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Thursday, 3 April 1941

Senator E B JOHNSTON (Western Australia) . - I do not wish to delay honorable senators at this stage of the proceedings, but we are now asked to approve a bill which involves the raising of £50,000,000. I remind the Minister for Supply and Development (Senator McBride) that the people of Western Australia are most disturbed at the meagre consideration which they have received in the matter of war expenditure. In a newspaper published in Perth last week it was pointed out that during the past few months the excess of departures over arrivals from Western Australia to the eastern States was more than 1,000 a month and in some months the total had reached 2,000. The reason for such extensive migration is that our skilled workers and artisans are moving to the eastern States where they can get remunerative permanent work in munition factories. Week after week, and month after month, the population of Western Australia is being depleted owing to the departure of these people. I am pleased to learn 'that, with loan money, the Government has built a large munition factory in South Australia. A few weeks ago a complaint was made concerning the disparity between defence expenditure in New South Wales and in Victoria, and almost immediately, in order to satisfy the people of New South Wales, the Government decided to construct huge munition factories, not only near Sydney, but also at Newcastle.

Senator McBride - The Government had plans made to do so long before complaints were made.

Senator E B JOHNSTON - That may be. I applaud the Government for endeavouring to decentralize the manufacture of munitions so that, should one or two of our capital cities be bombed, the production of munitions would not be stopped entirely. But what has been done for Western Australia, a State which comprises nearly one-third of Australia? There are no munition factories in Western Australia, and the expenditure incurred in that State on defence works has been negligible. If a man in Western Australia wishes to contribute to the war effort practically the only way he can do so is to enlist in the Australian Imperial Force, and that is why the percentage of enlistments in that State is about 50 per cent, higher than the average for Australia, including Western Australia. That was disclosed by the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Fadden) when he visited Western Australia last December, where he made a better impression than any other Australian public man has done. If the Government wants to do the fair thing by the people of Australia, it should decentralize its war industries and build in Western Australia at least one munition factory capable of employing from 10,000 to 15,000 artisans similar to the large factories in eastern Australia. The people of Western Australia are as loyal as are any in the Commonwealth, and as they are wholeheartedly behind our war effort, they should not be neglected in the matter of war expenditure. If the Minister for Supply and Development, who is an Australian with a national outlook, will visit Western Australia, I am sure that he will understand the justice of our claim. I trust that some of the money to be appropriated' under this bill will be used to establish a large and complete munition factory in the western State. I do not know why our war industries should be located in the most densely populated centres. For instance, it has been decided to build a new naval dock in Sydney Harbour, right in the centre of what is probably the most densely populated area in the Commonwealth. Should an enemy bomb that dock, the people living in the vicinity would be in great danger. I remind honorable senators that the late Admiral Sir Reginald Henderson, who recommended the construction of a naval dock at Sydney, urged the construction of two docks of equal size and importance, one of which was to 'be at Fremantle. The Government expended £1,000,000 on preliminary work for the Henderson Naval Base, and then abandoned the project. The construction of a munition factory in Western Australia is a matter of urgent national importance. I invite the Minister for Supply and Development to again visit Western Australia to ascertain whether some of the £50,000,000 to be raised could be expended on a large and modern munition factory in Western Australia on the lines I have outlined.

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