Canberra, 16 January 1953
A Mr. Rigg of International Harvester Company (holding the job previously held by Mr. Bacon) called this morning and in your absence spoke to me.
Some time ago dollars were made available by the Government to the Joint Coal Board for the purchase of 100 tractors. Of these the Joint Coal Board has only been able to put into effective use 40 and the remaining 60 are idle. They require constant maintenance to keep them from deterioration.
The 60 tractors are of the largest type made— 140 h.p. Class 1 Crawlertrack type each costing about �14,000. The total involved therefore is about �800,000, all of it of dollar content. Mr. Cochran2 of the Coal Board whom Mr. Rigg has just seen in Sydney says that the 60 tractors are completely surplus to Joint Coal Board requirements and that he is interested in disposing of them. Cochran has among other things suggested that they be sent abroad under the Colombo Plan.
Rigg is extremely concerned about the position—especially the Colombo Plan aspect. He says that at the moment the R.A.A.F. is seeking 8 similar type tractors; the Snowy Mountains Project needs 10; the N.S.W. Mines Department is after 6, and he believes the Army also wants tractors of this type. He considers it a ridiculous situation that this equipment should be standing idle—and even more so that any consideration at all should be being given to disposing of the material under the Colombo Plan.
In regard to the latter idea, he says that the moment the tractors arrive abroad the local International Harvester people would quickly check up and trace the origin of the tractors; which would certainly not assist Australian efforts to obtain future allocations of dollars for the purchase of material of this kind.
Mr. Rigg says that he has already seen Mr. Harrison, and Mr. McMahon3 and that he will also endeavour to see some senior officer of the Department of National Development.
Although these tractors are not included, the general question is similar to a letter attached which has just been received from Mr. Cochran, suggesting that other surplus earth moving equipment should be disposed of under the Colombo Plan—and asking for a revision of an External Affairs opinion, already given, that imported equipment is not suitable for gift under the Colombo Plan.
[NAA: A 10299, C l5]