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Friday, 31 October 1913

Senator MILLEN (New South Wales) (Minister of Defence) . - I do not know that it is desirable to hammer this point too much, but I hardly think that Senator Pearce was entirely fair to the Prime Minister in referring to his remarks as he did. The question covered by those remarks was not whether the factory ought to have been started or not, but the fact that, having a certain amount to spend, the previous Government spent it in establishing factories to make those articles which private individuals were already making, instead of spending it in establishing a. factory to make cordite, which nobody was making. It was a very fair criticism of an administrative act of our predecessors.

Senator Pearce - It does not square with your action on these Estimates. You have the opportunity now, but you are not going to do it.

Senator MILLEN - My honorable friend overlooks the original statement, which was that the previous Government spent money which would have been available to establish a cordite factory, in establishing factories to make those things which were already being made in the country by private individuals. My honorable friend had three years in which to act.

Senator Pearce - How could we act before we knew that it was feasible ?

Senator MILLEN - My honorable friend had as much time to find out whether it was feasible to start a cordite factory as to find out whether it was feasible to start a woollen mill, a clothing factory, and a harness factory. It seems to me a fair line of criticism to say that our predecessors, when starting establishments, did put the cart before the horse, or did do something which was not essential, while they neglected to do something whichwas essential.

Senator Pearce - The Minister is also neglecting them. He has that which we did not have - information.

Senator MILLEN - We have not complete information, and I venture to say that the Minister should be a little cautious before accepting as final and conclusive the reports of departmental officers. In fairness to the Prime Minister, I am entitled to point out that in charging my honorable friends with having found time to do things which were not essential, whilst neglecting to do things which were essential, his criticism was justified.

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