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Tuesday, 9 May 1939

Mr Francis s asked the Minister for Supply and Development, upon notice -

1.   Has any staff been engaged for the projected manufacture of British bombers in Australia ?

2.   Have any contracts for the manufacture of small components been let?

3.   Have any plans been drawn up for the erection of assembly plants?

4.   Have jigs, tools and fixtures been shipped from England?

5.   Were they procured by the British Air Ministry and prepared for shipment so as to avoid delay?

6.   Would a delay of even a month be important if war broke out?

Mr Casey - The scheme for the manufacture of air frames will centre on two central shops, one to be erected at Melbourne and one at Sydney, where the main parts of the air frames will be brought together for final assembly and fitting of engines and instruments. The central erection shops will be fed by four main assembly units, comprising the railways workshops in New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia and Victoria. The railways workshops units will sub-contract out to existing factories in civil industry the production of parts and components for the air frames.

A technical representative of the Bristol Aircraft Company is, at present, in Australia. Another has left the United Kingdom, and a third expert is to leave England at an early date. The necessity for the engagement of local staff directly by the Commonwealth will not arise until the erection stage is being approached. As the railways workshops mentioned and their sub-contractors will be the suppliers of the main assembly units, the question of engagement of staff will be one for the railways and the respective subcontractors should additional staff be necessary. The scheme, however, envisages the utilising of existing capacity to the fullest extent. Contracts have not yet been placed for components and although detailed plans of the central erection shops have not been completed general requirements have been determined. Arrangements have been completed with the British Air Ministry for the jigs, tools and fixtures and also such materials as it is necessary to import to be made available as required, but shipment has not yet been made. It is important that the scheme should be pushed ahead as rapidly as possible, but the honorable member will appreciate that in a long-range plan providing for deliveries to be made over three years commencing in 1940 and involving several millions of pounds, it is necessary for detailed arrangements to be carefully prepared in the first instance so that the launching of the scheme will be on a sound basis. It is far better to take a little time in the initial stages to ensure this, than to proceed hastily with an illprepared scheme which would probably mean that the ultimate result would be much less satisfactory than would be the case if the scheme were initially prepared on a sound and satisfactory basis.

The honorable member may be assured that this matter is receiving the urgent attention of the Government and will be prosecuted to the greatest extent possible consistent with sound basic arrangements and the formulation of satisfactory plans.

Papua and New Guinea: Inquiry into Amalgamation Proposal.

Mr Green n asked the Minister in charge of External Territories, upon notice -

1.   Does the committee, consisting of Messrs. Eggleston, Murray and Townsend, appointed to inquire into the possibility of the amalgamation of the Territories of Papua and New Guinea, propose to take any evidence in Australia before departing for those Territories? If so, where will the evidence be taken?

2.   When does the committee leave Australia tor New Guinea?

3.   What will be its itinerary and in what order will centres be visited to secure evidence?

4.   Is the long deferred question of the selection of the capital site in New Guinea to await the completion of the committee's present labours?

5.   If the amalgamation is decided upon, will the selection of a capital site be a matter for further inquiry by this committee, in view of the then altered circumstances?

6.   What approximate length of time will be taken by the committee in its present inquiry?

Mr Perkins - The answers to the honorable member's questions are as follows : -

1.   The committee which is to inquire into the question of the possibilities of the amalgamation of the Administrations of the Territories of Papua and New Guinea has already taken evidence in Canberra and will take further evidence in Sydney on the 11th and 12th May, 1939.

2.   The committee will proceed to the territories by the m.v. Macdhui, leaving Sydney on the 13th May, 1939.

3.   The committee proposes to proceed via Port Moresby and Samarai to Rubaul, and to visit centres in New. Guinea in the following order: - Kavieng, Salamaua, Lae, Madang, Finschhafen, Pondo, Rabaul, and Wau, and thence to Port Moresby, Samarai and Misima and Yule Island in Papua. Other places will be visited if considered necessary by the committee after its arrival in the territory.

4.   Until the completion of the committee's investigations, it is not proposed that a separate site should be selected for the administrative head-quarters of the Territory of New Guinea.

5.   The committee has been asked to investigate the possibility of a combined administration for the territories with one chief administrative centre. In the event of a recommendation being made by the committee thatno change be made in existing arrangements under which each territory has its separate administration, the committee has been asked to furnish its views upon the question of a site for the administrative head-quarters of New Guinea under a separate administration as now existing.

6.   It is estimated that the committee will complete its inquiries and report within three months.

Liquid Fuels.

Mr.Riordan asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -

In view of his announcement that the report of the Standing Committee on Liquid Fuels will not be available to honorable members for some considerable time, will he inform the House whether it is the intention of the Government to take the necessary action to establish the power alcohol industry in Australia ?

Mr Menzies s. - The matter will receive consideration in conjunction with the report of the Standing Committee on Liquid Fuels.

Mr Casey - On the 5th May, the honorable member for Barton (Mr. Lane) asked whether a company, which had issued invitations to witness a demonstration of a small pilot plant for the extraction of oil from coal at Annandale, New South Wales, on Monday, the 8th. May, had requested a grant of £15,000 from the Commonwealth to assist to put its plant into operation? I am now in a position to inform the honorable member that this company, Phoenix Oil Extractors (Proprietary) Limited, of 117 Pittstreet, Sydney, asked for a free grant of up to £15,000 for the purpose of erecting a standard commercial unit of medium capacity. The company was informed that the whole question of the extent to which the Government should assist private enterprise in matters of this kind was recently reported upon by the Commonwealth Standing Committee on Liquid Fuels. The committee expressed the view that the Government should not advance money for the proving of any particular type of retort or process. This was regarded essentially as the responsi bility of the designers or patentees, who would normally be rewarded according to the merits of their propositions through the usual commercial channels. In view of these circumstances the application was refused.

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