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Friday, 18 November 1938

Mr SPEAKER - Order ! The honorable gentleman is not asking a question, he is making a statement.

Mr Street - That is incorrect.

Mr ROSEVEAR - I did not ask the Minister for Defence the question.

Mr SPEAKER - Any Minister may answer a question.

Mr Lyons - The honorable member made an incorrect assumption in respect of the Defence Department.

Mr STREET -It is incorrect to say that the Defence Department make's contracts which permit non-union labour to be employed. The particular firm the honorable member has in mind is engaged in the manufacture of military hats. I have discussed this subject with the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway), and I am satisfied that a course is open for the union to take if it feels that any injustice is being done. Personally, I do not think any injustice is being done. In any case the union may cite the firm concerned as the respondent in an action, but it seems reluctant to do so. I have been approached by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports on this subject and have arranged to meet the secretary of the union, Mr. Devereaux, at the earliest possible date to discuss the matter. The general observation that the Defence Department lets contracts without providing that award rates shall be paid is entirely without foundation.

Mr.WARD. - Is the Prime Minister aware that similar assurances to those referred to by him were given by private firms engaged in the manufacture of armaments and munitions) in Great Britain-

Mr SPEAKER - The honorable member is obviously basing his question upon a reply given to a previous question. His use of the words " similar assurance " clearly indicates this.

Mr.WARD. - I ask the Prime Minister whether he is aware that an assurance was given by those engaged in the manufacture of munitions and armaments in Great Britain, similar to that given by firms likely to be engaged in such undertakings in Australia, and yet during the recent emergency in Great Britain the scandalous incident occurred of certain firms increasing the price of sandbags by 300 per cent.?

Mr SPEAKER - Order ! Obviously the honorable member's question is based on a reply given to a previous question.

That is not in order, and to permit such a practice would allow a debate to develop during question time.

Mr WARD - I ask the Prime Minister whether in view of the unsatisfactory state of affairs which arose in Great Britain consequent upon the noncompliance of private firms engaged in the manufacture of munitions and armaments with an assurance-

Mr SPEAKER - I cannot allow the question. Obviously it is based upon a reply previously given.

Mr ROSEVEAR - Is the Minister for Defence aware that a Melbourne firm which secured a contract for the manufacture of military hats will not allow trade union officials on its premises? Is he also aware that in a recent labour publication in Victoria the statement was made by officials of the Pelt Hatters Union that when the official of the Defence Department was about to visit the factory in question boys were taken from machines and men put on them, and that after the official left the factory the boys were put back on the machines and the men taken off?

Mr SPEAKER - The honorable member's question is not in order: first, because it is not in order to state facts in asking a question except so far as may be necessary to explain the question - secondly, because the honorable member is clearly making an imputation that something improper is being done. I ask the honorable gentleman to pay attention to the rules governing the asking of questions.

Mr ROSEVEAR - I wish to make a personal explanation. The firm to. which I have referred signed a contract in which certain things were guaranteed-

Mr SPEAKER - It does not appear to me that the honorable member is making a personal explanation. Rather is he suggesting that certain things are not being done. Clearly the purpose of the honorable member's question is to direct the attention of the Minister to certain things and not to obtain information !

Mr WARD - Will the Prime Minister inform me whether, when he sought the co-operation of the trade unions in connexion with the defence programme of the Government, he intimated that he proposed to use such powers as the Commonwealth Government has, and also to seek the co-operation of the State governments, to prevent the eviction from their homes of unemployed trade unionists, and also whether he undertook that no unemployed persons or their dependants would he allowed to go without the necessaries . of life?

Mr LYONS - The appeal I made through the Australasian Council of Trade Unions to the trade unions for their cooperation in connexion with the Government's Defence programme had no relation whatever to the questions asked by the honorable member.

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