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Thursday, 28 May 1942

Mr Calwell l asked the Treasurer, upon notice -

1.   What was the cost of (a) advertising, (6) other publicity work, and (o) administrative work, in connexion with the raising of the last Liberty Loan?

2.   What amount in brokerage and/or commission was paid in respect of such loan?

3.   What brokerage was paid in respect of the contributions to that loan made by the Australian Mutual Provident Society, the Colonial Mutual Life Assurance Society ami the Temperance and General Life Assurance Society ?

Mr Chifley - Inquiries are being made and a reply will be furnished as soon as possible.

Western Australian Mails.

Mr George Lawson n. - On the 27th May, the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse) asked the following question, without notice: -

Is the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral aware of the irregular delivery of mails to and from Western Australia? Will he endeavour to expedite their delivery?

The Postmaster-General has now submitted the following answer: -

It is regretted that owing to unavoidable circumstances some dislocation in the mail service to and from Western Australia ha* recently occurred. There is, however, the closest co-operation between the Post Office and the other departments concerned, and every effort is being made to provide the best postal service practicable.

Military Clothing.

Mr Beasley y. - On the 20th May, the honorable member for Wentworth (Mir. Harrison) asked me a question, without notice, concerning the accuracy of an article printed in Smith's Weekly regarding orders for military underwear placed by my department, and whether my department had notified firms other than those stated to have shared in certain contracts, that it had been decided that no further orders would be given in respect of summer requirements of military underwear.

I desire to inform the honorable member that some of the statements in the article are incorrect, notably that which referred to orders valued at £200,000. This amount is overstated by approximately £110,000. As honorable members are no doubt aware, there is a contract board in the Department of Supply, which is the competent authority responsible for the provision of essential national clothing, food supplies and equipment to all branches of the forces. It receives the demands from the war departments, and makes those arrangements which it considers promise to be the most satisfactory to the armed forces and the Commonwealth. In February last the Contract Board was faced with the purchase of approximately 1,132,335 cotton garments consisting of drawers and athletic singlets, the value being £90,054. Whilst this obviously was a contract of magnitude its production involved only 25 per cent, of the available capacity. In normal times this would not have represented any difficulty, because it would have been a most convenient arrangement for any manufacturer to apply one-quarter of his production to defence and the balance to his civil trade. Unfortunately, at this particular period, the cotton yarn position became so acute that practically the total quantity available was needed for defence work. The question to be determined was whether to maintain industry on a 25 per cent, basis or to concentrate the orders among three of the larger factories which happened to be those possessed of machinery for all stages of production, from the raw cotton to the finished garment. The board recommended the former course.

The Contract Board's policy is to regard the public tender system as the basis of all its purchases. However, under war conditions it is quite impossible to apply this rule inflexibly. Consequently the board has, in many cases, been forced to adopt a policy of fixed prices, which was followed in this particular instance. The prices which have in the past been tendered for these items showed wide variations and relatively small proportions of the Army's needs have been available from the lowest tenders. This means that it has been necessary to place contracts at various rates in accordance with the prices tendered and the capacity of the firms to produce. The fixed prices, which were adopted for the order in question were based upon careful examination of the manufacturing costs of the most efficient manufacturers and a nominal margin of profit only was allowed. Having regard to the greatly increased scale of sizes, the fixed prices were appreciably lower than the weighted average of the rates paid under the tender system, despite increases of labour, material and other costs which had taken place in the meantime. There is no intention on the part of either the Contract Board or myself to attempt to crush the small manufacturer. On the contrary, the policy has always been to assist and encourage the smaller factories. I give the House an assurance that, in any plan for the concentration of industry, I shall use my utmost endeavours to ensure that a proper balance is kept between the large and small factories so as to avoid any possibility of monopolies obtaining a stranglehold on any of our industries. The contracts referred to cover requirements up to the 30th June, and consideration is now being given to the allocation of new contracts. The Army's requirements have substantially increased and, in the interests of our military forces, it will be necessary to make a greater spread of orders than previously. In the new plans, arrangements will be made for at least limited allocations to be made to the smaller firms. At this stage it is not practicable to be definite, but I am hopeful that orders will be given to all of the' knitting factories which have previously made these garments for the department. With regard to the latter part of the question, no such notification was given. Inquirers were advised that, as a matter of general policy, it was proposed to restrict future orders to spinner-knitters, and it was regretted that further allocations could not be made to other knitters.

Transport of Workers.

Mr George Lawson n. - Earlier during this sitting, the honorable member for Hunter asked the following question, without notice: -

Has the Minister for Transport given consideration to the question which I directed to him a fortnight ago regarding the inadequacy of the train services between the Maitland coal-fields and Newcastle for the transport of munitions workers and miners to and from their places of work? Can the Minister impart any information to me on this subject?

I have to inform the honorable member that the whole matter has been carefully inquired into with a view to meeting satisfactorily the requirements of the men concerned, and the adjustments in working hours which have been made since the 18th May, 1941, and provision has been made for the following alterations to take place as from Monday, the 18th May, 1942 : -


With regard to workmen from the Cessnock-West Maitland area, the following services meet their requirements : -


It is considered that this time-table will considerably improve the position so far as the men are concerned.

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