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Wednesday, 9 March 1977
Page: 15

Mr CHARLES JONES (NEWCASTLE, VICTORIA) -I direct a question to the Prime Minister. Has he been advised that the floating dock at the Newcastle State Dockyards has been declared unsafe and is no longer available for dockings? Is he aware of the serious effect this will have on the future employment of about 200 men who are permanently employed on the dock? Is it correct that 5 firm dockings which would have involved work valued at about $500,000 and which would have provided employment for about 200 men have been cancelled and that further cancellations will now have to follow? Has the Premier of New South Wales, Mr Wran, made repeated representations to the Commonwealth Government for financial assistance to assist the New South Wales Government to replace the now unsafe dock? If representations have been made, can the Prime Minister give me some indication of his Government's response? Finally, has the Commonwealth Government been considering making a special grant, similar to the Fraser Island grant, for the Newcastle district to help provide employment for the unemployed dockyard workers following the Commonwealth Government's decision to place orders in Japan for the building of four 15 000 tonne bulk ships for the Australian National Line? Can the Prime Minister tell the House what is the present position in this matter, bearing in mind that the level of unemployment in the Newcastle district is the highest of any centre in Australia?

Mr MALCOLM FRASER -The Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations and his Department have, through the normal processes, as I understand it, undertaken to make sure that the services of the Department and the programs of the Government are fully understood in relation to anyone who may be displaced as a result of a continuation of the previous Government's policy in regard to support for the shipbuilding industry. I think that the honourable member is in rather an odd circumstance because he was the person who ordered 4 large ships from Sweden and Germany respectively.

Mr Charles Jones - Mr Speaker,I rise to order.

Mr MALCOLM FRASER - I have not finished the answer yet, Mr Speaker.

Mr SPEAKER -Order! The honourable member for Newcastle is taking a point of order.

Mr Charles Jones - My point of order is that not one of the four 220 000 tonne and 240 000 tonne ships could be built in any shipyard in Australia.

Mr SPEAKER -The honourable gentleman does not have a point of order. He will resume his seat.

Mr MALCOLM FRASER -Of course, if the honourable gentleman had been really serious about providing work for Australian shipbuilding yards he might well have been able to order ships that could have been constructed in Australian yards instead of perhaps deliberately choosing ones that could not. I am not aware of having received any approach in recent times from Mr Wran in connection with the floating dock, although I have seen Press reports about it. I must say that it is not entirely unusual to read of these things first in the Press. The other thing that I would like to say, and of which I think this House is already aware, is that the last I heard of Mr Wran being serious about a floating dock was that he was considering ordering a replacement overseas. I have not heard over the last several months whether he has felt able to make a decision in relation to that.

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