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Wednesday, 1 December 1965

Mr CONNOR (Cunningham) . - I support the amendment moved by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam). After listening to the honorable member for Isaacs (Mr. Haworth), we can all understand why this Government is still dwelling in the 19th century in respect of restrictive trade practices legislation. I venture to say there is a greater demand in big business today for the services of economists than there has been at any other time in our commercial history, and today there is a considerable dearth of economists. Lads and lassies in secondary schools are being advised to take courses in economics.

The Attorney-General (Mr. Snedden) has said that the tribunal is to be an administrative and sub-legislative one. As this legislation takes its inspiration and its pattern to some extent from the British Restrictive Practices Act, I would like to refer to section 4 of the British Act of 1956, which says that the members of the Restrictive Practices Court in Britain who are not judges shall be persons appointed by the Lord Chancellor who appear to be qualified by virtue of knowledge or experience in industry, commerce or public affairs. In contradistinction to that we have the wording of this clause, "experience in industry, commerce or public administration". Public affairs cover a far broader field than public administration. If we are going into what will be for us a completely virgin field, with a tribunal which will not follow ordinary legal forms and will be unfettered as far as possible, dealing with any situation as it thinks fit, there is all the more need for a public champion, who can consider the interests of the consumer.

Perhaps one of the greatest problems the tribunal will have to face will be in arriving at decisions on whether practices and agreements are contrary to the public interest. Who would be in a better position in the tribunal to make such an assessment than the economist? Consider another major problem that will arise, in dealing with the definition of monopolisation. Professor Richardson in his comments on the Bill pointed out the very real difficulties there will be in proving monopolisation, because, by definition, monopolisation refers to the circumstance when some organisation is in a dominant position in respect of one third of the market. Who could assess the extent of the market better than an economist?

Let us take the experience of the English Restrictive Practices Court up to the present time. Stevens and Yamey published a work which shows that the average period taken for the consideration of an average case is more than 30 days. In 1962 only three decisions were arrived at by the English Restrictive Practices Court. In 1963 six decisions were arrived at. This shows that most intricate matters will have to be considered. In addition, let me quote the precedent that we have in our own arbitration legislation. Legislation setting up the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission provides for an economic bureau to be established to advise the Commission. It is true that the provision has been honoured in the breach and not in the observance, but nevertheless today, as never before, we need the services of trained economists in every field of administration, in every field of government and in every field of commerce and industry.

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