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Friday, 25 June 1915

Mr JOSEPH COOK (Parramatta) . - I hope the Government and honorable members opposite will not think that I am taking this step out of any party spirit. Notwithstanding what they may say, I assure them that nothing is further from my thoughts; but the statement made by the Assistant Minister just now in answer to a question only emphasizes the necessity of my taking the course that I am taking in order that we may get to some definite issue upon this most important matter. General statements that things are going to be .done " as soon as possible " are all very well. They may be very illuminating, but they are very unsatisfying. For instance, we should like to know from the Assistant Minister what the two proposed shifts are to consist of. Is it proposed that there shall be two shifts of eight hours? If so the total increase in working hours will be only four hours per day, since the men are already working twelve hours per day, and are doing so uncomplainingly.

Mr Fenton - They have promised two ten -hour shifts, and that is known to every one.

Mr JOSEPH COOK - It is not.

Mr Sampson - That is not the recommendation of the Department.

Mr JOSEPH COOK - It is not what the men propose, but what the Government intend to do.

Mr Fenton - The' men are to supply the guns.

Mr JOSEPH COOK - The honorable member will force me to read the statements of the men themselves if he interjects in this way. I do not wish to do so.

Mr Fenton - We are in touch with the men.

Mr SPEAKER - The honorable member for Maribyrnong must cease interjecting.

Mr JOSEPH COOK - Let the honorable member for Maribyrnong hold his tongue as to what the men say and what they offer. I shall be compelled to deal with this matter in some other form if I am not permitted to discuss it calmly and dispassionately. I do not wish to raise any party question, but I do wish to have the matter cleared up. Reference was made in the House a few minutes ago to Mr. Lloyd George. May I remind honorable members of the difference between his action and that of this Government. Whereas Mr. Lloyd George is trying to mobilize the workers at the other end of the world - endeavouring to induce them to put every ounce of effort into the production of munitions - here, in connexion with this matter of munitions, it is the Government who will not move, and the men who are trying to force them to do so. Here the position is completely reversed. It is the men who are protesting, on behalf of their confreres in the trenches, that the Government cannot be induced to take action and to institute a second shift for the manufacture of rifles at Lithgow.

I wish to come to the point without beating about the bush, notwithstanding all the statements that have been made by the Prime Minister and his Attorney-General during the last few days that the Opposition never make any suggestions - that, as the Prime Minister said, I think, we do nothing but " nag." I can only say that I shall keep on " nagging," regarding this matter of rifles until some satisfactory decision is arrived at, no matter what the Prime Minister or any one else may say. I know Lithgow; I know, perhaps, ys much as the honorable member for Maribyrnong does of the Small Arms Factory, and I make the statement deliberately that two shifts could have been put on there six or seven months ago.

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