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Friday, 28 November 1986
Page: 3969


Mr GEAR —Has the Prime Minister's attention been drawn to recent public comments on the newly established Caucus Prices Task Force? Do these comments vindicate the Government's decision to establish the Prices Task Force?


Mr HAWKE —I thank the honourable member for his question. As Chairman of the Prices Task Force, he is now in the process of extending what has been a remarkably successful concept in his own electorate to dozens of localities all over Australia. By identifying the dearest and the cheapest supermarkets, these local price watch committees will be able to help the shoppers' dollar go further. There is no doubt, from the experience already obtained in the honourable member's own electorate, that this process will also promote greater competition amongst retailers. The Australian Federation of Consumer Organisations welcomed the Task Force in its October edition of the magazine Consumer Views, and we are very pleased to see that. Very significantly, against the scepticism and empty guffaws from honourable members opposite, I suggest that it is a matter of interest that the Australian Pensioners Association yesterday congratulated the Government for setting up the Prices Task Force. The Australian Pensioners Association will recommend to all its affiliated organisations throughout Australia that they give members of the Task Force full co-operation and involve themselves in its work.

In other words, the only criticism which seems to have come from any part of this country against the imaginative concept and initiative of the honourable member who has asked this question is, of course, from the one predictable quarter; and that is from the Leader of the Opposition, who described the price watch committees as `window dressing' that `will achieve zilch'. Once again the Leader of the Opposition has exhibited his cynicism and his lack of commitment to keeping prices down. He supports a total wages freeze for about 18 months on the one hand, and then says to the people of Australia, with whom he is supposed to be concerned: `while I hold your wages down absolutely for 18 months, I will abandon the Prices Surveillance Authority and I will pour scorn and contempt on any attempt by the Government to involve the community in helping to keep prices down'. This is the man who is supposed to have some concern for the families of this country. I say publicly on behalf of the Government and, I believe, the people of this country that we thank the consumer organisations and the pensioner organisations for their sense of realism, their sense of commitment and their preparedness to be involved with this Government in doing what we can to ensure that price rises in this country are kept to an absolute minimum.