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Friday, 27 March 1942

Mr BREEN (Calare) . - I wish to draw the attention of the Government to the potential power resources, whether hydro-electric or steam, which exist in areas west of the Blue Mountains. A commission of very distinguished electrical engineers consisting of Messrs. Randell. Palmer and Tritton, of Great Britain, reported in 1937 to the Government of New South Wales on the power resources of that State, and strongly recommended that a hydro-electric generating plant should be installed at Wyangala Dam. The commission reported that a plant at the Wyangala Dam would be capable of generating 10,000 kilowatts. Recently, the Minister for Supply and Development (Mr. Beasley) directed a committee of experts and economists to examine the resources of several western towns in New South Wales in order to assess their capacity to supply power and water for the manufacture of power alcohol. I urge the Minister for Supply and Development, during the next few weeks, to give serious consideration to this subject and instruct his experts to make a summary of the power resources which are now available in the same manner as the committee did so effectively in 1937.

If the Minister is impressed with the necessity for constructing reservoirs in the areas that I have mentioned, he should not be deterred by complaints about lack of labour. The country strongly supports the view that prisoners of war should be employed upon such projects. A Gallup poll, which was taken in February and March, disclosed that 86 per cent, of our people favoured the use of prisoners of war labour.

Mr Archie Cameron - The poll showed also that the country was in favour of conscription.

Mr BREEN - The subject of conscription is in a different category because it is controversial ; the employment of prisoners of war upon useful public works is endorsed by an overwhelming majority of Australians. The construction of water-conservation projects would suitably employ prisoners of war, because large bodies of men would be engaged and the problem of guarding them would not be so great as it is when the men are thinly distributed over large farming areas. On farm work the employment of prisoners of war is impracticable, because a guard is required to watch one or two men. The excuse which was advanced up to the outbreak of war that the country could not afford to construct such works no longer applies. The fallacy of that contention has been amply demonstrated. The monetary cost is of little concern if the work contributes to the preservation of the country. The arguments against such works being carried out are the lack of manpower and materials. My answer is that prisoners of war will supply the labour, whilst the materials required for the construction of reservoirs are not needed in the war effort.

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