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Friday, 26 May 1939

Mr WHITE (Balaclava) .- It is a great pity that an opportunity has not been taken during this debate to get down to something more specific than the proposal accepted by the Government. The honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) says that the whole bill is less than nebulous. Every honorable member abhors the thought of war profit- eering, and on this .occasion we, the representatives of the people of Australia, had a great opportunity to take specific action in order to prevent profiteering in the manufacture of materials of war. I am profoundly disappointed that some better proposal has not emerged from this debate!. Some honorable members criticized my proposal, although I was very pleased to hear approval of it expressed in several, quarters. I proposed my amendment in a tentative way, hoping that it might be approved, but in doing so I was earnestly endeavouring to find some method of stopping profiteering. We regard profiteering in times of actual warfare as undesirable, and we should look upon it in a similar light when we are building up supplies in preparation for war if it comes. I feel sure that the people of Australia would have been better pleased had we been able to provide in this measure some definite check against profiteering. The manufacturers themselves would have welcomed such a decision, because most of them are honest and wish to do the right thing. Furthermore, competition tends to control profits. The right honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) quoted figures showing that, during the Great War, certain firms had made profits ranging from 40 "per cent, to 90 per cent. I proposed the figure of 6 per cent., not as a fixed figure, but as a maximum, realizing that competition would tend to reduce average profits, probably to as low as 2 or 3 per cent. If a contractor showed in a statutory declaration that his profits on any particular contract would exceed 6 per cent., his tender would be rejected, but if, for any reason, the Government believed that a profit in excess of 6 per cent, was warranted in a particular case, it could bring forward a special measure to obtain permission to allow that profit to be made. I sincerely regret that greater support was not forthcoming for my proposal.

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