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Wednesday, 17 December 1941

Mr ANTHONY (Richmond) .- I take this opportunity to refer to the discontinuance of the late shopping night in country towns. Every honorable member will agree that nothing that is necessary for the security of the nation and the furtherance of our war programme should be left undone. But I do not agree, and probably many other honorable members do not agree, with the imposition of this restriction upon country towns.

Mr Spender - Does the prohibition exist in inland towns?

Mr ANTHONY - I wish that point elucidated. The restriction came into force only last week, and there was a great deal of confusion. Some business establishments remained open, and others were closed. The discontinuance of the late shopping night will make a big difference to the lives of country people, for whom it has become a sort of social institution, as the Minister for Commerce (Mr. Scully) must be aware. It provides an opportunity for town people and farmers to meet, and business houses benefit from it. I shall support any measure that is in the interests of national security, but I cannot see any wisdom in preventing night shopping in small country towns which are miles away from any place where there is likely to be a raid. The restrictions will cause economic and social stagnation. Already our rural districts are bearing the full brunt of the war. Scores of thousands of country men have enlisted andthere has been a general migration of workers to the munitions industries in the cities. There are empty business premises in almost every country town. This new restriction will drive another nail into the coffins of these districts. I should agree to the enforcement of this regulation if the Prime Minister or any body else could prove to me that it was necessary. It has been said that the restriction will effect a saving of coal as the result of the decreased use of light and power. But the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) has just pointed out that not one ton of coal saved by this means in Queensland and northern New South Wales would be diverted to the war effort. In the town of Murwillumbah where I live-

Mr Curtin - That is on the coast.

Mr ANTHONY - It is about 20 or 30 miles from the coast.

Mr Curtin - If every town from Torres Strait to Sydney were illuminated, we might as well erect electric signs for the guidance of the enemy.

Mr ANTHONY - I concede that the restriction may be necessary in coastal districts, but it is not necessary elsewhere.

Mr Spender - Why not?

Mr ANTHONY - Moscow is not blacked out completely. Even up to the present time, lights are shown in that city and total blackouts are enforced only when there is an air-raid alarm. I see no occasion for causing despondency amongst country people by this means. I do not question the necessity for blackouts when danger exists, but towns that are distant from the coast should not be deprived of their late shopping nightMany towns are electrically lighted by producer-gas driven plant. Therefore the elimination of the late shopping night will not effect any saving of coal in those places. I have no desire to embarrass the Government, or to criticize any action which it has taken in the interest of national security, because I realize that it has to contend with many difficulties. But I wish to dispose of anomalies and unnecessary restrictions that have been placed upon country people who are already suffering grave disadvantages as the result of the war. The Government might consider the establishment of special zones-

Mr Spender - It is better to be overcautious than careless.

Mr ANTHONY - But we need not get into a funk.

Mr Spender - Supposing a raid took place to-morrow?

Mr ANTHONY - My question is addressed to the Prime Minister.

Mr Curtin - It is not without significance that a former Minister for Defence (Mr. Spender) does not agree with the honorable gentleman.

Mr ANTHONY - The former Minister for Defence has not touched on the point which I am stressing. Before the Prime Minister agrees to the total elimination of the late shopping night in country towns I ask him to satisfy himself that some good purpose will be achieved thereby.

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