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Thursday, 2 December 1965


Mr DALY (Grayndler) .- Mr. Chairman,I join in support of the amendment moved by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) which, as he stated, is to give effect to proposals announced by the former Attorney-General, Sir Garfield Barwick, now Chief Justice of the High Court of Australia, in legislation which he outlined some years ago in this Parliament. As a matter of fact, the views expressed by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition today on this amendment were those that were printed by the then Attorney-General at a cost of £2,000 in order to let the people of Australia know the type of legislation that would be introduced. Today we are discussing a watered down version of it in a Bill that is completely lacking in teeth. This clause, as well as others, has been bitterly opposed by members of the Government parties.

I would say that ultimately the decision as to whether or not the Bill is effective will be made by the judges. As we have seen in this debate, we have had a most notable collection of legal talent, with one or two exceptions, speaking on the interpretation of this measure. Ultimately, it will be decided by the judges of the courts. They will decide the interpretation of a monopoly and other such factors. The amusing thing, in passing, if I might say so, is that lawyers can be sitting in this Parliament one day and be termed political careerists and when elevated to the court the next day they are called infallible judges of the matter under discussion. I listened with interest to the Attorney-General (Mr. Snedden), a Queen's Council, when he spoke. I listened to the honorable member for Parramatta (Mr. Bowen), a very eminent Queen's Counsel. I listened also to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, a Queen's Counsel, and easily the most outstanding of them all. The point I make, Mr. Chairman, is that they were aided, abetted or assisted on these great legal points in this clause by the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Killen) in the capacity of junior counsel. I do not think he is a very good junior counsel so I put the interpretation of this clause down to the questions which have been posed by the three notable gentlemen that I have mentioned. Just in passing, I say of the honorable member for Moreton that he has a practice at law. I understand that he is an advocate for conscientious objectors against registration for national service training and that most of them are now in the Army. The point I make, Mr. Chairman, is that every day in the courts of Australia, in cases involving the interpretation of clauses like the one we are discussing today, one or other of these legal gentlemen are proved to be completely wrong.

On this side of Parliament we believe the point of view put forward by the honorable Deputy Leader of the Opposition, an eminent Queen's Counsel, and also the honorable member for Cunningham (Mr. Connor), a man with a sound knowledge of the law. We believe that their opinions will stand the test against those of honorable members opposite, particularly on the question of a monopoly and things of that nature. That is why 1, as a layman, speak in this debate in order to bring it back to the level at which it should be in my opinion. That is the level at which it is understood by people who realise what is happening in the community. Let us look at the Bill itself and, particularly, at this clause. Even the " Sydney Morning Herald ", which could hardly be called the advocate of the Labour Party, when dealing with this Bill said that it was a compromise Bill. Dealing particularly with the class of monopoly control which has brought so much discussion, it was stated in an article in the " Sydney Morning Herald " -

What finally emerges is a reluctant looking piece of legislation, squeezed out of a long tube after pressures on all sides.

That summary of the legislation was prepared by the newspaper which put this Government into office. The article went on -

Even the scrubbing of most of Sir Garfield Barwick's proposals against resale price maintenance, though regrettable, might be defended for the time being.

The Attorney-General might well ponder the clause we are discussing when I mention the next extract from this newspaper which stated -

Only now is it possible to realise how much the idea of anti-monopolies legislation was Sir Garfield Barwick's baby in the first place. . . . But with the departure and non-replacement of the pilot in the Cabinet room, the compromises have multiplied.

That applies particularly to the clause under discussion. Sir Garfield Barwick, in his ivory tower in the High Court today, must ponder and shed a silent tear at the demise of the really liberal views he expressed when he introduced this legislation to the Parliament. Will the Attorney-General deny what the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) said and say that there is no monopoly control in the tobacco industry? Will companies like Rothman's of Pall Mall (Aust.) Ltd. and others be controlled under this legislation? I do not think so, if this clause is any criterion. In addition to that, will he say that mergers and takeovers are not the first step towards monopoly control which this Bill is supposed to prevent? Will we find that those practices are not covered in the Bill? Are they expressly excluded from these provisions even though the view expressed in this Parliament by Mr. Freeth, as Acting

Attorney-General in December 1962, on behalf of the Attorney-General was -

The following practices are inexcusable and therefore unregisterable -

(1)   persistent price cutting at a loss to drive a competitor out of business;

(2)   collusive tendering;

(3)   collusive bidding; and

(4)   monopolisation, as to which I shall say something in a moment.

Two of those matters have been eliminated completely from this legislation. The proposition put by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition today seeks to re-insert in this legislation provisions which Sir Garfield Barwick stood by. I turn, for instance, to the " Sydney Stock Exchange Annual Report 1963 " and I find that in 1959 there were 21 industries taken over; in 1960 there were 25; in 1961 there were 33; in 1962 there were 22; and in 1963 there were 9. Honorable members can see that gradually, by these processes, industries are being taken over and monopolised. Ultimately there will be a very limited number of distributors distributing all kinds of products, particularly primary products.

That brings me to another point: Since the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Sinclair) spoke on this measure, not one Country Party member has even bothered to stand up in his place and protect the interests of primary producers against monopoly controlled organisations that sell them the capital goods and machinery which are so necessary. I know that you, Mr. Chairman, if you were out there with the Country Party representatives, would be expressing the point of view that they should be expressing. I believe that the amendment that has been moved by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition undoubtedly will put some teeth in the Bill. That is necessary. I quote the following report of a speech by Dr. H. C. Coombs -

In his presidential address on the subject of inflation given to the last meeting of A.N.Z.A.A.S. in Perth, Dr. H. C. Coombs, the Governor of the Reserve Bank of Australia, said there was a common tendency in industry to pass on wagecost increases in the form of higher prices to the public but that it was less common to see prices reduced after productive efficiency was improved; and he suggested that this inelasticity was a symptom of a highly monopolistic condition in Australian industry which was being aggravated by company takeovers.

Dr. Coombsis the man who, in effect, controls the Australian economy through the position that he occupies in banking circles. One can go to a dozen and one sections of the Parliamentary Library and find criticism from all types of people of the monopoly control, takeovers and mergers which are completely excluded from the provisions of this Bill.

No matter what may be said and no matter in what bickering and sham lighting certain members of the Government parties engage, if they believe in this legislation they have a responsibility to see that it is made effective. They can do that by supporting Labour amendments which are designed to see that the people get a fair deal. The honorable member for McMillan (Mr. Buchanan), who is interjecting, has supported every proposal against the Bill and has not voted for one proposal which was opposed to the things against which he was speaking. Not once has he voted against the Government on this Bill. He has spoken on extraneous matters, contrary to the ruling of the Chair. That is the type of opposition that is coming from the other side of the chamber in an endeavour to whittle away the Bill still further. I suggest that one or more of the legal gentlemen, including the Attorney-General, who have been giving us their views on this Bill will be proved wrong when cases on it are finally decided. I believe that the proposition put by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition in his amendment will stand up in the courts of law when this Bill is tested in the courts, as no doubt it will be.

Question put -

That the heading and new clauses proposed to be inserted (Mr. Whitlam's amendment) be inserted.







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