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Friday, 3 December 1965

Mr FREETH (Forrest) (Minister for Shipping and Transport) . - Mr. Chairman, I am a little astounded at the amendments proposed by the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Killen). If agreed to, they will provide a complete let-out for any monopoly by enabling it to avoid examination of its monopolistic practices by the Trade Practices Tribunal. The Commonwealth has a limited jurisdiction to examine monopolies. Exactly how limited one would be rather rash to attempt to say in the present state of the law. However, let us suppose for the sake of argument that a monopoly must extend beyond the borders of one State to confer jurisdiction on the Commonwealth. I think that it would be fairly safe to say that if a monopolistic practice were to extend beyond the borders of one State the Commonwealth would have jurisdiction, but if such a practice were confined within the borders of one State, it could well be doubtful whether the Commonwealth would have jurisdiction.

What the honorable member for Moreton is saying is that unless the operations of a monopoly extend over the whole area of one State the monopoly cannot be examined by the Tribunal. If this proposition were correct we would have an interesting situation if a monopoly operated across the borders of three adjoining States - say, South Australia, Victoria and New South Wales - in an area far larger than any one of those States but if it excluded from its operations some parts of all of those States. It seems to me that if the honorable member's amendments were agreed to, such a monopoly could not be examined by the Tribunal. So it seems to me that the Tribunal must have a discretion in any particular case before it. The terms of the subclauses proposed to be inserted by the Attorney-General's amendment are certainly an improvement on those of the clause as originally drafted which were capable of being interpreted by the Tribunal as relating to a monopoly in a very small area. This, at least, is a clear guide to the Tribunal that it has to be a very large and substantive area. The Tribunal has first to see whether the area covers almost the whole of the State. It seems to me that this is quite a reasonable requirement because a monopoly could extend beyond the borders of any one State and do considerable damage, yet not operate within the entire area of any one State.

The honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) says that if the amendment is not accepted by the Government, he wants the decision of the Tribunal in a particular instance to be brought before this Parliament as though it were a regulation in general terms. That is what I understood him to say. This seems to me to be a gross misinterpretation of the control that this Parliament exercises over regulations. 1 will always concede that this Parliament should have control over regulations which, after all, are couched in rather general terms, but what the honorable member proposes is that the decision of the Tribunal in a particular case is brought before it For decision, within its discretion and within the guide lines laid down by this Parliament, must be brought back to this Parliament. The time of this House would be taken up with all sorts of trivalities if decisions of every administrative tribunal had to be brought back to this Parliament in that way. Guide lines have to be laid down for the Tribunal and they have to be narrowed as precisely as possible. If we were to say, for instance, that the Murrumbidgee area, the western part of Victoria and the south eastern part of South Australia were to be regarded for this purpose as coming within the jurisdiction of the Tribunal, that would be a regulation in general terms. But what the honorable member for Mackellar proposes is that when the Tribunal makes a decision on the facts before it, that decision has to be re-examined by this House. I have never heard of anything so absurd.

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