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Wednesday, 1 December 1965

Mr WHITLAM (Werriwa) .- In the Bill as introduced, clause 4 provided for the repeal of the Australian Industries

Preservation Act. Insofar as the AttorneyGeneral (Mr. Snedden) is now asking that the original clause be omitted we shall support him with our vote, for we wish to preserve the Australian Industries Preservation Act. He is, however, moving that another clause be substituted. The consequence of inserting this other clause would be that the Australian Industries Preservation Act would have no application, as it does at the moment, in the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory. The new clause also would ensure that its effect otherwise would be limited to the carriage of goods by sea between Australia and places outside Australia.

When the Attorney-General introduced the Bill last May he said that in the present sessional period - the Budget sessionfurther clauses would be inserted to deal with the situation of Conference Line restrictions of Australian exports. He has not introduced those clauses. We assume that he is preserving the Australian Industries Preservation Act insofar as it relates to overseas sea transport, in lieu of the promised new clauses. During the second reading debate the Labour Party stated its objections to the repeal of the Australian Industries Preservation Act. There had been very little litigation under the Act for nearly 50 years, although it was an Act based on the United States Sherman Act of 1890. Last year and this year, however, there have been several cases. In the debate on the second reading I referred to the decision of the High Court in February last year in Redfern's case, in which the Court held that section 4 fell within the scope of the Constitution. That was a unanimous decision of the Full High Court. In addition, Mr. Justice Taylor, in three cases in which he gave judgment in Canberra on 30th June last - incidentally, I believe that was the first time the High Court had sat in Canberra - interpreted section 7b. of that Act as applied to the Australian Capital Territory by the Seat of Government (Administration) Act. The three cases in Canberra were prosecutions by the Attorney-General against wholesale spirit merchants.

It has now been demonstrated that the Australian Industries Preservation Act is a very effective instrument. It nullifies con tracts which are in restraint of trade. It makes certain actions offences. It gives persons affected by those actions the right to treble damages, as provided under the Sherman Act. Accordingly, the Act has very real advantages both as regards the public interest and the private interest of persons concerned. The present Bill does not cover all the public mischief which the Australian Industries Preservation Act was designed to deal with and which it has now been shown to be capable of dealing with beyond any doubt or hesitation. Furthermore, this Bill very greatly reduces the remedies available to private citizens or individual companies. Under the Bill, individuals and companies will have the right to damages only in respect of practices which are declared by the trade practices tribunal to be against the public interest, and they will be able to receive damages only in respect of losses sustained from the time the tribunal has so found. Under the Australian Industries Preservation Act, however, there is no such limitation in time. There does not have to be any private finding by any administrative body or a finding by any court. Citizens and firms are able to seek damages for their injuries for the normal times that apply within the Statute of Limitations. Furthermore, the damages which they may receive are treble damages. There is a very real advantage in the Australian Industries Preservation Act for individuals and companies which is in no way provided by this Bill. There are items of public mischief which the Australian Industries Preservation Act covers and which are not covered by this Bill.

Accordingly, we do not want the Act to be repealed. We want it to be preserved in its entirety until better legislation is shown to be available. We are buying a pig in a poke as the matter now stands. The Act is now being preserved presumably until the new shipping clauses promised for this Budget session can be introduced. The real cure for the situation in which Australia finds itself with regard to overseas maritime commerce is to provide Australian competition in this field. It can be done by the Commonwealth Gove, .intent or by any State Government. The Australian National Line is permitted by the Australian Coastal Shipping Commission Act to trade overseas or with the Territories. It is not limited statutorily, although it is limited administratively, to coastal shipping or interstate shipping. However, this Australian competition need not be purely government competition. It could be competition provided by a consortium between the Australian Government and Australian private companies, or between the Australian Government and foreign governments, or between the Australian Government and foreign companies. All these courses are entirely feasible.

Questions have been asked by my honorable colleague from Wide Bay (Mr. Hansen), concerning the proposal that there should be a 60-40 shareholding by Australian and Japanese interests in a bulk shipping service between Australia and Japan. Because the bulk products would go from Australia to Japan the ships would be in ballast on the journey from Japan to Australia. It is often thought that therefore the operation would be an uneconomic one. I am unable to see why the operation of such ships, highly automated as they would be, would be uneconomic in Australian or joint Australian-Japanese hands but would be economic - as it is - in Japanese hands alone. The proposal is, however, as I understand it, that there should be three legs - that there should be a voyage in ballast from Japan to Yampi, that an iron ore cargo should be taken from Yampi to the east coast and that coal should then be taken from the east coast to Japan. Two of the three legs would thus be with full loads. Another proposal that has been made by the Australian National Line to the Department of Shipping and Transport is that the Australian National Line should be permitted to buy, charter or order refrigerated ships for the carriage of our meat and fruit overseas so that we can participate and compete. The Department of Coastal Shipping, as the Department should be more properly defined, has not yet rejected the proposals. It is still considering them after months of opportunity have gone. The Australian National Line has shown that it is not only the largest but the most economic and efficient shipping line on the Australian coast. It could undoubtedly make a significant contribution to our overseas trade.

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