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Wednesday, 23 November 1960

Mr OPPERMAN (Corio) (Minister for Shipping and Transport) . - in reply - It is fairly obvious that many honorable members have taken the opportunity offered them by the presentation of the Seamen's Compensation Bill to debate various matters connected with Commonwealth compensation generally. I do not intend to cover all the details that have been gone into by the various speakers. I merely say that we have to remember that in the payment of compensation it is the taxpayers' money which is involved, and that certain formalities must be observed before such, payments are made. However, I do not think anybody would quibble with the suggestion that the rninimum of time should pass before claims are met.

I have appreciated the remarks that have been made by the various speakers, although not necessarily swayed by them. They will be given due consideration. The bill has been accepted by the Opposition, which has pointed out that in this case justice is being done to seamen who have suffered mishaps on these delivery voyages. It is unfortunate that the need for a measure of this kind had to be revealed by a tragedy like the " Ian Crouch " disaster. Be that as it may, however, this bill has now been prepared, and, despite the difficulties involved in adequate classification, the matter has been brought to a successful conclusion.

I should comment on another matter that was mentioned by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam). He referred to the Australian shipbuilding industry and implied that the Government had not as much interest in that industry as it might have. I say to this House that the Australian shipbuilding industry is- an outstanding one. No ships have been imported into Australia since 1956 except those needed for urgent replacement of vessels lost through shipwreck or accident. I do not think any one would: object to the importation of ships in those circumstances. A subsidy of up to 33i per cent, is paid on shipbuilding in Australia for ships over 500 tons, and duty of 47i per cent, is imposed on ships under 500 tons. Every possible protection is given to an industry to which I pay tribute as being an outstanding one, and in which one finds a high standard of workmanship.

Mention has been made recently in this House of various vessels. There is the " Troubridge ", which is being built in Brisbane by Evans Deakin and Company Limited'. There is the Ampol tanker of 33,000 tons which is being built at Whyalla. Most notable, of course, is the "Princess of Tasmania ", which was built in the yards of the New South Wales Government Engineering and Shipbuilding Undertaking at Newcastle. From those yards will also be launched on 3rd December the very fine " Bass Trader " which will mean so much to trade and commerce and to the provision of fast and efficient transport between the mainland and Tasmania. There is also contemplated, of course, a further vessel to follow the " Princess of Tasmania " and which will ply between Sydney and Tasmania. I say " between Sydney and Tasmania " advisedly because I know that in the island there is a great amount of controversy, or perhaps 1 should say discussion, as to the Tasmanian port that will be decided upon as the destination of this vessel.

Overall, the shipbuilding industry this year will reap the benefit of about £3,000,000 in subsidy. The Australian Shipbuilding Board gives valuable advice to the industry, and I contend that the shipbuilding industry is being amply catered for in this country. We are proud of it and the Government intends to support it to the limit.

Mr CURTIN (KINGSFORD-SMITH, NEW SOUTH WALES) - How much is the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited getting out of it?

Mr OPPERMAN - That company has a very efficient shipbuilding yard. It has built some splendid ships for the Australian trade. If it builds ships of over 500 tons it is entitled to a subsidy of up to 33i per cent., just as other shipbuilding yards are.

I appreciate the fact that the Opposition is supporting the bill, and I commend it to the House.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Bill read a second time, and reported from committee without amendment or debate; report adopted.

Bill - by leave - read a third time.

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