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Thursday, 24 June 1915

Senator PEARCE (WESTERN AUSTRALIA) - Under my instruction, and pursuant to the promise I gave to the honorable senator, the following letter was despatched, on the 18th June, to Mr. R. Ferguson, the manager of the Newport "Workshops, Victoria : -

With reference to the report furnished by the Committee, of which you were a member, upon the question of a double shift at the Small Arms Factory, Lithgow, the Minister would be glad if you would be so good as to let him have your opinion as early as possible on the following points that have been raised: -

1.   If engineers and fitters were put on at the Factory, could not the double shift be worked within a fortnight or so?

Senator MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) -. - I said nothing about " engineers and fitters."

Senator PEARCE - If I have mistaken the honorable senator, I can assure him that I did so quite inadvertently.

Senator Millen - I did not use the word "fitters."

Senator PEARCE - The honorable senator used the term " engineers," which includes engineers and fitters.

Senator Millen - "Trained engineers " was the term I used.

Senator PEARCE - I might explain that I took down those words as the purport of what the honorable senator said. I had not the Hansard report before me when I acted.

Senator Millen - Allow me to suggest that a better way to put my contention would have been to ask: Could not a second shift be worked in less time?

Senator PEARCE - I think that the honorablesen a tor is unnecessarily anxious-

Senator Millen - In a good cause.

Senator PEARCE - Because when he hears the reply he will find that he has no need to besuspicious. That was the question I put as my interpretation of what the honorable senator said, but if I misinterpreted him I am very sorry. In addition to that, I put this further question -

2.   Whether, assuming the answer, to be in the affirmative, in view of all the circumstances connected with the organization of the labour at the Factory, you would recommend that course.

Those, I. think, are two perfectly fair questions. The letter is signed by Mr. T. Trumble, the Acting Secretary, and the reply is dated 21st June, and reads as follows : -

The first question I would answer in the affirmative, and the second in the negative, both of which require explanation, which I will give as briefly as possible.

1.   A large number of the Factory staff are fitters, turners, machinists, and blacksmiths, who come under the designation of engineers, all of whom must be specially trained men, particularly those employed in the tool-room, engaged in the manufacture and maintenance of all cutting tools for machines, jigs,&c., this Department being mainly responsible for the success of the Factory. It will, therefore, be necessary that a correspondingly increased number of engineers and fitters be engaged for the night shift.

The Committee, consisting of Colonel Dangar, Major Harding., and myself, considered that if additional staff be made available, the second shift should come into operation about 1st July. This is to be done by levelling up of the existing staff.

(2)   There are machines of minor importance in the Factory requiring very little skill ; these could be manned by lower-grade employees, who would be able to look to these positions as an avenue for promotion. Should there still be a shortage of men for this work at the Factory after providing for all who are worthy of promotion, they could then be secured from other sources.

Also other trades are represented in the manufacture of the necessary components in which the engineers and fitters are not interested. I therefore would not recommend that the present organization of the labour be interfered with.

I have the honour to be,

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