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Thursday, 2 December 1965


Mr HAWORTH (Isaacs) .- Before the sitting was suspended we were dealing with clause 35 of this Bill which is a Bill for an Act to preserve competition in Australian trade and commerce to the extent required by the public interest. Clause 35 relates to agreements between competitors containing certain restrictions. In other words, it deals with agreements between the business tycoons of the community and the O.B.E.'s of the community.


Mr Buchanan - Whom do you mean by O.B.E.'s?


Mr HAWORTH - I refer to the ordinary blokes, etc., to use a colloquial expression. I think the honorable member knows whom I mean. In the concluding portion of the second reading speech of the Attorney-General (Mr. Snedden), I did see one ray of light. He said that the Bill was so drafted as to remove all questions of uncertainty and to give some clarity of definition to the Tribunal as it would be so different from a court of law.

Clarity, certainty and simplicity are essential to enable those engaged in industry and commerce to know exactly what agreements are registrable or subject to inquiry, particularly in view of the fact that the penalty for not knowing what comes within the definition is a fine of up to £1,000. Unless an expression is clear in its meaning, unless it covers only the matters which it is intended to cover, it should be deleted or qualified.

There are several dragnet expressions used in clause 35 which do not appear to achieve the desired objective. The exact scope of those expressions is most obscure. I think the Committee is entitled to a full explanation from the Attorney-General as to what this dragnet expression means. It is not fair that business people should be compelled to incur the expense of seeking an interpretation from a lawyer.

The honorable member for MacMillan (Mr. Buchanan) referred to one aspect of this matter. He referred to the expression " as to prices or as to any other matter ". The legal members of the community may very well know what that expression means, but lay people, whom this Bill is designed to cover, should also know what is meant by a phrase such as " as to any other matter ". Does it refer to prices? Does it refer to services? We do not know and I do not think the lay people of the community know. They are entitled to know.

There is another expression - a similar device - to which I wish to refer. Paragraph (d) refers to " places ". The Bill contains no definition of " places ". I think it is a well settled rule of statutory interpretation that when dealing with the meaning of words which are not terms of art, courts shall have recourse to dictionary definitions. In common English usage " places " has a very wide meaning. Primarily, it refers to a particular part of space but I would include not only areas but also premises in my interpretation of the meaning of this word. If we include premises then the word has a vastly different meaning. It is apprehended that it is not the intention of this provision to cover individual premises. But who is to know that? Therefore, I think the word " places " should be deleted and some other precise term should be used. Perhaps " market areas " or " zones " would be more applicable. Or perhaps we could use the word "areas".

This Bill has been drawn up by the Attorney-General who is a barrister at law. I see he is now engaged in conversation at the table. I am suggesting to the Committee that he might let us know precisely what these expressions mean because they apply to the ordinary man who should be able to understand them readily. He should not be put to the expense of having to engage the services of a lawyer to interpret them for him. All through this Bill there are very many definitions that can be interpreted in many different ways. In fact the Bill has been described already as a lawyer's bill.

If only the Attorney-General would give me a little of his attention for a moment, we might be able to have this matter clarified after I have finished speaking. Apparently he is engaged in conversation with another lawyer. I am merely drawing the attention of the Committee to the fact that although this Bill has been designed to assist lawyers, it is claimed to be specifically designed to help the public also. I should very much like to know what the peculiar expression " places " means. Does it mean space, or does it mean market areas, zones, or just areas? I now pass the question over to the Attorney-General as my time has almost expired. I hope he will give us a little of his attention and describe to us the meanings of these various expressions because he did say in his second reading speech that this Bill would be easy for the public to understand; that it would have clarity written right through it.







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