Just not ship shape

Townsville Bulletin - - Text The Editor -

PAUL Reeve is still spit­ting c hi p s a b o ut $ 3 2 mil l i o n worth of naval ves­sels sitting in a com­pound down in Fifth Av­enue, do­ing any­thing but the job the tax­payer paid for them to do.

The busi­ness­man – a for­mer marine en­gi­neer in the navy who be­came a me­chan­i­cal main­te­nance su­per­vi­sor for the six am­phibi­ous land­ing wa­ter­craft while work­ing for Thales Aus­tralia – went pub­lic in July last year about waste of pub­lic money.

He’s still an­noyed, par­tic­u­larly in the wake of the re­cent hul­la­baloo over the state of the navy’s ships and also be­cause Townsville City Coun­cil was heav­ied for a $ 30 mil­lion con­tri­bu­tion to the pro­posed ocean ter­mi­nal – the ap­prox­i­mate cost of the craft now rust­ing away.

Ev­i­dently the saga sur­round­ing the craft amounts to a dummy spit in the cor­ri­dors of De­fence, where the naval chief and prob­a­bly a few oth­ers are al­ready duck­ing and weav­ing as the De­fence Min­is­ter goes on a ram­page over the ap­palling state of the ships the Aus­tralian p u b l i c , i n i t s n a i v e t y , thought were a real navy.

In­cred­i­bly, it took Cy­clone Yasi to bring the mat­ter to a head, and it’s prob­a­bly taken the ter­ri­ble sit­u­a­tion with t h e Chr i s t c h u r c h e a r t h - quake to re­veal a pos­si­ble flaw in the backup plan.

As peo­ple in North Queens­land know only too well, none of the navy’s heavy lift ships was avail­able for the work des­per­ately needed in the wake of the floods and cy­clones that dev­as­tated so much of the state.

H M A S M a n o o r a w a s de­com­mis­sioned early due to w e a r a n d t e a r . H M A S Kan­im­bla was un­der­go­ing 18 months of re­pairs.

HMAS To­bruk, which the min­is­ter had been told could be ready to be used in a brief time, turned out to be also out of ac­tion, but the pub­lic has been re­as­sured that a q u i c k p a t c h j o b o n a se­ri­ously cor­roded bit of hull means it’s ready within 48 hours.

The fall­back was use of the Kiwi navy’s am­phibi­ous lift ship, HMNZS Can­ter­bury, if needed. But you’d think that o p t i o n might well have crum­bled with the build­ings de­stroyed in the quake. That s h i p mu s t s u r e l y h a v e pri­or­i­ties at home.

This news­pa­per re­ported last July how Mr Reeve was con­cerned that the land­ing craft, which were built for use on the Manoora and Kan­im­bla, had been sitting gather­ing dust ever since it was dis­cov­ered that once loaded on to the ships, the craft were too wide for per­son­nel to move safely past.

There were also is­sues in try­ing to move them with the ships’ cranes.

In Fe­bru­ary this year the gov­ern­ment’s mil­i­tary pur­chas­ing agency, the De­fence M a t e r i e l O r g a n i s a t i o n , fi­nally came around to telling a se­nate’s es­ti­mates com­mit­tee hear­ing what the peo­ple of Townsville al­ready knew – that the pro­ject in­volv­ing the 60-tonne craft had been scrapped be­cause of o c c upat i o nal heal t h a nd safety con­cerns.

Yes, the depart­ment had pro­vided Thales with the di­men­sions for the craft con­struc­tion, but the Se­nate com­mit­tee was also told that Thales had not built land­ing craft be­fore.

The com­mit­tee was also told it had not built any­thing us­ing alu­minium.

Now Mr Reeve is re­fus­ing to take any of this ly­ing down.

‘‘ Those craft were built in New­cas­tle to spec­i­fi­ca­tions,’’ he said yes­ter­day.

‘‘ They were tri­alled and ac­cepted,’’ he said..

Some­one then twigged the craft were too big for mount­ing on the ships.

Mr Reeve said the army wanted out, but Thales in­sisted the craft were built to di­men­sions sup­plied.

They said the mil­i­tary had signed off on the pro­ject, so some of the craft were taken

to

sail

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