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Wednesday, 26 March 1941

Senator COLLETT (Western Australia) (Minister administering War Service Homes) . : - So far as the promotion of the interests of Western Australia is concerned, there is no difference between the views of Senators on the Government side and those of members of the Opposition. One statement made to-day was that hundreds of clothing workers are walking the streets of Perth unemployed. Only recently I spoke to the manager of the largest clothing manufacturing company in Western Australia, who informed, me that he could not get all of the workers he needed. On the other hand, the head of a smaller firm said that he had recently put off about twenty employees because he had no work for them to do. Within the last few days I have been informed that this man has received a contract from the Munitions Department for the manufacture of articles to the number of some tens of thousands. As to the possibility of Western Australia making a contribution to munitions production, there is a board of area management, and, as the Minister for Munitions (Senator McBride) has said, he has been in conversation with the chairman of the board within the last fourteen days in Melbourne. I also have been in conference with that official. Purchases made by the Contracts Board in "Western Australia up till recently amounted to just under £1,000,000. At the present time the Government railway workshops in that State are engaged in the production of articles to the value of over £250,000, and three or four firms have orders running into tens of thousands of pounds. Twelve months ago the representative of one small firm came to me for advice as to conditions of tender, wondering whether his firm could undertake certain work. To-day that concern is carrying out orders, amounting in value to £7,000, for the manufacture of a small article, and the total value of the work it has undertaken runs into £15,000 or £20,000. The Government, and particularly the Minister for Munitions, is not satisfied at present with the volume of work being done by the less-populous States. We are anxious to develop to the maximum Australia's capacity to contribute to the winning of the war by an increased production of munitions, and such States will, in due course, get their share of this work. It is, however, necessary to arrange for a supply of raw materials, skilled artisans, and the proper organization of the factories.

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