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Tuesday, 18 June 1946

Mr Francis (MORETON, QUEENSLAND) s asked the Minister for Works and Housing, upon notice -

1.   Will he inform the House why there wereallowed to develop deficiencies, inaccuraciesand inefficiency in relation to the workshops and canteen accounts of the Allied Works Council and the Civil Constructional Corps in Queensland, inaccuracies and arrears in stores and plant records, over-purchases of stores and the unauthorized use of motor transport in the Northern Territory!

2.   What explanation can be given to the House for this state of affairs as disclosed in the Auditor-General's report?

Mr Lazzarini (WERRIWA, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for Works and Housing) - The answers to the honorable member's -questions are as follows : -

1.   The workshops were established for the purpose of maintaining and servicing plant throughout the wide area of Queensland during abnormal and emergent conditions.- It is mentioned that the discrepancies disclosed in the workshop records showed that surpluses were revealed at the latest stocktaking, not deficiencies. Duc to the engagement of many thousands of workmen for urgent war work, it was necessary to establish the workshops quickly, and many difficulties, due to shipping and man-power conditions, were met. Owing to the conditions obtaining at the time, it was necessary to call on untrained staff to undertake workshop duties. As the threat of .invasion became ever more serious, so the needs of the workshops rapidly extended, and continual shortages occurred in all types of materials, whilst frequent miscarriages of- consignments occurred. In addition, materials ordered for specific works were frequently used for other approved projects of high priority, without proper record as affecting the stores accounts. Action was taken to correct the position, the stores have been overhauled, including their layout and general facilities, and such additional routine installed to correct the position.

Canteens in Queensland. - The particular canteens referred to in the Auditor-General's report relate, it is thought, to the operationin the Terres Strait area, and on the eastwest road (Tennant Creek-Cloncurry ) . In the Torres Strait area it was necessary to send bulk supplies to Thursday Island, as the central distributing point to that area. The transport and wharves were under Army control, and consignments were not covered by ordinary shipping documents, such as a bill of lading. Confusion naturally' resulted in allocating the correct portions of consignments to the several canteens, and owing, to the isolated situation of the, canteens there were certain delays in reporting shortages on receipt with the result that it was not possible to make immediate investigation. When canteen officers' reports were received, inquiries both by departmental officers and the police proved negative. Onthe east-west road it was necessary to serve numerous camps spread over a distance of 400 miles, and this was carried out by a mobile unit, working from a central store. Difficulties arose as the result of the organization, and it was impossible to definitely establish responsibility. It is mentioned that, in respect of trading operations of canteens in Queensland, involving over £500,000, the losses from fires, pillaging and other causes amounted to less than 1 per cent.

Northern Territory. - Inaccuracies and arrears in stores and plant records, overpurchases of stores and the unauthorized use of motor transport in the Northern Territory. In the Northern Territory many difficulties were met, due to the threatened invasions and dislocation caused by bombing. The organization had to develop quickly to meet urgent war-time demands and due to shortage of suitable clerical staff and the transport difficulties over many hundreds of miles, certain inaccuracies in issue and receipt of stores and plant records occurred. Shipping and transport difficulties also caused much duplication in delivery of certain stores, which had to be obtained to carry out works of an urgent operational nature for all services.

In regard to the motor transport control, the very nature of the country over which works were carried out raised many difficulties in control of motor transport, and every effort has been made to establish departmental control with the staff available: Due to the fact thatHead-quartcrs of the Northern Territory Branch of the Department of Works and Housing has returned to Darwin from Alice Springs, much more rigid control of transport is being effected.

2.   See reply to question No. 1.

Mr Fadden n asked the Minister for Works and Housing, upon notice -

1.   Has the Allied Works Council ceased to function ?

2.   If so, (a) when did it cease to function and (b)what happened to the administrative staff?

3.   If not, is there at present in Queensland and in the Northern Territory a staff of Allied Works Council officials?

4.   What is the total strength of the staff in each place, and what is the nature of the work upon which they are employed ?

5.   Ifsuch a staff is still in existence, what is the justification for it?

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

1.   The Allied Works Council is no longer functioning as a council but certain matters relating to the finalization of the Civil Construction Corps, such as compensation matters, arc still being finalized. 2. (a) See reply to question No. 1. The last meeting of the Allied Works Council was held on the 17th December,1945. (b) The Allied Works Council is an integral part of the

Department of Works and Housing. The strength of the administrative staff employed by the Allied Works Council has been greatly reduced, and the remaining personnel are engaged on works activities associated with the Department of Works and Housing.

3.   Yes.

4.   The Allied Works Council officers in Queenslandand the Northern Territory are carrying out duties mainly in relation to the disposal of stores, plant and equipment, &c. It is not possible to segregate the activities of the staffs engaged solely on Allied Works Council matters in these centres as, the Allied Works Council being an integral part of the Department of Works and Housing, these officers carry out activities in connexion with the department as a whole.

5.   See reply to question No. 4.

Ice Cream.

Mr DEDMAN (CORIO, VICTORIA) n. - On the 21st March, 1946, the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard) referred to the price of ice cream and reviewed the balance-sheets of Peters American Delicacy Company Limited. This matter has been, brought to the notice of the Prices Branch on many occasions by the honorable member and he was informed of the position. An increase of profits was shown in 1943 and . 1944 as a. result of increased turnover occasioned by the presence of Allied servicemen. Later there was some restriction of the production of ice cream because of the shortage of materials. There has been only one increase of the price of ice cream during the war years and that was an amount of½d. on packeted lines only, granted solely because of an increase of sales tax. The greater quantity of ice cream is consumed in cones' and the price of this has not been increased. In addition substantial reductions have been made in the price of ice cream sold under contract to the services. A recent review of the increased sales tax showed that it would be impossible for this to be absorbed by ice cream manufacturers, and because of the money unit it would not be possible to reduce the permitted increase of½d. The war-time company tax has been a heavy impost on companies making large profits, and the benefit obtained by the Government through the incidence of war-time taxation and a reduction of the prices of ice cream supplied to the services cannot be overlooked.

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