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Thursday, 2 December 1965

Mr KILLEN (Moreton) .- Mr. Chairman,I move -

Omit paragraph (c) of proposed sub-clause (1.). The purpose of this amendment is to omit the reference to prices or other terms or conditions of dealing. I have the greatest misgivings about this clause. As I indicated at the second reading stage, I believe that the Government is legislating unwittingly here. I would be grateful if, before the consideration of this clause is completed, the Attorney-General would state whether the Government was prepared to deny that the clause, in particular proposed sub-clause (1 .) in effect would provide for prices control. I have never heard the Attorney-General or any other Minister, in any argument concerning this Bill, say that, among other things, it would represent a form of prices control. I have no outstanding argument with the philosophy of trying to control monopolisation where it is opposed to and is in fact injuring the public interest. But I have a rooted objection to implicit approval of a form of prices control.

I ask the Attorney-General to consider some specific cases. He himself has adverted to a regional area - the Riverina. On Tuesday, I instanced Toowoomba Foundry Pty. Ltd., in the Darling Downs area. This company manufactures agricultural equipment and sells it throughout the Darling Downs and Western Queensland. Conceivably, for the purposes of the Trade Practices Tribunal, that region could be regarded as a substantial area. Bear in mind, Mr. Chairman, that the Tribunal's judgment of what constitutes a substantial area is its judgment and its judgment alone. That judgment is not open to review. Suppose the Tribunal were to take the view that the Toowoomoa Foundry was using its dominant position to impose prices. Let us consider the case of a two-horsepower motor being sold for, say, £80. The Tribunal could order that the motor be sold for £60. Under the terms of clause 52 the Tribunal may make such orders as it considers necessary or thinks fit and such orders will not be reviewable. This does not seem to me to be in harmony with the philosophy behind the Bill as I apprehend it. However, I may be in error. If I am, I shall be grateful if my error is pointed out to me. I instance also the Broken Hill Pty. Co. Ltd. If it were selling 16 gauge steel for £80 a ton. the Tribunal could order that such steel be sold for £60 a ton. What could the Company do about that? lt could do nothing.

I put it to the Attorney-General and to the Committee that this sort of thing would constitute a form of prices control. I submit that the full legal implications of clause 37 have never been studied by the Government. If there is a fallacy in my reasoning, I would be grateful to be shown where that fallacy lies. I am not going to argue the merits or demerits of price control. This is not the occasion for doing that. I take the stand that with a free enterprise system there should be no need for price control. But I have the gravest doubts about the Committee approving of a system of control unknowingly, unwittingly and unsuspectingly.

I ask the Attorney-General whether or not clause 37 (1.) (c), as it is proposed to stand - that is, " impose prices or other terms or conditions of dealing that he would be unable to impose but for his dominant position " - does, in fact, amount to a form of price control. The Tribunal determines the area and whether or not a person is in a dominant position. Those discretions are not reviewable by a court. These discretions combined together to give power to the Tribunal to determine whether or not a particular company is using its dominant position for the imposition of prices that it would be unable to impose but for its dominant position. I believe that this is tantamount to a form of price control. At no stage has the Attorney-General adverted to it and neither has any other Minister.

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