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Wednesday, 10 September 1958
Page: 1028

Mr DAVIDSON - The honorable member has referred to the employment position at Garden Island. This is a matter to which the Department of the Navy has been giving attention for some considerable time, and I am glad of the opportunity presented by the question to give an indication to the House of the real position as against that described in some press publications recently. Garden Island has been used for the last few years to carry out special work in addition to work associated with the reconditioning and converting of some of our frigates. As a result, the level of employment at Garden Island increased considerably after 1952. Round about that period, the total number of employees was slightly over 2,000. Then, as a result of the special work that the Navy was doing, the number rose to over 3,000. That work is just about complete, and, as a result, there has been some reduction of the number of employees at Garden Island. I ask the honorable member for KingsfordSmith, who is interjecting, to let me answer the question, if he does not mind. A certain minimum number of employees, however, is required to be kept at Garden Island. This number will be 2,100. 1 can give the honorable member an assurance that there is no intention whatsoever of going below that level or of carrying out any retrenchment programme, although " retrenchment " is not the proper word. As a matter of fact, provision has been made in the vote for the Department of the Navy for this year for a sum to ensure a continuance of this level of employment at Garden Island, to secure the normal functioning of the base. That is the position as regards Garden Island. The special work on the conversion of some of our frigates and on other refits is just about complete, and that is what has caused the reduction of work. Also I may say that, as the honorable member probably knows, in a drive towards further efficiency certain actions have been taken which have increased the efficiency of the dockyard. That has caused a small, but only a small, reduction in the number employed. In reply to the last part of the honorable member's question, I assure him that the department has done what it can to ensure that the more or less temporary employees who were put off as a result of the conditions I have just explained will get other work. For a few of them who were prepared to take a transfer, work has been found at Williamstown dockyard. The honorable member probably knows that. Work has been found for others at Cockatoo Island. The Department of Labour and National Service has been asked to do what it can to get men placed in other employment. In actual fact, any employee who desires to discuss the matter of further employment with the Department of Labour and National Service has been given time off, at the department's expense, to achieve that end.


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