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Thursday, 25 May 1939

Mr SHEEHAN (Cook) . - I regret the necessity for the introduction of this measure. It has originated mainly in the Government's desire to create a new department, but it is evidence of the war hysteria which is influencing the programme of the Government. The Government already possesses the powers which it is seeking under this measure, particularly in respect of the provision or supply of munitions and arrangements for. the establishment or extension of industries for purposes of defence. When it was announced in the Governor-General's speech that the Government proposed to establish these annexes, I pointed out the danger of such a policy, particularly at a time when the trend in every country is for governments to control the manufacture of armaments. Notwithstanding this fact, the Government now proposes to permit the manufacture of armaments by private enterprise. Speaking in relation to these annexes in November last in the debate on the budget, I stated that as the establishment of these annexes would involve private enterprise in considerable expenditure, a general clamour would arise on the part of the firms concerned for a continuity of orders. By way of interjection, the then Minister for Defence denied that this would be so. I should now like to know what safeguards the Government proposes to provide in order to prevent these private firms from seeking orders in foreign countries for the supply of war materials. If they cannot be guaranteed a continuity of orders by this Government, what is to prevent them from endeavouring to get such orders in other countries at a rate of profit much higher than the Government would allow to them? The Government should watch this aspect, because, despite their alleged patriotism, armament manufacturers know no country; the only flag they recognize is the black emblem of the buccaneer. Local manufacturers of munitions will likewise be only too ready to accept any opportunity to secure orders overseas. To-day the British Government is making aircraft parts for Germany, despite the fact that the people in one country are being told that they may one day expect to be bombed out of existence by the air forces of the other. The Rolls Royce Kestrel engine, and the ArmstrongSiddeley Jaguar engines are being sold to the German air service, whilst British naval seaplanes are being built under licence in England on Heinkel patents. The Dutch Fokker factory sells the identical bomber to Germany that it had delivered to Czechoslovakia. These facts show that private enterprise in this field is concerned only with profits. Whenever a nation is faced with a grave emergency there will always be found a gathering of profiteering buccaneers loudly proclaiming their patriotism, while at the same time going their hardest in the dastardly game of plundering the people. For instance, when materials were needed in Britain during the recent international crisis for the protection of the people from threatened air raids, these despicable and unconscionable profiteers were willing to make supplies available only at profits ranging up to 500 per cent. Pickaxes and trench tools, which prior to the recent crisis were selling at ls., suddenly jumped to 10s., whilst the price of spades and shovels needed for digging trenches rose from 2s 6d. to 13s. 6., and that of galvanized iron required for air raid shelters rose by 500 per cent. There was no shortage of these materials before the crisis, but when the workers of Great Britain commenced to dig trenches and construct air raid shelters for the protection of the masses, supplies could be obtained only at prices dictated by the profiteers. A scandalous example of this ghoulish profiteering was provided- in. England in connexion with sandbags during the September crisis. Prior to the war scare, these were being sold at Id. apiece but the price suddenly jumped as high as lOd. Millions of them were needed for the protection of the civilian population and property, but they could he* obtained by government and local government authorities only at exorbitant prices. The manufacturers did not hesitate to sandbag the community and take the highest profits they could get. The honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. McHugh) informed the committee yesterday that Mr. Neville Chamberlain, the Prime Minister of Great Britain, held 11,000 shares in Imperial Chemical Industries Limited. These people are concerned mainly with profits, and they do not mind how the profits are obtained. Sir Basil Zaharo'ff became a multi-millionaire during the last war, and the firm of John Brown and Company Limited, of England, which is to-day concerned mainly with the manufacture of munitions, made a profit of £466,000 during the war hysteria of 1937. With these examples before it, the Government should make provision to manufacture all necessary munitions in government factories. It should not allow any private annexes to operate. The Labour party believes that Australia should be self-contained, but it does not believe that war-mongerers should be permitted to make immense profits. " [Quorum formed.]

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