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Thursday, 25 May 1939

Mr RIORDAN (Kennedy) . - I was interested to learn from the -Minister for Supply and Development (Mr. Casey) that the Acting Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) is at the present time in conference, with the object of ! drawing up a new amendment, in order to achieve the object of honorable members on this side of the House. The first portion of this clause gives to the Government the power to exercise certain - authority, but in the second portion, 'the

Governor-General has the power of veto. The honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) and the honorable member for Martin (Mr. McCall) have moved amendments in an endeavour to give to the Government power to limit profits, but these amendments if adopted will not have the desired effect.

We have only to study history to understand the extent to which an armament ring operates throughout the world, and to realize the tactics which it adopts to cause international unrest, to 'bribe governments, and to secure orders. It also makes loans available to governments so that they will be within the grip of a world-wide monopoly. Representatives of the armaments ring, in anticipation of making huge profits on the orders they hope to receive, are actually advising governments as to the policy they should adept. The acceptance by the Government of the amendment foreshadowed by the Leader of the Opposition indicates that it also is concerned with the huge profits that have been made by manufacturers and is anxious to impose some restriction. How does the Government propose to limit profits? One big combine in this country controls many subsidiary companies, and when the parent company supplies raw material to its subsidiary companies the profits actually made can be ascertained only with great" difficulty. The amendment proposed by the Acting Leader of the Opposition should assist the Government in that direction. The oil companies operating in Australia are conducting a huge monopoly, and when their profits are low the petrol used in their own vehicles is charged at a low price, and when profits increase a higher price is charged. That is done in order to evade a portion of the income tax they should pay. In view of the information at the Government's disposal concerning the tactics adopted by such companies, it should exercise the greatest care in dealing' with companies engaged in the production of munitions for defence purposes. Some time , ago the waterside workers at Port Kembla refused to load iron ore for Japan because they knew that it was to be used in the manufacture of arms and munitions. The' waterside workers at Townsville also objected to handling zinc concentrates for shipment overseas, but as their objection was overruled zinc concentrates needed urgently in Australia are still being shipped abroad. The honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen) said that those engaged in the production of copper are getting a " rake-off ", but I hope he did not include those miners known as "gougers". The Minister (Mr. Casey) admitted last night that the bulk of the copper used in the manufacture of munitions is purchased from the Mount Lyell Company, another monopolistic concern, and that the price paid by the Government is approximately £60 a ton. The honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Frost) gave the price for copper during the last two years, and his figures are correct. We were also told by the Minister that the price which the Government pays for copper produced in Australia is based on London parity to which exchange and freight have to be added. The " gougers," or those who mine copper on a small scale, do not derive any advantage from their arduous work, because they are compelled to accept the price offered by speculators who get all the benefit. In purchasing copper, at an excessive price the Government is exploiting the people. We have also been informed that the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited has made certain rebates" to" the Government. It is obvious, therefore, that the swindle has already started. We" have been discussing how we can restrict the profits of these combines for only two days and already we have had brought to our notice two instances of the Government's having apparently to pay excessive prices. At that rate, if the discussion went on for weeks, the time would be well spent. The honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) declared that the Opposition's amendment would not achieve what he said would be achieved by the amendment moved by the' honorable member for Martin (Mr. McCall), but I point out to the honorable' gentleman that the Opposition's amendment' makes it mandatory for the Government to ensure that it does not pay too dearly for the material supplied to it, whereas the amendment moved by the honorable member for Martin would not in any way alter the crucial sub-clause 2, which makes it optional for the Government to restrict profits.

The Minister for Supply and Development to-day read to the committee information as to how the authorities in England are controlling profits. I hope for the sake of the taxpayers, by whom I mean the workers, because the Government has raised indirect taxes to an abnormal height and thereby increased the cost of living, that this Government will never adopt the methods employed by the Chamberlain Government, for the simple reason that in January we learned that as the result of the re-armament programme in Great Britain 42 additional millionaires have been created. Again, during the September crisis there was a scandal in Britain over the supply of sandbags. Those two instances are sufficient to show the ineffectiveness of the methods adopted by the Chamberlain Government to restrict profits. The Assistant Minister for Supply and Development (Mr. Holt) said that there Avas no actual necessity for the Government to bring down this bill. Why was it brought down? It Avas brought down because the Government wanted to have four Ministers for Defence, and to find jobs for highly-paid public servants Who have lost their positions as the result of the throwing overboard of national insurance.

The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Prowse.)The honorable gentleman has exhausted his time. [Quorum formed.]

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