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Tuesday, 7 December 1965

Mr CONNOR (Cunningham) .- I do not normally attach very great significance to the statements of the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth), but when reference was made to the police state mentality I thought it was time to take a definite stand and state a definite viewpoint. The example that I quoted was a correct one. In relation to registration I should like to quote from an article by Mr. Walker, lecturer in law at the University of Sydney. The reference to this article is the Australian Law Journal, volume 39, of 30th August 1965. Mr. Walker said on the question of arguments and justification of a case by case approach as is contemplated in the Bill -

The first reason given for the Bill's approach is that the federal enforcement agency, lacking the manpower needed for an effective investigation team, will need to " buy " its information from businessmen themselves. The only way to obtain frank and open disclosure (so the argument goes) is for the government to undertake not to impose any penalty until the specific practice or agreement has been adjudged contrary to the public interest and the parties have had the opportunity of ending it. This is also said to avoid subjecting businessmen to the disturbing scrutiny of " armies of investigators ".

The reference to " armies of investigators " was a reference made by Sir Garfield Barwick in his speech to the 13th Legal

Convention of the Law Council of Australia to which I referred in my earlier contribution. What has business to be afraid of? In particular, little business men will be the ones who will benefit most by the terms of this legislation. It is aimed mainly at manufacturers and distributors - at the big people - who have been exploiting, oppressing, rigging prices and working their rackets on a scale far in excess of that in any other country of the so-called Western democracies. What have these people to fear if they are under an obligation to register? If they register, then what? It will be some considerable time for certain before the Commissioner can get round to examining them.

Here I point out a further advantage which exists in clause 48, the counterpart of which does not appear to exist in the English restrictive practices legislation. I refer to the right to a preliminary conference. This principle seems to have been lifted wholly out of the United States legislation where, under the terms of the Sherman Act and the Clayton Act, there is a stipulation conference when the parties get together and concessions are extorted - literally - by the anti-trust division of the Attorney-General's Department. But in the Bill this provision has been turned round somewhat and has been made much softer in its impact. In the United States the parties before the commissioner for restrictive practices can present the agreement for examination by the tribunal. When the parties are called together they are asked whether they want to continue their practices, if in the opinion of the commissioner those practices need examination. If the parties choose to back down at that stage they are subject to no penalty of any kind. That is a privilege that does not exist in the terms of the English legislation. I can conceive of no other alternative to registration in the terms outlined.

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