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Thursday, 2 December 1976
Page: 3165

The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN (Mr Giles (ANGAS, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - Order! I ask the honourable member to resume his seat for a moment. It is difficult to hear what the honourable member is saying. There is too much audible conversation in the chamber.

Mr Howard - He cannot hold his audience.

Mr YOUNG - Someone made the accusation that I could not hold my audience. I notice how the Liberal Party is holding its audience in recent times. If that incident had occurred with the Australian Labor Party, it would have been headlines in every newspaper in Australia. The Liberals are so fortunate.

The Opposition has no objection to the lifting of the ceiling from $20m to $30m, as clause 5 provides. This provision will cater for many of the companies which were mentioned by my friend the honourable member for Lilley (Mr Kevin Cairns). The honourable member seemed to think that it was unique or ironic that a member from an Adelaide electorate should question the role of the motor car industry in Australia. Later in his speech, he seemed to take some exception to a provision inserted by the Government that the Tribunal should take into account the profitability of the motor car industry and its ability to employ people.

Let me say this for the benefit of the honourable member for Lilley: Most of the people whom I represent are consumers. That is the position not only with me but also with every other honourable member who comes from South Australia. Those people need to be protected. Again, for his benefit, I make the point that I have already made, that lifting the prices of imported vehicles- this will occur as a result of the devaluation this week- will give the Australian motor vehicle industry a greater opportunity to lift the prices of its vehicles to that range. He may say that will not occur because the Prices Justification Tribunal will rope it in as it is over the $30m mark. But the honourable member would then agree that perhaps the motor car industry can exempt itself because it is so highly competitive.

I would have thought that one of the first bodies to greet the Tribunal after the passing of this Bill would be the vehicle manufacturing industry which would be able to say: 'Look, we are in a highly competitive industry'. In fact it could prove that it is in the most competitive automobile industry anywhere in the world. Nowhere in the world do so many motor vehicle manufacturers and potential motor vehicle manufacturers have so few consumers. Nowhere in the world would the automobile industry consider having 5 manufacturers for 600 000 units. So I suspect that under the Government's provisions the motor car industry will be exempt from the surveillance, as we now call it, of the Prices Justification Tribunal. That being the case, my charge still stands: The way is made easier for such companies to lift the prices of their product to the prices of the imported product.

It seems to me rather ludicrous to raise the question that if one comes from a certain State one should not say anything about an industry operating in that State. I do not know whether the honourable member for Lilley has much interest in sand mining on Fraser Island, in bananas, in pineapples or in coal or whether he is to remain dumb on any questions concerning Queensland. Obviously we should be speaking out. The Opposition has no objection to the lifting of the amount from $20m to $30m. But the sting of clause 5 is in the tail. I ask the Minister to explain to the Committee how we are to avoid the breakup of major companies into subsidiaries. Proposed new sub-section ( lA) of section S states:

A company that is a subsidiary of another company is not a prescribed company for the purposes of this Act if the sum of the amounts received by the first-mentioned company during the period of 12 months that ended on the immediately preceding 30 June as payments for the supply of goods, or the supply of services, or both, did not exceed $5,000,000.

It seems to me that the Government is not sincere about what it is proposing. We on this side of the chamber do not believe that what the Government says and the way in which it expresses its intentions will really bring about the fact as far as the Prices Justification Tribunal is concerned. I would like to read to the Minister a sample of companies, together with the number of subsidiaries of those companies, taken from the Key Business Directory. I want the Minister to tell the Committee what action the Government or the Prices Justification Tribunal can take to see that companies such as the ones I am about to mention do not break up into penny packet organisations so as to completely avoid the criteria set down for the operations of the Prices Justification Tribunal. Let me just list some of the companies and the number of their subsidiaries. Without checking, I believe that each of these companies together with its respective subsidiaries would have an annual turnover of more than $2Sm or $30m. Let me give a breakdown of the companies. Allied Manufacturing and Trading Industries, 67 subsidiaries; Associated Pulp and Paper Mills, 23 subsidiaries; Australian Consolidated Industries, 35 subsidiaries; Boral, 80 subsidiaries; Brambles Industries, 65 subsidiaries; Burns Philp, 76 subsidiaries; Carlton United Breweries, 84 subsidiaries; Concrete Industries, 52 subsidiaries; Consolidated Foods, 44 subsidiaries; Consolidated Press, 20 subsidiaries; John Fairfax, 29 subsidiaries; Hoffring, 62 subsidiaries; Metal Manufacturers, 46 subsidiaries; Pioneer Concrete, no less than 165 subsidiaries; Ready Mixed Concrete, 35 subsidiaries; Repco, 70 subsidiaries; and George

Weston Foods, 64 subsidiaries. It seems to the Opposition that if a subsidiary is operating in a totally unrelated area- and I ask the Minister to listen to this -

Mr Howard - I am listening.

Mr YOUNG -I know that the Minister is interested in what the honourable member for Lilley has to say. But I ask him to listen to what I am saying and to tell us how he will avoid the proposition I am putting to him. If the subsidiary is operating in a completely related area to the parent company, is the subsidiary roped in or is it allowed out of the net, or is it the intention of the Government to exempt only those subsidiary companies operating on a turnover of less than $5m in a totally unrelated area to the parent company? If the Government is to say that any subsidiary with a turnover of less than $5m is exempt we would like to know how the Government will stop the breakup of some of these major companies to avoid the criteria of the Prices Justification Tribunal and thus to frustrate its operations?

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