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Wednesday, 12 November 1941

Senator AYLETT (Tasmania) . - I bring to the attention of the Minister representing the Minister for Supply and Development the urgent necessity for acting upon the recommendations made in an interim report presented recently by the Joint 'Committee on Rural Industries in connexion with the building of flax mills. The committee urged the Government to take, immediate steps to ensure that flax mills would be constructed and machinery installed for the processing of the coming season's crop. Honorable senators might not realize that the area in production this season is 60,000 acres as compared with 20,000 acres sown last season. The last season was bad whereas this season promises to be unusually good. Should that prove to be the case approximately £500,000 will hare to be provided in order to pay for the raw material alone, whilst approximately £1,000,000 will be required for the processing of that raw material. I now inform the Senate that in some areas the mills are not yet ready. The Flax Production Committee has had ample time in which to get the mills ready to handle the coming crop; but it seems that it is falling down on its job. If that is the case the Minister should, take action immediately in order to ensure that the mills are ready to handle the coming crop.

Senator Herbert Hays - The Flax Production Committee has given an assurance that they will be ready.

Senator AYLETT - I now inform honorable senators that at one particular place the committee has just acquired the land on which the mills are to be erected. I did not intend to go into details, but evidence has been given before the Joint Committee on Rural Industries that the mills must be ready by the end of December at the latest, in order to be able to handle the coming season's crop. If the committee has just acquired land on which to erect some of the mills this Government will require to act with greater speed than either the previous Government or the board has acted in the past. If the mills are not ready it will mean double, and triple, handling and stacking the flax in the rain. Furthermore, a demand will be made on labour for the construction of the mills in the middle of the harvesting when every available man will be required to handle the crop. I have heard much in this chamber to-day about our man-power problem. That problem in many instances is already upon us, and will become more serious in the future. All of us should realize the seriousness of the delay which will be caused if these mills are not built immediately and the necessary machinery installed in time to handle the coming crop. I hope that my remarks will be conveyed to the Minister for Supply and Development (Mr. Beasley), and that they will be given immediate attention, not merely because I ask that that the mills be constructed, but also because flax fibre is urgently needed in our war effort.

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