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Friday, 18 September 1942

Mr STACEY (ADELAIDE, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - Perhaps it would be better. I do not know. In my speech I referred to the painting of a certain building m Canberra. The Minister for the- Interior said that my statement of the cost was incorrect, and that I should have known better than to make such a statement. Let me tell honorable members how I worked out my figures. I saw that there were eight men and a boss on the job. They were working at night-time. I make no charge against the men. As they were working at night-time they were entitled to double pay. I believe that the ordinary rate paid to painters is fi 7s. a shift. Double pay would make the pay £2 14s. a shift. I wish to be quite honest in this matter. If the men had worked right through the shift, an expenditure of £96 would have been incurred on labour. I went to bed that night and I cannot say whether the men worked a whole shift. They may have worked only half a shift. I shall therefore put the labour charge down at half the figure I stated. I assumed that the painters gave their work three coats of paint. I estimated that 5 gallons of paint would be used for the first coat, three for the second coat, and two for the third coat, which would have involved an expenditure of £10 for paint. If £10 be added to the labour charge that I have mentioned, the total will approximate my original figure. Whether the work cost £60 or £16, the expenditure was not justified, because private individuals are not permitted to purchase paint for the interior of a building. In such matters the Government should be the first to set an example to the rest of the community.

I am not ashamed of any statement that I have made. Take the expenditure of about £900 on the recarpeting of the Hotel Canberra. The Minister for the Interior said that the Government did not purchase the carpet. I do not care who bought it. The Minister for War Organization of Industry (Mr. Dedman) announced some time ago that clothing was to be rationed, and that vests were not to be worn by men, because wool was badly needed for other purposes. Is it consistent to waste hundreds of pounds in the purchase of a carpet, when clothes are rationed in order to conserve wool?

Mr Curtin - Prohibition is not against the purchase of goods already manufactured, but against the making of new articles.

Mr STACEY - I do not intend to be put off my argument. We have witnessed the greatest amount of bungling in the history of Australia. The people of Great Britain were notified on a certain date that they had 25 margarine tickets in their ration books, and that these would be available for use in the purchase of clothing; but the Minister for War Organization of Industry gave to the public six weeks' notice of the rationing proposals, and full advantage of the position was taken in the meantime by persons who had money to spend.

I fail to see why able-bodied members of Parliament should be conveyed in motor cars at midnight to their hotels, which are situated a third of a mile distant from Parliament House in one direction, and a quarter of a mile distant in the other. One Minister recently proceeded to Queensland in a government car. I understand that it was fitted with a producer-gas unit, but I point out that the people have been asked to conserve motor tyres in every way. Many people in important industries cannot buy tyres for their vehicles. To-day a government motor car was driven to the Hotel Kurrajong. I believe that a Minister was about to travel in the car, because luggage was placed in it. I have heard that producergas units are placed on some motor cars in order to hide the fact that .petrol is used in them. The particular car to which 1 ant referring was fitted with a producergas unit, but, when I placed my hand on it, it was as cold as Mount Franklin, and probably had not been lit for a week. The driver said that he would light it on the journey. I consider that to be an absolute disgrace. I ask the Government, when advocating an austerity campaign, to practise what it preaches. Every word uttered by me the other day was true.

Mr Frost - Everything that the honorable member has said this afternoon about Ministers is not true.

Mr STACEY - I claim that every word is true; and the honorable member knows that it is.

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