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Wednesday, 7 July 1915

Senator GUTHRIE - This is Mr. S. McKay, not Mr. H. V. McKay. The former is a brother of the inventor of the harvester.

Senator DE LARGIE - As engineers, the McKay brothers are undoubtedly men of great capacity. Certainly they have placed upon the market one of the finest harvesters in the world. But whilst they are familiar with that class of work, I do not understand that either of them is fitted to act as an expert in the manufacture of war munitions. The manufacture of war munitions is quite different from the manufacture of harvester machinery. A knowledge of the latter will not give t/hem any knowledge of the steel, the explosive, or, indeed, any other part of a shell with which they ought to be familiar. I doubt whether Mr. McKay has any special knowledge of this business. Yet he has been appointed as an expert. It seems to me that in so acting the Government have taken a very foolish step. I recognise the difficulty of getting experts in Australia, but I say that it is idle to go out of our Government Departments to secure the services of men who are no more competent than are those sitting in this chamber. I enter my protest against this sort of thing, and I hope that the Government will see that we have no more of it. To appoint to such positions men who do not possess special knowledge is foolish in the extreme. We have in the Defence Department officers who could fill positions on the Munitions Committee much better than the brothers McKay. In the Department there are officers who know much more about postal matters than does Mr. Keith Murdoch. Speaking with due respect to both gentlemen, I think it is foolish on the part of the Government to appoint men as experts unless they are really experts in the business which they are chosen to investigate. I trust that the Government will be chary before they make more appointments of that kind, because if they do they cannot expect to obtain any satisfaction.

Senator Russell - Ought we to send a couple of senators?

Senator DE LARGIE - I dare say that men who have given much attention to postal affairs would start with a far better knowledge of the business of the Department than will Mr. Keith Murdoch.

Senator Mullan - One of the ablest men at that business offered his services free of charge to the Department.

Senator DE LARGIE - I was not aware of that, but I do know that in both Houses of the Federal Parliament there are men who have had a very fair drilling. I do not claim to have a special knowledge of the Department, but I think that I can claim to have had a very good experience on the Postal Commission. I cannot lay myself open to the charge of presumption if I say that I know as much about the Department as Mr. Keith Murdoch does, and I can name officials who know a great deal more about it than I do, and whom I could have suggested for appointment had the Government thought it worth while to consult any members of the Royal Commission as to a fit man for the work. There are in the Department officers whom we examined as witnesses whose appointment, I feel sure, would have been far better than that which has been made. I am sorry that I have need to rise and make these complaints, but I am sure that honorable senators will recognise the reasonableness of what I have said. We should not allow any appointment of thi3 kind to pass without a protest.

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