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Friday, 9 July 1915

Senator DE LARGIE (Western Australia) .- I think Senator O'Keefe has voiced an impression that is in the minds of most of us, namely, that the Bill scarcely goes far enough. At the same time, we must remember that what is being proposed is a step to relieve a temporary difficulty, and consequently we cannot delay action in order to amend our Ministerial system as perfectly as we should like. Doubtless, when the war is over, we shall see the necessity for quite

Anumber of changes.

Senator O'Keefe - Why wait until the war is over?

Senator DE LARGIE - We shall be in possession of further information then, and we shall be undertaking tasks which we can very well leave alone at the present moment. It is because we view the matter from that stand-point that we are prepared to agree to the Bill in its present form. What is to be done must be done quickly. The Bill has been brought forward not a moment too soon; indeed it should have been introduced months ago. The objections of Senator Millen and Senator O'Keefe can be met, to a considerable extent, by the appointment of Assistant or Honorary Ministers. This Bill does not prevent the Government appointing as many Assistant Ministers, who can be understudies to the holders of portfolios, as they think fit.

Senator Maughan - No Ministerial office should be honorary.

Senator DE LARGIE - Every increase of salaried Ministers involves an alteration of the law, and it would hardly be possible to be continually altering the law in order to appoint salaried Ministers to deal with a temporary stress of work. Whilst I do not wish to belittle the Senate in the slightest degree, I recognise that another place sits more often than the Senate, and that much of the war legislation must be introduced in the other Chamber, because it involves the appropriation of money from the public purse, and those facts, together with the large membership of another place, undoubtedly throw upon it a greater amount of work than is done by the Senate. Therefore, I think that the Ministry will be well advised if, in addition to appointing another salaried Minister, they appoint an Assistant Minister or understudy to the new Minister. In other words, I do not think the creation of another portfolio removes the necessity for an Assistant Minister in another place. In regard to the allotment of the work amongst Ministers, I recognise that it would be difficult, especially during a time of war, to draw a sharp line of demarcation between the two Ministers who will be dealing with defence and war matters. Their united effort will always be directed to making the most of the forces Ave can send abroad, and, therefore, I. say that anything like a rigid division of the work Will be impossible and unnecessary. Nevertheless, A\'e recognise that in Australia, as in the Old Country, the supply of munitions is the most important new work which the Avar has shown to be necessary, and it is because of that fact that I interjected, when the Minister was speaking, that if Ave cannot get from the Imperial Government the assistance we are asking, it is of no use our " dilly-dallying " and wasting time. If Ave are to do anything at all Ave must proceed on our own account, instead of continually cabling to the Home Country and getting no reply. Why the information has been withheld I have been unable to understand, because one would naturally expect that the Home Government would be anxious to accept any help which Ave are capable of giving. It may be that the Imperial Government have A'ery good reasons for withholding the information sought. I cannot believe that they are not in possession of it, because Ave know that there are army contractors, and that the big machinery, engineering, and shipbuilding firms are in possession of at least the greater portion of the information which the Commonwealth has been asking for. Of course, there may be some departmental secrets in connexion with the manufacture of high explosives which the War Office has not yet disclosed to the contractors, but we do know that much of the ammunition is made by private firms. The old shrapnel shell, which has been proved not to be as efficient as the more up-to-date high explosive shell, has been manufactured for so long that everybody is in possession of the particulars of its construction. Whilst we in Australia may not have the precise type of machinery necessary for the output of these munitions, we could produce a good deal of the material in a short time. Ten years ago there was no steel manufactured in Australia. To-day there are a number of private firms making steel of a high-class character, and all that it is necessary for them to do to meet the call of the present situation is to experiment in the work of dealing with the different kinds of ores, and in the manufacture of steel of the various tempers that are required.

Senator O'Keefe - Do you say that there are a number of private firms making steel now?

Senator DE LARGIE - Yes. There are the steel works at Lithgow, which are turning out a very fine class of steel.

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