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Tuesday, 7 December 1965

Mr WILSON (Sturt) .- Like the honorable member for Isaacs (Mr. Haworth), I am altogether opposed to clause 43 and I shall vote against it, whether it is amended or not. However, because the suggested amendment of the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Killen) would lessen the viciousness of the clause I will support his amendment but I will then vote again t the clause as amended because I believe it is entirely unnecessary and destroys an otherwise worthwhile Bill. I say that this clause destroys an otherwise worthwhile

Bill because the clause is quite unnecessary. It does not aim to attack the firm or organisation that is carrying on practices contrary to the public interest; it places a blanket obligation upon all firms, companies and individuals in this country to register any understanding or agreement, express or implied, between competitors or likely competitors, whether they are contrary to the public interest or not. It imposes a most vicious penalty of £1,000 upon a firm or company that may have been advised that the understanding or arrangement is not in any way contrary to the public interest, if on examination by the Tribunal or the appropriate authority it is held that the understanding or agreement should have been registered.

Over the weekend, I had the opportunity to speak to the representatives of one of the most reputable companies in Australia. They said that they had been examining this clause for some months. Quite a number of their employees had been engaged in this examination and they thought that some 60 agreements would have to be registered. Let us multiply that by the number of companies and firms in Australia. My estimate is that hundreds of thousands of agreements will have to be lodged for registration. The first effect of this will be that the register itself will be cluttered, as is the register of the European Economic Community. There, when edicts were issued requiring agreement to be registered, some 30,000 agreements were lodged. The administrative machine cannot handle them and it has been said that for the next two years nothing can be done, because that time will be needed to register the agreements that have been lodged already. The requirement there relates to agreements in the nature of international agreements. But when we think of agreements between competitors relating to the sale of a bolt or a screw and require that they be registered-

Mr Haworth - Verbal agreements, too.

Mr WILSON - Verbal agreements, written agreements or implied agreements. We can imagine the inconvenience to which hundreds of thousands of traders in Australia will be put, even though they have not carried on a practice contrary to the public interest. First, they must find out what agreements have been made, perhaps in the last 50 years, and which of them come within the definition of agreements between people on the same horizontal plane. Then they must determine whether they are the kinds of agreements that must be registered. Of course, this will be a tremendous harvest for the legal profession. It will be tremendously costly for industry.

I believe that clause 43 is the worst interference with enterprise, commerce and industry that has ever taken place in Australia. Therefore, I am wholeheartedly opposed to the clause. It imposes a penalty of £1,000 or 2,000 dollars upon a company that fails to do something that is uncertain. The company does not know what it must do or must not do. As I mentioned before, the AttorneyGeneral (Mr. Snedden) in a most eloquent speech pointed to the need for certainty. Most of the Bill is quite certain, but this clause is the most uncertain provision that would be put in any bill. Because of its uncertainty, because it is unnecessary, because it is contrary to all business principles and because it is an unwarranted interference with ordinary commerce and industry, I propose to vote against clause 43, however it is amended, but I will support the amendment because it makes the best of a thoroughly bad job.

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