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Wednesday, 24 October 1973
Page: 2582

Mr Keith Johnson (BURKE, VICTORIA) - Has the attention of the Minister for Transport been drawn to an answer given in the Victorian Parliament yesterday by the Victorian Minister for Public Works, Mr Dunstan, about dry dock facilities at the port of Melbourne in which Mr Dunstan is reported as saying that the background to the answer is littered with Commonwealth Government indecision, apparent disinterest, procrastination and cancelled appointments? Can the Minister for Transport say whether there is any basis of fact in that answer, and can he inform the House of the facts?

Mr CHARLES JONES (NEWCASTLE, VICTORIA) (Minister for Transport) - The answer yesterday by the Victorian Minister for Public Works to a question on notice in the Victorian Parliament about our handling of the dock situation in Victoria has been brought to my attention. I think one should take note of the events in the years preceding the election of this Government.

Mr Donald Cameron (GRIFFITH, QUEENSLAND) - Why do you not retire?

Mr CHARLES JONES - I have no intention of retiring, or resigning either. One should look at the record of the Victorian Government and of the present Federal

Opposition when it was in Government. In July 1970 an interdepartmental committee was set up to examine a request by the Newcastle State Dockyard, through the New South Wales Government, for assistance to build a dock in Newcastle. I have been informed that in December 1971 the Victorian Government made representations for assistance to the then Liberal Government and that this request went before the interdepartmental committee which reported on the matter in April 1972. I believe that it was not until August 1972 that the Premier of Victoria was informed that no money was available to assist Victoria in the construction of a dock. Under the former Liberal Government Victoria was not going to get any money to assist in the construction of a dock. But at least this Government has offered to provide finance and hold an interest in the dock commensurate with the amount of money that we contribute. If we pay for the lot, we will own the dock. If we contribute 50 per cent of the costs, we will hold a 50 per cent interest in the dock. - There are a number of errors in Mr DunStan's statement. I do not want to take up all the time that is available for question time in replying to these errors but the facts are that we made a decision in March that we were prepared to make a contribution for the construction of a dock in Newcastle and also a dock in Victoria. In May of this year the Victorian Government asked that a committee, comprising 3 representatives to be nominated by that State and one representative from the Federal Department of Transport, should examine docks overseas. The members of that committee are responsible for having held up this scheme between May and August of this year. It was not until August this year that the members returned and a report was prepared in the same month. I understand that on 24 August the position was summarised by the then Acting Premier of Victoria in a letter to the Prime Minister in which he said: The report on this study will shortly be submitted to my Government and will be followed by detailed submissions to the Federal Government regarding assistance for the dry dock.' We are still waiting for those submissions.

That is the situation as far as this matter is concerned. The people responsible for submitting the report are holding up this project. I will admit to 2 things: One is that, as stated in the Press report to which the honourable member for Burke referred. I did cancel 3 appointments. The committee members did come to Canberra in August. I will be quite honest about it. I had not seen their report when they came to Canberra. They were due to come here on 12 July but both Mr Crean and myself were at a conference in Surfers Paradise. I plead guilty to that. Important decisions affecting this nation were made at that conference. On 11 October Mr Crean unfortunately was not available. I am « not blaming him for that because we all have our parliamentary and ministerial responsibilities. So rather than have those people come to Canberra I did cancel the appointment at 11.50 p.m. They were due in Canberra last Friday but that appointment was cancelled because a special Cabinet meeting, which required the attention of Mr Crean and myself, was called. I had 4 submissions to put before it. This afternoon, I will be meeting the New South Wales Minister for Public Works at 4.45 together with the Treasurer to discuss the New South Wales request and at the earliest possible date I will be seeing Mr Dunstan. We are aware of the urgency of this matter but honourable members should not forget that the Victorian Government was responsible for a 6-month delay which occurred in the middle of these negotiations.

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