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Friday, 22 July 1921

Senator PEARCE (Western Australia) (Minister for Defence) .- The course suggested by SenatorPratten. is not only desirable, but it represents a. duty which, the Minister, owes to Parliament. The honorable senator, however, will recognise the difficulty in. which I. find myself. At present, the policy- is. embodied in. a proposal which is before: the Treasurer, and. until I know the fate, which it will meet at the hands, of the Treasurer (Sir Joseph. Cook), and the, Cabinet, it: is impossible, for. me to say what is going to. be. done in. the ensuing twelve months. I made a statement the other day to the Senate on the important; question, of munitions, supply, and produced a sample of what the Department had initiatedin the way of shell fuses. It will. be. sufficient to say at this juncture that, for. the last year, of which I can speak;, one-third of our total expenditure was on. the munitions, supply branch. In that way we are endeavouring to establish factories to supply our requirements. It is' the intention of the Government, to, establish works such as they have in Great Britain - of course, not to the same extent - so that, in- the event of war, wewould have a nerve centre and factories' that could be turned over for war production. It would be most uneconomical to build factories and have idle plants and staffs on our hands. The policy adopted during the war was to convert factories into establishments for producing war material, and we are. laying our plans in that direction. The. munitions supply branch will be the nerve centre, and, during times of. peace, stock will be taken of existing factories, and their possible production of war material. Where necessary, plants will be-, installed for peace purposes,, which can be utilized for the manufacture of war material should the occasion arise. Briefly, these are the lines on which we are acting. It is economical, and the experience of : war shows that it can be done. In Great Britain, even gramophone factories were converted into establishments for the production of war material, and when the Estimates are submitted in September; a statement will be submitted to Parliament indicating the steps we propose taking during the ensuing year.

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