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Wednesday, 13 May 1942

Mr DEDMAN (CORIO, VICTORIA) -Consultations did take place with certain individuals in key positions in the retail trading section of the community.

Mr Harrison - Who were they?

Mr DEDMAN - I shall not name the individuals, but consultations definitely did take place. The reasons why all and sundry affected by the regulations were not consulted were, first, that it would take too long, and secondly, that news of what the Government proposed would spread rapidly throughout the community and would to some extent defeat the purpose of the scheme. I repeat, the Government did consult certain key individuals in the retail trading section of the community and, having done so, it decided that the wisest thing to do was to risk any buying rush that might take place on the Saturday morning, and to make the announcement late on Friday so that it would be published in the newspapers on the Saturday morning and in that way enable the retailers to compute over the week-end the basis on which their sales would be permitted from Monday onwards.

Mr Fadden - That would have been possible had the announcement been made a t noon on Saturday.

Mr DEDMAN - That is not so, because by the time it was generally known the staffs employed by retail traders would have dispersed and it would have been impossible to contact them all during the week-end. The traders would not have had time to compute the basis on which sales would be permitted. I shall now examine the effect of that announcement which was made, according to the Leader of the Opposition, eighteen hours too soon. Excess buying did take place on Saturday morning.

Mr Guy - And yesterday, as well as to-day.

Mr DEDMAN - The honorable member apparently does not understand what is happening under the regulations.

Mr Guy - Nobody does!

Mr DEDMAN - The limitation imposed by the regulations was that sales were to be made on the basis of 75 per cent. of the average weekly sales during 1941. Since the regulation places a restriction on sales, how can the honorable member claim that excess or panic buying is going on all the time?

Mr Fadden - It was a case of first come, first served.

Mr DEDMAN - The honorable member was dealing with the total value of sales.

Mr Fadden - No such thing.

Mr DEDMAN -The honorable member for Wilmot has claimed that excess buying is continuing, but I submit that excess buying cannot continue because the regulations impose a restriction on sales.

Mr Harrison - Apparently even the honorable gentleman does not understand the regulations.

Mr DEDMAN - I shall now examine the effects of the alleged excess buying on Saturday last. Since the announcement of the restriction, I have had conferences with many sections of the retail traders associations, and the highest figure given to me as representing excess buying on Saturday last was 150 per cent. beyond ordinary Saturday morning sales. The position was somewhat complicated because Sunday last was " Mother's Day ".

Mr Fadden - I thought it was "Dedman's Day " !

Sir Frederick Stewart - Does the fact that Sunday was " Mother's Day " explain why Mark Foy's Limited sold out all their men's shirts, including the quota up to Saturday next?

Mr DEDMAN - Apparently members of the Opposition think thatthis subject is amusing. I have been criticized for not having consulted the retail trading section of the community before making the announcement. In fact it was the retail trading section that brought before me yesterday the fact that Sunday was "Mother's Day"; I knew nothing about it.

Mr Harrison - That was after the retailers had asked the honorable gentleman to receive a deputation on the subject.

Mr DEDMAN - The interjection is not germane to the subject. The excess buying that took place on Saturday morning, according to what I have been told by leaders in the retail section of the trade, was partly due to " Mother's Day ". If that is not a worthwhile point, I say that honorable members should lay it at the door of the retail trading section which represented it to me.

Mr Fadden - The rush buying wa3 due to "Dedman's Day" on Friday.

Mr DEDMAN - I repeat that the greatest excess buying on Saturday last that has been reported to me from any section of the big traders in the clothing trade was 150 per cent, beyond normal Saturday morning buying. That, taken in relation to a full day's buying prior to the regulations, is 75 per cent, in excess of a normal day's trading.

Mr Francis - The honorable gentleman seems to forget that many stores closed their doors at. 10.30 a.m. on Saturday last.

Mr DEDMAN - The restriction to 25 per cent, of the average weekly, sales in 1941 amounts to a 40 per cent, restriction on the sales that were taking place just prior to the regulations coming into force. Of the 75 per cent, of the normal day's trading that was lost by the orgy of buying om Saturday morning, 40 per cent, was recovered by Monday night, and every penny of it had been compensated for by Tuesday night. Since Tuesday night the pool of materials available for rationing has been increased. No matter what the scale of excess buying was on Saturday morning - and I deplore it - I make it clear that every penny of it was overtaken by Tuesday night. [Extension of time granted.]

That brings me to the contention of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Fadden) that the disclosure had an adverse effect upon war-time finance. I do not see how a mere disclosure could have had an adverse effect. For war-time finance to have been adversely affected, there must have been spending, or a failure to save. The Leader of the Opposition said that because the Government had made this announcement thousands of pounds has been spent needlessly on commodities which would not have been bought had the announcement not been made.

Mr Fadden - Bought by particular people.

Mr DEDMAN - All right. At one stage of his speech the right honorable gentleman said that Saturday morning's buying was "a gift" to the wealthy section of the community who had money to spend, but a hardship to the poorer section of the community who had no money, or very little, to spend. Later the right honorable gentleman said that this buying had resulted in the cashing of war savings certificates. What section of the community invests in war savings certificates? I suggest that it is the working-class section.

Mr Fadden - I did not say that all had converted their war savings certificates.

Mr DEDMAN - The right honorable gentleman contradicted himself. At one moment he said that there had been heavy spending by the wealthy section of the community and that the poorer section could not share in the purchasing because they had no money, and later he said that war savings certificates were being negotiated in order to buy goods. As to whether the spending on Saturday morning had a bad effect on war finance, I repeat that the excess spending had all been compensated for by Tuesday night.

Mr Fadden - Did the people who bought the goods take them back to the shops again?

Mr DEDMAN - No; but all the spending which would have taken place on Monday and Tuesday had normal sales been made did not take place. Since there has been a drastic restriction of sales it is evident that people generally, no matter to what section they belong, cannot spend their money in buying things which they would have bought had these regulations not been issued. Consequently, more money, and not less, will be available for war finance because these regulations are in force. Thus, the regulations have not been detrimental to war finance.

Mr Fadden -We complain that the premature announcement of the regulations has been detrimental to war finance by reason of the fact that it has had the effect of diverting money which would have been conserved had the rationing scheme been brought into effect.

Mr DEDMAN - The right honorable gentleman must consider the effect of the regulations over the whole period between the making of the announcement and the introduction of thecoupon system. I say quite definitely that because people will now be prevented from purchasing goods at the normal rate more money will be available from the community for war purposes, and not less, as was said by the right honorable gentleman.

Mr Fadden - That is the virtue, and the basic principle, of rationing. We do not object to rationing.

Mr DEDMAN - When I made my statement at this table last Friday afternoon, the right honorable gentleman was sitting where he is sitting now, and I distinctly heard him say, " Hear, hear ! ".

Mr Fadden - The Minister might also have heard me say that it was the silliest thing I ever heard of a government doing - that was, the making of the announcement.

Mr DEDMAN - I did not hear the right honorable gentleman say that; but I distinctly heard him say, "Hear, hear !", and he does not deny that he said it.

Mr Fadden - I say " Hear, hear ! " to rationing, but I say " there, there " to the manner in which rationing is being handled by the Government.

Mr DEDMAN - I did not announce the introduction of a rationing scheme. I announced a restriction of sales. When I made that announcement, the right honorable gentleman said: " Hear, hear ! " It seems to me that the discrepancy between the attitude of commendation that he displayed when I made my announcement last Friday, and the attitude of criticism that he is displaying to-day, merely shows that he is being wise after the event.

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