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Monday, 5 June 1939


Mr STREET (Corangamite) (Minister for Defence) . - in reply - The honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. George Lawson) referred to the conditions in the military camp of the 15th/26th Battalion at Enoggera last month. I spoke to the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis), who attended the camp during a portion of the period that the men were there, and whilst he admitted that there was some sickness among the men, he assured me, from his own experience and from conversations with other members of the unit who were in camp, that the conditions were not as set out by the honorable member for Brisbane. However, I consider the statement to be so serious that I shall have immediate inquiries made, in order to satisfy myself, and, I hope, the honorable gentleman also, that the statements made to him were grossly exaggerated.

The honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Green) referred to the salary and allowances paid to Sir Ernest Fisk. I shall bring his remarks under the notice of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), who may himself reply to the honorable gentleman.

The matter referred to by the honorable member for Cook (Mr. Sheehan) has been under my notice on several occasions during the last six months. I have suggested to Mr. Devereaux, secretary of the Felt Hatters Union, who, I imagine, supplied the honorable member with the material for his remarks, that the remedy is in his own hands if only he will take the firm to court. He will not do so, however. Nor will he give to me any reason for not doing so. As the firm has not been cited, obviously the union's representative is not allowed to inspect its works. I have had minute investigations of the activities of this firm, and the result in. every instance has convinced me that it is obeying the award. I have discussed this matter with Mr. Devereaux, and with the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway) who has interested himself in it. Mr. Devereaux has endeavoured to raise the technicality that certain men are not journeymen. He has also told me that it is impossible for any firm to compete with the prices quoted by Hatcraft Proprietary Limited, and pay award rates. For two or three contracts the tender of Hatcraft Proprietary Limited was the lowest, but for the last contract that firm was not the lowest tenderer; it secured a portion of that contract only because the lowest tenderer could not do the whole of the work. Other tenderers quoted prices which were so close to that of Hatcraft Proprietary Limited as to leave no appreciable difference between them. If this firm has done nothing else, it has succeeded in bringing down the prices of these defence requirements. I regret the somewhat intemperate language used by the honorable member in describing officers of my department. I am sure that on reflection he will realize that those officers make their investigations impartially, and have nothing to gain by allowing awards to be flouted. The industrial officers are as keen to see awards complied with as is the honorable gentleman. I have investigated this complaint so often that I am of the opinion that no useful purpose would be served by conducting a further investigation. As I have said, the remedy lies in the hands of the union, but it will not take the matter to court.

Question resolved in the affirmative.







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