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Thursday, 2 August 1934

Mr WATKINS (Newcastle) .- I support the amendment. The idea that we cannot build this cruiser in Australia is to be deprecated. It has been said to-night during this discussion, that we have not the skilled artisans to carry out this work, and that we should have to bring men from abroad if the work were to be carried out in Australia. We have done similar work before. Men have been trained in this work and, as has been stated, they are now out of employment, and becausethe shipyards remain idle, many of them are on the dole. It has been said that weare unable, to roll plates in Australia,, but I ask what encouragement is given tothe big works in this country to engage in shipbuilding activities. Only recently in. my electorate £750,000 has been expended in laying down a plate mill. During the war the Newcastle Steel Works sent large, quantities of rails to the front, and thehead of the Inventions Board in England was an Australian from the Newcastledistrict. Yet it is said that Australians are helpless. If we were embroiled in another war, honorable members opposite say that Australia would he helpless. I say that there is nothing we cannot make in Australia, least of all a warship. When the last two cruisers were bought in England, exactly the same arguments were us.ed as we have heard tonight, that there was no time to waste. What was the result? Within 24 hoursafter the arrival of the cruisers in Australia, one of them had to be fitted with a new funnel. That is an example of what happens when work is carried out in Great Britain which could provide employment in this country. I hope that the Government will abandon this proposal until the new Parliament is elected, and that in the meantime the matter will be inquired into. I do not intend to go into the question as to whether cruisers are needed for the defence of Australia. My idea of adequate defence lies in the development of aerial defence. What was the position in regard to our own vessel, the Australia"1. I had the pleasure of lunching with the Admiral of the fleet, who said that it was the best vessel he had ever had under his command. Yet two years later it was sunk outside Sydney Heads because it was said to have outlived its usefulness. Consideration of the matter should be postponed until the new Parliament assembles.

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