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Wednesday, 3 June 1942

Senator LAMP (Tasmania) .- I bring before the Senate two matters in which I am especially interested. We have in this country the tragic spectacle of the most sparsely populated of all the continents and, at the same time, the most centralized of all populations. Yet by their refusal to sponsor decentralization, those directing the nation's affairs are crowding more and more people into the big mainland cities. In consequence of this, folly, the country districts of Australia, and the whole of Tasmania, are suffering acutely. Unless the present policy be reversed, the time is fast approaching when half of the population of Australia will be resident in thi narrow coastal belt embracing Sydney, in New South Wales, and around the shores of Port Philip Bay, in Victoria. One has to indulge in a little simple arithmetic when reading in the Sydney press figures relating to black-out tests carried out in New South Wales. The result has been startling. The newspapers have disclosed that, in the area extending from Cessnock and Newcastle, north of Sydney, to Wollongong and Port Kembla, south of Sydney, 1,800,000 people have their homes. That belt of country is 150 miles long by 30 miles wide, and contains 4,500 square miles. Tasmania,, with its 26,215 square miles, is six times as large; yet its population, including that of Hob-art and Launceston, is less than 250,000. In other words, the density of the population in the two areas is in the ratio of 50 to 1. Should the present tendency towards concentration of. population in the first-mentioned areacontinue, the ratio will be nearer to 100 to 1 in the near future. In accordance with Labour's policy of decentralization, a greater share of war expenditure should be allocated to Tasmania and the more sparsely populated areas on the mainland. For many years, Tasmania has specialized in the manufacture of furniture, which has been shipped to the mainland in large quantities. I urge the Minister for Aircraft Production (Senator Cameron) to give consideration to the manufacture of aeroplane frames of wood, and in this work to utilize the vast timber resources of Tasmania, as well as large numbers of skilled furniture-makers in that State. Factories, fully equipped for this important work, are available. However, owing to slackness in the trade, I know several skilled furniture tradesmen who are now working on the wharfs in Hobart. One very great advantage of the manufacture of aeroplane frames of wood would be that the whole of the work could be done by carpenters and joiners, extensive supplies of jigs and tools would not be necessary. The only difficulty would be in regard to engines; but I understand that engines are now being manufactured in Australia. If we undertook the manufacture of aeroplane frames of wood, the skilled men now engaged on the manufacture of metal aeroplane frames could be diverted to the manufacture of engines.

It is unfortunate that developments in modern aircraft production overseas have apparently not been available to or utilized by us. The Aeronautical Branch of the Institution of Engineers, Sydney Division, and the Furniture Trade Panel have for the last eighteen months urged the Federal Government to construct timber aircraft on the plastic plywood or laminated wood principle. Great Britain and enemy countries build many wooden aeroplanes, and a cable published in the press some time ago declared that in Canada plastic plywood had become "an important factor in aircraft production". The seaplane which holds the world's record of 441 miles per hour was constructed of wood. The Aeronautical Branch of the Institution of Engineers, in a report to the Commonwealth Government early last year, strongly recommended timber aircraft frames, including the fuselage, and immediate production in the furniture and joinery establishments. Among those who have supported the production of timber aircraft are Captain P. G. Taylor, Professor T. D. J. Leech, now of Auckland University, Mr. S. C. Roberts, lecturer in aeronautical engineering at Sydney Technical College, and Mr. R. G. Griffin,

A.M.I.E., chairman of the Institution of Engineers. The many advantages which timber in plastic plywood form has over metal include much quicker production - up to 30 per cent. - greater speed for the same engine-power, the fireproof value is considerably higher, it is not affected by temperature changes, is easier to design and cheaper to build, service, and repair. A speed-up in aircraft production is urgently necessary. A deputation from the Institution of Engineers and the Furnishing Trades Panel told the Minister for Aircraft Production some time ago that enemy aircraft of wood and moulded plastics were having marked success abroad. The Minister said -

Since my return to Melbourne, I have been informed that aircraft embodying wood plastic* are durable, fast, and possess great manoeuvrability. It is stated they are more quickly made than metal planes, and the risk of hold-ups, which unfortunately occur with metal supplies, would be greatly reduced.

The Minister added that members of the Sydney deputation had complained that bias had been shown in Melbourne when the question of wooden aeroplanes was raised, and that there must be no such bias in future. I hope that the Government will give Tasmanian skilled tradesmen a chance to show what really can be done in this direction with the wide range of timbers available in that State.

I desire to refer briefly to the failure of the Commonwealth Bank to engage actively in business as a general trading bank. Sir Ernest Riddle, when Governor of the Commonwealth Bank, stated that -

When a customer of a trading bank asked the Commonwealth Bank for accommodation, that bank undertook, with his permission, to investigate his position, if satisfied that he was entitled to the accommodation. The trading banks were advised and informed by the Commonwealth Bank that if the other bankers were prepared to give the accommodation to the customer, the Commonwealth Bank would retire from the negotiations.

That is an extraordinary state of affairs. Some time ago I asked a question on this subject in this chamber. I have repeatedly stated that we should use the nation's credit to the fullest possible degree. However, we cannot do that until the nation's bank operates as a general trading bank. The following quotation, which I take from an article by Mr. H. G. Wells, admirably sums up the duties of a community bank: -

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