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Friday, 21 November 1941


Mr FORDE (Capricornia) (Minister for the Army) . - The various matters mentioned by honorable members will be carefully considered by the Government. Some of the items raised have been specifically answered by the Ministers concerned. I should like to reply to the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell). I listened with interest to his remarks on the important subject of the establishment of a school at Broadmeadows for the training of motor transport drivers and mechanics in the third military district. The honorable member made rather sweeping accusations against the Army Department and the Board of Business Administration, alleging that the sum of approximately £300,000, which it is proposed to expend throughout Australia, will practically be wasted, and that a sum of £70,000, proposed to he expended on the establishment of the motor school at Broadmeadows, will also be wasted if the school be established in that locality. He contended that it would be far wiser to establish the school at Fisherman's Bend, in which case, at the conclusion of the war, it could probably be utilized by the State Government in a technical education scheme. The decision to establish the school at Broadmeadows was made by my predecessor. I cannot say at this stage whether I am opposed to that decision. I have an open mind on the matter. At the same time I am anxious that the right thing shall be done, and with a view to obtaining all of the facts, I am prepared to receive a deputation at Victoria Barracks, Melbourne, at 9.15 on Monday morning next. I shallbe glad if the honorable member for Melbourne will then introduce to me representatives of the interests who have made the representations which he has voiced.


Mr Calwell - We shall be there.


Mr FORDE - Simply because a decision has been made, we should not be bound by it if it can be shown that a wiser course is open to us. However, I remind the honorable member that this matter has been under the consideration of the Military Board and the Board of Business Administration. I have not yet had time to go into the matter carefully. I have in my hand a minute which I have received from Major-General Rowell, Deputy Chief of the General Staff, who is also a member of the Military Board -

It is advised that Fisherman's Bend was considered as a location for third military district motor transport school and rejected for the following reasons: -

(a)   Comparatively high expenditure involved in appropriation of land, or alternatively in rental.

(   b ) Comparative unsuitability of site for hygienic and disciplinary reasons and as regards area of ground available.

(c)   Higher building costs - this area is largely reclaimed.

(d)   Unsuitability for use in operations in case of emergency.

2.   It is considered that as the capital value of all motor vehicles in the Army amounts to several millions of pounds, the cost of these schools is more than justified in ensuring efficient instruct ion and training for adequate numbers of personnel to maintain those vehicles. Without efficiently trained personnel, vehicles will have a relatively short life, and without adequate training facilities the numbers and efficiency in personnel cannot be ensured.

3.   Further, it is considered that a school at Broadmeadows, which is an outer suburb of Melbourne, would be just as accessible for post-war trainees as at Fisherman's Bend.


Mr Calwell - Broadmeadows is 10 miles from the city.


Mr FORDE - We are not able to tell how far the city of Melbourne will extend in the future. The Victorian Business Administration Committee also considered this matter, and approved of the recommendation of the Military Board on the ground that it was -

(a)   Tactically sound, as it is out of the forward area.

(b)   Serviced by good roads, with all facilities, water, light, &c, already available.

(c)   Will be established on Commonwealth property. Land acquisition therefore costs nil. and at Fisherman's Bend is owned by the State Government. It is valued at an extremely high figure and rent demanded by the Crown Lands Department is correspondingly high. There is no surety that buildings erected to army pattern would be taken over by the State Government at the conclusion of the war. The Commonwealth is thus faced with probability of being required to pay high land rentals during the war. and having to dismantle its buildings at the conclusion thereof - a most uneconomical proposition.

An additional argument advanced by the committee in favour of the Broadmeadows site was that, in order to obtain the necessary knowledge in the time available, students of the motor transport school must work or study night and day, and that the site is far enough from the attractions of the city to permit of such concentration. I have an open mind on this subject; I want to do the right thing, and, therefore, I shall be glad to hear the representations in favour of Fishermen's Bend in Melbourne on Monday morning. Large sums of money are being expended throughout Australia on the training of craftsmen, and if it can be proved to me that a motor transport school at Fishermen's Bond will be more convenient than one at Broadmeadows, will cost less money, and can afterwards be used by the State Government as a technical school, or for some other purpose, I shall weigh such evidence very carefully. When I have heard the case in favour of Fisherman's Bend, an immediate decision will be made.







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