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Tuesday, 30 October 1956

Mr Ward d asked the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Transport, upon notice -

1.   How many orders for the construction of merchant ships required by Australian shipping companies have been placed overseas in each of the last ten years?

2.   In what countries were the orders placed, and what was the tonnage in each instance?

3.   Did Australian shipbuilding yards have the capacity to undertake this work?

4.   Have all Australian shipbuilding yards been fully employed during the period when the ship construction referred to was undertaken?

5.   What was the reason, in each instance since the Government came to office in 1949, for the granting of approval to permit these orders being placed overseas?

Mr Townley (DENISON, TASMANIA) (Minister for Immigration) - The Minister for Shipping and Transport has furnished the following replies: - 1 and 2. The vessels ordered overseas since 1946 by Australian shipping companies engaged in the coastal trade are - 3 and 4. In the period under review 47 merchant vessels were completed in Australian shipyards in addition to naval construction, ship repair work and other building such as dredges, barges, &c. In most cases the major yards worked to capacity insofar as this was possible with the skilled labour force available. From time to time some surplus capacity was available for forward ordering but owing to the higher cost and longer period of construction in Australia the yards concerned were not able to compete with quotations received by shipowners from overseas. It is anticipated that the recent decision by the Government to increase the maximum subsidy on Australian-built ships from 25 per cent, to 33i per cent, of the building costs will enable Australian shipbuilders to compete successfully for orders with their overseas counterpart and increase the efficiency and capacity of their establishments to produce more than the 25,000 deadweight tons annually which has been the average annual output from 1942 to the present.

5.   Consideration was given by the Minister for Shipping and Transport to each application for approval to construct vessels overseas. In all cases the price or delivery quoted by overseas shipbuilders was better than that given by Australian yards (even allowing for subsidy) and in some cases had construction been undertaken in suitable Australian yards it would have caused delay to the bulk carrier programme which the Government considers of paramount importance.

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