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Friday, 18 June 1915

Senator GUTHRIE - From some unknown person.

Senator PEARCE - It has received information from some unknown person, and" will not disclose the source of its information. I told honorable senators last night that there had .been complaints from manufacturers in Queensland that some boots supplied in Victoria were not up to the sealed sample. Those complaints were investigated, and it was found' that, in the early deliveries of boots" for the first Expeditionary Force, there were some that were not up to the sealed sample, but they were good boots nevertheless. No complaints were received from the troops who were wearing those boots. Furthermore, as I have already pointed out, our equipment has been reported upon by others outside the Department, and has been described by them as excellent. If honorable senators will look at the last copy of The Bulletin - and this should appeal to Senator Stewart at any rate - they will find a paragraph written by a man at the front who says that our boots are the envy of the Maorilanders and the Tommies, meaning that the Australian boots are better than the New Zealand or British boots.

Senator STEWART - I should expect that.

Senator PEARCE - If the honorable senator has read his bible this week - and I should say that he has generally read it before Thursday has long passed - he will find that paragraph, and it should have some weight with him. There has recently been a demand, by some manufacturers, for an increased price for the boots. We have fixed a flat rate of 12s. per pair. The demand is made because of the difficulty in obtaining leatherof the high quality that our inspectors insist upon. The manufacturers say that our inspectors demand leather of such a good quality that there is great difficulty in obtaining a sufficient supply of it. We have referred this dispute to the Chamber of Manufactures for report. They have gone into the question, and have dealt with the complaint from Queensland. They have pointed out in their report that some boots included in the early deliveries were not up to the sealed sample, and they sent along the statements of the manufacturers supplying those boots, and giving a full explanation. They point out at the same time the difficulty of getting a sufficient supply of the high-class leather required, and they are backing up the request for an increased price. I do not know whether there is any connexion between this sudden attack upon the quality of our boots, and the request that is made for a higher price. There might be some significance in the fact that, during last week, a conference was sitting at the barracks to consider the request of the manufacturers for a higher price, and the suggestion in the Argus that our boots are defective owing to a lack of proper supervision. I want to say that the request of the manufacturers for a higher price will be dealt with on its merits. I shall not permit the article which appeared in the Argus to prejudice my judgment in dealing with that request. If the manufacturers make out a good case, they will be given an increased price, but, above all,the first consideration will be that the boots supplied to our troops shall be good. They have been good in the past. I find that, in the whole of the States, we have 108 inspectors, and 80 or 90 of these are temporary men. It was found necessary to discharge only four of these men, and they were discharged because some of the boots stamped by them were found to be defective. Whilst some mistakes may have been made, it has been found necessary to discharge only four out of more than 100 men employed as inspectors. That speaks well for the unions who sent those men to us. In passing 300,000 pairs of boots, only four of the inspectors were found to have failed to carry out their duties properly, and they have been discharged. We are doing the best we can in the circumstances, and there is no reason to believe that our inspectors are not doing their duty.

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