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Friday, 21 November 1941

Mr MAKIN (Hindmarsh) (Minister for Munitions) . - I listened with considerable interest to the statement of the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt), and the subsequent observations of the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Duncan-Hughes). The subject of man-power demands very earnest consideration. The nature of the observations of the two honorable gentlemen to whom I have referred indicates how vexed is the problem. Their speeches, however, might well have been made three or six months ago. I ask the House to realize that the present Government cannot be held responsible for many of the aspects of the problem of manpower. Evidently, the last Government realized the necessity for a survey of the position, and for that purpose appointed the Man-power and Resources Survey Committee, which has submitted reports disclosing that very important results have accrued from its investigations. Those reports will not lie unheeded in the archives, but will be of value to the Government in assisting it properly to apportion the requirement* of industry as a whole.

The honorable member for Fawkner referred to wastage in Government factories. It is true that where there is concentration of effort, as in defence and munitions projects - in which men and women work long hours, and frequently throughout the week-end, in order to obtain maximum production- ^-fatigue, and possibly inroads on health, are likely to occur, occasioning a much higher degree of wastage than is experienced in peace-time industry. However, I do not. consider that that justifies us in aggravating the evil by refusing them the right to take employment where the demands upon their health will not be so great. These occurrences justify Labour's constant efforts to reduce standard working hours. In spite of anything that may have been said by the honorable member forFawkner this afternoon, the fact remains that we owe a great debt of gratitude to the many thousands of men and women who have given generously of their labour and strength by working long and late hours in order to supply munitions and equipment to our fighting forces.

Mr Holt - I was not criticizing them.

Mr MAKIN - Perhaps not, butI take this opportunity to pay them a compliment for what they have done. It is our duty to prevent wastage as far as possible by providing better housing conditions, something which should have been done from the beginning as a part of our war effort, particularly where new industries have been established in new locations. By providing better conditions, we shall remove one of the causes which make workers leave government factories to seek employment elsewhere. I point out, however, that some of the workers who leave one government factory merely transfer to another government factory in a more convenient area. Even many of those who transfer from a government factory to one run by private enterprise are still engaged upon defence work of great importance, so that it is wrong to assume that, in every instance, the services of the persons who leave the government factories are lost so far as the war effort is concerned. Moreover, while some workers are leaving government factories, many others are applying for work in them. In South Australia, there is a long list of workers seeking such employment. I am well aware that heavy demands are being made upon our workers at the present time, and it is our endeavour to reduce those demands insofar as it is possible.We hope to resolve many of the difficulties with which we are now confronted, and make conditions better for the men and women engaged in the war effort who are giving such a wonderful example of devotion to the common cause.

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