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Tuesday, 27 October 1964
Page: 1279

Senator ANDERSON (New South Wales) (Minister for Customs and Excise) . - Senator McClelland, in the first place, explained that his remarks would be related to Division No. 773, sub-division 2, item 06, Development and technical services. That item has no relation to the matter that he discussed. I wish to clear that point up.

Senator McClelland - I used that for the purposes of procedure.

Senator ANDERSON - Very well. Item 06 relates to the increases necessary to accommodate higher charges of workshop services provided in the weapons research establishments following a review of costs and to permit the placement of a contract for investigation of aircraft fatigue problems. I realise that Senator McClelland was using this item in order to raise the matter that he wished to discuss but I emphasised that the subject has no relation to that item.

Perhaps lt could be considered more properly under Division No. 765. However, 1 have some information on the subject for the honorable senator. He quoted fairly extensively from " Hansard ". I am inclined to suggest that he mixed up some of the answers which he obtained from " Hansard ". I want to make the point that to my knowledge, and from the information supplied to me, all the ammunition came from the factories of the Department of Supply. There is no suggestion that it was coming from other sources.

In discussing this subject we are entering into a very technical field. The Minister for Supply (Mr. Fairhall) has made a detailed statement in another place in regard to the matter of ammunition supplied to the Army by his Department. I ask the Committee ro note the words " supplied to the Army by his Department ". I believe the Department of Supply has produced ammunition which has met the specifications set by the Army. All ammunition produced is subject to tests; and tests proved that three premature explosions occurred with one type of gun ammunition. Most intensive investigations took place in an endeavour to isolate the cause. Premature explosions in this field are not uncommon. Those of us who have any association with these matters know that that does happen. The Army and the Department of Supply sent a team of explosives experts abroad to consult with authorities in the United Kingdom, Canada and the United Stales of America on every aspect of the production of this ammunition. No single cause of premature explosions was discovered. The Department of Supply is now producing ammunition to a new Army specification which has upgraded the manufacture of the shell and its explosive filling. The Department is confident that no further trouble will occur in ammunition with this upgraded specification.

Some reference has been made to shells marked " Not for Issue ". Such shells are not necessarily defective - I emphasise the word " necessarily " - but are set aside if there is any suspicion that an undisclosed fault could exist. I think everybody will agree that that is a fairly wise precaution to take and that it is normal precedure with any line testing. For example, where a series of shells use a common explosive which is not cleared as a possible cause of premature explosion in one shell, all the shells with that explosive will be marked " Not for Issue " pending completion of investigations. This is an obvious safety precaution for the benefit of men using the ammunition.

I am informed that the 105 mm. shell, which was made by the Department of Supply, has been cleared for production, that there have been no premature explosions with the 4.2-in. mortar bombs, and that no defectives have been found in the 5.5-in. and 3.7-in. shells. Whilst no defectives have been found, they have been marked " Not for Issue " pending clearance of the explosives. Of course, we are dealing with a highly technical problem, and quite clearly I cannot add anything to the information that has been supplied to me. I draw attention to the fact that in another place on 14th October the Minister for Supply (Mr. Fairhall), in answer to a question which was addressed to him by Mr. Haworth, made quite an extensive statement about gun ammunition. I do not want to read the answer now. It may be found at page 1887 of the " Hansard " report for the House of Representatives.

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