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Tuesday, 30 November 1965


Mr DALY (Grayndler) .- Mr. Deputy Speaker,I support the amendment to the Trade Practices Bill and I propose to reserve my remarks on the speech of the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Killen) until later in the course of my address. Speeches made so far by Government supporters in this debate clearly indicate that on this legislation they are following the theory that open confession is good for the soul. We on this side of the House have been almost bewildered by the variety, velocity and fear with which Government members have opposed the legislation which we were given to believe is Government policy, introduced after five years deliberation with the full support of honorable members opposite. With this introduction to the Bill in mind, I propose to be completely frank with the House and deal with the political implications of this measure, and with the reasons why the reluctant heroes of free enterprise opposite show such concern at its provisions. As a matter of fact, I feel a little sorry for the Attorney-General (Mr. Snedden) today. He has put up with so much from people who are supposed to be supporters of the Government that I thought I would recall, not in a nasty way, but from my files of the past, a statement made by the present Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) as reported in the Sydney "Daily Telegraph" of 18th October 1945 in an address to the New South Wales division of the Liberal Party. He said - the Liberal Party's greatest undertaking was to get candidates of the highest qualifications. The Liberal Party was still handicapped by " doubtful supporters" and "appalling half-wits", who thought they would make better leaders of the Party than those at present in office.

Well, honorable members can take their choice today. There are certainly a lot of very doubtful Government supporters all of whom, from reports I have heard today, feel that they could improve on the efforts of the Attorney-General, particularly with this measure.

The Government has brought down this legislation following the Governor-General's Speech of 1960 when he said that restrictive trade practices legislation would be introduced. As the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) said in a very fine speech, the Government was forced into this action by the recommendations of the Joint Committee for Constitutional Review in 1958 and 1959. Since that date the Government has had this Bill smouldering, as it were, because it was not prepared, evidently, to do anything to offend the wealthy supporters behind it. Now that it has been introduced one would think that the Government has brought in some new nation shattering legislation - the only bill of its kind that has ever been introduced in a democratic parliament. I am indebted to the honorable member for Cunningham (Mr. Connor) who showed that nothing is further from the truth than the statement that this is revolutionary legislation. The honorable member for Cunningham said -

The earliest records of restrictive trade practices - that is, price rigging - date back to the year 3,000 B.C. In Egypt, in India, in order to control price rigging, decrees existed prior to the Christian era, and in Rome legislation was introduced in the Fifth Century A.D.

So the Government is moving slowly aloto what they did in those days. As the honorable member for Cunningham also pointed out, the earliest' English legislation was in the Statute of Monopolies of 1624 and the Canadian 1899 Combines Investigation Act. In the United States of America in 1890 there was the Sherman Act and the Clayton Act, the Federal Trade Commission Act and the Robertson Patman Act. Restrictive trade practices legislation has been enacted in Denmark, France, Holland, Japan, Norway, Sweden and West Germany. In 1948 the United Kingdom passed the Monopolies Restrictive Practices Inquiry and Control Act. In 1956 it passed the Restrictive Practices Act. In 1959 New Zealand followed suit. In 1964 there was the Resale Prices Act and in 1965 there was the Mergers Act. Even in Australia in 1906 there was the Australian Industries Preservation Act which placed certain limitations on restrictive practices but the strong points of which have been repealed by this Government in this legislation. So the Government is 50 years behind the times. To hear the honorable member for Moreton and other honorable members one would think it was one of the most revolutionary pieces of legislation introduced in our time.

There may be doubts in the minds of some people as to how the sections of this Bill which give it force will operate. It is significant that the Government has proposed the repeal of section 4 of the Australian Industries Preservation Act. It has truly been stated that that may be regarded as a false move until such time as the Government is sure that this Bill will stand the test in the Courts and other places and is shown to serve the purposes for which it was intended. Briefly, we can say that belatedly, reluctantly and in the face of severe opposition from its own supporters who realised the threat to those who adopt methods of malpractice and restrictive trade practice in industry, the Government has introduced this measure. But what has happened, even after five years of deliberation? The Attorney-General has circulated 49 amendments and the honorable member for Moreton, who has just sat down, said that he had written out 38 amendments of his own in order to make certain that everything that had to be covered was ng covered. Even at this stage, the Government is only reluctantly introducing this legislation because it feels that there is no way of escaping its responsibilities.

I want to ask a few important national questions about the attitude of the Government towards this legislation. People are entitled to ask: Is the Government as united as Press reports suggest it is? The debate on the legislation now before us has highlighted the bitter internal dissension and differences that exist between Government supporters on policy matters of national significance. Only a few moments ago, when a member of the Liberal Party was discussing the legislation, I noticed that members of the Australian Country Party kept out of the chamber, although the Australian Country Party seems to be strongly in favour of the legislation. It is significant that during the course of the debate one of the few Government supporters to give unqualified support to the legislation was the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Sinclair), who is a member of the Australian Country Party. He realises the dangers of restrictive trade practices, particularly to people who engage in primary production. The people of Australia might well ask whether the Government parties are united in their approach to great national problems. In order to refresh the memories of honorable members I make a brief and passing reference to the debate on the wool reserve prices referendum legislation. We then- had the undignified spectacle of a parliamentary dogfight between those honorable members opposite who support the scheme and those who oppose it. It really hurt me to see such an attitude adopted by members of so-called united parties. We saw members of the-







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