Bruce Saunders (State Member for Maryborough) next to the slipway at the old shipyards on Kent St.Photo: Alistair Brightman
Bruce Saunders (State Member for Maryborough) next to the slipway at the old shipyards on Kent St.Photo: Alistair Brightman

WAR SHIP MILESTONE: We can build world's best again

IT HAS been 75 years since the HMAS Diamantina was commissioned at Maryborough's Walkers Ltd at the end of the Second World War - a time when the city's manufacturing strength was at its height.

It's a place Maryborough MP Bruce Saunders would like to see the city in again in the near future.

The milestone comes at a significant moment for the nation - it has been 105 years since the landing at Gallipoli and today's Anzac Day commemorations will be unlike any others in the years that have followed the tragic campaign.

The anniversary of the commissioning of the HMAS Diamantina also comes as the world grapples with COVID-19, with the virus reminding many of a time when Australia was more self-sufficient when it came to it's manufacturing industry.

One man who knows all about the strength of Walkers Ltd is Jack Concannon, who started in the shipyard as an apprentice in 1946.

The work carried out by Walkers Ltd, from undertaking manufacturing work for the sugar mill to building ships and trains, was recognised around the world as first class, Mr Concannon, who wrote a book about the business, said.

Ships and trains being manufactured at a lower cost overseas took a toll on Maryborough's industry, even though what is now the Downer rial factory remains a vital employer in area and the workers every bit as skilled as they were in the shipyard's heyday.

"They are just as skilled as they were in my day," Mr Concannon said.

Mr Saunders said the coronavirus crisis had been a wake up call for Australia.

"There's a lesson to be learnt from this," Mr Saunders said.

"We can't put all of our eggs in one basket overseas.

"Queensland can become a manufacturing hub again and Maryborough is in a prime position for that.

"I want to bring opportunities here and bring Maryborough back to where it used to be."

Mr Saunders said the Rheinmetall Nioa $60 million dollar munitions plant was an example of putting the city's manufacturing strength back on the map.

Work on the site is now underway.