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Thursday, 2 December 1976

Mr HOWARD (Bennelong) (Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs) - I move:

Before proposed sub-section (8C), insert the following sub-sections: " '(8ba) For the purposes of this section-

(a)   'market means a market in Australia; and

(b)   'market', in relation to any goods or services, includes a market for other goods or services that are substitutable for, or otherwise competitive with, the first-mentioned goods or services. (8bb) The grant of an exemption in pursuance of an authorization given under sub-section (8) shall not be made subject to any condition. ' '.

In sub-clause 2 ( a ) omit " and ".

In sub-clause 2, at the end of paragraph (b), add "; and".

At the end of sub-clause (2 ), add the following paragraph: "(c) where an exemption granted in pursuance of an authorization given under sub-section 18 (8) of the Principal Act, being an exemption that was in force immediately before the commencement of this subsection, is subject to a condition, that condition is of no effect.".

The purpose of the amendments dealing with the definition of 'market' are to give greater clarity to the word 'market' as used in the clause. I think those 2 amendments are self-explanatory. The other amendments relate to the question of exemptions. The Government has decided to provide in the legislation that a company having obtained an exemption from the notification procedures of the Act is not required to comply with conditions attaching to that exemption. The legislation is being amended to expressly provide that when an exemption is granted by the Tribunal, if the exemption was in force immediately before the commencement of sub-clause (2) (c), and was subject to a condition, that condition will be of no effect. I stress that the question of whether an exemption is to be granted is a matter for the Tribunal to decide in the light of a number of considerations. Some of those considerations have been spelled out in the legislation but others have deliberately not been spelled out in the legislation. I think all honourable gentlemen will realise that when we get into areas such as trying to define what is competition, what is extensive competition and what is a monopoly position, that while the legislature can give some guidance it is extremely difficult to put in a complete shopping list which defines all the circumstances which will point one in a particular direction.

What the Government is trying to do with new clause 16 in the Bill is to indicate some of the areas to which it believes the Tribunal should, firstly, direct its mind and, secondly, having decided that a certain situation exists as a result of that decision, to treat those areas as being relevant matters. As I said in my second reading speech and I think, as I said in the statement which I attempted to make to the House some 2 months ago, the Government believes that where an exemption is granted the company which obtained the exemption should be entitled to the benefits of that exemption. The Government does not believe that exemptions which are granted and which have attached to them very considerable reporting conditions quite meet the objective of the exemption procedure. The exemption procedure is designed to ensure that if, for a combination of reasons, the Tribunal believes that a company should be exempt from the notification procedures- in other words, excused from complying with the notification procedures- then the company should be entitled to the full benefit of that decision of the Tribunal and not be in a situation where, on the one hand, a decision is made that circumstances justify the exemption being granted and then, on the other hand, find that some of the conditions attaching to the exemption go considerably along the way to restoring what might be the position if the exemption had not been granted in the first place. That is the rationale behind the amendment.

We believe that the amendments give effect to that point of view. They are consistent with what has been said publicly over the past 2 or 3 months about our proposal regarding the Prices Justification Tribunal. They are consistent with a situation where, more and more, the Tribunal will be in a situation to concentrate on investigating areas of price abuse. I think the amendments will clarify both in the minds of the Tribunal and of companies which must deal with the Tribunal what view the Government takes as to the nature of exemptions and what should be the consequences of those exemptions being granted.

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