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Friday, 11 December 1914

Senator NEEDHAM (Western Australia) . - The matter under review is worthy of the serious consideration of the Committee. There is evidently a mystery somewhere. Senator McDougall has informed us that plans were prepared for the Department, and it is now said that they do not exist. I intimated on the second reading of the Bill that unless the Minister of Defence could make a satisfactory explanation of the necessity for spending £35,000 on the construction of a coffer-dam in order to enable the cruiser Brisbane to reach the water, I should be prepared to support any proposal that might have the effect of bringing about a different state of affairs. The Minister has this morning admitted that he is prepared to have an inquiry. I regard that as an admission that he is not satisfied in his own mind as to the necessity for the expenditure of all this money. The honorable senator read a memorandum from Mr. -King Salter, from which it appears that that gentleman was not officially informed of the existence of certain plans. I wish particularly to impress upon the Minister of Defence that, if he is going to have an inquiry into this matter, it should not be confined entirely to the Department. The Committee of Inquiry should be comprised, not entirely of members of the Naval Board or officers of the Naval Department, but should include a representative of the Boilermakers and Iron Shipbuilders Society of Australia, or of the branch of which Senator McDougall is a member. There should be on the Committee of Inquiry at least one man outside the Department who has practical knowledge of the building and launching of large vessels. I have no doubt that many such men could be obtained in Australia, and I hope that in constituting the Committee the Minister will adopt the suggestion I have made.

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