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Thursday, 17 June 1915

Senator MAUGHAN (Queensland) . - I desire to bring under the notice of the Senate an article which is published in the Argus of this morning. It is headed, " Boot's for Soldiers," " Wholesale Rejection," and "Incompetent Inspectors." With the permission of honorable senators I should like to read two or three paragraphs from it. They are as follow: -

Recently statements were made in Brisbane that boots of a very poor quality were being supplied to members of the Australian Imperial Force. The allegation was made by a manufacturer, who spoke of what he himself had seen. That his statements were justified is shown by the fact that at least one consignment of boots, consisting of 600 pairs, had been rejected, and- returned to Australia from Egypt. Probably other consignments have shared a similar fate. Large quantities of these rejected boots are now being sold in Melbourne and various other parts of Victoria.

No official statement has yet been made, although it is known that the allegations have been investigated, and a report forwarded to the Minister of Defence (Senator Pearce). It lias been found that certain Victorian manufacturers have sold to the Defence Department boots of a very inferior type. Nor is the quality the most important aspect of the affair. These rejected boots have been found to be positively injurious to troops on active service. One of the strange features of the matter is that the rejected boots were passed by the Defence Department's own inspectors, all of whom are members of the Australian Boot' Trade Employees' Federation.

The article concludes -

Last night, a representative of the Argus was shown a boot, bearing the stamp of an inspector, the first sole of which, when slightly wet, became so spongy as to appear almost useless. " This," said the manufacturer who showed it, " is only one of thousands." This leather would hold water. Yet this boot has been passed. This boot is also riveted with nails, and is capable of crippling a soldier. In England these nails alone would be quite enough to insure its rejection."

When investigations were made by skilled men, the incompetence of the Government inspectors concerned was severely criticised. While the inquiry was proceeding, boots were returned to the makers every day. One result was that three of the inspectors were discharged. Others were severely censured for having passed serious defects in workmanship and low-quality material. An employer in a section of the boot trade stated that he, personally, know one man who, with only a limited experience in repairing boots, was appointed as an inspector. " Men who have not the ability to hold a position in a factory," he' continued, "were, through political influence at the Trades Hall, given these jobs." To all intents and purposes, these so-called inspectors were appointed by the secretary of the union. Competent men would have stopped the whole business at the outset.

The article speaks for itself, and I have no desire to labour the matter. But in the interests of the taxpayers, who are providing colossal sums of money u) properly equip our troops at the front, .1 think that we have a right to .know whether these statements are true or false.- I have already spoken to the Minister on the matter; and I ask him whether he can offer a satisfactory explanation in regard to these allegations.

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