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Thursday, 3 May 1973
Page: 1662


Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER -Order! The honourable member for Griffith will stop interjecting.


Mr CHARLES JONES - Mr Deputy Speaker, will you shut that jackass up?


Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER -Order! The Minister will be silent. If the honourable member for Griffith wishes to continue listening to this debate I suggest that he should remain silent.


Mr CHARLES JONES - The honourable member for Griffith said that I allocated 2 ships, the 'EZ' and the bulk ship to Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd's Whyalla shipyards when Adelaide Ship Constructions submitted the lowest tender. This is a deliberate untruth because these 2 ships were allocated to BHP at Whyalla by the former Minister for Shipping and Transport, the Honourable Peter Nixon - not by me, but by him - prior to this Government being elected. The honourable member should examine the facts. It was the former Government that granted orders in a manner in which they should not have been granted. The honourable member for Griffith should be prepared to accept responsibility for decisions made by the former Government.

In relation to the Union Steamship Co. and the proposal to build 2 roll-on roll-off vessels for the trans-Tasman trade, it is perfectly true that in the discussion of a matter of public importance raised by the honourable member for Gippsland (Mr Nixon) on 4th April I did not state that the Government would only pay a 25 per cent subsidy. But I made no attempt to cloud the issue or not to make facts available because on 12th April I released a Press statement in which I set out what the Government has done in an endeavour to stabilise and retain the existing shipbuilding industry. The present Government has a proud record. The Press release I issued stated that the Australian Government had instigated a comprehensive review of the industry and offered a 25 per cent subsidy to the Union Steamship Co. to build 2 roll-on roll-off vessels in Australia for the transTasman trade. This decision was made by the Treasurer (Mr Crean), the Minister for Secondary Industry (Dr J. F. Cairns) and myself who are responsible for shipbuilding policy, in order to get these 2 ships, which the previous Government would not subsidise because the ships were for what is actually foreign trade. The ships were for a foreign company, admittedly owned on a 50-50 basis by Thomas Nationwide Transport and the Union Steamship Co. of New Zealand. Because the Government knew and understood the problems in the shipbuilding industry it decided to pay subsidy of an amount which would be sufficient to cover the cost of these 2 ships to put the Australian shipbuilding industry on a basis on which it could tender competitively overseas.

Honourable members opposite will find shortly that the 25 per cent subsidy is adequate. If they want us to hand out a 45 per cent subsidy when a 25 per cent subsidy is adequate, they are in the wrong place because we will not make handouts like that. We will assist the industry, encourage it and make sure that sufficient orders are received. The honourable member for Griffith said that I was setting out to close 2 shipyards. Once again that is a deliberate untruth. The Labor Government has set out to get work. Another misstatement that the honourable member made concerned the Santa-Fe rig. The Government agreed to pay a 45 per cent subsidy on it. We were no sooner in office than we were approached by Evans Deakin Industries Ltd to see how much subsidy we would pay.

The Minister for Secondary Industry, who was the responsible Minister, consulted with me and we gave the firm an answer within 24 hours. We said that we would pay the 45 per cent subsidy. I was later approached about what would happen if the rig were taken off the coast in the event of no work being available. I gave them a verbal assurance. I had a resolution carried by Cabinet. The honourable member said that the company has not yet been advised of the interpretation of 'a reasonable time'. It has been advised. It was advised verbally some time ago when I personally granted an interview to the representatives of the Santa Fe Drilling Company. I told them what the Government had in mind. It was satisfactory to them then. All they asked for was that it be put in writing. It has been put in writing. They have received it. They have a definition of what we mean by 'a reasonable time'. I considered it to be a most reasonable proposition that we put to them.


Mr Ashley-Brown - It was over-generous.


Mr CHARLES JONES - It may be overgenerous, but at the same time we want to retain the existing shipyards in Australia. That is why we are going out of our way to get orders for them.I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard the Press release I put out on 12th April which sets out the position.







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