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Wednesday, 5 May 1915

Mr MASSY-GREENE (RICHMOND, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The other took a good deal longer.

Mr JOSEPH COOK - Several years. But this is only the addition of another section to fit into the old plan; yet Mr. Wright says it will take from twelve to eighteen months, and cost £100,000. I am not so sure that in the circumstances there is all the urgency that has been alleged. I hope the war is not going to last another eighteen months. Altogether, I feel that the matter is going very properly to a committee of inquiry, who, if they do their duty, will view the whole plant, and review the totality of its functions from the time it was first attempted.

Mr Mcwilliams - They will be able to get information that no Minister has been able to get.

Mr JOSEPH COOK - I am inclined to think that that is so. I do not see how else they are to make their inquiry thorough, and inform the House intelligently of the result. I am glad the Government are sending the matter to an inquiry in this particular way, and hope that when the Committee have made it they will he able to inform the House on all the points raised so pertinaciously by the honorable member for Eden-Monaro, and on many others besides.

I observe that the final minute on the subject by Senator Pearce is dated 1st April. I hope it is a wise and intelligent proposition. I understand that the site is safe and secure, and adjacent to many natural advantages. Even there I am not quite sure that all expectations have been realized. One of the strong reasons for putting the site at Lithgow was that we should be able to manufacture our own steel suitable for rifle-making, hut I have not heard that any steel of the kind has been manufactured at the local works, nor, so far as I can ascertain, is it likely to be for some time to come. There is not sufficient demand here to compensate the proprietors of steel works for making the particular kind of steel required. It is too late to attempt to uproot the plant; it is there, and the duty is laid on this or any other Government that may happen to be in power to make whatever additions are necessary to equip it and make it an up-to-date rifleproducing factory that will enable Australia to be self-supporting in every respect relating to preparation for war. I shall raise no objection to the motion, and congratulate the Government on sending the question on for full and complete inquiry, which I hope will result in a full and intelligent report to the House, giving us an infinitely better understanding of the works at Lithgow, and perhaps a greater degree of satisfaction with them, than I, at any rate, have at present.

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