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Wednesday, 24 May 1939

The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN (Mr Collins (HUME, NEW SOUTH WALES) - There is too much conversation among members, and interjections are too frequent. I shall not warn another honorable member.

Mr RIORDAN - The accountancy panel does not contain a representative from Queensland. That State has only one representative in the Commonwealth Ministry, and he is included because the Government fears that otherwise it would lose seats now held by its supporters in Queensland. The Government's neglect of Queensland in this instance is in keeping with its general treatment of that State. The Minister also said that the danger of exploitation was negligible because of the keen competition for government contracts. I remind him of the speeches of honorable members on this side, who showed how, by bribery and corruption, armaments firms in other countries have secured contracts and made large profits. The right honorable gentleman also said that the contracts would be distributed throughout Australia; that the bounty of Santa Claus would be shared by manufacturers in all the States. Judging by our experience of this Government, Queensland manufacturers will be fortunate to receive any of them.

A new department is to be constituted, ostensibly for the purpose of placing the defences of Australia on an orderly and sound footing, but, in reality, the Government is following the lead of the totalitarian states. Its defence measures aim merely at providing work for the unemployed. The Government is using this bill, and the measure providing for a national register - the terrible twins - to divert the thoughts of the people from national insurance. Unfortunately foi- the Government, the people will not forget its treatment of that important subject.

The Minister also referred to the annexes that are to be attached to privately-owned concerns. He said that the Government would own the buildings and the machinery; but if he knew anything about, the laws relating to real property, lie would know that once a building is erected on any land, it becomes part and parcel of the real estate of the owner of that land. By erecting these buildings on private property, the Government makes a gift of the buildings to private concerns.

Mr Anthony - Is that the legal position?

Mr RIORDAN - Yes, unless the

Government enters into contracts with the owners of the laud whereby they agree that the buildings shall not become their property.

Mr Fadden - Does not the honorable member think that the Government would take that precaution?

Mr RIORDAN - It is significant that no mention of that point was made by the Minister. He said that the Government Would erect buildings on private land, and when Opposition members contended that that was equivalent to making a gift of such buildings to the owners of that land, he did not say anything about entering into agreements with the owners to protect the Government's equity.

The Minister also referred to overhead expenses, and he gave a long list of items. He had already informed us that the Government would own the buildings and the machinery, consequently there would be practically no overhead expenses.

Audible conversation continuing,

The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.If any honorable member is named, he himself will be to blame. The Chair cannot tolerate any longer the continuous conversation that is taking place.

Mr RIORDAN - I wish now to refer to the various ores and minerals mentioned by the Minister, particularly copper, which are obtained in Australia. In answer to an interjection, .the Minister said that most of the copper came from Mr Lyell, in Tasmania, and a small portion of it from Queensland. That is in keeping with its treatment of Queensland, and its regard for the monopolists in the country. Honorable members know that Mr Lyell is owned by monopolists. In the back country of Australia, far removed from the comforts of the cities, men are battling against great odds in the winning of minerals, but the Government buys very little copper from them. Yet this Government is supposed to be assisting those who are endeavouring to develop this country, instead of which it has arranged with the Governments of Western Australia and Queensland for a geophysical survey of Australia. The expenditure to be incurred in connexion with that survey will be a waste of money unless the Commonwealth is prepared to assist those who have taken advantage of the surveys already made.

According to the Minister, many, honorable members seem to be of the opinion that manufacturers conspire to defraud the Government. Apparently, he misunderstands the position. When the Opposition speaks of monopolists, it refers, not to men in business in a small way, but to large concerns, particularly the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited and its subsidiary companies. That organization has developed into one of the biggest monopolies in the Commonwealth. So extensive are its ramifications that the Government itself appears to be suspicious of it, for it has constituted an accountancy panel in an endeavour to keep a check on excessive profits.

Ever since 1 have been a member of this chamber I have heard Ministers say that Australia should tune in to Great Britain, but the opportunity to do so in this instance is. being neglected. A few years ago the British" Government decided that the armaments ring in Great Britain was a definite menace to international peace, and steps were taken to assume control of the manufacture of arms and munitions. An examination showed that it is a. world-wide monopoly which it is beyond the powers of the British Government to nationalize. The representatives of this- ring are now endeavouring to entrench themselves in this country. We have in Australia Imperial Chemical Industries, the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited and other organizations which are closely associated with the production of arms on a large scale. If the Government is sincere in this matter, it will endeavour to exercise some control over those engaged in the manufacture of munitions. It should seize the opportunity to do what Great Britain desired to do a few years ago, namely, nationalize the armaments industry and it should do so while the country is still in its infancy. We have munitions works at Lithgow and at Maribyrnong, and, strange to say, there is actually a government acetate of lime factory in Brisbane; but there are only two employees, both of whom are watchmen. The Government should take immediate steps to establish its own munitions factories instead of assisting private enterprise and thereby giving the armaments ring a foothold in this young country.

The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.The honorable member has exhausted his time.

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