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Friday, 3 December 1965

Mr STOKES (Maribyrnong) .- I hope you will forgive me, Mr. Temporary Chairman, for making an observation. The deeds and actions of the honorable member for Sturt (Mr. Wilson) on behalf of pensioners and the little people are so well known in Australia that no advocacy is needed in this chamber to repel some of the nasty remarks the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) directed against him.

I suppose it is rather unusual to say that any opposition to this clause cuts right across the whole Bill, but it does. I wish to put on record my opposition to compulsory registration. I believe that we live in a democratic country that observes the rule of law. However, compulsory registration within 30 days after the making of an agreement is here proposed. This will be the effect of an amendment to clause 42 which has been circulated and which will remove from sub-clause (1.) of that clause the words "or within such further time as the Commissioner, within that period, allows ".

Mr Snedden - But a new sub-clause which will provide for extension of the time will be inserted at the end of clause 42.

Mr STOKES - Under the provisions of sub-clause (1.) of clause 42, after it is amended, compulsory registration within 30 days of the making of an agreement will apply. One of my colleagues a few minutes ago spoke about Star Chamber methods. What is proposed here is dearly beloved of the Socialists.

Mr Daly - What about the Army?

Mr STOKES - I can tell the honorable member about the Army, but let us talk about the time when the Nazis in Germany instituted a police state. When enemies of the state were believed to exist in a village and the Nazis could not determine which of the villagers were the enemies that they believed to exist they simply executed the lot. This is exactly the sort of thing that the Commissioner of Trade Practices is being asked to do. He will be asked to sit in judgment on every agreement or practice that is registered. He will be asked to prejudge every agreement or practice. This will impose a terrific burden on one man and, as has been observed, on industry. We could go further and point to what is happening in Vietnam. When the authorities there want to winkle out some Communist sympathisers in a village they put the village to the torch and shoot everybody in the hope that they get those who are believed to be Communist sympathisers. However, the fellow who is the main offender knows all the escape tunnels and he gets away.

The same sort of situation will arise in relation to this Bill.

Mr Daly - I remind the honorable member that he is talking about legislation sponsored by the Government that he supports. Does he consider that he lives in a police state?

Mr STOKES - The compulsory registration provisions are akin to the sort of thing that occurs in a police state. They represent just the sort of regimentation that is beloved of the Socialists. However, we on this side of the chamber believe in private enterprise. We believe that until a complaint is made, these processes should not operate. The normal rule of law is that a person who is aggrieved may make a complaint and show cause to a tribunal, and the matter is then judged. Surely the normal pattern should be followed here. The Commissioner of Trade Practices, if he believed that a particular practice or agreement breached the law, could issue an order. Provision for this, plus provision for the making of complaints, would surely be sufficient. My friends tell me that if the compulsory registration provisions are changed the whole balance of the Bill will be upset. Be that as it may, I do not for a moment believe that what is proposed is in the best interests of the community.

Our friend, the honorable member for Cunningham (Mr. Connor) earlier spoke about tied houses in the tyre, petrol and hotel fields. I point out that sometimes a petrol company extends generous financial help to a young man with a family to enable him to establish himself in a service station. Without this help, he could not get off the ground in starting a business. He docs not mind if the company concerned says: " You must sell the tyres marketed by company X, not those marketed by company Y ". He does not mind that if he is getting a fair go. He has no complaint about that. He complains only when something that worries him occurs. When that happens, a complaint is in order. However, compulsory registration of agreements relating to such matters would deny help to a lot of people who are at present helped to establish themselves in business.

I do not like regimentation and have never liked it. I do not like the standover attitude that is apparent in these provisions for compulsory registration. I believe that registra tion should be required only after a complaint has been made or when the Commissioner of Trade Practices- has reason to believe that the law is being breached. What is at present proposed will upset industry and clutter the offices of the Commissioner and his staff with a great deal of superfluous material. When they winkle through it all and separate the wheat from the chaff they will have so much chaff that they will not be able to see where to put the wheat. This is the sort of thing that is going to happen. There will be only a few undesirable cases out of a welter of registrations.

Mr Whitlam - Exemption from registration has been secured for practices. Is that not satisfactory to the honorable member?

Mr STOKES - No, it should be granted for agreements also. Why not? Why should everybody be constrained for every agreement?

Mr Whitlam - Sir GarfieldBarwick's proposal was that both agreements and practices had to be registered.

Mr STOKES - I do not want compulsory registration of every agreement or practice. I hope that I have made my point because I believe that the Commissioner will be placed in a position of prejudging all of those agreements, and that is too great a task for any one man.

Progress reported.

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