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Thursday, 11 April 1946

Mr CHIFLEY - The Government has decided that ships used in the Australian coastal trade shall be built in Australia. Necessary arrangements for the construction of the ships will be made by the Shipbuilding Board. Whether they will be sold, leased or chartered to private enterprise or operated entirely by the Government is under consideration. I frankly confess that the construction costs disturb me. I have said that elsewhere. I do not remember the figure of £73 a ton ; I thought it was £64 a ton, which is about the same as the cost of building ships during the war in the United States of America. Doubtless the circumstances were unusual, owing to work at weekends, overtime and other cost-raising factors. Compared with the shipbuilding cost in Canada £64 a ton is high. It is much higher than the cost of shipbuilding on the Clyde. In this country it is not possible to reproduce at once the shipbuilding skill exhibited on the Clyde as the result of hundreds of years of experience, but it is our duty to do the best we can to raise shipbuilding standards here. The men employed on shipbuilding in Australia are not so skilled as are their counterparts on the Clyde. Many of them had to be trained in a hurry.

Mr White - Some were fined by their union for putting in too many rivets in a day.

Mr CHIFLEY - The honorable member is always defaming his own countrymen.

Mr White - It is about their go-slow policy that I complain.

Mr CHIFLEY - That is all right. Human nature, here as elsewhere, has defects. The honorable member's remarks from time to time would lead one to believe that all other peoples are perfect, but the men in this country, who are acknowledged to have produced some of the finest fighting men in the world, are slackers. I repeat that the cost of ship- » building is disturbing. We hope that with more efficient labour, better technique and more opportunity for the executives engaged in the work to study methods overseas it will be possible to reduce the cost. But the one thing that we do believe is that Australia should supply its own requirements of coastal vessels.

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