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Thursday, 10 September 1942

Cutters normally required, 483; shortage, 167; experienced cutters working, 256; inexperienced cutters working, 73; number in excess of required number, 13. Shortage as above, 167; less number in excess in few gangs, 13; total shortage, 154. Note. - Number in excess of required, thirteen, is explained that because the gang was weak, more men had to be put in order to endeavour to get out the allotment of cane.

Tully Co-operative Sugar Milling Association Limited Factory.

Three fitters short - previous employees in Army Ordnance - impossible to replace these tradesmen. Six men Short in tramway maintenance department. One locomotive driver andfireman short, i.e. one crew, but owing to decreased tonnage of cane being delivered, this docs not present hardship. Have been able to fill full complement of men on all other station. Reduced crushing rate due to the small quantity of cane being delivered means that costs going to be high in comparison with previous years. Ordinarily able to pick up 20 to 30 men for emergency sugar loading but now impossible.

Cane Growers' Association, Mackay.

Man-power has recommended to Army release of 260 cutters for Mackay area. Recommendation made 21st August, to date only three released. Executive consider release being unduly delayed. Men urgently required both cutting and planting. Manyinstances growers harvesting own crop, therefore neglecting plantings for 1943. If labour not available immediately, will be too late for plantings. Best period of season will be lost. Ayr District Cane Growers" Executive.

Local mills obtaining almost full cane supply at expense of field work. Hundreds of workers required for field work in cane, cotton, potatoes, &c. Boys from school have been picking potatoes during vacation. Farmers' wives are helping in cane-planting. Boys of fifteen years up to men of 70 cutting cane. Many doing very unsatisfactory job. If men who are out of camp can be held until season ends, 1943 crops of different items of agriculture will get fair treatment. Potato production will hardly exceed 2,000 tons this year. Cotton probably not exceed 15,000 bales. These two commodities would have been doubled if man-power available.

No one will contendthat cotton and sugar are not most necessary commodities. The shortage of potatoes has become acute. I have received the following letter, dated the 4th September, from the manager of the Tully Co-operative Sugar Milling Association Limited, Tully: - 1 have to thank you for your letter of the 24th ultimo, contents of which have been duly noted, and although appreciating your efforts very much, on our behalf, I wish to point out that we are still 105 men short of the number promised by the man-power to us in July in Brisbane, and actually 200 short of the number we had last year.

These people have excellent grounds for complaint. Early this year, they were assured that a certain number of men would be made available to the industry, but the promise has not been kept. Unless our supplies of food are plentiful, our soldiers will not be able to resist the enemy successfully. We cannot expect them to exist, like the Japanese troops, on a dehydrated ration that must be soaked in water before it is eaten. No one wants to see our soldiers and our civilians starve. The munitions workers have to be fed; they cannot produce the sinews of war if they have to live on thin air. I warn the House that we cannot rely on women, children and old men to produce our requirements of food. Men must be made available to do this essential work in Queensland. If their services be withheld, our supplies will collapse. No excuse can be advanced for a shortage of man-power in the industry, and the present difficulty should have been foreseen before the undertaking was given that the men would be made available. I realize that the Government has been guided by its so-called expert advisers. In my opinion, we would be much better off without a good deal of their expert advice. But when they give an assurance that men will be made available on a certain date and within three weeks they have to repudiate their promise, the industry is seriously disorganized.

Although I know that the suggestion will not be popular with many people, there is a source of labour that can be tapped, namely, the large number of internees from my constituency. Until I have examined their files I shall not be satisfied that they were justly interned. I have a definite opinion as to the reason why some of them were arrested. Whoever picked them out was a pretty good picker. There is not one active alien supporter of the Labour party in the Herbert electorate who is not now in an internment camp. Some of the men from my electorate, who have been interned, were responsible for collecting considerable sums of money for patriotic purposes. A few months ago, a man travelled to an internment camp on the same train as his son who had returned from the campaigns in Libya, Greece and Crete. Some people declare that all Italians in Australia are disloyal and hostile to the Allies, but what can we expect when we treat them in sucha manner? Honorable members opposite asked the Prime Minister to explain the action that the Government proposed to take against the " dagoes ", as they call them, in Innisfail who called out "Viva Italia " and gave the Fascist salute. But some members of the Australian Military Forces said to women i who were crying bitterly because their husbands and sons were being taken to an internment camp : " It will not be long before you are all down there; that is where you all belong." In my opinion, the men who said that are just as bad as the worst Italians ; but [ am sure that they were not typical members of the Australian Military Forces,

Following are the records of a few mcn who have been interned :

Felix Reitano- Resident in this district about 40 years. One sou in Australian Imperial Force overseas; arte rejected as medically unfit for Australian Imperial Force, now in Militia forces. One son in Volunteer Defence Corps, and one working farm. Wife, Scotch. Assisted War Savings Certificates campaign.

After having been a primary producer for some years, this man established himself as a real estate agent, and he has never been in trouble with the police. In every respect, he is a good citizen. When such a man is interned I am justified in believing that someone other than the Investigation Branch of the Army is responsible for the arrests. For example, a young man in Ingham was called up for military service and he decided to send his young wife to live with either his mother or her mother and requested Reitano to sell his furniture. Another " joker " who I think is one of the " pimps " for the Investigation Branch, said to me: "Is it not strange that young Armstrong should ask a " dago " to sell his furniture for him ? " I replied that the young man evidently considered that he would get a better deal from the Italian than he would from the complainant, and I believe that my remark was the truth. The record of another internee is as follows:-

Steve Delia Mattea- Here about 30 years. Volunteered with Australian Forces in last war. Excellent citizen. Particularly honest and open. Son also interned. Son arrived Australia at age of two years. Son has one child and pregnant wife.

Can ton i Bros. - Three brothers working farm; all interned, leaving women and children only. People of good character - quiet and orderly.

B.   Cinelli- Two sous in Australian Imperial Force, one at Port Moresby and one was overseas.

V.   Vitale- Volunteered with Australian Imperial Force last war. Accepted, but peace declared before leaving Australia.

Rebino Bros, (three). - One in Militia, was volunteer member before war. Other two are on farm, one being member of Volunteer Defence Corps. The two on farm have been interned. All arrived Australia under five years of age. Two married to British girls.

Mr Calwell - Is there no tribunal to which they may appeal?

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