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Wednesday, 26 March 1941

Senator McBRIDE (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) (Minister for Supply and Development) . - The Senate has been treated to a dissertation by Senator Ashley in which he set out first to show that a malignant factor was operating against New South Wales in the allocation of army contracts, but later he diverted his remarks to a general criticism of the Commonwealth Contracts Board. I direct the attention of the Senate to the actual situation relating to munitions production at the outbreak of the war. The production of munitions in Australia was then confined to four government factories, three being in Victoria and one in New South Wales. Consequently it was the Government's duty to obtain munitions in the most expeditious manner, and obviously the facilities existing had to be used to capacity and every means adopted to expand those facilities regardless of the State or States in which they were situated. It is not surprising that the Government, in its endeavour to meet the requirements of our forces in Australia and overseas, utilized the existing facilities and the opportunities offering for their extension. Consequently, I have no apology to offer for the Government making full use of the facilities existing in two States in the early stage of the war and, by doing so, possibly overlooking the claims of some of the other States. I can assure honorable senators that before the end of the war the Government will be utilizing facilities, not only in Victoria and New South Wales, but also those that can be provided in the other States. We have shown evidence of our desire, as far as our capacity permits, to distribute the work throughout all the States. It is obvious that we must use all the facilities we have at hand, and that is being done. So far as we have the machines, tools, jigs and skilled personnel, a definite distribution will be made of the government factories and annexes and privatelyowned factories in every State.

Senator Herbert Hays - Meanwhile, the Government is withdrawing skilled workmen from the States in which factories have notbeen established.

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