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Thursday, 14 May 1942

Mr MARWICK - No; but he informed the man-power officers that two or three of the heifers would calve during each of the succeeding four or five weeks. The Minister referred to the man as a " fattener ", for he had 40 head of sheep as well as the cattle. He may be a fattener, but stock need to be fattened if they are to be sold for killing. If the man had not taken the twenty heifers from a dairy farm, they would have had to graze on that farm probably to the detriment of milking cows. The man was= told by the man-power officer that as his was a one-man business it would have to be discontinued. I object strongly to the fact that the man was given only from the 24th April to the 1st May. seven days, to make arrangements to dispose of twenty-odd cattle, 40 sheep and three horses, and to take certain necessary steps in connexion with the protection of a dwelling-house estimated to cost £500, which was within three weeks of completion. That, I suggest, was an unreasonably limited time to allow the man to straighten out his affairs before going into camp. I feel sure that if Mr. Stitfeld had had some discretionary power, he would have given the man at least another fortnight, to arrange his affairs. The man's operations were being carried on in jarrah country which, if left unoccupied, would revert to its natural state within twelve.' or fifteen months. I pointed out to the Minister that the man was a member of the Volunteer Defence Corps, and had been associated with it or with the Home Guards, as the organization was previously known, ever since the beginning of the war. In my view, it would be reasonable to allow such men to continue to carry on their ordinary occupations, and to serve their country in the Volunteer Defence Corps. Has the Minister given any consideration to my submissions on that point? Last year this man grew 5 tons of potatoes in his spare time. I was hoping that this year he would be able to produce between 50 and 60 tons of potatoes. However, my strongest objection to the action of the authorities in this case is that it allowed the man such a ridiculously short time to dispose of his stock, and to make arrangements to protect his new dwelling-house from vandals while he himself was in camp.

Mr Dedman - I remind the honorable gentleman that the case to which he refers really came within the authority of the Minister for Labour and National Service.

Mr MARWICK - That may be so, but while the Minister for War Organization of Industry was in Western Australia he issued certain instructions on behalf of the Minister for Labour and National Service which had to be carried into effect by the Deputy Director of Man-power. The officer informed me : " I was given by the Minister a set of conditions; and he suggested that I should tighten up on all exemptions ". I replied, " Does that mean in relation to primary production?" He said, " Yes, we have to tighten up on those industries ". In these positions we should have men possessing a thorough knowledge of industry and of the careful planning that must be made well ahead in respect of the production of foodstuffs. I have yet to learn that there are on the different man-power boards, particularly in Western Australia, men who possess such knowledge. Already man-power had been withdrawn to the limit from farming properties before the blanket exemption became operative. On my own farm, on which' never fewer than eight men had been employed, I am now endeavouring to carry on with two men. Hundreds of sheep will be lost off it. Nearly every farm, in Western Australia will suffer similarly. A married man, 40 years of age, who left my farm, walked round a petrol depot in Fremantle, only 150 yards from the waterfront, carrying a single-barrelled shotgun, during the first month after he was called up. How could he have served his country better than in the production of foodstuffs? I have letters galore ask ing for the release of men for the planting of seed. The Deputy-Director of Man-power in Western Australia told me that the quantity of wheat available in that State is sufficient to feed us for 50 years. I do not dispute that; but, it could easily be destroyed overnight. If the reserves of wheat are so great, the Government should say " We do not want you to grow more wheat ", and should enable us to get into another occupation that would at least make it possible to keep the farms intact. We could, at all events, produce the meats and other commodities that are required.

I have also had occasion to approach the man-power authorities in respect of the release of certain highly-skilled men whose function was to look after 48,000,000 bushels of wheat. That was not considered a reserved occupation. The wheat having been placed in store, it would appear that, in the opinion of the man-power officers, there is no longer need to look after it. I have had occasion to approach the army authorities in respect of the release of several men. In one instance, I sought the release of a man 41 years of age to shift the apples and pears of an orchardist who has two sons in the Royal Australian Air Force in the Middle East, and a third son in a bomber squadron in England. I. asked the army officer if he realized that the Army had to be fed. He replied " That is not my function. I am here to get an army, and how it should be fed is someone else's responsibility ". That has been the attitude of the Army for so long that a very dangerous position has been reached in regard to the feeding of the troops.

I appeal to the Minister to take action immediately in regard to shearers and crutchers; otherwise, a large number of sheep will be destroyed by blow-fly, and many will not be shorn. In the town of Kellerberrin, during the registration of men, two young fellows who had just returned from the north, where they had been shearing for seven and a half months, handed in their papers as shearers, and were told by the man-power officer to fill in fresh forms describing themselves as labourers. Foolishly, they did so. When they are again needed for shearing, they will not be available.

I appeal to tlie' Minister to give particular consideration to members of the Volunteer Defence Corps, who have been doing good work in their own time since the outbreak of war, some of them even prior to that event. There has been a home guard in my own town since at least eighteen months before the commencement of hostilities. Men who arc thoroughly trained should be allowed to produce the foodstuffs needed by this country and to continue their training at week-ends or at night time as they choose. Men in this category have been called up in large numbers, and some of them will have to be released if the foodstuffs needed for the feeding of the Army and the civil population are to be produced.

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