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Friday, 3 December 1965

Mr CONNOR (Cunningham) .-- The tenor of the debate on this amendment confirms the general impression held by the Australian public that there is a well established lobby within the Government's ranks in opposition to this Bill. The lobby is prepared to fight every inch of the way against a measure which, at its best, is a caricature of the original Barwick proposal. I do not want to castigate the lobby any further on that point but I must say that every argument it has advanced is an excellent argument in opposition to the system of registration and pragmatic examination which this Bill proposes. The honorable members concerned may well thank their lucky stars that they do not have to contend with the American legislation in which all these matters would be covered very simply by legislation which would make it an illegal practice to reduce competition unduly. Instead of that, the lobby has the added protection under the terms of this legislation that any such practice must not only reduce competition but also be contrary to the public interest.

It is interesting to refer again to the celebrated speech of the Minister for

Shipping and Transport (Mr. Freeth) particularly in relation to the elements of the scheme. In the introductory paragraph relating to practices required to be registered the following appears -

A list of practices, applicable to goods or services, or both, which are unlawful unless a document which fully describes them is legist tered

The lobby should be thankful to the Attorney-General that the provisions of the clause under consideration are as simple and as narrow as they are. The former Attorney-General, Sir Garfield Barwick, proposed to include all practices. He went even further. He said that practices whether they were unilateral, bilateral or multilateral would be included. In his speech on behalf of the then Attorney-General, the Minister for Shipping and Transport said -

In what I have said, Mr. Speaker, I have referred to the registration of a document rather than to the registration of an instrument or agreement, because the list of practices, list A, will be seen to include unilateral activity as well as activities deriving from bilateral or multilateral agreement. Therefore, opportunity must be given to a person who is following a proscribed practice of his own accord and not as the result of agreement, to register a document descriptive of what he is in fact doing or proposing to do. As the House will remember, this scheme is not confined to restrictive practices by combination. It attempts to strike at the harmful act whether or not it springs from agreement, or from a position of power or of monopoly advantage.

What a long way this Bill departs from the original proposal. I repeat: These gentlemen might very well count their blessings because, after all, this particular clause is the palladium of the professions. It has very carefully and neatly excluded agreements between members of particular professions to jack up their fees or impose onerous conditions upon their clients. I leave it at that. I say again to the gentlemen in this particular lobby: " Count your blessings ".

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