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Friday, 21 November 1941

Mr ARCHIE CAMERON (Barker) . - I wish to deal first with a matter raised by the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell). The honorable gentleman was rather annoyed because it has been decided to expend more money on the construction of a school for the teaching of motor mechanics for the Army.

Mr Calwell - That was not the reason for my annoyance. It was because the money is likely to be expended wrongly in that school premises are to be erected in undesirable localities.

Mr ARCHIE CAMERON - I do not agree that they are being erected in undesirable localities. "We do not want them to be established at Fisherman's Bend or Woolloomooloo Bay. As the chief sites for camps in Victoria are in the Seymour locality, to my mind Seymour is the obvious place at which these schools should be established. These institutions will not cease to be of value when the war is over; they will have to be carried on after the war because of the increasing mechanization of the Army. Seven years ago I pointed out the desirability of a change-over from light horse to armoured regiments, but it has taken a long time for honorable members to realize that the establishment of schools for the training of technicians is an important feature of army training. It is most unfortunate that there is a tendency in all directions to-day to "kick" the Army every time it asks for funds. When a few thousand pounds is asked of the Government for the establishment of these schools an objection is immediately raised. Yesterday we passed a bill providing for the payment of an extra £2,000,000 to invalid and old-age pensioners. That was a matter for jubilation ; but as soon as a request is made for the provision of funds for the training of men for overseas service it is questioned by unthinking people. It is time that honorable members began to realize that the Army does not consist entirely of " nit-wits' ".

Mr Calwell - What about the Board of Business Administration?

Mr ARCHIE CAMERON - The board is one of the worst bottlenecks in the country. The greatest bottleneck is the Department of Defence Coordination. Next in importance among the bottlenecks is the Advisory War Council. The Board of Business Administration comes next. The elimination of these three bottlenecks by simply wiping them out of existence should enable us to get somewhere.

The other point I wish to raise is in connexion with the subject of man-power which was dealt with by the honorable members for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) and Wakefield (Mr. Duncan-Hughes). If the Minister cares to look at the files he will no doubt find that they contain a copy of the man-power regulations which I drafted when I was a member of a former government but to which effect was not given because they were not approved by Cabinet. It is impossible to build ships or to turn out shells, tanks and other munitions of war to full capacity if every worker is free to accept employment wherever he likes. There can be no solution of the manpower problem until the Government assumes full control of the man-power of this country. I endeavoured to convince the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) during question time this morning that it is sheer futility for him and for the Minister for Munitions (Mr. Makin) to talk about a 100 per cent. war effort and to say, at the same time, that it will be achieved on a voluntary basis. The very fact that we have these circuses in Martin-place, Sydney, in front of the Melbourne Town Hall, and in other capital cities, at which dancers and singers lend their help in the appeal for recruits is ample proof that we have not yet achieved a 100 per cent. war effort. Until the Government accepts the principle that, during the war period, every man has to be in the place where he is of most use to his country, we shall not arrive at the solution of the man-power problem. At present employers are permitted to compete against each other for the services of competent workmen. I saw glaring instances of such competition in the naval shipbuilding yards. There were two leakages of labour there, one, to the armed f orces - and I had no power to stop that - and the other to private employers. Highly skilled and irreplaceable men who should have been kept at Cockatoo Island Dockyard, and Garden Island and other important shipbuilding yards in the Commonwealth, were permitted to enlist in infantry battalions and be sent overseas. That is a misuse of man-power. Trained and almost irreplaceable men are permitted of their own free will to go into the fighting forces where their skill is not utilized.

Sir George Bell - The honorable member would not allow such men to join the Australian Imperial Force?

Mr ARCHIE CAMERON - I could not stop them ; but they are of more value to their country in building and repairing ships than in defending Australia on some foreign battlefield. In that way we have lost the services of competent shipwrights and trained engineers who cannot be replaced.

Sir George Bell - Very few of them have joined the Australian Imperial Force.

Mr ARCHIE CAMERON - None of thom should have been permitted to do so. There should be a proper control and marshalling of the available man-power of the country. Certainly until such time as the Government assumes control of the man-power of this country and places every man in the job he is best able to perform, it will be impossible for this country to achieve the maximum production of the materials of war.

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