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Tuesday, 27 October 1964

The CHAIRMAN - Does the honorable senator propose to speak to the motion for the postponement of the consideration of the Division?

Senator WRIGHT - Yes. I am glad to hear the Minister say that, in this discussion, he is generating any heat which, on the part of either of us, especially when discussing explosives, would be most inappropriate. Speaking for myself, I admit a soft impeachment that suggests lack of attention if one has not assimilated the significance of and co-ordinated a series of questions that Senator McClelland has been persistent enough to ask over some months. I myself disclaim capacity to take such an interest In this matter. That being so, I look forward to the examination of the estimates of various departments in the hope that individual senators can produce for our collective consideration matters of this kind which, I think, are of concern. Since the debate began I have had the opportunity to read the report of the statement of the Minister for Supply (Mr. Fairhall) on a previous occasion. He said, in effect, that defects appeared in ammunition and, therefore, certain ammunition was red carded. Senator Mcclelland^ statement that the defective ammunition was 12± per cent, of the total supply was not denied in the Minister's statement, but we have no confirmation. The Minister for Supply, after referring to the fact that an expert committee on the subject went abroad and had the best advice from ammunition production experts in the United Kingdom, Canada and America, went on to say that apart from causing some concern among ammunition producers there, the results of that inquiry did not isolate the cause of our difficulty. The Minister went on to say that the entire batch would be red carded " under suspicion " until the cause of our difficulty had been isolated. He felt unable to give the Parliament any assurance that the matter had been solved. The best he could say was - 1 expect most of the difficulties to be cleared up shortly.

Senator Morris - When was that statement made?

Senator WRIGHT - It was made on 14t.h October 1964. For those reasons, I should have thought that the appropriate course was to say to a departmental officer: " Can you get me a two foolscap page factual explanation of this by 8 o'clock tonight? " No-one could suggest that postponement of consideration of the Division for that purpose would be out of place. On the information that the Minister can get by that time, nobody will suggest incompetence on the part of experts, lt will allow a basis for legitimate consideration. Nobody should resent Senator Cormack's suggestion or Senator McCIelland's motion that consideration of the Division be postponed to enable officers who are so good as to come here pursuant to their duty and who are in attendance - I should have thought for that very purpose - to prepare a statement for our consideration on such an important matter. I suggest that they should have whatever time they require - one hour, five hours, or even till tomorrow afternoon.

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