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Thursday, 14 May 1942

Mr FORDE - The members of the committee are Mr. J. M. Hardy, chartered accountant and experienced yachtsman, and Mr. R. S. Westhorp, senior shipwright surveyor, Marine Services Board, Sydney. Those gentlemen were appointed last Friday to report upon the following subjects : -

1.   Action immediately necessary to adjust the position.

2.   Future methods of maintaining boats while in Government care.

3.   The basis of compensation which should be adopted to cover damage or destruction of boats due to Commonwealth Government action.

The Department of the Navy acted at the request of the Department of the Army in this matter because our military advisers, after their experience in Malaya of the use of small craft by the enemy along the Malayan coasts, recommended that the thousands of small boats along the coasts of Australia should be immobilized1 so that they could be of no possible value to the enemy in the event of an attempted invasion. The Government recognizes that serious inconvenience has been suffered by many people who use small boats for fishing and pleasure purposes, and also, presumably, for fishing as a livelihood, but, as the Department of the Army was faced with i he possibility of the use of these boats by the enemy, it considered that they should be immobilized without delay. The Government recognizes a duty, in the circumstances, to compensate the people concerned for any losses they have incurred.

Mr Sheehan - Why was not a boatbuilder appointed to the committee, instead of a yachtsman?

Mr FORDE - Mr. Westhorp, the senior shipwright surveyor of the Maritime Services Board, was appointed because it was understood that he was one of tlie best authorities on .boat-building in Australia. A chartered accountant was associated with him to assist in calculating any compensation that might be recommended. The committee has already begun its investigations and has communicated with me on certain aspects of the subject. It will devote attention, first, to the compensation that should be payable in respect of damage to boats after they were taken into Commonwealth custody. I have requested that immediate action be taken, and I am sure that I shall receive an interim report soon. The honorable member for Hunter has been persistent in his representations that people who have suffered loss through the immobilization of their small craft should be compensated by the Government, but it must be borne in mind that the paramount consideration at the moment is the defence of the country.

SUPPLY. (Grievance Day.)

Question negatived -

That Mr. Speaker do now leave the chair and that the House resolve itself into a Committee of Supply.

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