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Wednesday, 31 May 1972
Page: 3354

Mr HANSEN (WIDE BAY, QUEENSLAND) - Why has the tabling of the report been delayed for 12 months? The Minister spoke for about 5 minutes before he referred to the questions raised in the matter of public importance. As I say, he said that he has not had time to prepare a statement on the report, and that he will release a statement after the House rises. The Minister mentioned a policy going back, I think, to just after World War I when ships were allowed to operate on the Australian coastline with the permission of the Minister. This policy has not been changed, but what has happened is that there is some laxity in the application of the policy. I am informed that 52 ships which have been built overseas are operating in the Australian interstate and intrastate trade at the present time when, as the honourable member for Newcastle has said, 17 ships of the Australian National Line are tied up. It seems to me that the Minister is lax in allowing these overseas vessels to operate on the Australian coastline.

As the Minister has said, there are new types of vessels. There have been some changes in vessels and in their operations. I agree with him that it would be better to bring in a ship and allow it to operate for a while before building a replacement ship in Australia and manning it with an Australian crew. I do not think that the Minister will receive any opposition on this score from the Australian Labor Party or from the maritime unions. This has been our policy ever since the days when the Millers brought their first tanker to operate on the Australian coast line. I am not alone in my thoughts that the Minister is being lax in allowing overseas ships to operate on the Australian coast line. I refer to a report in the Brisbane 'Courier Mail' of 2nd May in which the honourable member for Griffith (Mr Donald Cameron), who is a member of the Liberal Party, referred to the Government's policy and said:

My inquiries indicate that this policy is not beingstrictly applied, and extensions of permission to use imported vessels are frequently granted.

He referred to the 'Iron Cavalier' and the Iron Clipper' which are owned by the Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd. The point is that there is a particular problem facing the Evans Deakin shipyard, which is in the electorate of the honourable member for Griffith. This is an election year in both the Queensland and Commonwealth spheres and, Mr Speaker, I want to diverge for a minute because there is some concern about what is happening at the Evans Deakin shipyard and the possibility of the shipyard obtaining further orders. In fact on 6th May the Liberal Treasurer and Deputy Premier of Queensland said that the State Government was negotiating with the Commonwealth in an attempt to obtain forward orders for Evans Deakin.

In shipbuilding there is a need for a definite programme of continuity so that people know where they stand. The industry can maintain a competent work force and it can train apprentices to take the place of those who drop out of the industry. It should not be one of stop and go where people are employed for a short period and then discharged. They may be picked up by or they may wander off into other industries and never come back. Evans Deakin has a particular problem. It has built a graving dock - primarily a construction dock - at the Kangaroo Point yards. There is a possibility that a bridge will be built across the river downstream from this shipyard. This will limit, to some extent, the size of vessels that can be built in that shipyard.

Mr SPEAKER - Order! The time is now 6 p.m. when it is usual for the Speaker to vacate the chair. Does the House wish the honourable member for Wide Bay to continue his remarks for an additional four or five minutes in view of the circumstances? I have no personal objection to that course being followed.

Mr Charles Jones - What will happen then, Mr Speaker?

Mr SPEAKER - That is not within my province. The honourable member for Wide Bay may continue.

Mr HANSEN - I thank the House. In shipbuilding and ship repair work there is always a system of job to finish and I hope that this is the way this debate will work out. According to a statistical report concerning Australian shipping and shipbuilding there are 13 dry docks in Australia, the newest of which were constructed during the war. The Cairncross Graving Dock in Brisbane was never completed to its original size, nor was the Captain Cook Graving Dock in Sydney. From the total number of dry docks can be deleted the Frank Nicklin Dock, which is a building dock, and the South Brisbane Government dry dock which will close shortly. In the post-war period there has been no construction of floating docks or graving docks in Australia.

As the Minister for Shipping and Transport said, there have been technological changes in shipbuilding. Today ships are built deeper and wider and they draw more water. An article in the 'Courier Mail' refers to the problems that will confront the 'Clutha Capricorn' after it is launched at Evans Deakin shipyard. It will then enter the Cairncross dock. The article points out that it will be a tight squeeze. The ship is 835 feet long with a 106 foot beam and the Cairncross dock can accommodate a vessel up to 860 feet in length with a beam of 110 feet. This will give this vessel a 2 foot clearance on either side, so it will be a tight squeeze.

I believe there is need for some action. I can understand the concern of the honourable member for Newcastle in this respect. In 1970 a deputation from Newcastle spoke to the State Minister for Works, Mr Hughes, and asked that a new dock be built as quickly as possible at Newcastle. The Minister said that his last approach to the Commonwealth had been in 1969 when a British expert estimated that a graving dock would cost $20m. A Japanese team had designed a scheme which would cost half that amount. The Minister said that the graving dock planned by the Government would be 900 feet long, 150 feet wide and would take ships up to 100,000 tons dwt, which is by no means the largest ship operating on the overseas trade at present. The Minister said that because of the shortage of dry dock facilities in Australia he believed it vital for the New South Wales maritime industry to have a new graving dock built at Newcastle as quickly as possible and asked for a Commonwealth subsidy - a one-third shipbuilding subsidy and an additional one-third subsidy because of the significance of the dock to Australia as a whole. It is recognised that there is a need for a policy. The New South Wales Liberal Minister for Works agrees that there is a need. The Minister for Shipping and Transport has had time to study the report, even if he has not had time to make a statement. I look forward to his statement. I disagree with him that the present policy is in the best interests of the shipbuilding industry or of the operations of ships along the Australian coastline.

Motion (by Mr Swartz) proposed:

That the Business of the Day be called on.

Mr Bryant - Mr Speaker, am I to understand that the Minister is interrupting this important debate?

Mr SPEAKER - Order! We have been debating a matter of public importance and the only motion that can be moved is that the Business of the Day be called on, on which motion there is no debate.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

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