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Friday, 4 October 1918
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Mr KELLY (Wentworth) .- The House will have considerable sympathy with the honorable member for New England (Lt. -Colonel Abbott). I can see no reason whatever why every phase of this movement should not be made completely open to the public. I should like the public of Australia to know by means of a Ministerial statement in this House how the scheme originated - who has been behind it; who has suggested it; what purpose it is to serve, and by what policy it is to be. governed. The honorable member has taken a very right action in thus seeking in this House to protect his own constituents.

Mr Considine - We want this information in regard to not only tin, but the base-metal business generally.

Mr KELLY - I deeply regret the fact that a good deal of this management of the sale of Australian products has been hedged about with too much, mystery. I have heard all sorts of rumours, which, in perhaps ninety-nine cases out of a hundred, are quite unjustifiable. But there are suspicions in the public mind - in the minds of small men generally - as to whether the British Government are getting the benefit of the special prices placed upon Australian products.

Mr Bamford - It is very doubtful.

Mr KELLY - Then I urge that the Minister in charge of the Australian Pools ought to give to the Australian public figures and facts guaranteeing to our producers that the sacrifices they are making in selling below the world's prices are "benefiting the British Government, and. therefore the British people, and are not being reaped by the British middleman. I gather, although I am not aware of the facts, that in this case, as in others, it is proposed that there shall be a reduction below the world's price for tin for the benefit of persons oversea. I am prepared at any time, and am sure that every honorable member is, to make any reasonable sacrifice in the value of our products for the benefit of the British people, who largely protect us here today. But we want to be sure that it is the British people, and therefore the Empire, that benefits, and not some clever manipulator of affairs at the other end of the world.

Take, for instance, the position in regard to copper sent to England, which may reasonably go to . England at the price fixed; or, better still, take the position in regard to molybdenite, in respect of which there was a still greater disparity between the world's price and that allowed for the Australian product. At the time I have in mind, the price allowed us was only 50 per cent, of its true value. It has been sent to England by arrangement with the British Government at that price, and we want to know whether the British Government or some middlemen have been reaping the benefit. If the middlemen have been securing the advantage, then our whole pooling system is badly administered. Personally, I think the British Government secures the benefit of the arrangement, but the public should be satisfied that it does. I am delighted that my honorable friend has raised this question.

I wish now to make, in a few words, a correction of a statement supplied on Wednesday by the Assistant Minister for Defence (Mr. Wise). Some time ago I asked a question in reference to the use of spinal beds. On Wednesday the Assistant Minister for Defence replied in this House - and I give the answer in order to explain how far he has been misled by his officers - as follows : -

In reference to a question asked on Thursday last by the honorable member for Wentworth. (Mr. Kelly) about the equipping of military Hospitals with proper spinal beds, I have ascertained that at every hospital where proper spinal beds are required these can be obtained without difficulty, and have been obtained wherever necessary. The beds have been provided by the Bed Cross Society and private donations, but, if any difficulty should be found in this respect, can be obtained from Ordnance Stores.

The Randwick Hospital, which is known as No. 4 General Hospital, is probably the largest in Australia, and in that hos.pital as recently as six weeks ago there was not one spinal bed. As the result of the action taken by Miss Edith Walker, a public-spirited Sydney lady, in presenting one of them to the hospital, I then ascertained that a particular class of patient could be benefited by the use of these beds. I got in touch with the hospital authorities, and secured a rearrangement of the hospital so that spinal cases should be kept on the ground floor to allow of their ready ingress and egress, on these spinal beds, to and from the open air. I asked the hospital authorities what improvement they could suggest on the bed presented by Miss Edith Walker. They offered certain suggestions,- and I gave the manufacturer here in Melbourne an order for an improved bed. He told me that, curiously enough, the bed as sought to be improved by the Randwick Hospital authorities was the very bed offered to the Defence Department a considerable time ago by the Red Cross, and that the offer was turned down.

I ask the Minister to see the officer who supplied him with the erroneous information that he gave in answer to my question. I do not care what he does with him, but I ask him now and here for twelve beds to be at once forthcoming for the Randwick Hospital. I desire that they shall be of the improved type. I learned only to-day that the authorities at the Caulfield Hospital have found out the faults which they have themselves placed in these beds. I ask for a sufficiency of beds for the Randwick Hospital to begin with, and for every hospital in Australia. In a matter of this kind, these hospitals should not have to wait for the Red Cross to help them. The public generally do not know what chances there are of improving the unfortunate position of returned men suffering from spinal trouble. The man in the street does not seek to inquire what opportunities of this kind offer, but the Department, which knows of them, ought to provide these facilities. I urge the Department to see that every Australian hospital is equipped with its proper quota of spinal beds.

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