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Wednesday, 25 February 1942

Mr MARWICK (Swan) .- 1 was pleased to hear the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn) refer to the control exercised- by local governing bodies in the cities. Recently, on behalf of more than 2,000 people employed in the government workshops in Western Australia I sought two things: one, a guard, and the other, air raid shelters. I communicated with the Civil Defence Council and was told that it was not its function to protect the men at that factory. I then communicated with the General Officer Commanding, Western Command, who said that he knew nothing about the matter, but would try to find out. He then suggested that I communicate with the Department of Munitions, which I did, and I was told that peace officers would be put on guard at the workshops. I then tried to find out whose responsibility it was to provide air raid shelters for the men. Again the Civil Defence Council knew nothing.

Mr Makin - It is the responsibility of the Department of Munitions to provide for the protection of government workshops.

Mr MARWICK - A private company engaged in the manufacture of war materials in Western Australia erected its own shelters for its .workmen, but for the protection of the workmen in the government factory there is nothing. The Munitions Department referred me to the Civil Engineer of the Railways. That department thought that he was doing something in the matter. Pursuing my inquiries farther, I learned that the Government was to provide the materials - the timber and tools - and that the men were required to erect the shelters in their spare time. The great majority of those men work twelve hours a day and are doing a magnificent jab in the defence of this country. It is most unfair to expect them in their limited spare time to erect their own air raid shelters.

Mr Makin - There is no reason why they should be required to do so.

Mr MARWICK - That is so. What I am pointing out is the lack of an official to co-ordinate civil protection measures. The result is that every day press criticism is levelled, against the Civil Defence Council. I do not desire to criticize what that council is doing, but the people in it do not seem to know where their job starts and finishes. Press criticism naturally creates a bad feeling amongst the public generally. I understand that certain powers have now been delegated to the Premier of Western Australia, and I hope that there will be greater co-ordination.

Dr Evatt - Tremendous powers have been delegated for the protection of the whole of the population in any area of the State.

Mr MARWICK - Apparently, those powers have been delegated to one who has not proved himself big enough for the job.

Honorable Members. - He fair!

Mr MARWICK - Well, I shall give another instance. I had occasion to write to the Minister for Home Security (Mr. Lazzarini) about the installation of telephones for air raid wardens in various Western Australian centres. The Civil Defence Council had told me that it knew nothing about the matter. It was not its function to see to the installation of telephones. Yet the Minister for Home Security told me that arrangements had been made last August for the installation of telephones in the homes of wardens. It is ali very well to say : " Be fair ", but I have to consider the security of the people who are engaged in war work. They come first, and I do not care what official I bring on to the carpet in trying to secure their safety.

Mr Makin - To what authority is the honorable member referring?

Mr MARWICK - The Civil Defence Council. It is the only recognized authority in Western Australia, unless there has been an alteration in the last week or so.

Mr Makin - The Department of Home Security attends to these matters.

Mr MARWICK - The Civil Defence Council has been handling matters in Western Australia. Powers have been delegated to it.

Dr Evatt - I shall report to the Minister what the honorable gentleman has said.

Mr MARWICK - It is most unfair to expect men who work twelve-hour shifts on the production of vital war materials to erect their own air raid shelters.

I also wish to make passing reference to the numerous strikes that have occurred. I should not be doing my duty by my constituents if I allowed the opportunity to do so to pass, for the people of Western Australia have to their credit a larger number of enlistments in proportion to the population than those of any other State. I am frequently asked in Western Australia what the Government is doing in connexion with strikes. I am sick and tired of hearing the explanation from Government sources that this Or the other thing is being done. If union officials are able to deal with the men who strike, as was indicated by a reply given from the treasury bench to the honorable member for Bourke a few minutes a.go, I should like to know why effective action has not been taken. Since the outbreak of the war almost 1,000 strikes have occurred in Australia. When we consider that the great majority of munitions workers are doing shifts of twelve . hours a day, these strikes must have involved the loss of nearly 26,000,000 man-hours of work. That is a direct gift to the enemy. These strikes are causing a. great deal of antagonism in Western Australia.

Mr Sheehan - The men are not always to blame.

Mr MARWICK - I have not suggested that they are; but the latest announcement made in the press by the Prime Minister would seem to indicate that in the more recent strikes the men are principally at fault. The sooner definite action is taken to discipline the men who strike the sooner we shall have peace in industry.

Mr Rosevear - Is the honorable gentleman speaking about the coal-miners or the coal-owners?

Mr MARWICK - Both are at fault.

Mr Breen - Does the honorable member favour the nationalization of the coalmining industry ?

Mr MARWICK - I do not intend to be trapped into an admission of that kind. I believe in allowing people to live according to the law of the land.

There is urgent need for vigorous action to prevent the continued waste of petrol in this country. This is the third or fourth time that I have felt called upon to make a protest in this connexion. It is not necessary to go beyond the bounds of Canberra to see a great waste of petrol. Nearly as many motor cars can be seen in the streets of this city of about 12,000 people as can be seen in the metropolitan area of Perth. The people over there have done a magnificent job in petrol conservation. Petrol is of the first importance to this country, yet we can see, almost at any time, cars being needlessly driven about Canberra.

Mr Rosevear - 'Cannot the same be said of Perth ?

Mr MARWICK - Not to the same degree. The honorable member for Dalley has recently been in Perth and lie must know that my statement is true, although I am aware that he wa3 kept indoors on official duty while he was in Perth. I appeal to the Prime Minister and also to the Minister for Supply and Development to do what they can to conserve petrol. I was astonished to hear a ministerial statement that our petrol supply is extremely good at present. Such statements cause considerable dissatisfaction among petrol users. Our petrol supply may be good at the moment, but who can say what it will be like a month or six weeks hence? If any one of our big installationa were to be destroyed by a bomb we should be in a sorry state at once. Ministerial utterances of the kind that I have mentioned are most unwise and should not be made. Such observations simply invite people to ask why they cannot get more petrol. Far too much loose talking is being indulged in and it is injurious to public morale. I trust that the petrol control regulations will be tightened considerably so that waste will be prevented. I frankly admit that I have been " pimping; '" :" thi? connexion. Whenever I have seen city cars in country districts I have sent their numbers to the Liquid Fuel Control Board ; so if some of my constituents find that they have been reported, they will know that I may have been responsible. Thousands of motor cars are to be seen regularly at race meetings and the " trots " and also on the beaches. Petrol should not be available for such purposes. The sooner definite action is taken to prosecute people who improperly use petrol the better it will be for the country. I have heard the Prime Minister say on several occasions that the nation which has the last few gallons of petrol will probably win the war. I entirely agree with that view, and I ask the honorable gentleman to do his utmost to prevent waste of this precious fuel.

Debate (on motion by Mr. Anthony) adjourned.

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