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Tuesday, 23 May 1939

Mr WHITE (Balaclava) .- On the second reading, I pointed out that the Government had said that it intended to check profiteering in the manufacture of armaments and munitions. That is a laudable object, but so that it may be something more than merely a pious wish, I want to see it in the billProfiteering has happened in the past, and unless there be some definite prohibition, it can happen again. There will be little scope for large-scale profiteering in the annexes, but there will be plenty of opportunity for it in connexion with the supply of metals and other raw materials that may be in monopolistic hands. In my second -reading speech I showed how the price of copper is loaded with phantom costs of exchange. Although copper is mined in Australia, it is priced as though it were brought from overseas. I move, therefore -

That the word "profits", sub-clause (1.), paragraph (e), bc omitted with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words " net profit to six per centum ".

Six per cent. is a fair return for labour and capital. The amendment would permit those who chose to take less to do so, but it would impose a fair maximum on profits.

Mr Ward - The honorable gentleman's amendment would not touch raw materials.

Mr WHITE - I think it would cover everything.

Mr Ward - No. It would only have relation to munitions.

Mr WHITE -" Munitions " is defined thus - " Munitions " means armaments, arms and ammunition, and includes such equipment, machines, commodities, materials, supplies or stores of any kind, as are, in the opinion of the Governor-General, necessary for the purposes of defence;

I should think, therefore, that raw materials would be covered.

Mr Ward - The Minister for Supply and Development said that sub-clause 1, paragraph e, referred only to profits of annexes.

Mr Casey - No.

Mr WHITE - I hope that it is allcomprehensive, because that is my intention. Here is work for that panel of accountants that has been mentioned. It will, I have no doubt, do good work, and my amendment will give it an opportunity to explore those phantom values that have been put on metals. At the same time,it will be a test of the sincerity of the Government. I do not say that it is insincere, but I am not satisfied with the broad statement in this bill, which bears the marks of hasty drafting. An amendment on these lines is one which the committee can well support.

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