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Tuesday, 10 October 1972
Page: 1383

Senator GREENWOOD (VictoriaAttorneyGeneral) - by leave - Mr President, on the 24th May last I announced to the Senate a number of proposals for strengthening the Restrictive Trade Practices Act, for establishing a monopolies commission and for the control of anti-competitive mergers that would be contrary to the public interest. I take this opportunity to inform the Senate of the Government's intentions with respect to the Bills to give effect to those proposals. Two Bills will be introduced in the current sittings. One will provide for a number of amendments to the Restrictive Trade Practices Act. The other will provide for the establishment of the proposed monopolies commission and will empower the commission to consider whether particular monopoly conditions are operating contrary to the public interest. The drafting of the provisions for the control of anti-competitive mergers is a particularly large and complex task. Many matters of important detail have to be specifically provided for. It has now become clear that the drafting of these merger provisions will not be completed in time for them to be introduced in the present sitting. Accordingly these provisions will not be able to be included in the 2 Bills which I have indicated will be introduced in the present sitting. Apart from these provisions, the Bills to be introduced express in legislative form the pro- posals which I announced. To the enactment of the principles embodied in those proposals the Government is committed.

However, the Government regards it as important that there should be adequate opportunity for the detailed provisions to be properly studied and assessed. They are comprehensive and far-reaching in their impact. It does not consider that legislation of this character should be passed through the Parliament without there being a proper period for those affected by its provisions to give consideration to what is proposed and. if it is so desired, to make appropriate representations to the Government and to members of the Parliament.

Accordingly, the Government proposes that in the current sittings these 2 Bills will be introduced only. It will then be possible for the detailed provisions to be studied. It will be the Government's intention to invite Parliament to pass the 2 Bills in the first sittings next year. The provisions enabling the monopolies commission to examine mergers and takeovers which may operate against the public interest will then be available and they will be incorporated in the second of the Bills. Certain amendments to the overseas cargo shipping provisions in Part XII of the RestrictiveT rade Practices Act have been the subject of a separate announcement by the Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr Anthony). The scope of these amendments is relatively limited and there is no reason why they should not be passed through all stages in the present sittings. The amending provisions will accordingly be included ina separate Bill, which Parliament will be asked to pass in the course of the next few weeks.

Sitting suspended from 12.36 to 10.20 p.m.

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