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Rationing and the man who killed Santa Claus

Throughout the war rationing was gradually extended to cover a wide range of products, including fuel, clothing and food. Rationing is the practice of controlling the supply of such essential commodities; it was introduced to limit consumer spending and curb inflation. Every adult Australian was issued books of ration coupons. Each coupon allowed the holder to purchase a measured amount of the identified commodity. Cash alone was not enough.

The man responsible for enforcing rationing was John Dedman, Minister for War Organisation of Industry and Minister in charge of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. During 1942 the range of rationed commodities grew. Critics of Dedman’s measures dubbed him “Lumbago Jack”, and when he banned advertising around Christmas 1942, he was referred to as “the killer of Santa Claus”.

Not every Australian embraced the war effort wholeheartedly. Some were prepared to exploit their countrymen and profit by selling scarce commodities at greatly inflated prices. These profiteers took advantage of the demand for controlled commodities, and a “black market” evolved in which they could be acquired without coupons but at high prices. Even coupons became a commodity with a negotiated price. However, rationing was policed and breaches were severely punished.

Squander Bug!

The Squander Bug was the central symbol in a wartime advertising campaign to encourage people not to waste or misuse scarce resources. Spending money was seen as an act of disloyalty. Australians could fight the Squander Bug by investing their money in the war savings schemes.


Squander Bug! - RC02345Squander Bug!RC02345

Squander Bug! - RC02344Squander Bug!RC02344

Squander Bug! - RC02346Squander Bug!RC02346

Squander Bug! - RC02347Squander Bug!RC02347


The Hon. John Dedman, Minister for War Organisation of Industry - 010015The Hon. John Dedman, Minister for War Organisation of Industry010015

Ration book - RC02325Ration bookRC02325

Myers coupon counter - P04264.005Myers coupon counterP04264.005

Checking rationing scales - 140249Checking rationing scales140249

Lolly wrappers - RC02512Lolly wrappersRC02512

Lolly wrappers - RC02514Lolly wrappersRC02514

Ration calculator prototype - RELAWM20376Ration calculator prototypeRELAWM20376

Warning: rationing breaches - ARTV08575Warning: rationing breachesARTV08575

Grow your own vegetables … - ARTV03823Grow your own vegetables …ARTV03823

Don’t spill the good oil … - ARTV07818Don’t spill the good oil …ARTV07818

Electrolux Model C gas producer unit - RELAWM32956.001Electrolux Model C gas producer unitRELAWM32956.001

Adding charcoal to a gas producer - 027267Adding charcoal to a gas producer027267

Emergency fuel ration tickets - RC02324Emergency fuel ration ticketsRC02324

Cigarettes - REL/08981.001CigarettesREL/08981.001