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Friday, 26 May 1939

Mr CASEY (Corio) (Minister for Supply and Development) . - I assure the Acting Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) that the Government is at one with him as to the necessity for eliminating profiteering, and that it is determined not only to eliminate actual profiteering, but also to do everything possible to prevent anything approaching profiteering in respect of the manufacture of munitions and the supply of goods and materials required for the purpose of Australian defence.

Mr Ward - Previously, the right honorable gentleman, did not admit the necessity.

Mr CASEY - The amendment originally foreshadowed by the honorable gentleman has been recast on a rather grand scale, but the Government is in complete agreement with the clause in the form in which it will read if the amendments which have been moved be agreed to. As the honorable gentleman will admit, the Government has placed at his disposal all the legal talent of the Government in order to assist him in framing his amendment in a satisfactory form. The clause as now proposed to be amended will give effect to the Government's intention.

Mr McCall - An unholy alliance!

Mr CASEY - The two provisos to the clause as originally drawn were not intended in any way to apply to paragraph e, so that the Government readily accepts the amendments.

I wish now to refer to the functions which the Government intends that the advisory accountancy panel should exercise. Its members will not be engaged in chasing individual alleged profiteers. The department already has a competent staff of accountants and officers constantly engaged in investigating questions of cost in one place or another. They will continue to do that work. [Quorum formed.] I was attempting to put the functions of the advisory panel into their proper perspective. It is not intended that these five eminent accountants shall be put on the bread-and-butter task of chasing alleged profiteers. The department has a staff of expert accountants and cost investigators who will be able to conduct routine investigations. The advisory panel will investigate the existing checks and safeguards, and will have at its disposal the services of the senior accountancy officers of the department..

Mr Beasley - How can the advisory panel, without practical experience of the working of the system, discover what loopholes there are?

Mr CASEY - With the assistance of the senior accountancy officers of the department, the expert accountants on the panel will quickly pick up the essentials of the system in operation in the munitions factories, the annexes, and in connexion with the purchase of goods by contract. The panel will be concerned only with broad principles. I do not expect that they will come out with a single suggested reform that overnight will cure all alleged evils. I expect that, after investigation, they will make a dozen or more suggestions regarding the methods used in the acquisition of goods by the department. I do not believe that there is any magical formula that can be discovered to solve all the problems.

The Acting Leader of the Opposition referred to the use of the word "munitions ". I refer him to the definitions in the bill. There the word is defined as including " armaments, arms ' and ammunition, and includes such equipment, machines, commodities, materials, supplies and stores of any kind, as are, in the opinion of the Governor-General, necessary for the purposes of defence."

Mr Nock - Then it must include metals.

Mr CASEY - Yes; and clothing, boots, &c, also. We set out to make the definition as wide as possible so as to include everything for the forces and the proper functioning of the department.

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