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Friday, 26 May 1939


Mr ROSEVEAR (Dalley) . - I was certainly not satisfied with the bill as it was originally drafted, and I may say that I am not even thoroughly satisfied with the amendment moved by the Acting Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde). I realize, of course, that to limit or control profit making is a difficult task. Ever since the idea occurred to man that he might exploit his neighbour for profit we have lived throughout the ages under a system in which profit making was the keynote of human activity. After centuries of experience of the utilization of the cunning of man to devise ways and means of making profits, it is extremely difficult for us to devise ways and means to protect the Government against exploitation by profit makers. It appears to me that the amendment moved by the Acting Leader of the Opposition will have only one effect, namely, it will make mandatory for the Government to attempt the control and limitation of profits, whereas in the original bill the question of whether or not there should be control was left entirely to the discretion of the Government. That leads me to ask what is meant by munitions, and whether we should allow exploitation to take place in connexion with all the other requirements of the naval, military and air forces of the Commonwealth. Even in the definition of "munitions" in clause 4 one can see the same weakness as is evident throughout the bill. That definition reads-1- " Munitions " means armaments, arms and ammunition, and includes sud) equipment, machines, commodities, materials, supplies or stores of any kind, as are, in the opinion of the Governor-General, necessary for the purposes of defence.

The dictionary meaning of " munitions " is "All essential things for war purposes ". lt is clear, therefore, that in that definition the Government has provided a means of evading the terms of the amendment of the Acting Leader of the Opposition, which he desires shall be mandatory. It would appear that, apart from actual arms, armaments and ammunition, every other necessity of the naval and military forces is to be placed in a different category, unless specially dealt with by the Governor-General. That means that, even if the amendment be agreed to, it will still be left to the discretion of the Government to say whether or not those other requirements of the Defence Forces are to be brought under the provisions of this legislation relating to the limitation and control of profits. I fail to see why we should permit exploitation in respect of uniforms for troops any more than in relation to shells or rifles. During, the last war some of the worst examples of exploitation were associated with the sale of polluted foodstuffs by profiteers. There is no more reason why the manufacture of clothing, or other requirements of the armed forces, shall be free from safeguards than is the supply of munitions, arms and armaments. Unless it is distinctly laid down in the definition of " munitions " - I understand that clause 4 has not yet been finally dealt with - that all of the equipment necessary for the Defence Forces is to be brought within the same category, we shall not achieve a great deal, even if the clause, -as amended, should prove workable. I am opposed to the suggested amendment of the honorable member for Deakin (Mr. Hutchinson) which proposes to apply a rule-of -thumb method to the measurement of profits. It is no better than that foreshadowed by the honorable member for Martin (Mr. McCall).


Mr Hutchinson - There is a difference.


Mr ROSEVEAR - That may be, but there is no distinction; in each case the honorable member has merely succeeded in deceiving himself. I believe first, that we should make it mandatory for the supply of all munitions to be subject to supervision as to profits, and, secondly, that we should place on the Government, or a properly constituted board, the responsibility of "seeing that there is no exploitation, whatever kind the goods may be. It has been said that the proposed accountancy panel will provide a sufficient check, but I do not think that its members will have the time to make their work really effective. The task will be a full-time job for a committee of experts entirely responsible to the Government and with no private interests whatever to serve. The proposed amendment of the honorable member for Deakin-


The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN (Mr Nairn - The amendment is not yet before the committee, and may not be discussed at this stage.


Mr ROSEVEAR - I shall say no more on that point than that the proposed amendment falls far short of a satisfactory definition. I admit the difficulty of covering these things in general terms, but I believe that, even if the amendment which has been moved be carried, the clause will be merely an instruction to the Government to have an exhaustive inquiry into what, after all, constitutes only about one-third of the requirements of the nation in relation to defence. Because of that limitation, I hope that some honorable member will evolve a suitable amendment to cover effectively the control and limitation of profits in respect of everything that is necessary for the defence of this country.







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