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Thursday, 23 October 1913

It is difficult to arrive at a definite conclusion as to which Department is responsible for the lack of employment at the Flinders Naval Base, but Mr. W. Kelly, the Assistant Minister of Home Affairs, gave the Navy Branch of the Defence Department something to talk about today.

Mr. H.W. E. Manisty, the secretary of the Naval Branch, said yesterday the preliminary" works at the Flinders Base were nearing completion, and that men were being discharged, as their services were no longer required. A good deal of work remained to be done by the Home Affairs Department, but it seemed that arrangements had not yet been completed for pushing ahead with it. Numbers of men on the spot expected employment, he was reported to have added, but that was a matter of arrangement with the Home Affairs Department. " Some three weeks ago," said Mr. Kelly to-day, " a request was made by the Department that a conference should take place between the Director-General of Works of the Home Affairs Department and an officer representing the Navy Office regarding the plans of the Navy Office building, but so far the Navy Office has taken no notice of it."

If effect is to begiven to the scheme recommended by Admiral Henderson, it does seem remarkable that no steps have been taken by the' different Departments to obviate this lack of employment. Honorable senators are fully seized of the fact that there is a considerable number of men out of work at the present time, and it does seem remarkable that, owing to the lack of proper co-operation between the various Departments, these works should be held up and the unemployed army thereby increased. I do not think that the dispute between the Navy Branch and the Department of Home Affairs is really the root of the trouble. It seems to me that it is not the intention of the Government to carry out these works on the lines on which they were initiated by the late Administration. If we glance at the Estimates relating to our public works we find that there is to be an almost complete suspension of operations at our various Naval Bases. The position in regard to the Flinders Base is a very serious one, because it must be well-known to the Department and to the Minister of Defence that that Base was intended to be a training depot. Consequently, its construction should have preceded the appearance of the Fleet in Australian waters. Last year, at the instance of the Fisher Government, Parlia ment appropriated for expenditure upon Naval Bases the sum of £208,000.

Senator Millen - How much did they spend ?

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