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Wednesday, 13 May 1942

Mr JOLLY (Lilley) .- The Minister's reply indicates that he does not understand the position. It is clear that he has not had any experience of the retail trade. No honorable member disputes the need for rationing. But the way in which the rationing of clothing has been introduced is a reflection upon this Parliament. Instead of being done in a well-ordered fashion, it has been accompanied by an unseemly scramble which resulted in a rabble in the retail houses throughout Australia. This does not do credit to either the Commonwealth Parliament or the community.

Mr Calwell - Why blame the Parliament?

Mr JOLLY - The Parliament must accept responsibility for what is done by the Government. The Minister evidently misunderstands the position altogether when he claims that he is justified because, although the public overbought to the- extent of 150 per cent, on Saturday, the position has been balanced by the restrictions placed on buying on Monday and Tuesday. The position is far otherwise. The people who contributed to the buying rush on Saturday have overbought and, what is worse, they have, in many instances, bought goods that they will not be able to use, whilst other people will have to go without. It is clear from what we have heard that certain persons knowingly overbought, and it ought to be within the power of the Government to ensure that they shall have no opportunity to resell those goods to the community at a profit.

Mr Dedman - Excess buying has been going on for months.

Mr JOLLY - The Minister claims that he did not start excess buying, and that is true, but his premature announcement turned what had been merely a trickle into a torrent. The Minister was careful to say that his scheme was supported by a majority of Cabinet, but he cannot thereby escape all responsibility for what has occurred. Why did he announce the scheme at all until all the machinery was ready to put it into effect? That is where the mistake was made. It was an unfortunate bungle that the preliminary announcement was made before the Government was in a position to control the situation. The Minister would be well advised to take heed of what has been said here to-day. When the Government proposes to take action touching the coalmining industry, it very properly nonsuits men associated with that industry. Similarly, the Minister would now be well advised to consult those who are experienced in the retail trade. He said that he had conferred with three men.

Mr Dedman - I said key men.

Mr JOLLY - I do not know of any three key men in the retail trade who could have advised the Minister to act as he did on Friday last. In Brisbane, as in other capital cities, there was an unseemly scramble to buy, and unfortunately those persons who had the time and money took advantage of the Minister's announcement to get in ahead of less fortunate citizens. That was particularly unfair to the mothers of families who are unable to visit the shops at short notice. Many of the retail shops are closing their doors for a part of their normal trading period each day, but the public are not advised of the times during which the shops will be closed. This inflicts great hardship upon mothers who travel in from the suburbs, only to find, when they arrive in the city, that business has ceased for the day. If shops are unable to remain open during the normal trading hours, I suggest to the Minister that he should take steps to have some kind of uniformity introduced so that the public will know what trading hours have been fixed.

If we are to continue as we have begun in regard to rationing, we shall soon need some one to ration the rationers. Recently, a tea rationing scheme was introduced, and hundreds of thousands of declarations had to be made and signed by the public. I am not objecting to that, but 1 do object to the waste of paper that was involved. I have here one of the Government forms upon which the declarations were made, and here beside it I have a form issued by one of the retail houses. As honorable members can see, it is only about a quarter of the size of the Government form. As for the rationing of clothes, I suggest to the Minister that, even at this late hour, he should call representatives of the retailers together to advise him, and I am sure that they will give him all the help they can.

Mr.BRENNAN (Batman) [5.17].- I do not feel called upon to defend in every detail the Government's policy of rationing, but there are some aspects of this motion for the adjournment of the House that cause me to rise. I have noticed on several occasions that motions, intended to be of a critical character, have emanated from the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Fadden) against the Government, but that the castigation has been administered by the right honorable gentleman with such a dainty and discriminating band as to remind one of a rebuke administered in the nursery on Mother's Day. The usual practice is for the Leader of the Opposition mildly to criticize the head of the Government, and immediately the head of the Government throws back a few caustic interjections the Leader of the Opposition and the tribe that supports him run away from their motion and apologize, in effect, for having submittedit. But to-day he position is different. The Leader of the Opposition waded in with quite unwonted enthusiasm, and was supported by the enthusiasm of his fellow members on his side of the House. I had never previously in all my experience heard so many right honorable and honorable dingoes at large in this chamber as when the Minister rose to reply.

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