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Tuesday, 23 July 1946

Mr FORDE (Capricornia) (Minister for the Army) .-With the consent of the House, I shall incorporate in Hansard the following reply to a statement made by the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) on the 12th July. On the motion for the adjournment of the House, he complained at some length about the administration of import licensing regulations by the Division of Import Procurement. The right honorable gentleman mentioned, in particular, ball-bearings for harvester machines, 1-lb. hammers supplied with certain agricultural implements, and roller-chain for agricultural implements. It is not possible, from the particulars given to identify definitely the ball-bearing transactions, but I have ascertained that an application for the importation of ballbearings from Sweden was received by the Division of Import Procurement on the 23rd January, 1946, no supporting data being given. On the 27th February, the applicant was advised that a licence would be granted for 4,544 bearings, but that the balance of 1,900 bearings was available from United Kingdom sources. This advice was based on the best information available to the department. The licence was issued on the 7th March, six weeks after receipt of the application, not three months as stated by the right honorable member. Only in June was the department advised of possible difficulty in obtaining delivery from the United Kingdom, and subsequent information from that country indicated that at least half of the most important types could be delivered within twelve to fourteen weeks. It it the usual practice of the department to check applications for import licences for ballbearings against surplus stocks held by the Department, of Munitions, and secondly against available supplies from the United Kingdom. However, to avoid the possibility of harmful delays, the Division of Import Procurement some time ago authorized the granting of licences to a total value of £20,000 c.i.f. and e. to S.K.F. Ball Bearing Co. (Australia) Proprietary Limited, without such check. "With regard to 1-lb. hammers, the particulars given are insufficient to identify the transaction in the departmental records, but if the right honorable member will supply more details, a further inquiry will be made. Three applications were received on the 13th, 14th and 20th May, respectively, for licences to import roller-chain. The issue of licences in respect of all three applications was authorized on the 20th June. During the war, stocks of motor vehicle and tractor spare parts were maintained by government purchase, in order to avoid breakdowns of essential equipment. The slight delay which occurred was unavoidable, as it was necessary to check the goods shown on the applications against remaining stocks. The right honorable member will realize that the process of checking licence applications against available supplies, first, inside Australia, and, secondly, from sterling sources, which is essential if our limited overseas currency resources are to be conserved for essential requirements, is one which inevitably involves a certain amount of delay. The delays encountered are not excessive, in view of the great volume of transactions involved.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

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