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Thursday, 1 December 1938

Mr James s asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -

1.   Has he seen a statement in the press attributed to the Minister for External Affairs that " Australia's defences are immeasurably weaker to-day than they were in 1918 at the end of an exhausting war " ?

2.   Is this statement a correct representation of the position?

Mr Lyons - I have communicated with the Minister for External Affairs with a view to ascertaining the full text of his statement on the subject mentioned.

Mr Sheehan (COOK, NEW SOUTH WALES) n asked the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice -

1.   Has he seen the statement reported as having been made on the 29th November by Wing Commander O. R. Gayford, Royal Air Force, that " there is no plant in Australia to repair the machine effectively"?

2.   Is it a fact that a Vickers-Wellesley aeroplane cannot be repaired in Australia?

3.   If so, is it because there is not a repair plant of any kind,or that a plant exists, but cannot deal with this type of machine?

4.   Will he give consideration to that portion of the Labour party's defence policy, as announced by the Leader of the Opposition, that " repair, replacement and refuelling bases away from the coast" should be established?

Mr Thorby - The whole matter has been carefully considered by the appropriate authorities, and suitable action is being taken.

Mr Street t. - On the 23rd November, the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Drakeford) asked the following questions, uponnotice: -

1.   In view of the fact that the Premiers Conference, held in Adelaide in August, 1936, decided that a further inquiry into the defence aspects of a uniform railway gauge should bc made by a competent body, will he say whether this inquiry or any departmental investigation has been made since that date?

2.   If so, when was it held?

3.   Did the inquiry disclose that concentration of troops for resisting invasion could bc accomplished much more rapidly under uniform gauge conditions?

4.   If the inquiry has not been made, when is it intended to make it?

I am now in a position to inform the honorable member that the proposed inquiry has not yet been made.

The Premiers Conference held in August, 1936, decided that a Conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers for Transport should be held for the purpose of considering railway and transport matters generally.

* It was decided, shortly after the holding of the Premiers Conference, to refer to the Conference of Ministers for Transport the question of the personnel of the body to conduct the proposed inquiry.

It has not yet been found practicable to hold the Conference of Ministers for Transport, but it is now expected that this will be held early next year.

The unification of railway gauges is listed on the agenda for this conference.

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