parlous condition of the Australian Navy. Instead of criticizing the action of the British Government, we should be grateful for this concession. I am not to be understood as criticizing the facilities which exist in Australia for the carrying out of this highly specialized work. I am desirous that as much work should be done in Australia as it is possible to provide, but actually in the construction of a vessel of this type the labour cost is not so great as has been stated. For instance, the estimates of the cost of construction of ten ships of the God class, to which the Leander belongs, show that about one-fifth of the expenditure was absorbed in labour costs. Even the British naval dockyards are not capable of making all the intricate machinery required in the construction of these ships. They are not equipped with all the facilities for turning out big turbines. Machines vary in design so rapidly that it is not economically Bound for any particular dockyard to manufacture them. Accordingly, they are supplied by private contractors. Australia is fortunate in that the Government being fully seised of the necessity to safeguard Australia and Australianborne trade by the purchase of this vessel has taken this step without waiting for the election, and I am surprised at the way in which the Labour party has gone back on its original intention to provide adequate defence for the Commonwealth.

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