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Thursday, 5 March 1942

Mr MORGAN (Reid) .- I appreciate the statement that has been made in regard to machine tools by the Minister for Munitions (Mr. Makin), but am disappointed with the meagre details that it contains. This matter was first raised by me and by other honorable members particularly the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) over three months ago. Inquiry into it has been made by three departments. Cost investigators of the Munitions Department have investigated it fully, and could have placed all of the details before the Minister. The Department of Home Security also has been conducting an inquiry since December last, when a special investigation was instituted; and on behalf of the Parliamentary Committee on War Expenditure, experts have been engaged on it for some considerable time. That committee has presented reports dealing with specific details, and showing that in certain instances the profits have been higher than 60 per cent. The comment of the experts is that some of the profits have been fantastic. These details are available, and should be placed before the House at the earliest possible moment, particularly as the gentleman who instituted the system is still in charge of machine tool production. While inquiries are being conducted he is, in effect, under a cloud. There is considerable disquiet in the whole of the munitions industry in regard to the supply of machine tools, and particularly the activities of the director and his associates in connexion with machine tool production. This is one of the greatest bottlenecks in our war effort. It is holding up production, and causing a complete sense of frustration among, not only the workers, but also many of the manufacturers. I hope that the Minister will see that no facts are suppressed, and will issue definite instructions for a full disclosure to be made to him in order that he may make a report to the House as early as possible and thus enable the position to be cleaned up. I am perfectly satisfied that when the facts become known this House will consent to the setting up of a select committee, or even a royal commission, to investigate the control of machine tools and the activities of those who are concerned in their production.

Several weeks ago, a dispute occurred at the Aircraft Factory, Lidcombe, as the result of which certain men were dismissed. They were members of a production committee which had been set up in the industry in order to deal with inefficiency and production lag in that particular aircraft undertaking. When suggestions were proffered to the management with the object of rectifying certain matters that had come under their notice, the leaders were dismissed and other members of the committee were disrated. Many men on wages amounting to £10, £12 and £14 a week were being kept in a stateofidleness,contrarytotheirown wishes. They thought that it was high time for the matter to be dealt with properly, consequently they set up a production committee and placed their views before the management. A meeting to discuss the position following upon the dismissals was held during one lunch hour when the greater part of the works was idle. The meeting lasted a. little longer than was expected, and when the men endeavoured to return to work over 100 of them were locked out, and remained so for some days. The employers contended that they were on strike. Eight of the men received a telegram notifying them that they had been dismissed from their employment. Meetings were held at the TradesHall. As the local member, I appealed to the men to return to work. I had received a notification from the Minister for Aircraft Production stating that the whole of the allegations made in the dispute would be inquired into, and that the men'scharges would be fully sifted. On that specific undertaking, the men returned to their employment. The Minister has made statements which fully vindicate the attitude adopted by the men, whose names have been besmirched and who have been under a cloud. On a Saturday night only a few weeks ago, I heard the Minister state over the air that ultimately the action of the men would be found to be fullyjustified. He went on to say that the greed and selfishness of certain interests with an un- Australian outlook had been holding up aircraft production in Australia. He followed that with a statement which was published in the press only a few days ago, in which he said -

Delays in production had occurred. These delays had been caused by -

(   1 ) Government variation of production schedule;

(2)   Domination of the industry by private interests.

In Sydney, there had been delays because key men were removed from high posts when their opinion did not correspond with the opinion of others. That our aircraft production industry could not afford to lose even one capable manmeant nothing, apparently. Lower down the ladder, workers were charged with being fifth columnists because they got restless and expressed their displeasure as trade unionists. I had to intervene.

That was a public vindication of the men. The Prime Minister has called for a special report from the Leader of the Opposition, who is acquainted with the facts, having inquired as to the reason why a high American expert had left his employment and returned to America. These facts being in the possession of the Government, and the specific promise having been made that there would be an inquiry into the allegations of the men, the charges should be fully investigated, and the men should be given an opportunity to vindicate their attitude.

The Clyde Engineering Company Limited at Granville employs 1,700 men. The War Expenditure Committee has inquired into the position at the works. It has obtained first-hand information, and has brought in reports which clearly show that the industry is not being used to its full productive capacity, as it cannot obtain the requisite war orders from the Munitions Department in Melbourne. Although it is an industry that the Board of Area Management in Sydney, under the chairmanship of Sir Phillip Goldfinch, stated should be used to full capacity, it is not getting the orders to which it is entitled. It was producing trench mortars at the rate of 70 each week, and the number could have been increased to 100. Suddenly the orders were stopped because the Army authorities stated that they had enough mortars. Surely, however, this cannot be true, now that so many troops are coming to this country. It would be better to have the work done here than to have the mortars made in the United States of America and shipped here, -with all the risks attendant upon the voyage. These works have produced the largest locomotives made in Australia, and also the greatest crane, which was to the order of Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited for installation at Whyalla. The men say that they could produce tanks, if need be. I know that the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) has intervened in the matter, but so far no satisfaction has been obtained.

To-day, I raised with the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Ward) the subject of production committees in a number of industries. I desire to bring under the notice of honorable members the following report, published in the Sydney Morning Herald, dealing with what has been done in this way in the United States of America -

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