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Thursday, 25 May 1939

Mr WARD (East Sydney) .- I do not believe that the Government sincerely desires to eliminate profits. Possibly the provision for the limitation of profits is included in the bill in an attempt to make the general community believe that such is the intention of the Government, so that industrial conscription, which it proposes to apply, may be the more readily accepted. I shall not be over-critical of the amendment of the honorable member for Martin (Mr. McCall) on the ground of its impracticability, because I believe that the whole of the proposals submitted are impracticable, and I am perfectly satisfied that profit will never be eliminated until the profit system itself is abolished. It would be very difficult for any government or board of inquiry to ascertain exactly where the profits were made or obtained. In the case of defence requirements, althought it might appear on the surface that a number of undertakings are engaged in the manufacture of these commodities from the raw state to the finished product, actually, with the monopolistic control that exists to-day, they merely pass through the hands of a number of companies which are subsidiary to the monopolistic concern.

Let us examine the sincerity of the Government in this matter. The Minister for Supply and Development ,(M.t. Casey), in his remarks last evening, said that there are several ways in which the Government to-day obtains its supplies. According to the right honorable gentleman, a certain, proportion is obtained from government factories, in respect of which the Question of undue profit could not arise ; a further proportion is obtained through the annexes, the profits of which are to be limited by the Government to 4 per cent.; and tenders are called for the balance. The right honorable gentleman pointed out that contracts first come under ,the review of the Contract Board, and having been carefully checked are submitted to a further check by a departmental sub-committee. Evidently the right honorable gentleman's argument is that there is already existing departmental machinery which makes it impossible for undue profits to be earned by any undertaking that accepts contracts from the Government. I put it to honorable members, that if the Government already makes reasonable provision against undue profits being earned there is no necessity to continue with the farce of appointing a panel of accountants to make a further examination of the contracts. When the Minister was asked whether every one of the contracts would receive the same check - that is, that they would be completely inquired into - he ridiculed the suggestion on the ground that it would be impossible for the advisory panel of accountants to inquire into every one of the 10,000 contracts let in one year. I recognize that such would be the case. As a matter of fact, the limited time which the advisory panel will have to devote to this particular work in an honorary capacity proves conclusively that it is farcical to suggest that there will be an adequate check of 10,000 contracts per annum.

Mr Holt - No one has ever suggested that.

Mr WARD - If the policy of the Government were carried to its logical conclusion, if it were anxious to have an adequate check of contracts, it should provide for the work to be undertaken by men who would be fully occupied and paid accordingly, and not depend upon men acting in an honorary and advisory capacity.

In reply to a question asked by the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) the other evening, the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) said that he was unaware that the Australian Iron and Steel Company and the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited are one . concern. I am not prepared to .believe that the Prime Minister is so illinformed as to be of the opinion that these two undertakings are separate and distinct. I have perused the latest financial digest issued hy Jobson, which discloses that on the directorate of the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited are Mr. H. G-. Darling, Mi:. Essington Lewis, Mr. R. 0. Blackwood, the Honorable W. 6. Duncan, M.L.C., Mr. R.' C. Mears, and Mr. H. R. Lysaght. That is not the complete list. In addition to being directors of the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited, these gentlemen are also directors of the Australian Iron and Steel Company. Yet the Prime Minister had the audacity to tell us that he was unaware that there is any connexion between the two concerns, or that they actually constitute a monopoly in this particular business in the Commonwealth! Everybody knows that that is the position. We expect the Prime Minister, when asked a direct question, to state facts.

Zinc is a very important requirement of defence establishments. On the directorate of Amalgamated Zinc Limited are the Honorable Harold E. Cohen, C.M.G., C.B.E., D.S.O., V.D., M.L.A.- an antiLabour member of Parliament and, I understand, a close personal friend of many members on the government benches - and the Honorable Sir Walter Massy-Greene, K.C.M.G. Ministerial members will not disguise the fact that this latter gentleman was at one time very closely associated with them in the political world. Sitting on the directorate of Electrolytic Zinc Company of Australasia Limited we again find the Honorable Harold E. Cohen,. C.M.G., C.B.E., D.S.O., Y.D., M.L.A., the Honorable Sir Walter Massy-Greene, K.C.M.G., Sir Colin Fraser, and Mr. M. L. Baillieu. In the list of the directors of Zinc Investments Proprietary Limited, another concern which is interested in this particular branch of industry, we again come upon the name of the Honorable Harold E. Cohen, C.M.G., C.B.E., D.S.O., V.D., M.L.A. Also associated with him on the board of directors is Sir Walter Massy-Greene, K.C.M.G. Yet, if the Labour party suggests that there is any connexion between these various concerns honorable members opposite ridicule the idea. Every one knows, of course, that they are so interlocked that, when tenders are called for the supply of goods in the manufacture of which they are interested, there is no real competition at all. For all practical purposes, they form one big ring. Included among the directors of Broken Hill. South are Sir Colin Fraser, Sir Alexander Stewart and Sir Sydney Snow, K.B.E. On the directorate of North Broken Hill are Sir Colin Fraser, Mr. H. Baillieu and Mr. L. Baillieu, . whilst on the board of Hume Steel, as we all know, is Senator A. J. McLachlan. There are other directors on these various companies, of course, but I have mentioned those who have been more prominent in anti-Labour political organizations.

I do not share with the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn) and other honorable members who have expressed a similar view the belief that the men acting upon the various advisory committees are all to be commended for their so-called patriotic offer to render voluntary service. When we realize that Sir Colin Fraser, one of the members of the Industrial Advisory Committee, is a director of Electrolytic Zinc, Broken Hill South and North Broken Hill; that Mr. Essington Lewis is a director of Broken Hill Proprietary Limited and of the Australian Iron and Steel Company; and that Sir Alexander Stewart is also a member of the directorate of Broken Hill South, we realize how interlocked are their interests. These gentlemen, in their capacity as advisers to the Government in the expending of millions of pounds, will be in a position to give direct service to the' industrial concerns in which they are interested. Surely honorable members do not imagine that this condition of affairs will not arouse the suspicions of the public.

Clause 5 imposes, no obligation on the Government to take any steps whatever to limit profits, and there is a very good reason for that. The Government never intended to limit profits. Paragraph d empowers the Government to make arrangements for the acquisition, maintenance and disposal of stocks of goods in connexion with defence. I take it that,, under that paragraph the Government desires to create the impression that action would be taken to ensure adequate supplies of oil at a reasonable price. The Government, in order to ascertain the position regarding oil supplies, will have to make inquiries of the major oil companies, and in order to ensure that undue profits are not being made, it will have to ask questions about costs and profits. Every one will remember . just what happened some years ago, when the Commonwealth Government appointed a royal commission to obtain just that information from the oil companies. At that time, the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) was the legal advisor of the Shell Oil Company, one of the major oil companies involved in the inquiry. When the royal commission attempted to obtain information regarding costs of production, marketing costs, profits, &c, the Prime Minister, in his capacity of legal representative of the company advised it not to give any information whatever. How can he now, as" Prime Minister, insist upon the companies supplying the very information that, as their legal representative a few years ago, he advised them to withhold?

The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Prowse).The honorable member's time has expired.

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