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Friday, 21 November 1941

Mr CALWELL (Melbourne) .- I bring to the notice of the Minister for the Army (Mr . Forde) a proposal which has been approved by the Board of Business Administration for the expenditure of about £300,000 in the establishment of military technical training schools adjacent to military camps in various States. I consider that the Board of Business Administration is an excrescence which should be abolished without delay. Its chairman, the Right Honorable Sir George Pearce, has long outlived his usefulness in the political or any other field--

Mr DUNCAN-HUGHES (WAKEFIELD, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - That is a most unfair statement tomake concerning one of our greatest public men.

Mr CALWELL - The honorable gentleman is entitled to his opinion, and I am entitled to mine. I do not consider that Sir George Pearce, Mr. Norman Myer, Mr. F. W . Spry, and the other member of the Board of Business Administration, should be permitted to approve of the expenditure of public money in the way they are approving of it.

I object particularly to the proposal that a military technical training school should be established adjacent to the Broadmeadows military camp at a cost of about £70,000, in order to train members of the Australian Military Forces and the Australian Imperial Force. I am indebted to the Minister for the Army for the opportunity to peruse the file on this subject. It reveals that the interested parties in Melbourne, the Board, of Business Administration, the Military Board and Southern Command, have agreed to this proposal which, in my view, has hardly a single redeeming feature. The motor industry, the automotive section of the Melbourne Technical School, and other technical schools, as well as representatives of the interested trade unions, all urge that if such a school is to be established it should be located near the main centre of the automotive industry. They have urged that Fisherman's Bend, is a particularly suitable place. An area of about 12-J acres of land is available in an ideal location at Fisherman's Bend, and if a school were established there it would be available not only for present war purposes, but also for subsequent peace needs. If the school be located at Broadmeadows camp it will be practically useless after the war ends, and all of the equipment and buildings which can be removed will have to be removed to some other location. The following amounts have been included in the estimated cost of the proposed school at Broadmeadows : -


Practically the whole of the expenditure on those items will be useless at the conclusion of the war if the military authorities remain adamant and insist on the school being established at Broadmeadows merely because a dispute exists and, unfortunately, persists between the Commonwealth Government and the Government of Victoria concerning what is a fair purchase price for 12-J acres of land at Fisherman's Bend, or what is a fair rental for that area over a long term.

I urge that consideration be given to the establishment of the proposed school at, say, Geelong, near the works of the Ford Motor Company, and the International Harvester Company, or in some other centre with a large population. Certainly the school should not be established 10 miles away from the centre of Melbourne. The Melbourne Technical School has done most valuable work for the Department of the Army, the Department of Air, and the Department of Munitions, in having made available the whole of its equipment and instructional staff to assist in the training of people for employment in the national war effort. The principal of the school, Mr. Ellis, and his staff, have responded magnificently to the calls made upon them. The buildings of the Melbourne Technical School, unfortunately, are old, and the equipment is, to a considerable degree, obsolete. The Victorian Government, of course, did not contemplate that such a demand would ever be made upon the school as has been made upon it ever since the war began, but the school has made available, to the best of its ability, the whole of its somewhat scanty resources. I have no doubt that similar schools throughout Australia have given to the Commonwealth all the help in their power. In these circumstances, such institutions are entitled, to-day, to expect some reciprocity from the Commonwealth. The automotive section of the Melbourne Technical School considers that if a large amount of money is to be expended in establishing a new technical training school, it should be expended in such circumstances as would make the expenditure of some real value to the country when the war is over. I make a strong appeal to the Government to pay some attention to the representations that have been made to it in this connexion. At one period, the Department of the Army was prepared to co-operate with the automotive section of the school, and also with the other technical colleges, the motor industry and the appropriate trade unions in establishing a technical training school in a place mutually agreed upon, but suddenly the Army authorities withdrew their support for the proposal and obtained the endorsement of the Board of

Business Administration to a new proposal to establish one of these proposed technical training schools near a military camp in each State. We have been discussing to-day whether the Government should call upon companies to contribute certain sums in war profits taxes, and a day or two ago we discussed whether it could properly seek an additional £30,000 of revenue by an increase of sales tax on dentifrices and the like. The Department of the Army seems to consider that it may spendhuge sums of money without giving any attention whatever to the methods thatmust be adopted to find the money. It is not at all concerned about whether means that are unpopular and, possibly, unfair, will have tobe adopted. I urge the Minister for the Army to take careful note of what I am saying in this connexion. I shall make available to him a file of papers that will set out the case from the point of view of those in whose interests I am specially speaking, and 1 hope thathe will do his utmost to prevent the wasteful expenditure that is. contemplated. Unfortunately, it is too late to take action in regard to the technical training school to be established in New South Wales under this scheme, for a building has already been erected at Liverpool, but it is not too late to review the circumstances associated with the proposal to build a school at Broadmeadows. Possibly, also, the proposals in respect of the other States would merit the closest examination. The Government should call a halt in this "squandermania " of the Army. I protest as strongly as possible against the methods by which approval is obtained for certain expenditure of this nature. There can be no justification for an ill-considered expenditure of this kind. The view of the authorities of the Melbourne Technical School havebeen set out in the following six points: -

1.   Improvement in the premises and equipment at the Melbourne Technical School (automotive section) are imperative regardless of the emergency created by the war.

2.   Present college premises cannot provide an area adequate for the purpose of a modern motor mechanics maintenance and servicing school.

3.   Sufficient area should be obtained in a suitable location to provide not only for the proposed new motormechanics school, but also for future engineering college expansion.

4.   With the growing industrial importance of Fisherman's Bend, and since this land is State owned, it would be logical for the State to contribute an area sufficient for this purpose.

5.   The bounty collected by the Federal Government over the past years amounts to over £1,000,000, and as this was intended originally to give support to motor car manufacturing in Australia, the cost of building a motor mechanics and motor engineers training centre should be borne by the Federal Government. In addition, the 10 per cent. sales tax on new cars,1s21/2d. per gallon on petrol (now more) and car registration tax collected on all motor vehicles, warrant the return of some of this in providing proper training facilities for motor mechanics and engineers.

6.   There is a need for immediate action since the military must train mechanics and could and would use the school's facilities if these were ready and adequate to carry out this training for them.

I am authorized to say that, if the Army Department would locate its building in a central position, the motor industry and the technical schools would generously co-operate in endowing the school, in order that it might more fully carry out all of its functions. The argument that I have advanced is quite reasonable. I cannot understand why the army authorities have been so obstinate and obtuse in the matter. That would be bad enough ; but when its obstinacy, obtuseness, and persistent refusal to face facts, result in the wasteful expenditure of £70,000, the Minister and the Parliament should take action.

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