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Wednesday, 27 July 1921

Senator RUSSELL (Victoria) (VicePresident of the Executive Council) .; - I do not wish to impute motives ; but it appears to me that the proposed new clause has been submitted .'in the interests of the profiteers whom we wish to control. There is a strong desire for legislation compelling the publication of the balance-sheets of certain trading concerns; but the proposed new; clause, if adopted, would prevent it. If, as the result of inquiry, it was shown- that a business undertaking was returning only a reasonable profit, it would be of no interest to publish its financial .position ; but if, on the other hand, a firm was charging exorbitant .prices, and was making a profit of 50 or 100 per cent, instead of 12 or 13 per cent., the position should be divulged. An amendment such as that proposed would protect the profiteers, and would be of no benefit .to another business man who was in a less f favorable position. The Board would be prepared to sympathetically listen to applications from men in a somewhat weak position, but it could not 'be expected to refrain from publishing -'the balance-sheet of ia firm making excessive profits. The pre posed new clause, if adopted, would be of advantage .to the unscrupulous man, and I am surprised at Senator Elliott endea- publishing to assist those who are exploiting the -people. The Board is pledged to secrecy,, land it has to -report 'to -the Minister, who will use his discretion as to what is published.

Senator Lynch - In the meantime, the damage is done.

Senator RUSSELL - If damage results, and the Boa-rd is responsible, it will be the duty of the Government to act.

Senator Elliott - Would it be satisfactory if the information were disclosed only to the Minister ?

Senator RUSSELL -No. The Board has to report to the Minister.

Senator Elliott - The Minister will realize the difficulty when public state ments are made concerning the financial position of any individual or firm.-

Senator RUSSELL - It will have to be left to the Minister. If an individual is selling au article protected under the Tariff., and making excessive .profits, he should not be allowed to remain in the country.

Senator Reid - That; is what the Board is appointed, for.

Senator RUSSELL - Yes; toinvestigate such cases I ask honorable senators toopposetheproposednewclaused,and inthemeantime;Ishallseeiftheprovision concerning the reports from the Board to the Minister is sufficiently clear; and if not I shall have the matter reconsidered.

SenatorElliott. - The proposed new clause cannot be recommitted..

Senator RUSSELL - The Government do not desire to protect those making excessive profits.

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