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Wednesday, 10 October 1956

The CHAIRMAN - Order! The honorable member for Kingsford-Smith had better run back to his place.

Sir ERIC HARRISON (WENTWORTH, NEW SOUTH WALES) - It will one o» the most up-to-date filling factories in the world, and will include automatic filling machinery from Meissner of Germany and also of the British Department of Supply research establishment. We combedthe world in order to obtain the most up-to-date automatic filling machinery.. Recently the " Sydney Morning Herald " sent a reporter to report on the St. Mary's project because there had been criticism of it and that organization wanted to assure itself that things were running smoothly. It will be remembered' that there had been criticism of the number of houses that had been built at St. Mary'sto house the staff. The department, in the first instance, and later the AuditorGeneral, directed the attention of the contractors to the cost of those buildings. The construction of these houses forms part -of the complete scheme, so, if they have cost a little more at the beginning, what we lose on the swings we will pick up later on the roundabout. The fact that this plant will be completed within the scheduled time and for the estimated cost is an indication of the progress that is being made. The reporter who went to St. Mary's concluded his article, which Appeared in the " Sydney Morning Herald " of 9th September, by saying -

It seemed thai if we really need a new munitions filling factory at St. Mary's we are getting one in a hurry and the rapidity of its completion might make ils cost compare favourably with other big projects notwithstanding the £6,000-£8,500 staff cottages.

So, the reporter who went out to criticize remained to praise, and he was firmly convinced that we were going really well with the establishment of this factory. 1 have spoken about St. Mary's at great length in this chamber in the past, and I do not intend to say anything more about it now.

Because of the general criticism that has been levelled against the defence Estimates by Opposition members and by persons outside this chamber, the picture that has already been painted by the Minister for Defence (Sir Philip McBride) and the Ministers in charge of the various defence services would not be complete if I, as Minister for Defence Production, did not place before this committee and the country what has been achieved by the Department of Defence Production over the last five years. Therefore, I wish to set out the functions of the department and what it stands for, and also to deal with the various factories that come within the administration of the department, such as ordnance, aircraft, munitions, filling, explosives and the like. The main production functions of the department cover munitions, explosives, ordnance, aircraft and small arms, lt is also responsible for arranging production in industry generally in annexes and by major and general contractors.

The committee will realize that the functions of this department are many, and that the department itself has very, very wide ramifications indeed. The department has an employment figure of some 13,000 persons in four States of the Commonwealth - 11,000 in the government factories and 2,000 engaged on general administrative work, stores, &c. It recruits and trains its own apprentices and professional cadets, and thereby establishes a nucleus of highly skilled production executives capable of expansion and integration in any emergency. It controls assets with a replacement cost of more than £100,000,000. I ask the committee just to consider that particular matter for a moment, because this department is really big business. Last year it was responsible for production valued at £34,000,000, which together with the department's own votes accounts for approximately one-quarter of the total defence allocation. It operates twelve factories as well as ancillary services such as the flight test airfield at Avalon, central stores, drawing offices, maintenance units and synthetic ammonia plants. It produces equipment varying from clockwork fuse mechanisms to 3,600 horse-power marine diesel engines. If honorable members have ever studied the intricacies of the fuse systems and compared the fine tolerances involved with the tolerances associated with a 3,600 horse-power marine diesel engine, they will get some idea of the great range of skilled technical knowledge, technicians and skilled artisans that we have in our employ. We can produce articles from aircraft to munitions and we can produce and maintain ordnance varying from the infantryman's rifle to the biggest guns in use in the Royal Australian Navy.

The department co-operates with industry in production, and naturally we establish industrial annexes and provide industry with know-how so that-we can call upon industry and expand rapidly in case of crisis. Last year, we arranged for the manufacture of goods in industry to a value of £17,000,000. Let me now give the committee some idea of the typical production of the department in the last live years, because it is over that period that we have been subjected to criticism, and over that period that the Opposition and the press have stated that we have spent large sums of money but have got very little in return for that expenditure. Let us have a look at the production of munitions and explosives for a start.

We have produced approximately 100,000,000 rounds of small arms ammunition, more than 3,000.000 shell cases of various calibres, approximately 1,250,000 percussion, time, mechanical, and electronic fuses and primers - produced to the exceptional standards of accuracy and tolerance that I mentioned before. We have produced more than 100,000 3-in. rockets, manufactured or reconditioned for the Royal Australian Air Force and the Royal Australian Navy. We have produced almost 2,000,000 20-mm. cartridges, filled and packed. We have also produced 500,000 40-mm. cartridges, 34,000 4-in. cartridges, 28,000 4.5-in. cartridges and manufactured 6,000 25-pounder cartridges.

We have manufactured 78,000 bodies of hand grenades and assembled and filled them. We have manufactured special propellants for rockets and boosts made for the long-range weapons research establishment, including filling for more than 2,000 5-in. rockets. We have produced 200,000 aircraft engine starting cartridges and approximately 1,250,000 cartridges for use with 3-in. rockets. We have made nearly 200,000 rounds of military pyrotechnic and signal stores of various types. Apart from rockets and cordite, we have produced approximately 850 tons of cordite propellant, and more than 2,800 short tons of cannon and rifle powder for the Australian services and Nato - I remind honorable members that we are required to supply certain items to Nato.

May I now turn to aircraft, because when we take into consideration that we have the De Haviland factory and the establishments of the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation Proprietary Limited, which require contractual obligations to be carried out by us with capital equipment and materials supplied by us. it will give an indication thai the Department of Defence Production comes- into the picture of these other aircraft establishments outside the Government aircraft factories in a very big way. Bearing all that in mind, I inform honorable members that we have, in this period, produced twelve Lincoln four-engine heavy bombers at the Government aircraft factory, 52 Vampire jet fighters at De Haviland Aircraft Company Proprietary Limited, 41 Vampire jet trainers at the same company, 29 Winjeel propellor trainers at the

Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation Proprietary Limited. Ninety-one radiocontrolled target aircraft have been designed and produced by the Government aircraft factory, and 34 Canberra jet bombers turned out at the same establishment. Forty-four Sabre jet fighters have been delivered by the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation Proprietary Limited to the Royal Australian Air Force. There are fourteen Sabre jets at present at Avalon, and two at the factory of the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation Proprietary Limited ready to go to Avalon. Those at Avalon are awaiting test flights so that it may be said that there are fourteen at Avalon and two with the CommonwealthAircraft Corporation Proprietary Limited, making a total of 60 Sabre jet aircraft so far produced.

We have also produced 70 Nene jet engines for the Vampire fighters, and 78 Avon jet engines for the Canberra bombers and for fighters. These have been produced by the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation Proprietary Limited. In the fiveyear period we have overhauled and serviced a total of 742 airframes, 2,088 engines and 155,000 ancillary aircraft equipment units. Also in that five-year period we have delivered to the services 123,100 different items of aircraft spare parts, as they have been required.

Now I shall turn to ordnance, because we heard the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey) make some observations about that matter last night. .We have produced ten 4.5-in. naval gun mountings on revolving platforms, and there are nine under construction. These units weigh approximately 80 tons each, so the committee will have some idea of the extraordinary size of the undertakings of our ordnance factories. There are 170 1 20-mm. recoilless anti-tank guns in the course of production, and initial deliveries have commenced. Four main gearing sets for anti-submarine frigates and destroyers have been completed, and seven more are under construction A gear case weighs about 40 tons. Fourteen 40-mm. naval anti-aircraft guns with predictors have been completed, and five are in the course of production. Five 21 -in. torpedo tubes and mountings have been completed and two are under cons" ruction, as well as other secret types of naval armaments. We have converted 121 40-mm. naval anti-aircraft guns from manual operation to power operation. Ordnance equipment for 25-lb. and 3.7-in. guns has been repaired in industry to a value of £122,500.

Let me turn to small arms. The honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Luchetti) will be interested in the figures showing the activities of the Small Arms Factory at Lithgow. In recent years, the factory has been mainly occupied with the repair and reconditioning of small arms weapons rather than with new production. As the committee knows, the factory is tooling up for production of the FN rifle. Recent operations include the repair and conditioning of 102,000 .303-in. rifles, 32,220 light machine guns and sub-machine guns of various types, 23,250 pistols and 60,000 bayonets and scabbards, as well as antitank infantry weapons, mortars and spare parts for weapons.

In addition, we have gone in for what can be called miscellaneous production. .If is interesting to note that the production of Doxford-type marine engines has been developed for the first time in Australia at the marine engine works at Port Melbourne. Seven of these engines, each of which develops over 3,000 horse-power and weighs 270 tons, have been completed for the Australian Shipbuilding Board, for installation in bulk cargo carriers, and four more are in the course of production. Over 1 ,250,000 ball bearings have been produced at Echuca in the last five years. At the department's synthetic ammonia plants, reserve capacity has been occupied in producing 220,000 tons of ammonium sulphate for fertilizers - representing approximately 40 per cent, of Australian production; over 18.000 tons of methanol for the plastics industry - the total Australian production; and over 1 1 .000 tons of ammonium nitrate for both fertilizers and civil explosives. Approximately 2,000 spherical naval buoys and 2,500 marine markers have been produced in industry through the department. Boom defence equipment, including anti-submarine and anti-torpedo nets, to the value of £160 000 has been produced in industry. Over 1,200 mobile transceivers have been made in industry for the Army, as well as approximately 500 walkie-talkie sets for personal use in the field. Pontoons have been repaired in industry to the value of £93,000.

In addition to these examples, which are by no means exhaustive, the department has consistently followed a policy of developing or adding to production . capacity with a view to meeting the requirements of the nation in an emergency, lt recognizes thai in such an emergency we should need to rely on the developing structure of Australian secondary industry. Therefore, it places developmental orders and works in close harmony with industry advisory committees. Almost one-half of the £34,000,000 worth of production arranged by the department in 1955-56 was undertaken in industry - mainly the aircraft industry.

Let me turn to capital facilities. As I have mentioned previously, there have been developments also in the establishment of such facilities. During the period from 1951 to 1955 moneys available to the department for new capital expenditure averaged approximately £2,800,000 a year With those financial resources, new facilities have been developed. They include a new test airfield at Avalon. This is essential for the testing of jet aircraft. The largest jet aircraft at present in production can take off from and land at Avalon airfield. We have established Avon engine production capacity in Australia. We have established a plant for the production ot picrite, the new flashless propellant that is so . necessary in modern warfare. Other new facilities include a plant for the manufacture of RDX, a powerful high explosive entirely new to conventional warfare; a specialized plant for tool room use: production capacity for new type fuses; and additions and modifications to existing government munitions and aircraft establishments.

It might be as well if I told the committee that the department, in addition to supplying the wants of the Australian services, has been seeking orders from overseas. We are in consultation with New Zealand in connexion with aircraft, and we are arranging to sell to Sweden a number of Jindiviks. The Jindivik, as honorable members know, is a pilotless aircraft - almost a guided missile. Earlier this year, a delegation from the Royal Swedish Air Board visited Australia and examined the Jindivik then in production at the government aircraft factories, with a view to purchase. The department has now received a telecablegram from its London representative to the effect that he, in turn, has received a telegram from the Royal Swedish Air Board stating that the Swedes are prepared to order ten Jindiviks, and that a detailed letter will follow. Major Silven, who was a member of the Swedish mission to Australia, and who is now in London, has informed the departmental representative there that the purchase order, with a detailed letter, will be issued before 1 6th October. Major Silven has also informed the departmental representative that a public announcement has been made in Sweden that the Swedish Government is proposing to order Australian Jindiviks. The total value of the order, including ground equipment, supply and technical data, camera pods, &c, is approximately £500,000, of which the British content is approximately £190,000. This is a magnificent tribute to the design engineers at the government aircraft factories, as well as to the production team which has been responsible for the manufacture of the aircraft and the installation of complex guidance equipment.

From time to time, members of the Opposition seek a reduction of the votes for the defence departments. They say that the Government is spending too much money on defence and that we are not getting value for our money. They urge that defence expenditure be reduced. But, apparently, they fail to realize that if the vote for a service department is reduced, that department will reduce the number of orders that it places with government defence factories, with the result that some of the men employed in those factories will be dismissed, because there is no work available for them. When that happens, there is a tremendous howl from the members of the Opposition. They say that we must keep the men in employment, but they seek to deny to us the money necessary to do so. They cannot have it both ways. If they want us to reduce expenditure on defence, they must accept the consequences of such a reduction. Therefore, I want to say something about employment. Total employment in government defence factories has risen from 8,000 persons between 1946 and 1949, to 11,000 persons now. That is a very high peace-time employment figure for such factories. However, the work load on munitions and aircraft factories is of a cyclical nature. The manufacture of the Canberra bomber, the 4.5-in.. twin mountings, the S.T.A.A.G. mountingsand the torpedo tube mountings for destroyers, the modification of Lincoln: aircraft, the servicing of Merlin engines, the manufacture of .303 rifles, are typical manufacturing projects coming to an endIn some instances replacement projects-' have been selected, for example the F.N.. rifle. In other cases, for example the new types of naval ordnance, the replacement project is, for the time being, somewhat uncertain. The so-called sophisticated weapon* - guided weapons - are in advanced experimental and design stages but, in the main; they are not ready for operational use. The Government and the services are exercising caution before embarking on new production programmes in the ordnance and aircraft factories. Consequently, there must be some immediate retrenchment in the various government munitions and aircraft establishments. This is a period of consolidation. The work force in the Government defence production establishments will, therefore, for the time being, be cut back roughly to the level that obtained when the Government took office. The first batch of notices of dismissals will be given next Friday. I want only to say, in conclusion, that these men who will be given their notices of dismissal are not necessarily going to remain our of employment. As the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Harold Holt) has pointed out, this isa transfer of labour from government munitions factories to private industry, which wants these men. We have already had recently, in our ordnance factories, cases of approximately 80 men who have handed in. their resignations and obtained new jobs.

Mr Chambers - How many will be dismissed?

Sir ERIC HARRISON (WENTWORTH, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I cannot give the honorable gentleman the actual figure at present, because we are still working or> it, but I have given an approximate figure snowing an eventual decrease in employment from 11,000, to 8,000. We will eventually bring the figure back, unless something very unforeseen happens, to approximately the figure when we took office, but that will be over a period.

Dr Evatt - Will the figure go below 8,000?

Sir ERIC HARRISON (WENTWORTH, NEW SOUTH WALES) - No, it will not go below 8,000, and the reduction will be spread over a period of years, and will not be made immediately. I want to make it perfectly clear to the committee that unless we can get orders, which presupposes that unless money is available to the services, we cannot continue to keep this extraordinarily large peace-time work force in operation. The Government's term of office has been an exceptional period in which we have had to remedy all the deficiencies and shortages with which we were faced as a result of the Labour Government's neglect during its period of office. We had to bring the government factories back to a productive level, and bring back the services to a proper equipment standard, because Labour had failed to do the job when it was in power. That fact necessitated our stepping up our work force to the extent to which we did step it up. Now we have established the desired position and we have given the services the equipment they want. They have their reserves, and we are now in a . position in which we can consolidate that which we have started. I think that the committee will certainly come to the conclusion, if it looks at these figures and digests the facts about the great work done, the skilled work done, that the Department of Defence Production has given a £l's value for every £1 spent, and has honorably discharged the responsibility placed on it, and done its duty, during the whole term of office of this Government.

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