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Thursday, 22 August 1912

Senator O'KEEFE (Tasmania) . - I feel that I cannot give a silent vote, because of some remarks made here to-night which involve the State I represent. The first consideration which will influence my vote is : which is the most suitable site in Australia for this factory to be run under Federal Socialism? I belong to a party whose members are pledged to a principle which we believe to be right, and that is that in many channels of industry the municipality or the State or the Commonwealth can do better work for the taxpayers than can private enterprise. Rightly or wrongly, I hold that view. Here is an instance in which the Commonwealth has entered into the channels of industry. I do not want to see anything placed in the way of these Woollen Mills becoming the greatest success which it is possible to make them. When I listened to some remarks of Senator Millen to-night I fancied I could hear him addressing some of the large audiences which he will address in New South Wales prior to the next election, and quoting the Commonwealth Woollen Mills as one of the striking instances in which Commonwealth Socialism has failed.

Senator Millen - And you will be quoting the failure of the Federal Territory.

Senator O'KEEFE - I am quite satisfied that I shall be able to quote the Federal Territory as an instance of success and not failure. I can quite understand the reason of Senator Givens for moving the amendment, and of Senator Rae for supporting him. I am satisfied that they believe that it would be a splendid thing to establish all Commonwealth factories in the Federal Territory, but there are limits to be observed. If I could bring myself to believe for a moment that these Woollen Mills would be a success if established in the Federal Territory, I* should vote for the amendment. Not because I think it might upset the whole arrangement, and incidentally give Tasmania a chance again, but because they would be established within the Federal Territory. I was vain enough to hope, when Mr. Smail was imported from England and sent to the different States, that he would, if he could not recommend the Federal Territory for the establishment of the Woollen Mills, recommend Tasmania. I hoped that my State would come first after the Federal Territory. But, after I* had carefully digested his report some weeks ago, I had not the temerity to place my lay opinion against that of an expert who came here with splendid recommendations. What reason could he possibly have for recommending Geelong before the Federal Territory, or any other supposed place, unless he actually believed, without any bias; that it was the best place for the purpose? I must believe that this expert, after having carefully considered all the factors which go to make for the success or the failure of woollen mills, came to the honest conclusion that Geelong was the most suitable place in which to establish them. That being so, I, as a representative of Tasmania, have, rather reluctantly, to agree with Mr. Smail that Geelong takes first place, even before any of the places in that State. That is the reason why I intend to vote in favour of Geelong. At the same time, I trust that it will not be very many years before these disabilities which are stressed so strongly by Mr. Smail in his report, and which place the Federal Territory outside the range of choice, will be removed.

Senator Sayers - Never.

Senator O'KEEFE - I am so anxious to see all Commonwealth industries become a success, in spite of the frequently heard platform objections of our opponents, that it doesnot trouble me very much whether they have to be established in Federal Territory or in any corner of Australia. What troubles me chiefly is where will these industries, when established, become the greatest success.

Senator Sayers - In Federal Territory, of course.

Senator O'KEEFE - We can quite understand the honorable senator's view on this proposal. It has been recommended by the Government, and, consequently, he must oppose it.

Senator Millen - It is proposed by the Government, and, consequently, you support it.

Senator O'KEEFE -Senator Sayers does not believe in Commonwealth-owned establishments - in Commonwealth enterprise as against State enterprise.

Senator SAYERS (QUEENSLAND) - How do you know?

Senator O'KEEFE - I do not wish to do the honorable senator an injustice.

Senator SAYERS (QUEENSLAND) - You have never heard me say so.

Senator O'KEEFE - The honorable senator has always been associated here with a party which, on every platform, has condemned Commonwealth or State or municipal enterprise.

Senator Sayers - But we have the Federal Territory now.

Senator O'KEEFE - I think I am right' in saying that the honorable senator believes that private enterprise would be preferable to Commonwealth enterprise as regards the establishment of these Woollen Mills, and, that being so, I do not think that he can claim to be as anxious for their success as I am.

Senator Sayers - That is not the question with which we are dealing to-night.

Senator O'KEEFE - I accept Mr. Smail as an expert without bias. What possible bias could he have in recommending Geelong, or any other place? He came here an entire stranger, and was engaged for a specific purpose. He was instructed by the Government that, if it were possible to make a success of these mills in Federal Territory, they desired that they should be established there. In the face of those instructions, Mr. Smail submitted his 'report, in which he recommended the selection of a site at Geelong. That is the reason why I intend to support the Government proposal. I believe that Mr. Smail is 'best qualified to judge of the merits of the different sites, and because I am strongly of opinion that the establishment of the mills at Geelong will give them a better chance of success than would their establishment elsewhere, 1 shall vote for the item as it stands.

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