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Wednesday, 26 March 1941

Senator AYLETT (Tasmania) . - I agree with Senators Lamp and Herbert Hays that a deputation of Tasmanian s waited on the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Fadden) requesting increased defence expenditure in Tasmania, but it was not the first deputation that we have had on that subject. We have had deputation after deputation in the last two years, but we have received no more than sympathy. I hope that we receive something more tangible than sympathy as the result of the last deputation. I agree with the statement of the Minister for Supply and Development (Senator McBride) that in the initial stages of war it is necessary to make use of available facilities, but we are not now in the initial stages of war. We are well into the second year of war. Meanwhile the less populous States are languishing. Their skilled men are being enticed to the more favoured States. It is quite true that skilled workers could not be expected to stay in any one State if they were needed elsewhere, but there is nothing, to prevent the Government from starting on a small scale works in the less populous States which would enable them to retain their man-power. There is no need to expend all the defence money in the more highlydeveloped States and so starve the less populous States that a drift of population occurs. The time will soon -come when there will be insufficient workers in the last mentioned States to undertake defence work should annexes eventually be erected. It is quite true that the Government had first to utilize fully all existing factories, and machinery, but, in addition to doing so, it has expended millions of pounds on the construction of annexes for private firms, some of which could have been expended in the less populous States. When the war started we suggested to the Government that annexes be built at the Tasmanian railway workshops for the manufacture of arms and munitions. At first the suggestion was turned down, but after repeated representations had been made to the Government, consent was given for the construction of an annexe at the Launceston railway workshops. That annexe could have been built twelve or eighteen months ago, and could have been in full operation now. The expenditure involved is only about £14,000, whereas money expended on a factory in South Australia, now approaching completion, amounts to approximately £3,000,000. I repeat that, unless something is done, the drift of population to the more important States industrially will be such that, even if new annexes be established in the other States, insufficient labour will be available to operate them. I strongly support Senator Ashley's protest. Much better use could have been made of the States such as Tasmania, had there been a more equitable distribution of defence expenditure. Tasmania is quite capable of producing such military requirements as clothing and boots, but it has had nothing like its share of orders for these commodities. There are many manufacturing organizations in Tasmania which are quite prepared to accept defence contracts if the Contracts Board will only give them an opportunity to do so. The people of Tasmania will not allow this matter to be ignored. Several days ago I received a circular - no doubt other honorable senators received one also - from a big municipality in Tasmania, demanding that a firm stand be taken in support of a fair share of defence expenditure in Tasmania. The alternative is that support for the Government be withdrawn. I might point out that it is not my support that keeps the Go- vernment in office. Probably that circular is meant for honorable senators opposite. Representations of that nature make it perfectly plain that we in this chamber are not voicing merely our own views; we are speaking on behalf of the entire population of Tasmania. That we are entitled to protest in connexion with this matter is shown very clearly in an answer which I received to a question a few days ago. I asked what amount of money had been expended in Tasmania on munitions, &c, during the year 1939- 40, and what was the estimated expenditure in that State during the current year. The answer was that expenditure in 1939-40 had been nil, and that the total contemplated expenditure for 1940-41 was only £138,000. Even that small amount represented only contemplated expenditure, and the actual figure will probably not be so high.

I trust that this discussion will bear some fruit, and that a more equitable distribution of defence contracts amongst the States will eventuate. I trust also that the Government will immediately realize that we are no longer in the initial stages of the war, and will look upon Australia as a united nation, and not merely as one of two States - New South Wales and Victoria.

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