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Friday, 21 November 1941

Mr DUNCAN-HUGHES (Wakefield) . - The honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) made a remark concerning former Senator Sir George Pearce, who is not here to defend himself. I was in this Parliament with Sir George Pearce for many years, and so far as I am capable of forming an opinion I say deliberately that he is the most underrated of all of our great men. If the parliamentary achievements of any of us should be comparable with those of Sir George Pearce during a parliamentary life of 40 years, we shall have no reason to be dissatisfied with ourselves when we retire from public life. I remind the honorable member for Melbourne of what an old Englishman once said to a young man. It was, " After all, none of us is infallible, not even the youngest among us ". Because the honorable member has some political difference with Sir George Pearce - we know what it is: Sir George Pearce, properly, I think, broke with his party at a very critical time - he cannot admit the ability and public spirit of the man. I saw Sir George only a few months ago, and am perfectly satisfied that he is still much more capable than most of us of undertaking any task entrusted to him. Apart from this direct objection to such criticism of him in this Parliament, he needs no defence.

Mr Holt - All of those who worked in Cabinet with him thought most highly of him.

Mr Calwell - I shall never let him live down what he did to the Labour party.

Mr DUNCAN-HUGHES - For many months, I have been writing to Ministers, and speaking in and out of Parliament, on the subject of man-power. So far, very little has transpired, or been elicited. There are several heads under which information might have been given, if either this or the previous Ministry could have made up its mind to inform us in regard to the quotas required, first for the various branches of the fighting services - from time to time, rough estimates have been given in respect of the military forces but I want the whole of the essential field to be covered: secondly, munitions production; thirdly, rural pursuits; and fourthly, other essential industrial pursuits. Any figures given must of necessity be purely provisional, and be adjusted as the circumstances change; hut at least we could be given an idea of the Government's general objective in respect of each of those main divisions. By neither this nor the previous Government, so far as I know, has a decision been made as to the extent to which it should grapple with the subject of woman-power. For more than a year we have not had a new list of reserved occupations. Of the present list it has very properly been said that it would have been much better had it contained the names of those not reserved, instead of those who are, because it would have been much shorter.

Mr Barnard - The honorable member surely does not suggest that this Government has been responsible for any laxity in that regard?

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