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Wednesday, 17 December 1941

Mr MORGAN (Reid) .- I take this opportunity to refer to several matters that I brought under the notice of the previous Government. I do not hold this Government responsible nor, for that matter, do I particularly blame the previous Government for what has happened. I hope, however, that the subjects to which I refer will be given close attention by the present Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin).

The first matter relates to the production in a certain factory of Bren gun parts. The facts in this connexion have been given to me by a skilled worker who was engaged on this job. His signed statement on the subject reads as follows : -

Part of tripod of Bren gun: When this particular piece is out of gauge it must throw the whole Bren gun out of alignment. There is an allowance of .009 in. tolerance, and this job is .010 in. out of gauge. The management knows this, but is going on doing it. I, myself, was put on the job, and when 1 found the error I informed the foreman of the matter and told him if this kind of thing was allowed to go on I would leave the firm; but they just took me off the job and put another employee on the same job, and it is still wrong. If this kind of thing is allowed, where are we going to end? This firm is working on a 10 per cent, basis over all costs. They have an inspector employed by the firm in the annexe, but he has to do as he is told. Their inspector wanted to stop this particular job, but he was not allowed to stop it.

There are also five turrets, seven profiles and a number of milling machines which are never used; yet the Government urges the speeding up of munitions while these machines are idle. Whenever there is a military inspector present they put labourers on any one of these machines until the inspection is over, and that is the end of the so-called war production.

I conveyed this information to the Government on the 19th November last, and have received a formal acknowledgment of my letter; but I trust that a thorough inquiry will be made into the allegations, for it would be tragic if the members of our fighting forces were furnished with defective Bren guns.

I direct the attention of the Prime Minister also to what I regard as unsatisfactory government action in respect of the Wales differential device. This equipment was designed by an Australian engineer of considerable experience in order to overcome what is known as single-wheel spin, which is a major defect in conventional motor vehicle equipment. The Wales differential was brought to the notice of the Army authorities two years ago, and, after exhaustive tests, was accepted as satisfactory. I understand that engineers of experience connected with General Motors Limited and also the Ford Motor Company are enthusiastic about the device. The Army authorities were so satisfied that they requisitioned a supply of this equipment through the Department of Supply and Development. I am informed that an order for 800 Wales differentials was submitted to the Board of Business Administration for endorsement. The board referred the matter to the Central Inventions Board, which also expressed satisfaction with the equipment. Yet, because the British army authorities bad not proved the worth of the invention and, I suppose, had not had the opportunity to test it, the Board of Business Administration declined to endorse the order. Seeing that we now have to rely on our own devices, and inventive ability in matters of this description, I hope that the decision of the Board of Business Administration will be reviewed. I do not know Mr. Wales personally, but I have corresponded with him. His differential was brought to my notice through certain other inquiries that I was making. I am quite satisfied that Mr. Wales is an engineer of ability and that his invention should be given the most careful consideration.

I ask the Prime Minister also to be good enough to cause an investigation to be made into complaints of a lack of encouragement to Australian inventors generally. Considerable doubt still seems to exist concerning the actual procedure that has been laid down in connexion with inventions. Apparently, the Central Inventions Board has been abolished and inventions must now be submitted to the Service Departments. I have received a letter, however, which suggests that the new procedure is not at all satisfactory. For obvious reasons, I shall not give names in this connexion, but the writer of the letter, after referring to his own unsatisfactory treatment by the department, stated -

While I was standing around all that time. I came in contact with many disgusted people who were trying hard to place valuable ideas at the country's disposal. Amongst them was a man by the name of Andrews, who had an idea for steering an aerial bomb. I thought it was a splash idea and was very sorry to hear him say that as he had such a rotten spin from his own people he would dispose of it elsewhere. I have recently wondered if Japan got it.

Mr Spender - Does the honorable gentleman suggest that the inventor made his invention available to Japan?

Mr MORGAN - The uncanny accuracy of the Japanese in reaching their targets from the air suggests that they may have some device of this character. We all know that several British inventions were somehow secured by Germany during the last war, and it would be deplorable if that kind of thing happened on this occasion.

I now direct attention to the following letter which I have received from Mr.

W.   J. Carlton, member for Concord in the Parliament of New South Wales : -

I have recently been interviewed by one of my constituents, Mr. Walter Roy Hayes, of 73 Myall-street, Concord West, who is an exforeman engineer of Garden Island Naval Depot.

He informs me that over twelve Months ago lie submitted to Mr. Urquhart, Armament Officer, Garden Island, a model of his invention which he claims revolutionizes the lifting of planes, boats, &c, from the water to shipboard and vice versa.

When the model was first submitted, he states that it was acclaimed as the ideal idea for the work which it is intended to do and from the explanation of its working which he furnished to me, I am convinced that there is a deal of merit in the proposal.

During the twelve months, he claims that no effort has been made to try out the idea and in spite of the fact that he has made written application for the return of his model, he has been completely ignored by the Department of the Navy.

He also informs me that other interests arc desirous of trying out the idea but he has refrained from giving permission pending some decision from the Navy.

I would be pleased if you would make Borne inquiries on his behalf and ascertain what steps if any the Naval Board proposes to take in this matter and impart such information to Mr. Hayes.

I am enclosing a sketch and a .brief summary of the idea.

Trusting you will' make some inquiries.

If honorable members are interested in the sketch plan I shall be pleased to submit it to them.

Mr Spender - Has the honorable member brought this invention to the notice of the Minister for the Navy?

Mr MORGAN - Yes.

Mr Spender - Then why mention it now?

Mr MORGAN - I read Mr. Carlton's letter in order to show that Australian inventors have been discouraged by departmental officials. The whole matter was dealt with fully in the following leading article which was published in the Sydney Morning Herald recently:-- lt is not enough, however, to set up machinery which will give a fair and enlightened test of any new device offered to the services. lt may often happen that an inventor has not worked out his idea completely or has applied it inaptly. In either case the gonn of some useful notion might be passed over if its assessment was left simply to one of the Services or the Munitions Department. It is to be hoped therefore that, in making the very necessary changes in the Array Inventions Board's system, Mr. Forde will not overlook the need to have some central clearing-house for ideas, so that the inventive powers of the community may be exploited to the fullest possible extent.

I ask the Prime Minister to refer this matter back to the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. The examination of Australian inventions should come within the jurisdiction of that body which has an appropriation of £400,000 for research purposes. I ask the Government to give every encouragement to Australian inventors.

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