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Friday, 29 October 1920


Mr GROOM (Darling Downs) (Minister for Works and Railways) . - I wish to inform the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Bruce), who desired certain information, that duly accredited balance-sheets of these factories are presented to Parliament, and are open to examination; and that, in addition, a Board of Control has been established.

As regards the motion itself, it should be clearly understood that it is for additions and extensions to the existing mills at Geelong. The Government have no intention of entering upon a general policy of establishing mills all over the Commonwealth to engage in private enterprise. There is nothing in the motion to suggest that. Much of the debate, while it has been informative, has been scarcely relevant. The need for the motion was due to the fact that the Government undertook to supply returned soldiers with a quantity of material. Being well stocked with equipment after the war, the factory at Geelong has not been solely employed upon the needs of the Navy, the Defence, and the Postal Departments.

As much of its capacity as possible has been devoted to supplying requirements of returned men. Something like 480,000 yards of material is still to be supplied to the soldiers, and there are growing needs in respect of our own services. To deal with that problem, and to do justice at the same time to returned soldiers, it is essential that the works be extended. This extension will be very much more economical than if we were to attempt to start fresh works at other places.


Mr Riley - How long will the Government continue to supply solely to returned soldiers?


Mr GROOM - That is a matter of policy for the future. I am dealing with present needs. The question of where the factory ought to be established was settled when Mr. Smail was appointed to travel all over the Commonwealth in the search for sites. He made a fair and impartial report, covering thirty-three sites; and, of these, he chose Geelong. His selection does not mean that Geelong is the only place in Australia where first-class materials can be manufactured; but, in the best interests of the Commonwealth, he decided upon Geelong. The additions are absolutely essential; and it is, of course, cheaper to build additions than to construct a new factory somewhere else, however suitable may be the site. At Geelong the land has been acquired, the power is available, and the administrative organization is complete. The additions merely involve an extension of a going concern. If we were to begin again somewhere else, serious delay would be incurred; and, besides, there would be the factor of all the initial costs having to be met afresh. With' regard to erecting a factory at Canberra, Mr. Smail's report is phrased favorably. He says -

My first visit was to Yass-Canberra, the site of the Federal city, embracing from Quean- beyan to the junction of the Cotter River with the Murrumbidgee, Duntroon, and Acton. Although the climatic conditions are not up to my idea of the requirements it would be quite wrong to say that a woollenfactory could not be established there, because, with the development of the city, it is certain to have factories of all descriptions, and, no doubt, conditions will then prevail whereby cloth manufacture could be fairly successfully accomplished.

We are faced, not with a future programme, but with a present need. I do not wish to anticipate the judgment of the Public Works Committee, but the House should authorize the inquiry, and I am not prepared to accept the amendment.







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