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Wednesday, 13 May 1942


Mr HARRISON (Wentworth) . - I do not believe that any single statement previously made by this or any other government has created so much chaos and confusion amongst traders and the purchasing community as did the statement made by the Minister for War Organization of Industry (Mr. Dedman) on Friday last. Even after the speeches that have been made during the debate to-day the honorable gentleman seems to regard his efforts with complete composure. He has satisfied him- self that everything is quite correct, and that the clothing pool which the Government has endeavoured to create has not been depleted in any way by the foolish statement he made. Opposition members, and indeed the whole of the business community, have looked in vain for the reason for the honorable gentleman's statement. When, as Minister for Trade and Customs, I had to bring down certain schedules restricting the importation of sterling and non-sterling goods, I found it necessary to maintain secrecy and not to be goaded by the press into making statements, however hard the pressure was applied. Had I not done so, (here would have resulted a set of cir- cumstances similar to those obtaining under clothes rationing to-day. It is fundamental to all tariff and excise schedules, and indeed to all forms of rationing and restrictions, that the utmost secrecy should be observed. I am concerned to think that a Minister who, in a time of war, is in charge of one of the most important departments, should have been trapped into making a loose statement which has caused unprecedented disturbance in the business community. What has he done? He has said to prospective hoarders : " I am giving you a unique opportunity to buy. Here is your opportunity to obtain goods that you may require, and even goods that you may not require. You may buy them now, and hoard them against the time when I shall introduce a rationing scheme". That intimation favoured the more fortunate classes of the community who had time and money available. Such people went to the shops on Saturday morning and made their purchases. The poorer section of the community, and those who have no leisure, were debarred from making purchases. The whole process adopted by the Minister was unfair. The honorable gentleman should have taken advice from retailers' organizations, but he did not do so. I have been advised this morning by one of the leading retailers in Sydney that although he opened his premises at 9 a.m. he had to close them again at 10 a.m. because his 75 per cent. quota had been sold. The scheme outlined by the Minister imposed a flat 25 per cent. restriction of sales. The details had not been prepared and, so far as we know, nothing had been done to ensure an even distribution of goods affected to all customers. The honorable gentleman's announcement resulted in panic-buying to such a degree that we are now told that consideration is being given to a restriction of the hours of trading. In other words, the Minister is trying, belatedly, to retrieve the position.

Mr.Dedman. - The press has said that the hours of trading are to be restricted I have not said it.







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