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Thursday, 21 May 1942


Mr RYAN (Flinders) .-I support the remarks of the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Marwick), who expressed the hope that the Army authorities would now be in a position to hand back to the owners all impressed rifles not in use. They are now in storerooms and not in use; and, therefore, will deteriorate. In any case, they would be of far greater value in the hands of owners who could put them to some use. However, I direct my remarks mainly to the system of making payments for rifles taken over by the Army authorities. The following is typical of many cases brought to my notice. Under instructions from the Army, a man handed over his 303 match rifle, which had a special sight. In due course, he received information that he was to be allowed £1 10s. for the rifle. The rifle was of special make, and the owner estimated its fair market value at £4 10s. I agree that that was a fair estimate. Following further inquiries, he was informed by the Army authorities that they were prepared to give him 12s. 6d. for the sight, but were unable to increase the price of £1 10s. for the rifle, because they had to adhere to the prices fixed under army instructions for rifles of that particular kind. It is most unfair that the Army should lay down arbitrary rates of- payment for articles which are impressed from civilians. The Defence Impressment Regulations prescribe that the fair market value be paid for articles taken over from civilians. It is quite clear, however, that the price fixed by the Army authorities in the instance I have cited was not a fair market price, that is, a price which a willing buyer is prepared to pay to a willing seller. Therefore, the Army authorities in laying down this arbitrary price are not only acting unfairly towards the owners of articles which are impressed, but also acting contrary to the regulations dealing with the impressment of such articles. 1 ask the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) to look into this matter with a view to ensuring that owners of goods which are impressed shall receive a fair price for them.

Another feature of cases of this kind arises from the taking over of ammunition. This particular man had in his possession over 1,000 rounds of .303 ammunition. This was taken over with his rifle. The authorities refused to make any Daymen t for this ammunition on the ground that the man had no right to have it in his possession. The ammunition had come into this man's possession long before the outbreak of the war. He had taken it over from a client in satisfaction of a bad debt. In any case, it was his property; and he had every right to possess it. Therefore, when the Army authorities took it over, they should have paid a reasonable sum for it. I place these facts before the Government in order to emphasize the principle that when the Army authorities impress any article, rifles, binoculars, or trucks, they should pay the fair market value of such articles, and not adhere to some arbitrary figure laid down by themselves.







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