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Friday, 21 May 1915

Mr PIGOTT (Calare) .- I do not propose to occupy the time of the Com- mittee at any great length this afternoon, but I must express the pleasure which the remarks just made by the honorable member for Cook have afforded me. 1 do not think that we quite realize our responsibilities to the Empire. The British Government, in my opinion, are prepared to receive as many troops as we can send; aud, if the Minister of Defence would advise them that we have another 10,000 or 20,000 troops prepared to go to the front, I am sure that their services would be gladly accepted. We read only two days ago of the statement made in the British Parliament by Lord Kitchener that he is desirous of obtaining another 300,000 troops. In view of that statement, I think we in Australia should loyally respond to the Empire's call and fill up the breach. I listened also with great interest to the remarks made last night by the honorable member for Macquarie in reference to the Small Arms Factory. He is naturally anxious that it should succeed, and 1, as the representative of a neighbouring electorate, sympathize with him in that desire.

Mr Carr - The honorable member is one of my constituents.

Mr PIGOTT - T am; and am very glad to see the honorable member doing his duty in this matter. The original cost of the Small Arms Factory was £300,000, and, taking the interest on that outlay at 4 per cent., we find that we are paying practically a rental of £12,000 a year for the factory.

Mr Fenton - The honorable member's figures are too high.

Mr PIGOTT - I have taken them from a statement made in this House by the ex-Prime Minister. I understand, although I am not quite sure of my figures, that the output of rifles from the Small Arms Factory is about 12,000 a year, so that we are paying, in the way of interest on machinery and plant, £1 per rifle per annum. If we employed three shifts at the factory, the output would be 36,000 per year, bringing down the interest charges on premises, machinery, anc* so forth, to 6s. 8d. per rifle, or one-third of the amount at present being paid. I have heard some unpleasant rumours regarding" the factory. There is a movement on foot to remove it to Canberra. I cannot understand why, when one Government has seen fit to expend £300,000 in erecting the factory at Lithgow, another Administration should be prepared to uproot this valuable institution and plant it somewhere else.

Mr J H Catts - The proposal is to build another.

Mr PIGOTT - The situation of the factory is convenient to Sydney. It has coal supplies close at hand, and is near to the railway station. There is every convenience, and there is no reason why it should not be carried on in its present situation.

Mr Watt - What constituency is it in?

Mr PIGOTT - It is situated in the constituency of the honorable member for Macquarie, where I live. There is every convenience, and there is no reason why the factory should not be carried on at Lithgow. We should make up our minds now to manufacture the ammunition we need. Australia is separated by 12,000 miles of water from the Old Country. Suppose that things had gone against us in the war, and that we had been left to our own resources. Would not every honorable member say that the Australian Parliament should provide at once some means by which ammunition could be manufactured here quickly?

Mr Fenton - What class of ammunition - big gun?

Mr PIGOTT - All sorts of ammunition.

Mr Fenton - We are manufacturing all the ammunition for the small arms, and supplying parts of the British Dominions. We are doing it very well.

Mr PIGOTT - All the same, some of my constituents complain that they are not supplied with rifles and cartridges. Rifle clubs have been formed all over my electorate. The members of two or three clubs were informed that they could not get the rifles, and were, at the same time, told to drill. As a matter of fact, one man suggested that the men should use broom handles. Apart from that, however, let us consider the state of unemployment in this country. Walking out of Collins-street the other day towards a park I noticed a crowd of men standing there. I asked a gentleman who they were, and he said that they were the unemployed. I think that we could do something for the men, and at the same time a great deal for the Empire, by establishing a factory to manufacture ammunition, and also explosives for mines and various callings. It was only the other day that I read in a newspaper that Canada had entered into a contract to supply the War Office at Home with ammunition to the value of £14,000,000. What Canada can do, surely Australia can do ! I have also noticed that, so far, the United- States of America have supplied the Old Country with £100,000,000 worth of ammunition. One of the reasons for the present situation in Australia is, as the honorable member for Hunter pointed out, .that we have no testing plant. If any persons go in for the manufacture of ammunition, it has to be sent to England and tested there before it can be used here. Many of the miners in the electorate of Hunter are denied employment, while many cannot work for such high remunerative wages as otherwise they would be able to do. I would like the Minister to inform the country day by day, or week by week, where the Expeditionary Forces are.

Mr Fenton - Oh !

Mr PIGOTT - I do not know that it is an unreasonable request, considering that we have 50,000 or 60,000 troops abroad.

Mr MASSY-GREENE (RICHMOND, NEW SOUTH WALES) - That is a remark which should be censored. I have a great interest in the Forces, but, all the same, I do not think that that information should be published.

Mr PIGOTT - I am informed that the Light Horse regiments are in Egypt.

Mr West - I am informed that they are of no use there.

Mr PIGOTT - At all events, they are in Egypt. Numbers of my constituents are asking me where their sons are, and I get very indefinite replies from the Minister.

Mr Fenton - They will have to wait.

Mr PIGOTT - Now and again some information is published. The other day I saw n. letter in which it was stated that Colonel Ryrie had sent to his wife a cablegram saying that they were all happy and doing well in Egypt. If officers can send messages to their friends advising them where they are, and there is no censoring, there is no reason why the Minister should not tell the House and the country exactly where the various regiments are. Does my honorable friend opposite mean to say that the Turks do not know that the Light Horse regiments are stationed in Egypt? Yesterday, the honorable members for Ballarat and Fre mantle complained of the lax. way in which promotions are made, and demanded, above all things, that the one consideration should be efficiency. They urged that the results of competitive examinations should decide whether men ought to be promoted or not. I happen to be on very friendly terms with an Area Officer, and he has confirmed what they said here. Only a few moments ago I spoke to this gentleman on the telephone, and he told me that there is a great deal of truth in the assertions made in the House last night.

Mr Watt - What right had he to say that to you ? He ought to be court martialled, for it is rather a serious thing for him to do.

Mr PIGOTT - I, as the representative of an electorate, have the right to ventilate these grievances in the House. I was very pleased indeed to see those two honorable members so exacting with their own Government as to demand that efficiency should be the rule for promotion in the Defence Department. I hope that they will remember their statements of last night, and apply the rule to all the Departments. We do not want any preference to unionists; we want efficiency every time. Efficiency should be the guiding principle. It is one which is observed right through the Empire.

Mr McGrath - The words "efficiency" and "unionist" are synonymous.

Mr PIGOTT - I was born in India, and associated a great deal with members of its Civil Service. When I went to school in England, I noticed that examinations were always set for the Ceylon and Indian Civil Service, and that no person was allowed to enter the Service unless he had passed them. He was tested as to physique and ability. I think we might well apply those tests in our own Civil Service, and only grant promotion where it is deserved by the proof of efficiency, eliminating every other consideration.

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