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Wednesday, 27 May 1942

Sir Charles Marr (PARKES, NEW SOUTH WALES) asked the Minister for the Army, upon notice -

1.   Will he state the source from which, he obtained the information, on which he based his reply to the question asked by the honorable member for Parkes on Wednesday, the 6th May?

2.   Is it a fact that, as stated in Smith's Weekly of last week, race meetings were held at Canterbury race-course on the 18th April, the 2nd May, and the 9th May?

3.   Is it a fact that the ground on which the men were camped is low-lying, and that a water-course runs alongside it and empties into Cook's River?

4.   Will he examine the article published in last week's issue of Smith's Weekly and furnish a full report thereon to the House?

Mr Forde - The answers to the honorable member's questions are as follows : -

1.   Head-quarters, New South Wales Lines of Communication Area.

2.   Yes.

3.   It is not a fact that the ground on which the men were camped is low-lying. It is a fact that a water-course rims alongside it and empties into Cook's River.

4.   When comparatively small numbers of troops were accommodated at Canterbury Park race-course racing was allowed on some occasions. This did not, however, interfere with military training. Immediate plans envisage early occupation by an increased number of troops and in these circumstances no further racing can be visualized for some time.

Congestion on the Waterfront.

Mr Beasley y. - On the 21st May, 1942, the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) asked the following question without notice: -

I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs whether Sir Herbert Gepp has been appointed to a position on a committee that is to deal with congestion on the waterfront? If so, what is the particular position to which he has been appointed, and what duties is it proposed that he shall perform ?

For the information of honorable members the Minister for Trade and Customs has now intimated that under the provisions of the National Security (Cargo Control) Regulations, a Central Cargo Committee has been set up, and Sir Herbert Gepp has been appointed chairman. The functions of the committee are to provide for the orderly and expeditious disposal of goods arriving by sea, and the punctual arrival at ship's side of goods for shipment so as to ensure the speedy discharge and loading of ships and to reduce the length of time that goods lie at wharf. The committee will also have , the responsibility of preventing congestion, confusion and delay at the waterside, and of making proper provision for the storage or other accommodation of goods. With the influx into the Commonwealth of large cargoes of war material and equipment, it becomes a most vital duty for the Government to take all steps possible to avoid congestion on the waterfront as congestion means the immobilization of shipping and results in valuable goods being left in vulnerable areas with dangers of destruction from enemy action.

On" the 21st May, 1942, the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard) asked the following question, without notice: -

In view of the appointment of Sir Herbert Gepp as chairman of a committee to relieve congestion on the Melbourne wharfs, and of the fact that Tasmania has several excellent ports, particularly that at Hobart, will the Minister for Commerce bring to the notice of Sir Herbert Gepp the facilities available in Tasmanian ports as a means of relieving this congestion, both in respect of shipping space and for storage purposes?

As promised, I have brought the suggestion made by the honorable member to the notice of my colleague, the Minister for Trade and Customs. He has informed me that the question of utilizing unused deep water ports in Tasmania and other parts of the Commonwealth as ports of ease for the relief of congestion likely to arise on wharfs on the mainland has been referred to the Central Committee set up under the National Security (Cargo Control) Regulations, of which committee Sir Herbert Gepp ia the chairman.

Canberra : Hotels and BOARDING Establishments; Liquor Prices; Omnibus Service.

Mr Perkins asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -

1.   Is it a fact that the Government is the owner of (a) the Hotels Canberra, Wellington, Ainslie, Kingston, Civic and Kurrajong, and (6) Gorman House, Beauchamp House, Barton House and Kingston Guest House?

2.   If so, will lie inform the House in detail what, if any, internal measures had been token in the case of each of these establishments up to the 10th May to ensure that the guests were afforded some protection in air raids?

3.   What, if any, internal measures have been taken to provide protection for persons working in Parliament House and other Commonwealth offices where staffs work at night, in the event of Canberra being subjected to a night raid!

4.   If no action has yet been taken, will he order that such work be put in hand immediately so that those who are obliged to live, and in other instances work, in these buildings at night will be afforded air raid protection facilities in keeping with those which owners of similar buildings are compelled to provide in other capital cities!

Mr Lazzarini i. - The Minister for the Interior has supplied the following answers : - 1. (o) Yes, excepting Hotels Civic and Kingston, which are privately owned.

(6)   Yes.

2.   Arrangements have been made to provide, at certain portions of the groundfloor corridors and passages, internal air raid shelter within the government-owned buildings mentioned, except Kingston Guest House, the construction of which is not suitable for internal air raid shelter. Hotels Ainslie and Wellington and Brassey House and Beauchamp House hove brick walls and concrete floors and ceilings which give the necessary protection to the corridor areas selected for air raid shelter. Hotels Canberra, Kurrajong, Gorman House and Barton House have brick walls, timber floors and ceilings. The latter will be strengthened as necessary to give adequate protection to the corridor areas selected for air raid shelter. At Kingston Guest House the internal partitions are of timber construction and on account of fire risk it is considered advisable to provide air raid shelter in the form of slit trenches adjacent to the Guest House. Portion of the staff and guests at Hotel Canberra will be accommodated in slit trenches. Up to the 10th May, 1942, preparations at Gorman House and Hotel Kurrajong had been completed. It is the intention to commence work at Hotel Canberra about the 27th May, 1942. The shortage of carpenters has delayed the execution of these internal shelters.

3.   No internal air raid shelter has been provided in Parliament House or other Com mon wealth Offices, excepting a small first aid I tost near the garage. Parliament House, but slit trenches have been provided in close proximity to these buildings.

4.   Sec answers to 2 and 3.

Mr BEASLEY - On the 14th May I undertook to convey to the Minister for Trade and Customs a question asked by the honorable member for Cook (Mr. Sheehan) regarding liquor prices in the Australian Capital Territory.

The Minister has now advised me that the prices of beer and spirits in the Territory have been under the supervision of the Prices Branch since the outbreak of war. Beer was brought under strict price control in October, 1941, when the excise duty was increased and spirits on the 15th April, 1942, when all goods were declared. Increased prices have been permitted on account of higher rates of duty, but no increases of prices have taken place on account of increased costs incurred by hotelkeepers. The actual increase of prices on that account has not been sufficient to maintain the percentage of gross profit margin of hotelkeepers at the pre-war level. The landed cost of beer and spirits in Canberra is higher than in Sydney and is largely responsible for the difference in retail prices in comparable Canberra and Sydney hotels -



1.   What is the actual loading capacity of the motor omnibuses regularly operating in Canberra provided in the licences issued under the Motor Traffic Ordinance governing the operation of these vehicles?

2.   As the Minister has stated that he personally is unaware that frequently these omnibuses are overcrowded to such an extent that members of the public have refused to travel on them for safety reasons, will he obtain a report from the officer in charge of these omnibuses and inform the House of the result?

3.   In view of the fact that a month will elapse before any relief may be expected, will he issue instructions that in no circumstances is the loading capacity laid down by the licences to be exceeded?

Mr Lazzarini - The Minister for the Interior has supplied the following answers : -

1.   The capacity of each of 22 buses in use by the Department of the Interior is 80. The capacity of one bus is GO.

2.   A report has already been obtained from the Transport Officer which indicates that conditions are abnormal, in view of the fact that many owners of motor vehicles are now utilizing the omnibus service. The department anticipated this position and ordered six additional omnibuses. These, due to war conditions, have not yet been landed in Australia. The loading on omnibuses has furthermore been increased owing to the location in Canberra of a large number of defence personnel.

3.   The department is doing everything possible to' ensure that the omnibus service is run with a view to securing the utmost possible comfort and safety of Canberra residents, but it must be realized that conditions are abnormal and are not confined to Canberra. Similar difficulties are being experienced in the States.

Tea Rationing : Patients in Hospital; Travelling Soldiers; Outback Deliveries.

Mr BEAZLEY (FREMANTLE, WESTERN AUSTRALIA) s'. - On the 20th May, the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse) asked the following question, without notice : -

I have received a communication this morning to the effect that, owing to tea-rationing, patients in hospitals will be unable to partake of afternoon teas. Will the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs seek to have the restrictions made as light as possible in respect of patients in hospitals and similar institutions?

The Minister for Trade and Customs has supplied the following answer : -

Tea for patients in hospitals 13 drawn by the hospital authorities at the ration rate applicable to domestic consumers. In addition, patients are entitled to continue to draw their domestic consumers' ration.

On the 20th May, the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Collins) asked the following question, without notice : -

Women voluntary workers in country districts meet trains day and night in order to provide travelling troops with refreshments consisting of tea and hot pies and sandwiches. Now that tea has been rationed, will the Minister for the Army endeavour to ensure that supplies shall be made available to these women in order that they may be able to continue this generous service to the fighting services ?

The Minister for Trade and Customs has supplied the following answer: -

The supply of tea from civilian stocks to meet the needs of troops through the agency of voluntary workers, buffets, canteens, &c. is at present the subject of negotiations with the Department of the Army. Supplies will no doubt be made available to meet the demands of these organizations, but it has not yet been determined as to whether these will be taken from civilian or defence stocks.

Mr Forde - On the 19th May, the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Ryan) asked, without notice, what arrangements had been made to ensure that, during his leave, a soldier may receive his proper quota of tea or of any other foodstuffs which may be rationed.

I now inform the honorable member that no arrangements have been made to provide soldiers on leave with a ration of tea during the period of their leave. Soldiers granted leave in excess of 48 hours receive subsistence allowance and must make their own arrangements. The honorable member will realize that there are considerable practical difficulties in implementing a scheme on the lines suggested by him, but the question is being examined in consultation with the Minister for Trade and Customs.

Mr Beasley y. - On the 29th April, the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) asked the following question, without notice: -

Representations have been made to me that the operation of the regulation providing for the rationing of tea is causing difficulties in supplying outback settlements to which stores are delivered infrequently or at irregular intervals throughout the year. I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs whether he will consider the advisability of allowing officers administering the tea-rationing regulation discretionary power to deliver larger quantities of tea to stores in outback settlements?

The Minister for Trade and Customs has supplied the following answer: -

Information from the Tea Controller is awaited on this matter and it is anticipated that a full reply will be furnished at an early date.

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