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Thursday, 26 July 1906

Mr WILSON (Corangamite) .- I am very glad that one after another of honorable members who have been professed free-traders are gradually coming into line with the settled policy of Australia, namely, that of protection. I have noticed that from time to time honorable members go wrong upon various points of their fiscal policy. For example, the honorable member for Maranoa went wrong upon bananas, the honorable member for Grey upon salt, the honorable member for Echuca upon three-legged gluepots, and now the honorable member for Dalley has gone wrong upon ships.

Mr Wilks - I believe in providing work for our own people.

Mr WILSON - The honorable member may put the matter in any way that he chooses. In common with every other protectionist in Australia, I desire to see all the work which can be done locally, at a reasonable price, undertaken here. I fait to see any reason why the ships required for the new mail service should not be built in the Commonwealth. At any rate, some of them should be constructed locally. The honorable member for Dalley has urged that the Postmaster-General might well agree to at least two of the vessels being built in Australia. I entirely agree with him. In regard to the second portion of his amendment, I see no reason why the vessels should not be docked in Australia. We know very well that the contractors for the new mail service have practically obtained from the Government a concession, and it is almost certain that they will assign that concession to some other firm. Almost of necessity that will be the case, because the present contractors will scarcely run a line of steam-ships in opposition to some of their best customers, for whom they have constructed ships. Consequently, they will get rid of this concession, and if an assignment of the contract is made, why should not .the Australian capital which we have been told will be sunk in the enterprise, be spent in Australia? For many years we have been doing something in the ship-building line. Some honorable members appear to regard as a joke the suggestion that ships will yet be built at the Federal Capital. But as a boy I well recollect seeing a fairly large vessel built at the corner of Latrobe and Queen streets, Melbourne. It was placed upon a trolly there, and taken down Elizabethstreet to the bay..

Mr Poynton - It must have been a pretty big trolly.

Mr WILSON - -I admit that it was not an 1.1, 000-ton vessel, but it was a vessel of fair tonnage.

Mr Webster - Was it flat-bottomed ?

Mr WILSON - It was neither flatbottomed nor flat-headed. It was built of iron plates. As a lad, I also remember seeing vessels of a larger size constructed at Foreman's and other works. The steamers required to carry out the proposed contract could be constructed in Australia., when once their lines had been laid down. I know for a fact that all the knees, the keel, ribs, girders, and plates either can be obtained in Australia now or will be obtainable in a very short time, because very large furnaces are being established at Lithgow. We are all aware that the Postmaster-General and the Minister of Trade and Customs have exhibited great interest in the proposal to establish iron works in the Commonwealth. The amendment of the honorable member for Dal ley affords the Government, an opportunity to get some of these ships constructed locally. If they cannot see their way to fall in with that portion of his proposal, they might at least adopt the second part of it, which provides that the steamers shall be docked in Australia. Why should the work of docking them be done in the old country ? Why should it not be done here regularly? I rose simply for the purpose of seconding the amendment of the honorable member for Dal ley, which I hope will receive a large amount of support.

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