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Thursday, 22 April 1915

Senator McDOUGALL(New South

Wales) [6.7]. - I move-

That for self-reliance and economy the Government should at once establish works for the manufacture of all electric cables required to supply its ever-increasing needs.

I do not think that anybody in this Chamber will seriously oppose this motion, because it is part of our whole policy that we should, if possible, manufacture in Australia all the things that are necessary for the Commonwealth. By the manufacture of these cables we shall not only save a great deal of money, but also be doing something towards making Australia a self-reliant country. If there is one thing above all others that we should manufacture in Australia it is the electric cables required for the Postal Department. I am given to understand that, at present, it is almost impossible to get orders from the Old Country to carry out the necessary repairs, and the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral will correct me if I am wrong in saying that the recent wet weather in Sydney proved that the whole cable system connected with the General Post Office in that city is in a bad state of repair, owing to the lack of material. If supplies are cut off at present, it is possible that they will also be cut off at some future time, perhaps when badly needed; and it should be our duty now to obviate such a difficulty by manufacturing our own cables in our own workshops. Cables other than those needed for the purposes of the Post Office will be required, and these should also be manufactured in this country by the Government, for it is necessary that we should be able to get cables in Australia in order to prevent any dislocation of the Post and Telegraph services or of the work of defence. In the past we have trusted to foreign countries for many of our electrical requirements. We never attempted to manufacture, because we did not think this war would be on us so quickly, but it is here, and it has been very difficult to keep our electrical works going, because we have run out of commodities that are only manufactured in Germany and America, and we are not getting supplies from America now, for the reason, I suppose, that they are able to get better prices elsewhere. In the first place, we should establish this factory, in order to supply our own wants, so as to be independent of any other country, and I will show by figures that it is quite possible for the Commonwealth to do this. I will also make bold to say that if the Commonwealth Government would place all their orders in Australia a private company would immediately proceed to establish factories for the carrying out of these contracts if they were extended over a certain number of years. If a private company is prepared to do this, surely a Government should be prepared to establish its own factory. By establishing our own factory, we shall train our own mechanics, give employment to Australian people, and educate our men to an industry that is not yet known here. In the matter of economy, I will show, from calculations, based on the figures of one of the largest firms in England, that, after allowances are made for the higher cost of labour in Australia, considerable saving will be possible to the Government by the establishment of such works as I propose. Savings can be effected in several directions. Every one has seen loads of cables coming along the streets, landedhere in hundreds from almost every ship that comes in. The large wooden drums on which cables are rolled cost a certain amount of money in the Old Country, and when they are unwound here now they are sold for 2s. or 3s.each to be broken up. If we had the factories, old drums couldbe used over and over again, and in that respect alone a considerable saving would be effected to the Department. Now, old cables are thrown on one side. With a factory they could be stripped, re-covered, and, instead of having a life of ten years as they have to-day, they would each last fifty years.

Senator Gardiner - Fifty? Is not that the estimated life of a cable to-day ?

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