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Friday, 11 December 1914

Senator MCDOUGALL - I do not propose to tell the honorable senator, as it is not at all necessary. The tracing of the plans is here for the inspection of any honorable senator, and it is clearly shown that Mr. Cutler made every preparation for the launching of the vessel. It will be seen from the plans that they show the position of the concrete and the piles, as I explained yesterday. I mentioned that the piles were to be put into the hard rock. I have shown the plans this morning to other members of the Senate who understand the business, and they are emphatic in the assertion that they ave absolutely correct and safe. These plans were prepared early, and were sent to the Navy Office in December, 1913. They were sent also to England for the opinion of one of the best experts in this business that we have in the whole of the British Dominions. I expect that that will be admitted when I say that the plans were sent to Mr. J. Ford, chief ship constructor to Vickers and Son, the gentleman who had charge of all Vickers and Son's launching for years. After examining the plans he sent back word that, in his opinion, they are absolutely safe, and they provide for a greater margin of safety for the launching of the vessel than is provided by the plans upon which the launching ways are constructed by Vickers and Sons. These plans were prepared in the drafting office at the Cockatoo Island Dock. They were there, and if they are not there now they must have been removed within the last few days. They were prepared by Mr. Picklewaite, a draughtsman of tha Department. I can mention the name, . because nothing is likely to happen to him since he is not at Cockatoo Island now, but at Walsh Island, near Newcastle. Any one with a knowledge of the business who inspects these plans will be thoroughly convinced that the launching scheme proposed by Mr. Cutler is as permanent as that proposed by the present manager. I will admit that what the present manager proposes is a permanent structure, that will last practically for all time, but it is quite unnecessary. The plans prepared by Mr. Cutler make provision for launching ways which would give even greater safety, and which could be built at a fraction of the cost and in less than a third of the time. There is a man at Cockatoo Island Dock who was one of the leading ship constructors, and came from Vickers and Son's establishment in the Old Country. He has seen these plans, and considers them safe for the launching of the Brisbane or other vessels at the dock. He is desirous of being given the opportunity to demonstrate the fact that these launching ways can be prepared without the use of the coffer dam. I do not intend to labour this matter again. It has been said that I am speaking in the interests of Mr. Cutler, and I want to say that I am not speaking in his interests al all. I believe that he was treated very unfairly. The present Minister of Defence made some amends to him by offering him a certain position, which, unfor- tunately, a change of Government prevented him from taking. Since Mr. Cutler left Cockatoo Island Dock, he has gone to Walsh Island, at Newcastle, and at a place which was practically a swamp a few years ago he has prepared one of the finest ship-building .yards in the world, and that is a good deal to say. They have the latest machinery installed there, and Mr. Cutler will very probably rise to a higher position there than he could have secured in the Commonwealth Service. It is clear, therefore, that I do not speak in his interests. I am speaking in the interests of Australia and of Australians. There is a tendency in some quarters to discredit the work of Australians. When we have a man who is able to do something he is set back, and some people appear to be under the impression that if anything requires to be done we must go to" some other country to get the men to do it. I say that we had a man here who was capable of doing this work. He demonstrated his capability, and he should have been allowed to do the work, as his credentials were superior to those of any other person who applied for the position. Australians in all branches of the Commonwealth Service are belittled. In the dockyard at Sydney we have now, I supposes, over 60 per cent, of British workmen. I have nothing to say against them, but it clearly shows that Australians have to get out. There has been a case of the victimization of an Australian there who had had twenty-three years' service. He was accused of making one mistake, and was refused an inquiry. He says that the mistake was not his, but still ho has to go.

Senator Millen - To what branch is the honorable senator referring?

Senator McDOUGALL - To the shipbuilding branch. I say that in this matter I am speaking in the interests of young Australians. We have a Naval Board that is practically useless. The evidence given before a Select Committee of the Senate proved that it was not a body calculated to serve the best interests of Australia, or of naval reform in this country. I believe that the Board has been reconstructed, and I hope it will do better work in the future. Senator Long had something to say about it a little time ago, and probably he will have something to say about it again. Senator Bakhap suggested that I was giving the expert opinions of working men. I did not give the opinions of working men, but of men holding high positions at Cockatoo Island Dock. I have no hesitation in saying that if the Liberal Government had been in power, and I had made the same charges against them as I am making to-day, our party would have eaten them without salt, but I do not see the same desire to rectify matters on the part of our party because our own Government is in power. It makes no difference to me. If I see an injustice being done or something unfair happening I shall always open my mouth, no matter what Government is in power. I was very desirous of seeing the revised plan of Mr. Swan, to cost £7,500. I thought he had seen Mr. Cutler's plan, and had made an estimate based on it, but according to the Minister it was a totally different plan. Mr. Swan's plan may be just as permanent as Mr. King Salter's plan to cost £35,000, if we could only see it. If we could get the opinions of experts outside the service to give us an idea of the ability of their firms to launch vessels, we should soon have a better knowledge of what should be done. The Minister made a statement with regard to the greasing of the ways. He read a-u explanation from the manager of a method of greasing the ways, but it is well known that grease is never used for launching ways. It is soft soap that is used, and when the engineer made an estimate as to putting soft soap on the launching ways six days before the launch took place, he made an estimate which is quite within reason. Six days in the water would not interfere with the soft soap at all. The launching-ways proposed by Mr. Cutler were to be made of hardwood, and any one who knows hardwood knows that it scarcely wants any greasing. I advise any one who' has had no practical experience in that matter to walk across a high building on a hardwood girder, and he will soon find out. The Minister yesterday cast doubt upon my statements, and said that I did not explain them, but I explained everything in connexion with the plans. I explained that it allowed for the building of concrete until a depth of 4ft. 6in. was obtained. After that piles were to be driven into the solid rock, holes being drilled, and the piles driven into them. The plan showed the piles to be 3ft. 6in. from centre to centre. They were to be not less than 1 foot in diameter, and there was to be scarcely 2 feet between each, row of piles. The plan showed the way the crossheads were to be put on the top of the piles, and how the keel of the vessel would come down between the two rows. It showed how the piles were bound together, and any one who knows anything about the business must say that the plan is a good one, that by means of it the launching can be carried out, and that the work will be just as lasting as the dock Mr. King Salter proposes to build by means of a coffer-dam. The work proposed by Mr. Cutler can all be done by divers. It will be just as secure, and also save the extraordinary expense suggested by Mr. Salter. I am going to trust the Minister to have an inquiry into the matter. If the plan cannot be found, I am sure Mr. Cutler will" be only too glad to prepare another on the same basis to show how the work can be done. I have produced a lead-pencil tracing off the original plan, and honorable senators can take my word for it that it is a true copy. If the plan itself is not in existence in the drafting office at Cockatoo Island Dock it has been done away with. That is a serious charge to make, but I make it in all seriousness, and to prove it I produce the pencil tracing. I leave the matter at that, trusting to the Minister to give Mr. Cutler fair play, instead of having him branded as he is now in the eyes of the public of New South Wales as a man who attempted the engineering feat of building a vessel without knowing how he was going to launch it. That is unfair to him, and I ask that he should be given fair play. He should be allowed to uphold his reputation, and given an opportunity to prove that it is a good one. I hope the Minister will, therefore, give every publicity to the matter, and ascertain why Mr. Cutler's plan was not produced when asked for. If there is in the Department an officer who will refuse to produce a document of that description when asked to do so by a representative of the people, the Department is no place for him.

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