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Friday, 30 October 1970

Mr KILLEN (Moreton) (Minister for the Navy) - I want to make one or two brief observations. I find it very difficult to accept the impeachment of my friend the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Barnard) regarding the manner in which this matter has been handled. I recall that only a short while ago a motion was moved by our late colleague Sir Wilfrid Kent Hughes. I indicated to the House on that occasion that it was the Government's desire, and it certainly was my desire, that the project should be proceeded with with the utmost dispatch.

The first requirement in this project was for the Public Works Committee to consider the causeway. The entire project cannot be considered unless there is, firstly, a consideration of the causeway, and I am sure that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition will concede that. When the detailed design of the causeway had been completed the matter was referred to the Public Works Committee, and I think one could say with a sense of fairness that there was no delay there at all. I hope that the members of the Committee would not think it impertinent on my part if I were to thank them most warmly for the way in which they treated the project, at some inconvenience to themselves.

Mr James - At considerable sacrifice.

Mr KILLEN - That is so. I acknowledge it most freely. This reference was made on short notice because there had been an expression of a wish by me that the detailed design be completed as quickly as possible. The Department of Works did that, and the officers of the Department in turn put themselves out. I think it is wrong that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition should seek to persuade the House to draw the conclusion that the report of the Public Works Committee has been deliberately presented on the last day of this session for the House of Representatives. Nothing is further from my mind. It would have been a matter of agreement to me if the report could have been tabled, say, a fortnight ago but this was not physically possible. I am sure that the honourable gentleman will on reflection concede that the members of the Public Works Committee did handle this matter with despatch and that this is the first available opportunity to present the report to Parliament, lt is a matter of sheer coincidence - I could describe it in no other way - that today happens to be the last day of this session.

As far as the facility itself is concerned, studies are under way and plainly it is, as the honourable member would admit, a matter of Government policy as to what the facility will provide, lt would be my expectation that the people of Australia will hear something about this in the very near future. I do not think that the honourable member's gentle impeachment on this matter has any basis because the Senate election is a coincidence. T say that it is a coincidence and it is nothing else. Certainly the members of the Public Works Committee put themselves out, and I thank them most warmly for what they did.

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