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Tuesday, 19 May 1942
Page: 1382

Specific instances quoted are such lines as 1/4-lb. blocks of chocolate which are priced at 10d. in any city shop but for which, it is alleged, certain canteens charge11d.

Toothpaste, razor blades, boot polish and similar articles are stated to be priced at id. to1d. dearer in camp canteens than the price charged by retail stores.

One man who has been employed in the canteen service for the past twelve months claimed that non-commissioned officers in charge of canteens price their goods to suit themselves. " Only thing which concerns them is figures," he claims. "The more profit they show, the more chance they have of being promoted. Camp canteens have developed into a gigantic system of chain stores with readymade customers. " Profits of the canteens are supposed to be returned to the troops in comforts, but mostly the men have left camp long before anything in the way of comforts is supplied. " Comforts consist of such things as butter and fruit dishes for mess tables, things which the Army ought to supply anyway. " No explanation can be obtained as to how accrued profits are being distributed."

Smith'stook these complaints along to Brisbane office of the Canteen Service and submitted them to Mr. Hall, manager and secretary, for comment.

Mr. Hallrefused to say anything on the matter at all and stated that if Smith's said anything about the Canteen Service without the official sanction of the Canteen Board we would find ourselves in serious trouble.

The proprietors of Smith's Weekly then proceeded to relate the steps which they took to get to the bottom of the matter. It is clear that the prices charged for goods in military canteens are in excess of the rates charged for similar goods in city stores. I submit that the prices charged should certainly not be more than those charged in city stores, seeing that the canteens have a monopoly. Only reasonable charges should be levied. Should excessive profits be made, the money will probably eventually go into the coffers of the Government, as happened at the conclusion of the war in 1914-18, with the result that certain people were decorated with the Order of the British Empire, or honoured in other ways. I ask the Minister to inquire into these complaints as his reply to my question shows clearly that he does not know the facts. I urge that each canteen service should be required to supply a properly auditedbalance-sheet from time to time.

Last week, the Minister for the Army announced that members of the Australian Military Forces would be allowed to transfer to the Australian Imperial Force. In doing so, he made it clear that such action would be voluntary on the part of individual soldiers, and that no pressure would be applied to cause men to make the transfer. In spite of that announcement, information has been supplied to me which indicates that certain officers in charge of units of the Australian Military Forces are using coercive and intimidatory methods to prevail on men to join the Australian Imperial Force as complete units. One case which has come to my notice is connected with the Army Service Supply Column with head-quarters at Willoughby. I am informed that a certain officer parades members of the unit before him when he asks them whether they are willing to transfer to the Australian Imperial Force as a complete unit. He then orders those who express their willingness to do so to stand on one side and those who are not willing to make the change to stand on the other side and their names are noted. The position is put to them in such away that those whoare in the minority are expected to abide by the decision of the majority. Should the motion for transfer be carriedby a majority. the whole unit isexpected to transfer to the Australian Imperial Force. Thispractice in addition to being undemocratic, is entirely contrary to the announcement of the Minister that the decision to transfer would be left to men individually.

Mr Calwell - The honorable gentleman should name the officer concerned and the Government should sack him.

Mr Frost - Whether guilty or not?

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