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Friday, 11 December 1914

In Committee(Consideration resumed from 10th December, vide page 1506). Cockatoo Island Dockyard : Launching or the Cruiser " Brisbane " - Steamers for Lighthouse Construction.

Second schedule.

Senator McDOUGALL(New South thing to say about the launching of the cruiser Brisbane. The accuracy of some of the statements I made with respect to the existence of certain plans has been questioned. The Melbourne Argus of this morning has published a misrepresentation of what I said, which must be very misleading to the public. The Argus states that I produced a plan or idea of my own for the launching of the vessel at a cost of £30,000. Honorable senators are aware that what I advised was the adoption of a plan prepared by Mr. Cutler, the late manager of the Cockatoo Island Dock, who was the first to undertake the construction of warships in Australia. It was his plan, and not any plan of mine, that I spoke of, and the estimated cost, as I clearly stated, was £3,000, and not £30,000. The public reading the statement in the Argus would be led to conclude that all that was involved was a matter of time, and that there would be very little difference in cost between the carrying out of the two schemes. Of course, my contention is that there is a considerable difference in cost as well as in time. I had intended to take up the challenge of Senator Bakhap and move a reduction upon the vote; but I have decided not to take that course because, from my point of view, the reply to my remarks by the Minister of Defence was very favorable. The honorable senator is a man of his word, and he has said that there will be an inquiry into the matter, and if Mr. Cutler's plan, to which I have referred, exists, it will be considered. If Ministers had been more amenable to reason at an earlier date there would have been no necessity for the statements I have been called upon to make. I asked the Minister of Defence whether he would take the advice of experts before committing the country to the proposed huge expenditure upon the launching of the Brisbane.His reply was that he had consulted the experts of his Department before consenting to the expenditure of the money, and that simply meant that he would not give the matter any further consideration. I heard Mr. Elliot Johnson speaking upon the matter in another place on Friday last, and while he admitted that he did not know much about the matter, he referred to the rumour that was in circulation, and the Assistant Minister of Defence, in reply to him, said, " There will be no inquiry; we shall build the dam." When the Government proposed to take up a stand like that it became necessary to adopt some other course to try to prevent the wasteful expenditure of public money. That was my reason for speaking as I did yesterday. The Minister of Defence was at some pains last night to show me plans which had been sent from Sydney. Those were merely plans for the construction of a slip-way on which to build the Brisbane. A slipway is not a launching-way ; but the construction of a slip-way is necessary in order to place the launching- ways which are put in their place only a few days before the vessel is launched. The officers of the Defence Department have informed the Minister that they have never seen the plans for launching ways prepared by Mr. Cutler. In my view, it is a very serious matter when officers of the Department are prepared to give absolutely incorrect information to the Minister. I told honorable senators yesterday that I had seen Mr. Cutler's plans myself. I would not have said so if I had not seen them, and I do not believe there is one honorable senator present who is not satisfied that I really did see them. The departmental officers say that they are not in Melbourne, and not at Cockatoo Island. I say that they were at Cockatoo Island. I saw the plans, and intended to make a pen and ink sketch of them before I referred to the matter in the Senate, but I had not the time to do so. I have since been able to procure a pencil tracing of those plans. I have the tracing of them and can produce it at any time.

Senator de Largie - Where was the tracing made?

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