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Thursday, 25 May 1939

Mr PATERSON (Gippsland) . - This afternoon the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn) made a statement with respect to this clause with which I entirely agree. The honorable gentleman said, in effect, that he had grave doubts as to whether this committee was the best authority to judge what is a reasonable profit, and what is the best basis for assessing that profit. Some honorable members have proposed that profits should be limited to 6 per cent., others to 4 per cent., and. various suggestions have been made as to the basis upon which such percentage should be calculated. Two honorable members, both of them well-known accountants from the same State, have offered diametrically opposed opinions on the subject. All this goes to show the truth of what the honorable member for Bourke said. The Government has announced the appointment of an honorary panel of accountants to advise it as to the best method of dealing with the matter. Some honorable members have expressed their approval of the personnel of the panel, yet those same honorable members have proposed to make the matter absolutely rigid by fixing a definite percentage of profit. It seems to me that if we are to have an advisory panel we should, before taking action to fix a rigid formula, at least wait until we receive its advice. None of the amendments proposing to fix a definite percentage of profit can be regarded as satisfactory. The amendment of the Acting Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) is in a different category, because it is general in its scope. Some doubt has been expressed as to whether it would be of any value. Sub-clause 2 permits the Governor-General - or in other words, the Government - to decide to what extent it shall administer paragraphs a tof. That would enable the Government to restrict or modify action under any of those paragraphs, but the amendment of the Acting Leader of the Opposition will ensure that no such modification can take place in respect of the matters covered by paragraph e. In other words, noprovision for the limiting of profits will be modified by what appears in subclause 2. This seems to be sound common sense, and for that reason I propose to support the amendment.

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