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Thursday, 30 September 1971
Page: 1727

Mr KEATING (BLAXLAND, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I address my question to the Minister for the Navy. I refer him to the DDL light destroyer development for the Royal Australian Navy and the projected cost escalation from the original $18m per vessel to a figure approaching $40m to $50m per copy. In view of the escalation of the assessed cost of the construction I ask: Has the Government made provision for the allocation of funds in the rolling Naval defence budget for the construction of the vessels in 1973-74? Secondly, will the Minister assure the House that the vessels will definitely be designed and constructed in Australia as planned?

Dr MACKAY (EVANS, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for the Navy) - I cannot vouch for the figure originally posed as the cost of this vessel. The vessel was conceived earlier as a much lighter ship - hence the title DDL, the 'L' standing for light - than it is intended it now should be. However, a scrutiny of the changing conditions - and they are changing rapidly in terms of Naval hardware and sophistication in major navies in the world- has led defence experts in Australia to revise the original plans and they have been updated. I have only just come from a briefing and presentation of the design by the designers. This revision has led to a ship which I believe will be foremost in the world in her class in dealing with modern threats. This change, of course, has not been carried out without an increase in costs. The ship has now increased to a size which is almost identical to that of the DDGs, the guided missile destroyers that we purchased from the United States of America at a cost then of slightly over $40m. We have to face the fact that these and greater costs are inescapable if we are to have ships of this size and sophistication.

At present we have completed the preliminary design and this has been presented. Provisions have been made in the Budget for the first stage of calling tenders and having a look at the costof detailed working drawings. This will be another large expenditure and only after this stage is reached will the Government be able to make a decision on the important matters that have been raised in the part of the honourable member's question regarding manufacture and eventual budgeting, the number and all of those other vitally important questions. But that is the current stage which this project has reached.

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