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Wednesday, 25 March 1942

Mr DEDMAN (Corio) (Minister for War Organization of Industry) . - I am glad that the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen) mentioned the action of the private trading banks in closing some of their small branches, because it affords an opportunity to dissociate my department from the decision. The cases which the honorable member cited are not isolated. From other honorable members I have received complaints of similar activities on the part of the private trading banks. It is true that at a conference I asked the private trading banks to prepare plan? for a re-organization of the banking business for the purpose of releasing man-power; but I never contemplated that in order to release man-power, the banks should close branches in towns where only one agency operated. I explained very fully to the conference that in certain country towns too many branches were operating. For example, at Colac, in the electorate of Corangamite, half a dozen agencies of private trading banks are conducting a volume of business which two branches could handle quite easily.

Mr Anthony - Would not the two branches require increased staff in order to handle the additional accounts?

Mr DEDMAN - Whilst the two branches would handle more accounts than they did formerly, it is obvious that the concentration of half a dozen businesses into two would enable the total business to be dealt with by a reduced staff.

Mr Anthony - It depends upon the kind of industry.

Mr DEDMAN - It applies to every industry. I indicated clearly to the private trading banks the lines on which 1 desired them to prepare their plans for the release of man-power. At the conference, they promised to formulate plans and to submit them within a fortnight to my department for examination. That occurred some time ago. At their request, I granted an extension of one week.

Mr Rosevear - Why did not the Minister require them to prepare, the plans forthwith?

Mr DEDMAN - Because time was required to prepare them. In the meantime, the private trading banks, without authority from my department and in the face of my disapproval as expressed at the original conference, began to close branches in townships where only one agency was operating. I do not know what action I can take as Minister for War Organization of Industry regarding this matter. I do not know whether the honorable member for Indi wants me to use Statutory Rule No. 77 in order to compel the private trading banks to continue to operate in the townships that, he mentioned.

Mr McEWEN (INDI, VICTORIA) - It will serve the purpose if the Minister will make it clear that the closing of the branches in question was not done in accordance with th" policy of the Government.

Mr DEDMAN - It was not done in accordance with any policy laid down by my department; in fact, the closing of th, agencies was effected despite my express disapproval, as Minister.

Mr McEwen - Advertisements in Melbourne newspapers to-day state that the branches were closed as the result of the shortage of man-power, and the policy of the Government.

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