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Wednesday, 26 March 1941

Senator CLOTHIER (Western Australia) . - I have always been of the opinion that all governmental work should be distributed among the States on a population basis. Early in the war I said in the Senate that soldiers should be clothed and equipped by the State in which they enlist. Had that policy been applied, there would have been none of the present quarrelling. I say nothing about the recruitment of artisans from Western Australia for work in the eastern States, because men are free to go where they like, but I disagree with the Minister for Supply and Development (Senator McBride) when he says that the Government is doing its 'best. If what the Government is doing is its best, it is a very poor best so far as Western Australia is concerned. One aspect of the Minister's reply to Senator Ashley which- struckme as significant was that he contrasted the millions of pounds that were being expended in New South Wales and in Victoria, but omitted to mention huge sums which are being expended in South Australia. The people of the less populous States have good reason for dissatisfaction when they read in the press that the per capita expenditure on war materials in Victoria is £27 14s. 10d., in New South Wales £190s. 7d., and in South Australia £22 8s.10d. Either the writer of the article which contained that information forgot to mention the per capita expenditure in the other States or the other States were too ashamed of the paucity of . their share to reveal the figures. My view is that the engineering capacity of each State should be examined by a committee of experts. An expert with knowledge of Western Australian industrial conditions would know that in Western Australia there are many opportunities for that State to partake in the manufacture of defence requirements. There are plenty of tailoring establishments which could be used for the manufacture of service clothing. Western Australia lately has received clothing contracts,, but not sufficient to absorb the whole of its productive capacity. Western Australia has also received contracts for the supply of military boots, the quality of which is higher than that of any other military boots made in Australia. I could supply a. list of trades whose manufacturing capacity is far from exhausted. It should be borne in mind that the port of Fremantle is closer than any other large Australian port to Singapore and that, should the need arise, the Australian troops at Singapore could be equipped from Western Australia in half the time that it would, take to equip them from any other part of Australia. I still adhere to what I said on the adjournment last week, namely, that the engineering capacity of each State should be investigated by a committee on which the State under review would be represented.

Senator Collett - That is now being done.

Senator CLOTHIER - I am glad to hear that. All the same, Western Australia is not receiving a fair deal. The Minister, as a West Australian, should be one of the first to demand fairer treatment for his State, which is the worst treated of all States. Tasmania and Queensland are receiving at least something, and South Australia is having the best time that it has ever had, but Western Australia has been almost entirely neglected in the expansion of industry. There is no more patriotic State than Western Australia. It has been above the average both in recruits and in the provision of patriotic funds, but in the allocation of work it has not even been considered. I insist that work should be allocated on a population basis. If that policy were applied, the ill feeling which now exists between States would give way to national unity.

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