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Tuesday, 23 May 1939

The CHAIRMAN - No point of order has been raised. The Chair assumes that the Minister was informing his mind with, regard to the amendment submitted by the honorable member for Balaclava.

Mr CASEY - Speaking to the amendment, I suggest that it is quite impossible, by the selection of an arbitrary percentage and its inclusion in the bill, to control prices in the manner suggested. In one case, 6 per cent, might he an outrageous profit, and in another instance one at which nobody would undertake to provide certain articles. It depends on how the 6 per cent, is made up; there are many ways by which it can be done.

Mr Brennan - Will the Minister accept 10 per cent.?

Mr CASEY - I repeat that in connexion with the government workshops there can be no suggestion of profiteering, except possibly in respect of the supply to them of raw materials; nor in the annexes can there be any profiteering because of the limit of 4 per cent, which I have mentioned. As to purchases by the Contract Board, by public tender, I am advised that in respect of almost every line that the Government has to purchase, the competition is so keen that the question of undue profits cannot, in fact, arise. In addition, the Government is seeking the best advice it can get by the creation of an advisory accountancy panel of five men who are expert in the business of costing and profits. They will advise the Government on broad lines as to whether its existing methods are adequate, or whether improved methods should be introduced to deal with the problem. I am certain that it will be quite impracticable to state a certain rate of profit to apply to all kinds of transactions connected with defence requirements. Announcements made by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), and by me in the early stages- of this measure, made it clear that the Government intends to ensure that the Australian public shall not pay excessive prices or, indeed, more than moderate prices for the goods required for defence purposes.

Mr Forde - Put it in the bill.

Mr CASEY - Anything more specific is impossible.

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