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Thursday, 26 July 1906

Mr JOHNSON (Lang) -! do not know if we are expected to take either amendment seriously, because neither imposes practicable conditions. The vessels which are 10 perform the new mail service must commence running within eighteen months from the present time. I ask the honorable members for Dalley and Hindmarsh if they know of the existence in Australia of facilities for the construction' of vessels of I I.000 tons register. I claim to be fairly well acquainted with what has been dene in the ship-building way here, and with the facilities available for the construction of vessels; but I do not know of any ship-building yards in the Commonwealth sufficiently capacious for the construction of steamers of so large a size, nor of the existence of the plant necessary for the work. It is not for me to assume that either honorable member wishes to make the contract impossible of performance; but that would be the effect of carrying either amendment. Before the Commonwealth could commence the building of vessels of the size contemplated, it would have to acquire land of sufficient area and situated suitably for the purposes of a dockyard. Then it' would have to enter upon the erection of necessary buildings, and to import appliances and machinery for the carrying out of the work in hand. This alone could not be done within two years. Nor could a private firm make similar arrangements within any shorter' period. Furthermore, ii would be necessary to bring here large numbers of skilled workmen, and men of great experience in touch with the most modern ideas and developments in the ship-building trade to supervise their operations. Some of our enthusiastic protectionist friends may vote for the amendments, because, from their point of view, it does not seem to matter, how difficult or expensive an ^undertaking would be, or whether it would' pay or not, so long as it is carried out in Australia. Those who hold the view that. all work incidental to Australian enterprise should be performed in Australia have been placed in a rather difficult position by the moving of these amendments, because they favour the ratification of the proposed contract, and know that the carrying of the amendments would make it impossible to have the conditions of the contract performed. Under the circumstances, the best thing that can be done is for the honorable members for Dalley and Hindmarsh to withdraw their amendments, and let us deal with the terms of the contract seriously.

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