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Friday, 11 June 1915

The PRESIDENT - Order ! The time has now arrived when it is incumbent on me, under our Sessional Orders, to put the question -

That the Senate do now adjourn.

If honorable Senators desire to allow the Minister to complete his reply, they will negative the question.

Question resolved in the negative.

Senator PEARCE - The report of the deputation stated -

The Minister questioned the charge hand of the assembly rooms as to how long it would take the average man to pick up the work. The answer was that all depended on the job he was on; say, from three, four, to six months. The Minister asKed the charge hand if the statement was correct which had been made to him to the effect that after twelve months a man could come up against a job that beat him. The answer was that this was quite correct? What was done in such a case? the Minister continued. The section hand replied that he lent assistance, and the Minister suggested that with a larger staff the difficulty of this necessary personal inspection might be an insurmountable problem. The charge hand agreed that this was so, and doubted if there were sufficient men in the assembly room to personally inspect two shifts.

Goodeson, representing the hardening room, said that skilled labour was required; there were not enough men at the factory now to divide up into two shifts with a proportion of untrained men: but new men could be trained on some of the jobs in time.

Mr. Butler,speaking as regards the filing department, said that a double shift was impracticable.

Mr. Brett,of the polishing department, said that his work took a life-time to study.

The majority of this deputation were rather timorous about expressing their views as to the practicability of a double shift, but nearly all thought there would be difficulties in the way, and that some time would elapse before the men could carry on properly. They were not prepared to say whether the output would suffer or not during the coaching stage.

Mr. Wrightdid say something definite about that to me. He said to me, ' ' If you compel m© to put on a double shift at the present juncture, the output, as the result of two shifts, will for some time be only half what I am giving you now from the one." That is the responsibility which Mr. Wright placed upon me. " Not only is it a fact," he said, " that the men you bring in will take some time before they become efficient on a particular job, but the men who are efficient will be reduced in efficiency because they will be required to give a portion of their time to the training of the men who will be introduced."

Senator de Largie - It was not want of material, then ?

Senator PEARCE - Yes; but I am also dealing with the reasons given by the Amalgamated Society of Engineers why the double shift could not be worked, and my investigation into that statement. I want to separate the two things. The men did not know there was a shortage of material, and there was a possibility at any time that we might be able 1o lay our hands on more material. We were cabling, and at any time a cable might advise that within a month there would be a sufficient supply of material for all requirements. Therefore, if we could get the material the double shift could be put on. Now this is what Mr. Wright had to say on the matter on 24th March -

I am strongly of the opinion that more rifles for immediate use can be obtained under the present conditions than would be obtained by the establishment of a second shift, which means a division of the present force with an equal number of employees without the training of the present force now employed. I would also point out that with the establishment of a second shift, the proportion of wastage of material would make serious inroad on the present scanty amount of material now available. °

However, I wish to assure you that every effort has been made to obtain necessary supplies, and. would inform you that advices have just been received that portions of the material ordered months ago are now on the way.

I trust this will give you the information desired.

That was Mr. Wright's view on. the 24th March. Senator Millen takes up the attitude that skilled men - engineers - could be put into the factory, and within a fortnight they could do all that was required of them; that within a fortnight, with a double shift working, the output could be doubled.

Senator Millen - I did not say the output could be doubled.

Senator PEARCE - What did the honorable senator say, then?

Senator Millen - I said that you could increase the output. I did not assume that a double shift would necessarily mean 100 per cent, increase in the output.

Senator PEARCE - Now the position is that Senator Millen thinks that the Committee overlooked the possibility of doing that. The honorable senator says that in the Eveleigh and Newport Workshops there are men who could be put into the Lithgow factory, and, in a fortnight, they would be efficient enough to carry out the work there.

Senator Millen - Hear, hear !

Senator PEARCE - Now, on that Committee was Mr. Davis, the DirectorGeneral of Works in New South Wales. He knows all about Eveleigh, and there was Mr. Ferguson, the manager of the Newport Workshops, who knows all about his own factory and the capacity of his own men. Those two gentlemen do not say what Senator Millen says.

Senator Millen - They were thinking of it as a commercial proposition.

Senator PEARCE - These men were not unaware of the existing conditions.

Senator Millen - They did not seem to understand.

Senator PEARCE - Does the honorable senator mean to say that the gentlemen I have mentioned, who were suddenly called upon for a report, not by their own Government, but by another Government, and a Department which is responsible for the war preparations of this country, never read their newspapers? Is it assumed that they did not see Senator Millen's statement about the shortage of rifles, and so on ? Does the honorable senator suggest that they had not read all about the controversy, and of the attacks on the Minister of Defence by Senator Millen and his colleagues? These men. Senator Millen would lead us to believe, were Rip Van Winkles, and had slept for a thousand years, only to [145] be awakened by the Defence Department. Does Senator Millen assume that they did not know anything about the war or the scarcity of rifles, and the necessity of providing for an increase in the supply? We have, however, to regard them as intelligent men, and those of us who have seen some of the work done at the Newport Workshops, for instance, will admit that there is magnificent machinery there. Only yesterday they presented the Department with a motor ambulance, which, in the opinion of the Imperial officer who saw it, is better than has ever been turned out for the Imperial Army itself. Therefore, we must suppose that these men do know something about the question. These are the men who were called in to advise us as to how we could work the double shift. We had decided on that long ago - long before the Public Works Committee, or the Public Accounts Committee, or any other Committee or member spoke on this question. They are not called upon to advise us on that, but they were specifically asked to advise us how the second shift could be brought into oneration in the shortest possible time. That is the advice we asked for. Mr. Wright was for the time being out of the way. All I have said shows that they had a grasp of their instructions, and that they knew what the Government had in view. Mr. Davis' report states -

Assuming that it be conceded that it is possible and prudent to start two shifts of workmen, the question immediately arises, how this can be secured so as to increase the output at the earliest possible moment.

That shows that he knew what the Government had in view. Mr. Davis, in paragraph 4 of his report, suggested that a conference should be called between the Manager, the President of the Small Arms Factory Union, and the President of the Ironworkers' Assistants, and in paragraph 3, which Senator Millen has read, he gives his view as to how the output could be increased. To show that I was not opposed to the views of these men. I will read for the information of honorable senators, the minute which I attached to the report -

The recommendation No. 4 in report of Mr. Davis, "Director-General of Works, re a conference between the manager of Small Arms Factory and union officials as to supply of labour is approved. The Small Arms Factory Union, Amalgamated Society of Engineers, Ironworkers' Assistants and Engine-drivers' Union, should be asked to attend. In addition, the Sydney Labour Council should be asked if Mr. Henley, the gentleman who represented them in drawing up recent industrial, agreement, could also attend. To manager for necessary action.

That instruction shows that I was not closing up my mind on the suggestions made by the honorable senator on a previous occasion in regard to bringing in men belonging to the Amalgamated Society of Engineers, although Mr. Davis did not mention them in his report.

Senator Millen - Does it not strike you as extraordinary that Mr. Davis would shut them out ? " Senator PEARCE. - I do not think so, because even if Mr. Davis is not bo closely in touch with them, Mr. Ferguson has these men working under him. A great part of his employees are this class of men.

Senator Millen - Does not Mr. Ferguson recommend that these men could be employed?

Senator PEARCE - That is not the point. They were not restricted in any way in their recommendations. If the suggestion put forward by the honorable senator is a good one-

Senator Millen - Is there any objection to putting, a specific question to Mr. Ferguson ?

Senator PEARCE - No.

Senator Millen - I am satisfied.

Senator PEARCE - To say that these gentlemen had not considered that question is to reflect upon their intelligence.

Senator Millen - No, it does not.

Senator PEARCE - I wish to read, iu justice to Mr. Wright, an extract from the report of the Committee consisting of Colonel Dangar, Major Harding and Mr. Ferguson -

The Committee are of opinion that the primary consideration for the successful working of the two shifts is the supply of raw material. Mr. Wright, the manager, was perfectly justified in his reasoning for the nonintroduction of the second shift, especially in regard to the supply of raw material, the outlook at the time he made his report being far from satisfactory.

Senator Millen - What report do they refer to?

Senator PEARCE - The report which r read, and in which, after I submitted the question to him, Mr. Wright definitely recommended against the institution of a double shift. That is the report which the Committee are referring to, and that is the report on the official file.

Senator Millen - Apparently,, he made two reports; he made one to me.

Senator PEARCE - I do not know of any report which Mr. Wright made to the honorable senator: I have not seen it. But the report he made to me was one he made on my recommendation that, a second shift should be instituted at the earliest possible moment. The Committee say, in their report, that the time taken to get a second shift into full working order will depend entirely upon the time taken to train the necessary staff. Mr. Davis is the only man who raised the question of housing, except that the Committee make this incidental reference -

The Committee did not go into the question of the housing of the extra employees at Lithgow. They, however, consider that the matter should be carefully considered, as undoubtedly it will be an important factor in the success of the undertaking.

Surely they were perfectly justified in saying that, without it being brought up against them that they used it as an argument against the introduction of a double shift. They did not do anything of the kind. They simply brought the matter under the notice of the Government.

Senator de Largie - I think it was ridiculous that experts should be asked that question.

Senator PEARCE - They were not asked, but they had a right to raise it if they pleased. Senator Millen spoke about the recommendation of Mr. Davis, that Mr. Wright should be relieved at once. May I say that that also had been anticipated? When Mr. Wright came to me with his resignation - and it was quite unexpected on my part-

Senator Millen - It was not, on my part.

Senator PEARCE - When Mr. Wright came to me about his resignation, I first of all had to look round for a successor, and to assure myself that the acting manager, Mr. Ratcliffe, was competent to carry on the factory. I took certain steps, and having satisfied myself in that regard I sent for Mr. Ratcliffe. I may mention that we have fixed up a satisfactory temporary arrangement under which he is to be appointed on probation, and if he justifies his selection he will be continued in the position. Immediately that arrangement was made - I did not put anything on the official file, because I did not think it wise to do so - I wrote a personal letter, and I feel sure that Mr. Wright will not mind me making this statement now that the question has been raised. In my letter, I pointed out to Mr. Wright that hitherto Mr. Ratcliffe had acted in a secondary position, that on the 1st August the full responsibility would fall on his shoulders, and that it was only fair and just to Mr. Ratcliffe that Mr. Wright should gradually unload his responsibility, so that on the 1st August the full responsibility would not devolve all at once on Mr. Ratcliffe. When the Committee visited the factory, I sent an official letter to Mr. Wright that in all future actions in regard to the management of the factory, Mr. Ratcliffe was to be given a full and free opportunity of going before the Committees and stating his own views, irrespective of any opinions which Mr. Wright might hold, and that Mr. Ratcliffe was to be taken into the full confidence of Mr. Wright in regard to any step which might be taken in the matter. I do not think that, in fair justice to Mr. Wright' and myself, I could do more than that. It would not have been fair tothe acting manager to have simply said to Mr. Wright, "You are going to resign; resign here and now," because then Mr. Ratcliffe would suddenly have come into the full responsibility, whereas now there is a probationary period in which, although He is not the nominal head, he will be gradually assuming the responsibility of management. I think that any one who looks at the matter in a reasonable way will recognise that, in the circumstances, it is the best thing to do.

Senator Millen - It is practically anticipating the recommendation of Mr. Davis?

Senator PEARCE - Yes. As regards the manufacture of shells, and the statement made' by Senator McDougall, the machinery he mentioned may or may nob be suitable. It is not at present the question of machinery which is holding us up; but it is the question of a knowledge of the kind of steel, the question of the specifications for the manufacture of the steel, and the question of the conditions under which the War Office will let us have secret and confidential information as regards the manufacture' and the making up of the shell. That has been the subject of correspondence by means of cables, and we hope that it will be cleared up shortly. In the meantime, an expert Committee consisting of a local manufacturer of considerable standing, a representative of one of the steel works, the best qualified officer in the Department, and the chemical adviser of the Government, are going into the question,so that at the earliest possible moment when we have the necessary information we shall be able to utilize the whole resources of the Commonwealth for shell manufacturing. In the meantime, we are receiving daily from manufacturers throughout the Commonwealth offers of their plant, and inviting them to give us particulars of their machinery, to tell us what it is capable of doing, what class of work it has been engaged upon, and what they think it will be available for. A number of manufacturers have been invited to come down and see the component parts of a shell, so that they may be able to tell us very shortly what they can do. It is true that there are certain shells and munitions here now; but the expert advice is that without the specifications and the formula for the making of the steel, their manufacture cannot be proceeded with. The manufacturers who have inspected them say that they cannot tell the quality of the steel until the formula is obtained. They also say that they cannot do the necessary work in regard to the making of fuses until they have a copy of the specifications by which they are made. That information is being obtained, too, and we hope shortly to have it in our possession. That remark applies, not only to the wireless works at Randwick, bub to all other works of that character in the Commonwealth. I desire now to say a few words in reply to Senator Watson's reference to the coal trade. The. coal export was necessarily restricted, because the German cruisers in the Pacific obtained theirsupply from British sources. Naturally, we did not want Australia to be feeding the enemy in that regard; and therefore, in conjunction with the British Admiralty, certain steps were taken to prevent the export of coal unless we were absolutely satisfied that it was not likely to get into German hands. When the German fleet in the Pacific was wiped out, the necessity, to some extent, did not exist; but there is still a number of enemy merchant ships in neutral ports in America, and similar ships in neutral ports in the Pacific have been endeavouring to obtain coal. The neutral countries are trying to restrict the supply of coal to such ships to that quantity which will enable 'them to carry on necessary work in harbour, but the ships have endeavoured, time and again, to get a larger supply. Certain firms in neutral countries are under suspicion. There is direct proof that some of them were the agents for supplying coal to the German Pacific squadron. The British Admiralty have advised us which firms are under suspicion, and to-day we are still refusing to allow those firms (to be supplied with coal. What happened at Newcastle? A firm at Newcastle, complying with the terms laid down, was given permission to ship a cargo of coal, and named a certain firm as- the consignee j but we have a system of inquiries through British Consuls at the various ports, and we ascertained that the coal was not going to the firm mentioned, but to another firm, which was on the black list. That case is still with the Customs authorities, undergoing investigation as to who was responsible for giving the misleading information. It is not likely that that shipment of coal will be allowed to leave Australia until we have determined that question. I know of only that one case of a shipment of coal having been delayed. If. Senator Watson's Newcastle friends can tell him of other cases, I invite him to send the particulars along to me. That is the one cargo which has been held back, and we shall continue to hold it back until the question is finally cleared up.

Question resolved, in the affirmative. Senate adjourned at 4.27 p.m.

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