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Friday, 27 March 1942

Mr MAKIN (Hindmarsh) (Minister for Munitions) . - The honorable member for Reid (Mr. Morgan) mentioned the impressment of machine tools from engineering shops engaged on war work, and said that as the result those shops were hampered in carrying out their contracts. He implied that the Director of Machine Tools, Colonel Thorpe, had some direct' influence in this matter. I assure the House that that is not so. It is quite true that machine tools are impressed from firms engaged on defence work, but that is because the shops to which the tools are transferred are engaged on work of a higher order of priority. In order that the work in these shops will be carried out as quickly as possible, it is necessary that their equipment be reinforced from the machine tools of other shops whose work is not so urgent. Colonel Thorpe has absolutely nothing to do with determining priorities. They are determined by the Defence Board, and the Department of Munitions has no voice in the matter. Its duty is to carry out in the quickest possible time the production of urgently needed equipment and munitions.

Mr Rankin - Colonel Thorpe is one of the Commonwealth's most able servants.

Mr MAKIN - I believe that myself. I have no reason to have other than the highest opinion of the abilities and integrity of the Director of Machine Tools. I shall not allow reflections upon his work as an official of my department to pass unchallenged, but I make it quite clear to the honorable member that impressment of machine tools is dictated by the needs of the moment. I concede that Howard Auto Cultivators Limited and the

Purcell Engineering Company Limited are engaged on important defence work, and that some of their machine tools have been impressed for other workshops. The reason is that those other workshops are engaged upon work of a higher priority than theirs. I hope that that will be' a sufficient answer for the honorable gentleman. I hope that the repeated complaints made in this House about matters such as this will not create false impressions amongst honorable members. I do not mind complaint or criticism, but very often it is based on lack of information or understanding. It is impossible to make a public announcement as to why certain equipment is required more urgently than other equipment. Sometimes that is a matter of strictest secrecy. The Government must exercise its powers in such a way as to ensure that the best results shall accrue to the country.

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