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Thursday, 22 August 1912

Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) . - I do not desire to offer an apology for opposing the amendment on the ground that I am a Victorian. I do not think that the fact of being a Victorian makes me any the less an Australian. I notice to-night that an honorable senator who desired to point out the magnificent service he had rendered by voting for a site which was supposed to be suitable for the establishment of the factory, seemed more than anxious to pose- on the border line of martyrdom.

Senator Rae - Nothing of the sort. I showed that I was consistent.

Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) - I support the general principle of establishing, as far as practicable, all industries at YassCanberra. I do not know why that remark should cause Senator Millen to smile, because I am not aware of any votes I have given which could be classed as parochial. Whether I have been asked to vote money to establish the Federal Capital or to put a duty on bananas, I have always been an Australian. I think that the opposition to this item ought to be honest and quite candid. We had to-night, for the purpose of bolstering up the opposition and trying to put forward the virtues of Launceston as against those of Geelong, Senator Long not only deliberately misquoting a statement made by the Premier of Victoria, but actually forgetting to read the whole of the letter. As he only quoted such portions as were suitable to him, I intend to read the whole of the letter -

At the close of the meeting of the Cabinet on Monday, the Premier (Mr. Watt) said that the question of the granting by the Geelong Harbor Trust to the Commonwealth Government of a site for woollen mills was under consideration. He added that there was an impression among

Ministers that the Commonwealth Government should pay for any property that it acquired. Mr. Fisher is reported to have stated in conversation with a State member on Tuesday, that he considered it part of the agreement that the land should be given free, and that, if that were broken, he would feel at liberty to look elsewhere for a site. A Geelong paper, commenting yesterday on the situation, stated that Mr. Watt had said that he would withdraw his opposition. The Premier stated yesterday, that this was incorrect.

Senator Longstopped reading the letter at that point. It continues as follows: -

He had never evinced any opposition. All he had said was that he would wait until Mr., Holden, the chairman of the Geelong Harbor Trust, had returned to Melbourne before form-' ing an opinion as to whether the bargain was a good one or a bad one.

The letter, I think, bears quite a different construction from that which Senator Long went to considerable pains to place upon it.

Senator Rae - Does it mean that the land has really been granted ?

Senator Millen - It justifies the statement that Mr. Watt has not yet agreed to the proposal of the Harbor Trust.

Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) - The Geelong Harbor Trust is invested with certain powers and has certain lands under its control. If it believes that it is rendering a good service by making this offer to the Commonwealth Government, and subsequently recommending it for adoption, I have not the slightest hesitation in saying that it will be gladly availed of, and adopted by the Victorian Government. There is a big principle at the bottom of this discussion, and it is that the Government are pledged to the establishment of certain industries in connexion- with defence. These industries, in the experimental stage, will do a good deal of harm to this principle if they are not a commercial success. 1 do not mean that they are to be run on the ordinary grad-grind principle of commercialism, but they should be given every opportunity to succeed, and to do that they should be established under such conditions as will give them an equaL chance with ordinary private industries.

Senator Rae - In congested centres.

Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) - Not necessarily.. Let me first take Yass-Canberra, which hasbeen suggested. One of the first principlesguiding Mr. Smail in attempting to select a place was that it must be near a running; stream. Senator Rae, to bolster up his case, quoted Yass-Canberra. as being 7 miles from' Queanbeyan. How many moremiles is it before the Cotter River isreached ?

Senator Rae - The water has to be brought to the city, anyhow.

Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) - I admit that. How long shall we have to delay the establishment of the Woollen Mills to get a sufficient water supply brought there by means of pipes? So far, there has never been a suggestion made to Parliament to bring water in a sufficiently large quantity to Yass-Canberra that would lead one to believe that there would be a supply available for the working of woollen mills. Look at the capital expenditure which would have to be incurred. It would cost at least 20 per cent, more to erect woollen mills anywhere near the Cotter River. Before we could get to that river, or to a suitable site for the factory, we would have to cross the Mumimbidgee River, and the very cost of carting the material would place a great handicap upon the industry, which we wish to be a success.

Senator Rae - The water must be brought there in any case.

Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) - How long does the honorable senator think it will be before it will be brought in sufficient quantity from the Cotter River to YassCanberra ?

Senator Rae - It will all depend upon the earnestness of the Government.

Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) - I have never noticed the honorable senator prodding the Government to spend any more money at Yass-Canberra.

Senator Rae - I have been doing so all the session.

Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) - The honorable senator voted against Yass-Canberra as the most unsuitable place in Australia.

Senator Rae - I did nothing of the kind.

Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) - The labour question has been introduced ; but I do not think that the proportion of female against male labour enters into the consideration of this matter at all. I do not believe that Senator Rae thinks that any industry under the control of the Minister of Defence will employ a larger proportion of female labour than is required, merely for sweating purposes.

Senator Rae - The Minister himself used that argument.

Senator Pearce - I used Mr. Smail's report, but I did not say whether I indorsed it or not.

Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) - The Minister stated that it was necessary for woollen mills to be established close to a big centre of population, where a certain amount of female labour would be available. That is quite a different matter from declaring that he desired to avail himself of that class of labour. I wish to see these mills a success, but I desire only the best labour to be employed in them. If necessary, I should be prepared to sanction "the importation of expert labour with that end in view. I say that Geelong possesses a settled population which includes a number of young persons who have had a large experience of work in woollen mills. It is in direct touch by rail with Ballarat, Warrnambool, and Castlemaine, in all of which places similar mills have been established.

Senator Guthrie - And with Marrickville.

Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) - The places which I have mentioned are all within 70 miles of Geelong, so that their position is quite different from that of Marrickville. I believe that Geelong is a suitable spot for the establishment of Commonwealth Woollen Mills from every stand-point. I regret that antagonism is aroused by any proposal to start an industry in Victoria. I believe that Mr. Smail is possessed of sufficient knowledge to be classed as an expert in the matter of the selection of a suitable site. He has chosen Geelong, and I think we should adopt his recommendation. I believe that the Government are embarking on an industry which is destined to be a very big one in Australia. I would like to see experiments conducted in these mills, with a view to developing and extending that industry. I hope that the amendment will be negatived, and that we shall speedily see a woollen factory established at Geelong, which, after all, is in Australia.

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