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Thursday, 21 August 1980
Page: 657

Mr SCHOLES (Corio) - I will delay the House only a couple of minutes. I would like to speak longer on this Bill, but there are other matters that the Government and the Opposition have agreed to bring forward. In his remarks the honourable member for St George (Mr Neil) made reference to the DDL program. I do not think that those remarks can be allowed to pass without correction. The DDL program was cancelled because Australia needed surface vessels for its Navy and the DDL program was going nowhere. I think the honourable member is aware of that. Certainly Senator Hamer, the former honourable member for Isaacs, has repeatedly confirmed that the DDL project was one of the most mismanaged projects ever undertaken in Australia and would not have resulted in the Australian Navy obtaining the ships it required in the time span in which they were required. Between 1969, when the project was confirmed by the Government - at that time the present Minister for Defence (Mr Killen) was Minister for the Navy - and 1972, when the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) was Minister for Defence, the cost of that project increased by 600 per cent. The design of the vessel was altered on no fewer than six occasions. It was no longer even comparable with the vessel which was originally planned and set down as a requirement. The costs and delays were of such a measure that the Government had to make a decision on whether it would proceed with the project. Because of total incompetence in management during the period of its planning, because cost escalations on figures given by Ministers in this House were of the order of 600 per cent without one rivet being driven at--

Mr Neil - They would still cost less than the FFG's by miles.

Mr SCHOLES - That statement is a projection which does not stand up to any form of examination and could only be made by a person seeking political capital out of the defence area and showing some degree of irresponsibility. When the Government came to office its first action was to order another FFG, not to restore or recommence a follow-on destroyer program, lt has subsequently ordered a second FFG.

Mr Neil - And a follow-on program.

Mr SCHOLES - In the Minister's most recent statement in the House the follow-on program has been deferred by five years to 1990 commencement. I suggest that the honourable member might look at that and that it might serve to indicate to people who have heard the remarks of the honourable member just how serious the Government is when this type of criticism is made in the House.

I also point out that it was this Government which decided not to fit the Mulloka system to the

FFG. It was pulled out because of delays caused by prime contractors who are also involved in the system which is now being fitted. The third and fourth ones subsequently ordered could have been fitted but the Government decided not to fit the Mulloka system. It might be a good system but it does not have any support from this Government.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Bill read a second time.

In Committee

The Bill.

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