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Friday, 18 September 1942

Mr Rosevear r asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -

1.   What are the names and ages of the male employees of the Allied Works Council in Sydney, including the executive officers?

2.   What were their previous occupations?

3.   How many are of military age and what were the reasons for exemption from military service ?

4.   How many would be normally eligible for call-up on allied works if not employed in the offices ?

Mr Lazzarini - The answers to the honorable member's questions are as follows : -

1.   There are approximately 800 male employees of the Allied Works Council in Sydney, including the executive officers. 2, 3 and 4. In view of the work involved, it is not practicable to furnish the information asked for. If the honorable member will furnish the names of the individuals in whom he is interested to the Minister for the Interior, arrangements will be made to supply him with such information as is available.

Mr CURTIN (FREMANTLE, WESTERN AUSTRALIA) s. - On the 9th September, 1942, the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) asked me a question, without notice, and later, on the motion for the adjournment of the House, made statements concerning the operations of the Allied Works Council. The Minister for the Interior has had investigations made into the various matters brought forward by the honorable member and has furnished the following report: -

The graving dock is a job which comes entirely under the control of the Allied Works Council. It can therefore scarcely be accused of " interfering" with its own job. The decision to take certain men away was made by the service chiefs, who instructed the Allied Works Council that a. number of men were required for curtain works which were regarded as of even higher priority than the graving dock. The service chiefs indicated that, if necessary, to secure the numbers required, men should be taken off the graving dock. Naturally, some interference with the work of the dock occurred as a result. Work was not, however, stopped in any section, and action to restore the former position as promptly as possible was taken immediately.

Regarding the statement that atax bookkeeping system was endangering government funds and that vouchers entitling wives of Civil Constructional Corps members to £6 a fortnight were being distributed to dependants of persons who were not members of the Civil Constructional Corps, the fact is that the " voucher " is a printed form which is sent to the wife of a. member of the Civil Constructional Corps. It is intended that she should sign the form herself, certifying that she is the person to whom, in the event of an allotment being made, the money should be addressed. The form is not an order to receive money, but simply one to enable the Allied Works Council to obtain a specimen signature of the allottee, thus protecting- Commonwealth funds. The actual payment of an allotment is made by cheque and the cheque form is quite unmistakably a cheque and nothing else. It could not be confused with a "voucher".

Concerning the statement that men called up would not be capable of standing up to hard work under the conditions of a summer in North Australia, particular care has been taken, in sending men to Queensland, to send only those men who have regularly been engaged on work of a nature similar to that on which they will be employed when they go north. The council has not sent any men who have been called up from other occupations, and it is a fair assumption that men who, over a long period, have been engaged either as plant operators or labourers without physical ill effects becoming apparent, should be considered, at sucha critical time as the present, tobe capable of continuing to perform this work, even in the north, for a period of three months. In all cases where a man has felt that his health is such as to unfit him for work under Queensland conditions it has been open to him to appeal on medical grounds against transfer. In all cases where the man has been working close enough to Sydney to make it possible, he has been examined by the two doctors who are permanently attached to the New South Wales head office of the corps, and, if in their opinion, he has not been medically fit, then his appeal has been granted. In other cases, where the man has been stationed at a spot too remote from Sydney to make it possible for him to call at the office for medical examination, the council has accepted the certificate of a private practitioner. It is a fact that a great number of men have been exempted from transfer on medical grounds.

Regarding the accusation that men are sent away at 48 hours' notice, this is due to urgency. Jobs cannotbe commenced quickly and at the same time men be given extended notice to work. In the majority of cases, the men have been given a full week's notice. Where they have been working at a considerable distance from their homes, they have been allowed, when they have desired it, one week's leave of absence, for two days of which they have received full pay. The purpose of this has been to allow them a reasonable time in which to make any domestic arrangements which might be necessary. In somecases, the very urgency of the job and difficulties associated with getting men in particular skilled categories has made it impossible to allow the full period of notice which might be considered desirable. These cases, however, are in a decided minority.

It is not correct that men called up for service in the Civil Constructional Corps have no right of appeal, and that excessive hardship is being imposed by the call-up. Long before any complaint was made the machinery had been established which permitted appeals right through to a special magistrate, and special magistrates had heard hundreds of cases in New South Wales and Victoria. Another special magistrate was later appointed for Queensland, too. Actually only50 per cent, of the men called up are found to be suitable for enrolment.

Mr Blackburn (BOURKE, VICTORIA) asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -

1.   To what extent are powers of price-fixing delegated by his department to State and local authorities'?

2.   What is the reason for the present high prices of fruit and vegetables?

Mr Beasley y. - The answers to the honorable member's questions are as follows : -

1.   The control of prices is administered jointly by the Commonwealth and the States. Deputy Prices Commissioners are appointed by the Commonwealth on the recommendation of the State governments and the Prices Commissioner has made full use of the facilities offered by State authorities controlling prices before the war. In some instances, such as milk boards and State authorities controlling gas prices, no change has been made in prewar practice except that the authorities concerned work in collaboration with the Prices Commissioner. In other cases, such as the Wheat Products Stabilization Committee, determinations are made by the Prices Commissioner after report by the State authority concerned. No delegations of authority have been given to local authorities and all prices fixed by local authorities are now subject to control under the National Security (Prices) Regulations.

2.   Adverse seasonal conditions during the early part of the year, increased demand for vegetables on account of higher spending power of the civil population, a new and heavy demand for vegetables for processing to meet the needs of the armed forces and interruptions to transport interfering with supplies are the principal reasons for higher prices for fruit and vegetables than normally obtain at this time ofthe year.

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