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Wednesday, 13 May 1942

Mr FADDEN (DARLING DOWNS, QUEENSLAND) - Yesterday, as the result of the Minister's premature announcement, the unfortunate people whom he pretends to consider, the people who did not have the time or money or facilities to visit the shops, were left without the clothing they needed, whilst members of the moneyed classes, with leisure and facilities, were able to get all they wanted. We know that the Minister has been advocating the introduction of a new order, and that he has associated himself whole-heartedly with the movement for the nationalization of industry and the complete socialization of the country. We have been informed that the ration tickets for clothing will not be available until the first week in July - seven weeks from now. It seems to me that the figure " 7 " will prove to be as unfortunate for the Minister as the figure " 13 " was for me. For the next seven weeks people with time and money will indulge in a rush of buying. The rush cannot be stopped now. Although a quota system has been introduced so far as aggregate sales are concerned, those with the time and money will continue to rush the shops so that they may hoard supplies. Thus, when the ration tickets become available seven weeks hence, all the stocks of the smaller retailers will have been bought up, and these traders will have been forced out of business. Only the large retailers will survive, and this will be the first step towards nationalization of the industry, because it will then be easier for the Govern ment to take them over.

The Prime Minister has made it clear that the Government decided some time, ago that the rationing of clothes would have to be introduced. That being tin case, why did the Government say an thing at all about ration tickets until ii was ready to put the scheme into opera tion? Why make a premature announce ment which the Government must ha -r known would result in panic buying on a hitherto unprecedented scale? In his broadcast, the Prime Minister admitted the likelihood of a buying rush. He declared that it was undesirable and unfair that those persons with the time and the money to go shopping should be able to acquire large wardrobes before rationing came into force. Is that not exactly what happened on Saturday? Those with money and spare time thronged the city; but hundreds of thousands of Australians, especially war-workers, were at their work and unable to visit the shops. The premature announcement of the rationing scheme was certainly unfair to them. Another statement which calls for some explanation is that which was made in the Prime Minister's broadcast -

Wholesale and retail merchants with whom the Government's plans have been discussed, have promised their fullest co-operation. They are in full agreement that strong measures are necessary.

I think it might fairly be assumed that, in a matter of this kind, the information upon which the Prime Minister based that statement was furnished either by the Minister for War Organization of Industry or by some authority dealing with the clothes rationing problem. I have no information concerning any discussions with wholesale merchants, but I refer the House to the following statement by the president of the Retailers Association of New South Wales andof the Australian Council of Retailers : -

Unfortunately, the Government had not approached either the Retail Traders Association or the Australian Council ofRetailers before the restrictions were announced. Either of those organizations would have advised against any announcement being made until ration cards were ready for issue. Only by that method could an equitable and adequate distribution have been assured.

The Australian Council of Retailers, I remind the House, is representative of retail traders' organizations throughout the Commonwealth. The Minister should explain to Parliament why those organizations were not consulted, and disclose the names of the wholesale and retail merchants with whom the plans were discussed.

Another matter to which I draw atten tion is the lack of consideration shown by the Minister for those engaged in the retail trade. Despite the fact that he referred to the regulations in his statement to the House on Friday afternoon and that his signature was attached to them on Saturday, they were not gazetted until last night. As the result of that delay, retailers in Sydney yesterday could not obtain copies of the regulations which controlled their activities.

I come now to the adverse effect which this premature disclosure has had upon war-time finance. Recently, the Prime Minister launched the national savings campaign, in the course of which he declared that every one who had any surplus above his basic needs must contribute it to the war effort. Earlier to-day, the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley), in reply to a question by the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis), stated that, since the Minister made his announcement, there had been no undue conversion by the public of war savings certificates. Time alone will show whether that statement is correct, but my information is that, throughout Australia, people hastened to convert war savings certificates for the purpose of obtaining ready money with which to buy clothing on Saturday and Monday. [ Extension of time granted.] Honorable members are aware that the optimistic anticipations of the Government to finance a large part of the war expenditure by voluntary contributions from the public have not been realized. Savings bank deposits have increased out of all proportion to the sales of war savings certificates. At present, we are not in a position to estimate the full effects of the premature announcement by the Minister upon war finance and purchasing power, but it is obvious from the run on the banks during the last few days that the surplus which many people enjoyed, largely because of high wages and the enormous volume ofwar work, went not into the savings campaign but into the purchase of clothing. Those with plenty of ready cash spent lavishly and without regard to their immediate needs.I declare most emphatically that at a time when the nation requires every available shilling to finance its colossal war-time bill, the premature disclosure of these plans has done irreparable damage to the war effort. Hundreds of thousands of pound's Ms been diverted into spending on non-essential's for hoarding. It will be- interesting to examine the degree to which the sales of war savings certificates have declined, and withdrawals from savings banks have mounted, since the Minister's announcement.

The Government should now be aware of the futility of relying upon the public voluntarily to subscribe their just share towards meeting our war-time expenditure, and abstain from purchasing nonessential good's. The- Fadden Government formulated a plan of compulsory savings for the purpose of diverting from luxury spending into war loan3 and war savings certificates this dangerous, ever-increasing purchasing power. If that policy had been adopted, the disastrous results of inflation would have been avoided and a substantial fund would have been established for post-war reconstruction. But the Minister for War Organization of Industry opposed this fundamental, indispensable and sane economic proposal to prevent inflation. Of course, the Minister has a policy for the creation of money. Plain-speaking folk call it inflation. I shall quote his views on the mobilization of man-power and resources, with particular reference to rationing. In this chamber on the 2nd October, 1941, he said -

To some degree that mobilization could be effected by financial methods, but also it could be effected by other means - negatively by rationing or prohibition of the use of resources and man-power for the production of nonessential requiremen'ts, and positively by the conscription of wealth.

Every time the Minister makes a public statement, he incites people to spend money upon non-essentials.

Australia has witnessed one of the worst examples of government bungling since the outbreak of war. Even the trade unions which support the Government have trenchantly criticized its handling of clothes rationing. Instead of the Minister giving effect to the functions of his department, namely, the organization of industry in war-time, he has completely disorganized the retail trade.

The people of this country demand an effective war effort, and the Opposition will give 100 per cent, support to, the Government, provided that its prosecution of the war is along lines which will ensure maximum efficiency. We cannot support inefficiency and maladministration.. The. latest action of the Minister very effectively hinders the war effort, and if the Government expects a continuance of the support, which the OPPOsition has given to it in the past, it must assure us that the bungling which occurred over clothes rationing will not. be repeated.

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