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Thursday, 22 August 1912


Senator PEARCE (Western AustraliaMinister of Defence) . - Senator Givens, in his quotation of the resolution passed by the Senate, has left out something that is' important. ' He left out the

Words " where practicable."


Senator Rae - Why were those wordsput in?


Senator PEARCE - Because the Senaterecognised that it would not always be practicable to give effect to such a declara- tion.


Senator Rae - The sole idea was that it was not practicable to have naval dockyards within the Federal Territory.


Senator PEARCE - If ever an impracticable proposal was put forward it is that of Senator Givens, that the Woollen Factory should be' established at the Federal Capital at this stage. Another omission from his speech was that he left off quoting from the report of Mr, Smail at a very interesting point. The report shows that it is not practicable to establish the factory at the Federal Capital at the present juncture unless it is desired to make it a hideous failure. Here is the passage which Mr. Smail devotes to that point -

Presuming we did establish it there in spite of the present conditions, we should be up against abnormal cost on every preliminary item towards erection of buildings and fitting of plant and machinery ; then we would have the problem of importing workers (60 per cent, of them unmarried females), that is, if we could get them to go there; and supposing we got a full' complement of workers, we should be absolutely dependent on them, however unsuitable they might be for the work.

I think I have demonstrated that it is not a practical proposition, and, further, the manager could not be expected to be held responsible for compliance with Rule 3 of the Regulations for Government factories, namely : - " Each manager shall be responsible for the efficient, safe, and economical working of the factory under his charge."

With these observations I pass to consider in rotation the other places visited.


Senator Givens - That is all special pleading.


Senator PEARCE - It is not fair to hurl such a charge at the manager. It was immaterial to him where we decided to establish the factory. Mr. Smail was engaged by myself when I was in England. He comes from a woollen factory in Scotland, in which he held a responsible position. I was assured by the High Commissioner, who had gone through the testimonials of various applicants, that he was regarded as one of the foremost men in the woollen trade in 'Scotland as a working foreman. He knew nothing of Australia so far as parochial interests are concerned-

He was supplied in England with data respecting Australia, which he studied. The instructions 1 gave him were that it was the desire of the Government that, if it could possibly be shown that the Woollen Factory could be successfully established in the Federal Territory, it should be established there. I told him that, when he came out to Australia, 1 wished him to give his first attention to the Federal Territory. He was to thoroughly examine it, and to bear in mind the wish of the Government to establish the factory there if it were at all practicable. He visited the Territory, and made an exhaustive examination of possible sites. He also had an analysis made of the water, and he told me that he could not recommend the establishment of the factory there under the present conditions. He said that if it were established there under present conditions it would be absolutely "impossible for it to produce woollen cloth at anything like a reasonable cost or at anything like the cost for which it can be produced by many private factories in Australia to-day. I ask honorable senators whether, in the face of such a report, any Government was justified in establishing the factory in the Federal Territory at the present time. To do so would spell disaster to the system of Government enterprise. Immediately the returns, came out, and it was found that the cloth produced by the factory was costing more per yard than that produced in private factories, there would be an outcry for the abandonment of the principle of Government enterprise in this -direction. 1 he surest way in which to bring contempt upon, and defeat, that principle would be to insist upon the establishment of the Woollen Factory in the Federal Territory.


Senator McGregor - It would be worse than " The man on the job."


Senator St Ledger - That is a nice admission.


Senator PEARCE - The honorable senator may think so, but it is a fact. I impressed Mr. Smail with the fact that it was still the desire of the Government to establish the factory in the Federal Territory, if at all practicable. He wished to be allowed to see other parts of Australia, and I agreed that he should do so. He visited every State and all suitable places in them for the purpose. We. have his re;port before us, and in it he puts Geelong first, as the best place, in view of all the -circumstances, for the establishment of this factory. He was convinced that there are several places in the Commonwealth . in which the conditions are such as to make them more suitable for the establishment of the factory than is the Federal Terri tory. The Government had no option, in my opinion, than to accept his report. It is quite unfair to charge Mr. Smail with any bias or prejudice in this matter, because, if he could have had any, 'it must have been distinctly in favour of the Federal Territory in view of the desire of the Government, so strongly impressed upon him by myself before he came to Australia., and again after he arrived here, that the factory should be established -in the Federal Territory.


Senator Long - No one attributes bias to him, but surely we have a right to question his judgment ?


Senator PEARCE - I think that bias has been attributed to him. It has been said that the matter has been " fixed up," and all that sort of thing.


Senator Givens - Who said that?


Senator PEARCE - I think it is only fair in connexion with this matter that I should remind honorable senators that Geelong is a part of the Commonwealth. Some possible sites for this factory are spoken of as if they were in foreign countries. If the factory is established at Geelong, while it may benefit that particular town, it will also benefit Australia. I cannot follow the arguments of Senator Givens that because Yass-Canberra is good enough for the Federal Capital it should be good enough for a woollen factory. Mr. Smail says that after the Federal Capital is established, and a population is settled there, it may be that the conditions will be all that could be desired for the establishment of -a woollen factory, but he points out that one great essential in deciding upon a suitable site is the supply of labour. By interjection, the statement has been made that we could get the labour if we had the factory established in the Federal Territory, but I may inform honorable senators that we have found considerable difficulty in securing labour for the construction of the Military College at Yass-Canberra under anything like the conditions on which it can be secured elsewhere. In the building of the Military College we have had to pay special rates, higher than the Sydney rates, for labour employed, and in many cases allowances have had to be made which are higher than are given in the different capitals of the various States.


Senator Rae - - Because the men had to leave their homes for a temporary job.


Senator PEARCE - No ; in many cases the men have been given .permanent jobs.


Senator Givens - Then it would appear that Yass-Canberra is not a good site for a Capital City after all?


Senator PEARCE - Senator Givens is aware that that is not the question that we are considering now. lt is because there is no prospect of Yass-Canberra becoming a considerable city within the next few years that it is unsuitable for the establishment of this factory. A lot of preliminary work must be done there before population will be attracted to the place. There is another featur of the labour question upon which Mr. Smail lays considerable stress, and its importance is borne out by all who have had any association with the woollen trade. In older countries, certain industries have become specialized in particular centres, and the people of those places become specially skilled in certain kinds of work. It has been found that where there are a number of factories of the same kind established in a particular centre, the people attain a higher skill in the industry than do the people of a place where there is only one such factory established. This is admitted to be one of the reasons for the success of Sheffield in the manufacture of cutlery, and the success of Manchester in connexion with another industry. In centres where industries are specialized, the operatives become highly skilled, and are able to produce a better article at a cheaper cost than are the people of other centres where those industries axe not specialized.


Senator Rae - Then we had better introduce a whole village of people to work in this factory.


Senator PEARCE - That is what we should have to do if it were established at the Federal Capital.


Senator Givens - We may have to do the same at Geelong.


Senator PEARCE - No; there are several woollen factories already established at Geelong.


Senator Millen - Do the Government propose to take the labour from those factories ?


Senator PEARCE - No; but there is a large amount of surplus labour of the kind we require there. Geelong is practically the birth place of the woollen industry in Victoria. The people there have been as sociated with the industry for a number of years, and we should have less difficulty in manning our factory there with the necessary staff than perhaps we should have in any other place in the Commonwealth.


Senator Millen - How does the honorable senator reconcile his statement that there is a surplus of labour for the making of cloth at Geelong with the statement he made earlier to the effect that, owing to the difficulty of getting labour, the manufac.turers of cloth would not tender for Government contracts?


Senator PEARCE - I can reconcile the two statements. It may be that the existing mills are not large enough to absorb the available labour.


Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) - One mill was recently burnt down, and is only in course of re-erection now.


Senator PEARCE - That is so, and the ' labour employed at that mill is on the market, or has been diverted to other industries. I have no doubt at all that in. view of the superior conditions which will be offered by the Commonwealth Woollen Mill, we shall be able to obtain the best labour, even though it may be drawn fromthe existing private factories. That has been our experience in connexion with the clothing and harness factories. We have had complaints from the Chamber of Manufactures that the Commonwealth HarnessFactory has attracted all the best men in the harness-making business. It is not correct to say there is no labour difficulty in the Federal Capital. There is a real labourdifficulty there which will continue for a number of years. It has always been the practice for private enterprise to establish factories only where there is a big supply of labour, and in centres in close touch with ready means of transport, and offering a good market for their products.


Senator Millen - Private enterprise hasnot a Federal Territory of its own to develop.


Senator PEARCE - Private enterprise has not gone to the Federal Territory, and" if the conditions, including a supply of labour, were present in the Federal Territory for the establishment of factories, private enterprise would not have hesitated togo there. If we are to place upon these Commonwealth enterprises the responsibility of peopling the Federal Territory, we shall' make a hideous failure of the enterprise. I wish to point out to honorable senatorswhat may be the effect of the moving of this. amendment. I can see that we are likely to have a junction of forces. We are likely to have a combination of those who desire that this factory should be established in the Federal Territory with those who desire that it should be established in some place in the Commonwealth other than Geelong. I think that is regrettable. No doubt honorable senators from Tasmania recognise that Mr. Smail has put Launceston in a high place. I say frankly that if Geelong were disapproved of, I should recommend the establishment of the factory at Launceston rather than in the Federal Capital. We may have honorable senators from Tasmania supporting the amendment, not because they believe that the factory should be established in the Federal Territory, but because Launceston being given second place in Mr. Smail's report they may hope that it will be chosen. I think it ought to be understood by the Committee that it will not be a question of Geelong versus Launceston, but of Geelong versus the Federal Territory. If the amendment be carried, it will be a direction to the Government not to establish the factory at Launceston, where it could be conducted as an economic success, or at any other place in which it could be economically conducted, but in the Federal Territory. By supporting the amendment honorable senators will be tying the hands of the Government to the establishment of this enterprise where it must be an economic failure.


Senator Givens - If that be so, we appear to have chosen the worst place in Australia for the Federal Capital.


Senator PEARCE - It would seem that the honorable senator is prepared to deal with this question in a- vindictive spirit. What he has said might be taken to mean that he is asking honorable senators to support the amendment he has moved, not because he thinks that a factory should be established in the Federal Capital, but because he thinks that its establishment there may demonstrate that the Federal Capital is, as he has contended, to be established in the wrong place.


Senator Givens - No; but in order to make the best of a bad bargain.


Senator PEARCE - That is not the spirit in which the honorable senator's interjection was made, because he said it would demonstrate that the Federal Capital was in the wrong place. I ask, is that the spirit in which this question ought to be approached ? I do not think it is. Regard should be had, especially by those who de sire to see these Woollen Mills a success, to the best economic place. I think that anamendment of this kind ought to carry with it some direction to the Government. I appeal to those who want to see the Woollen Mills a success not to support the amendment, because it will tie the- hands of the Government in such a way as to insure the failure of them from the economic point of view. Honorable senators can judge for themselves what effect that will have, and how that argument will be used against the extension of this principle. I trust that the amendment will not be carried, because it will have a very serious effect upon the policy of the Government in this regard.







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