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Wednesday, 13 May 1942

Mr DEDMAN (Corio) (Minister for War Organization of Industry) . - I have listened with great interest to the case which the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Fadden) has endeavoured to make out against the announcement in this chamber on Friday afternoon of restriction of sales of clothing. I endeavoured while he was speaking to note the chief headings under which he attacked my department in particular, and the Government in general.

Mr Harrison - The honorable gentleman's administration of his department,

Mr DEDMAN - Yes, and my administration of the department. In the first place, the decision both as to the scale of the restriction and as to the announcement that rationing was imminent, was made, not by me, but by the Production Executive of Cabinet, of which there are nine members.

Opposition Members. - Do not try to " pass the buck ".

Mr DEDMAN - I make that statement not in any endeavour to escape responsibility, because I shall justify every step taken, but solely in order to make the House realize that the decision was not made lightly by the Government, that it was the result of very grave discussion, and that it came after consideration of every aspect of the matter.

Mr Prowse - Who is Chairman of the Production Executive?

Mr DEDMAN - I am. It appears to me that what I have to do is to prove, first, that the limitation on sales was necessary; secondly, that there was an adequate reason why the coupon system of rationing could not be introduced immediately; thirdly, that the announcement made on Friday was in the best interests of the public; and, fourthly, that this decision of the Government does not mean any detriment to the war finances of this country but will, in fact, as I 'shall prove later, have a 'very beneficial effect indeed. Is limitation of sales necessary?

Mr Fadden - We are all agreed that it is.

Mr DEDMAN - The Leader of the Opposition says that he agrees, hut in his .speech he attacked me for having made certain statements about -excessive sales having taken place before the introduction of the restrictions. If the right honorable gentleman admits that there is necessity for the restrictions, why did he find it necessary to attack any reasons t may have for their imposition? The necessity for their introduction should be evident to any one who has examined the situation.

Mr Fadden - We aTe all agreed as to the necessity for restrictions, but we are not in agreement "with the way the Minister announced -the imposition of them.

Mr DEDMAN - The right honorable gentleman said that my statement that there had been a -50 per .cent, increase of sales prior to the introduction of these regulations was not borne out by the facts. The facts as I am told by the statistical section of my department are these -

In Melbourne sales in February of piece goods were 53.2 per cent, above ths level for February, 1941. Sales of women's wear were 54.3 per cent, higher., and of men's and boys' wear, 53.7 per cent, higher. Earlier months showed lesser increases than these, but reports indicate that sales since then have been comparable with February's figures. One large Melbourne emporium reported that in many lines, after allowing for new stocks coming in, selling would have to stop three months hence for lack of goods. There is justification for the restriction of the volume of .sales.

Mr Spender - A restriction.

Mr DEDMAN - A restriction, yes. The plain fact is that there were sound and adequate reasons for restricting the total volume of sales.

The next question is, " Why did the Government not introduce the coupon system of rationing at this stage?" To that my answer is that to .create a machine to administer the rationing of clothing by the coupon system is a colossal task. No coupon ration ing scheme has been introduced in any part of the world without a minimum of six months of preparation. This Government has been in office only a little longer than six months, and I remind the Opposition that when we took office we found that the previous Government had made no ^'reparations at all for the rationing of clothing.

Mr Spooner - That is incorrect.

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