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Thursday, 22 April 1915

Senator McDOUGALL - I understand the life is ten years, and I think I am correct. At all events, I have got the information from the Department itself.

Senator Gardiner - Do you say that you have figures from the Department showing the life of a cable to be ten years ?

Senator McDOUGALL - Yes.

Senator Gardiner - Then my information differs from yours.

Senator McDOUGALL - That has nothing to do with me. As I have pointed out, the saving in that respect alone would be very considerable to the Department. Identification and classification of cables as they arrive here from the Old Country also cost the Department a considerable amount, which would be saved if we had our own factory, as neither identification nor classification would then be necessary. There would also be a considerable saving of time. At present, when a cable is out of repair, a temporary cable has to be used, and the time occupied by workmen on these temporary cables is wasted. Every shilling paid in wages, which would not be required if this proposal is adopted, is now lost to the community. Another advantage would be in regard to the heavy freight charged for importing cables. That, in itself, amounts to a huge sum every year. I admit that, to-day, certain Government factories are not paying as they should be. There may be a reason for this, but I say emphatically that if this factory is established, it will, according to my figures, and with good management, pay handsomely. It will be necessary at the start to import a number of men expert in the manufacture of cables, but the number will only be small, and I have no hesitation in saying that even with the higher wages ruling here, such a factory as I suggest can be made to pay. It is only fair that in submitting this motion for the establishment of a new factory, I should be prepared to show the

Senate where they are going to gain, and I have a number of figures which will show how this can be made a payingconcern. Old cables, for instance, are now scrapped as useless. If we had a factory they could be stripped of the lead, re-dried, and in using the lead again a saving of 75 per cent. would be effected on the cost of repaired cables, as compared with the purchase of new cables to take their place, and cables bybeing treated in this way would last fifty years. On that basis alone it is estimated that the saving would amount to £20,000.

Senator O'Keefe - You say you would save by re-using the lead on the cables. Is not that material of some value now ?

Senator McDOUGALL - It is of no use whatever.

Senator O'Keefe - Not as lead, after remoulding ?

Senator McDOUGALL - It does not pay to strip cables, because there is not any factory here at whichthe stripping can be replaced. That work has to be done in the Old Country. It is estimated that the saving in the classification of cables as they arrive in Australia would be £150 per week in Sydney alone. On a small estimate, the saving for Australia would be £750 per week, so that the actual saving to the Postal Department in fifty weeks would be £37,500. The time that would be saved in not having to wait for deliveries, and in not having to fix up temporary lines can hardly be estimated. It may be taken at almost £500 per week as covering the whole of Australia, but I will put it down at £250, which makes a total of £12,500 per annum. So that on these three items alone the General PostOffice would be £70,000 to the good.

Senator O'Keefe - You would wipe out a fourth of our deficit on the PostOffice.

Senator McDOUGALL - Yes. The figures I have as to the probable cost of the factory are based upon the cost of the English factory of Henleys Limited, one of the largest cable factories in the Old Country. On the basis of a turnover of £200,000,ayearmachinerywouldcost £30,000, land £4,000, buildings £3,000, and travelling expenses and other expenses of importing the necessary men to Australia will run into about £1,500. Working capital and material would cost £20,000, wages £5,000; so that it would cost about £65,000 to establish this factory. The cost of labour is a very considerable item in any factory, and the difference between labour charges in Australia and in the Old Country is very appreciable. To operate this factory we should require 100 men at £3 a week - that is £300 - and 100 boys at 25s. - that is £125 - making a total of £425 per week.

Senator Gardiner - How many men could be got in Australia to work for £3 a week?

Senator McDOUGALL - The Commonwealth Government are paying mechanics to-day only £3 a week; but if they think as the honorable senator does they ought to give the men a rise.

Senator Gardiner - Where are mechanics working for the Commonwealth at £3 a week?

Senator McDOUGALL - At the Saddlery Factory.

Senator Gardiner - That is about 6s. a week above the award.

Senator McDOUGALL - It is; but the Minister interjected that mechanics could not be obtained in Australia at £3 a week, and I wanted to let him know that the Government are employing mechanics at that rate, and on that payment my figures are based.

Senator Gardiner - It is of no use to base your estimate on the rate of £3 a week for mechanics.

Senator McDOUGALL - How will this estimate do ? -


The cost of the permanent staff is estimated at £335 a week. Let me now compare the cost of labour in this industry in England with the estimated cost in Australia. In England the labour required for the same turnover would be 100 men at 30s. a week, and 100 assistants at 15s. a week, making a total of £225. The charges, based on the expenses of Henleys Limited - one of the largest cable firms in England - would be 150 per cent. on labour; that is £337, making a grand total of £562. In Australia the labour would cost £425 a week, and the charges £385, making a total of £760. That may appear to be a great outlay so far as labour is concerned, but we would save on many things. The saving on the freight to this country would counterbalance the cost of the labour. Then there would be the saving on the drums of which I spoke. Fifty drums would be required every week. The drums, at £4 each, would cost £200, from which we must deduct 10 per cent. for depreciation, leaving £180; that amount per week would be actually saved. Again, the freight on the cables from England to Australia, at the rate of 30s. per ton for 100 tons a week, would come to £150; while the freight on lead, at the rate of 15s. per ton for 40 tons, would amount to £30 ; making a total saving of £360. The Australian labour and charges come to £760, while the English labour and charges amount to £562. The difference between the two sets of figures is only £198; while the saving on the freight and on the drums is £360; so that the total Australian gain on the transaction comes out at £162. I have given details concerning the establishment of the factory. I know very well that there is not an honorable senator here - and I believe that even Senator Bakhap would support me - but would give a vote in favour of my proposal. The establishmentof a factory would make Australia self-reliant so far as this industry is concerned, and, in my opinion, she should occupy that position in regard to every industry. I shall be obliged if the Minister can show me where my figures are not correct. I cannot say that they are correct, but I believe that they are, because they came to me from a gentleman who has had more experience of this industry than has any other man in Australia. I would have liked an opportunity to address the Senate at greater length. I hope that the Government will accept the motion in the terms in which it is submitted, and that a factory for the production of our cables will be in evidence before very long. It will, of course, take some time to erect a building and to equip it, but it will not be many years after its establishment before it will have cleared the whole of the initiatory expenses.

Debate (on motion by Senator Gardiner) adjourned.

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