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Wednesday, 6 May 1942

Mr FORDE (Capricornia) (Minister for the Army) . - by leave - Following on representations made last week by the honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Spooner) and the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James), and other honorable members, in regard to the action taken by Navy and Army authorities for the immobilization of small craft in certain areas in New South "Wales, I desire to advise the House that I have arranged for an independent inquiry to be made into this matter by a committee consisting of Mr. J. M. Hardie, O.B.E., of H. B. Allard, Way and Hardie, chartered accountants, Sydney, and Mr. R. S. Westhorp, Senior Shipwright Surveyor. Maritime Services Board, Sydney. Mr. Hardie is a member of the Army Advisory Accountancy Panel, and, in addition, as an experienced yachtsman, has a practical knowledge of small craft and the problems involved in the inquiry. Mr. Westhorp is an officer of long experience whose advice is required on any technical questions. The committee will carry out its inquiry independent of the Navy and Army, and submit a report at an early date. It has been asked to make recommendations on the following matters: -

(i)   the action immediately necessary to adjust the position;

(ii)   the future method of maintenance while boats are under government care;

(iii)   the basis of compensation which should be adopted for damage or destruction of boats caused by the Commonwealth's action.

The experience gained in the Malayan campaign showed that small craft were of great value to the enemy, and that they materially aided his infiltration tactics. The best method of denying the use of such craft to the enemy was considered by the Army authorities in conjunction with the State War Effort Coordination Committee. The final plans, which were arranged with the State authorities provided for the concentration of the boats in various localities under army control so that, in the event of the necessity arising for their destruc tion, immediate action could be taken. It was not considered that the destruction could safely be left to individual owners, particularly in view of the conditions likely to prevail when the necessity arose; moreover, the time factor in warning scattered owners precluded the adoption of such a scheme. We hope that destruction will never become necessary. I realize that there are many thousands of boat-owners in New South Wales whose interests must be givensympathetic consideration, having due regard to the security and defence of the country. Consequently, this committee has been appointed.

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