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Grounding of HMAS Wollongong

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Opposition Defence Spokesman, Ian Sinclair, said in Darwin today that the grounding of HMAS Woolongong off Gabo Island threw into question the effectiveness of the entire RAN fleet.

He said that a navy with ships which could not handle rough seas was about as effective as an airforce without planes. ,

"Some advocates suggest a changed structure for the RAN,with a brown water fleet of patrol boats backed by submarines, would constitute an adequate deterrent to any would-be maritime

aggressor," Mr Sinclair said.

"However, if the seas are rough and even our newest patrol boats, the Fremantle class, are forced to run for shelter, Australia would be no better prepared in the 80s than in the 40s."

Mr Sinclair said the inquiry into the Woolongong's accident could also throw a cloud over the light patrol boats to be built for . our Pacific neighbours for which the contract was let to a Western Australian company only a few weeks ago.

"Australia needs fighting ships that can operate in the roughest of seas."

"It is no good just having a fair-weather fleet."

Mr Sinclair said there needed to be an immediate full inquiry into the Woolongong's accident.

DARWIN 2 June 1985