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Tuesday, 30 November 1965

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Drury (RYAN, QUEENSLAND) - Order! The honorable member cannot refer to legislation that has already been through the House during this session.

Mr DALY - I bow to your ruling, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I was making a passing reference to an incident that I know must have hurt you as it hurt other honorable members. They were unpleasant events to occur in this Parliament amongst members of a united party. I make this passing reference to show that what is happening in this debate is not a new occurrence. In another place we have what we might call the twelve apostles who have rebelled against the Government and who have said they will reject legislation. This is the united party that asks the people to support it.

I will now come to the legislation before the House. Is it Government policy to introduce this legislation or is it not? The honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Hughes) says it is, and for once I would say he is right. But I find it difficult to make a decision about the legislation on the basis of speeches that have been made by honorable members on the Government side. Let us look briefly at the views of honorable members opposite who have spoken in this debate. Until today, 11 Government speakers had taken part in the debate. Only five supported the measure, two had grave reservations about it and four expressed outright opposition to it. In other words, at this stage the Government has been unable to present a majority of speakers who will support the legislation in the Parliament. I looked at the title of the Bill and wondered why honorable members opposite would not support it. The title of the Bill is -

A Bill for an Act to preserve Competition in Australian Trade and Commerce to the extent required by the Public Interest.

Phraseology of that kind ought to gladden the heart of every Liberal in the country. The Bill is supposed to support free enterprise and open competition, and may the best man win. That should appeal to every member of the Liberal Party, but we find that Government supporters apparently are not behind the legislation. Everyone here knows that the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) has bulldozed the legislation through the party room and the honorable members opposite who want to introduce so many amendments probably did not know what was in the Bill before it came to the Parliament. So we have disunity on a measure that is meant to do no more than give justice to people all over the country. Why will not members of the Government parties support the policy of the Liberal Party on this matter? Why will not members of the Government parties unitedly speak in support of the Bill? This is evidently the policy of the Liberal Party.

I can remember the speech of the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Fox), because he is about the only member of the Liberal Party who fully supported the Bill. He said -

It is obvious to anyone who has listened to the speeches made last night and this morning, particularly the speech of the honorable member for Balaclava, . . . that any objection to the introduction of restrictive practices legislation comes from this side of the House. I am aware that quite a number of my colleagues hold the view that legislation of this nature is in conflict with the principles for which the Government parties stand.

Then, in a most effective way, the honorable member for Henty went on -

The official platform of the Liberal Party includes the following planks -

26.   The preservation of a competitive free enterprise economy.

65.   The prevention of injury to Australian industries through unfair trading methods.

76.   The encouragement, fostering and protection of small businessmen.

Those principles have been embodied in the platform of the Liberal Party since its foundation just over 21 years ago, and for the last 16 of those 21 years the Liberal Party has been elected to office on those very principles.

He then went on to say that the Prime Minister, in the policy speech that he delivered prior to the last general election, gave an understanding that this legislation would be introduced. He said -

On that policy speech, this Government was returned to office with a greatly increased majority.

So this is the policy of the Liberal Party, but only half the members of that party in the Parliament are now prepared to support it. If ever a member of the Ministry has been subjected to a bitter attack by members of his own party for introducing legislation to support the policy of his party, it is the Attorney-General. I mention these matters so that the House will know that disunity exists in the Government parties.

Honorable members must have been amazed at the speech of the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Whittorn). Probably no more bitter attack has ever been levelled at the Government by one of its own supporters than was levelled by the honorable member in his speech. He said -

Let me tell the House, in terms as strong as I can use, that I object to this legislation. I object to it because, in my view, it opens up the way for unjustifiable intrusion into the normal business affairs of secondary industry . . ,

He added - by introducing this oppressive legislation which will serve no good purpose for the economy of Australia.

He also said -

They want us to use a sledgehammer to frighten industry and commerce into submission.

I say that this Bill will serve no useful purpose in protecting the public interest.

He continued -

This measure, I feel, is an intrusion into the affairs of private enterprise . . .

He also said -

I share the doubts of all the doubters.

Not one word of support of this legislation, even in passing, can be found in his speech. He made this point -

Businesses know best what is good for themselves and for the community at large.

What a strange contribution that was. He went on to say -

From the point of view of public benefit, the working man has never had it better than he has as a result of private enterprise on the one hand and the business activity of private enterprise on the other hand.

He added -

I object to the legislation because of its high costs to the community, because of its high cost to the little man, and because it will inflict high cost on the Australian worker

That was an unapologetic pronouncement in favour of the exploitation by industry, of high prices, monopoly control and restrictive practices of the worst kind. He said that the working man has never had it better. He seems to forget that 750,000 workers today have an income of less than £20 a week and that 1.9 million taxpayers have less than the basic wage. If he had watched " Four Corners ", last weekend a television programme produced by the Australian Broadcasting Commission, he would have seen that many people are living in abject poverty at this time. But the honorable member says that they have never had it better. Perhaps the honorable member would suggest that the pensioners who receive £7 a wek have never had it better than they have under this Government, which seeks to support the people who exploit pensioners. Basic wage earners all over the country, who receive only £15 8s. a week, may take little solace from the fact that the honorable member for Balaclava, who represents huge interests, says that they have never had it better.

The honorable member for Isaacs (Mr. Haworth), who is now in the Chair, said -

I oppose the amendment moved by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition . . . but I lake a critical view of the Bill.

Let me read the opinion that the honorable member for Isaacs publicly expresses about the Attorney-General. We are expected to respect the Attorney-General, because he is supposed to be a man of capacity. The honorable member for Isaacs said -

The Attorney-General will forgive me when I say I believe that in his opening remarks, when establishing the grounds for this new field of law that he is creating, he did this House less than justice. If he seriously believes that he can bustle Australia into a kind of legal straitjacket by offering the type of analysis that he placed before this House, he must hold us in contempt. In fact, it seems to me that he has put Australian business and industry into the dock in a very rough type of court and is prepared to call them guilty before he can even say "monopoly".

In other words, the honorable member accused the Attorney-General of using this legislation to create a kangaroo court. What a shocking state of affairs we have when a Government supporter makes that kind of criticism of this measure. The honorable member went on to say -

There is too much deception involved - too much by far, if I may stress the point.

I remember you, Sir, in your dignified way saying that. You said also -

I believe that this will be cumbersome, unwieldy, over elaborate and, to say the least, over expensive.

You made a very strong speech, Mr. Deputy Speaker. You stated also -

This approach, Sir, I find rather impertinent and obnoxious, for three reasons - one of principle, one of administration and one pragmatic.

This was the attitude of the honorable member to the Attorney-General, who brought down this measure. It is hardly very complimentary to the spirit of unity that is supposed to prevail. I mention these matters to show the great lack of unity that exists in the ranks of Government supporters with respect to this Bill. The honorable member for McMillan (Mr. Buchanan) said -

I completely fail to see any justification for the proposals now before the House.

He stated that certain people, having read the literature available, having studied the Bill and having listened to the AttorneyGeneral addressing meetings, still were unable to understand what this Bill was about. The honorable member went on to make this observation - the Australian Industries Preservation Act should be strengthened to meet such contingencies and particular practices could be examined by a court in a proper manner.

He said also -

I submit that a young, progressive and growing country just cannot afford the luxury of this legislation.

Those are pretty tough words coming from Government supporters who have had five years to think over the matter.

I turn now to the views expressed by the honorable member for Sturt (Mr. Wilson). He stated -

When the former Attorney-General delivered a statement in this House on the proposed legislation dealing with restrictive trade practices, as they were then called, I had to inform him that I could not support the legislation because it was too comprehensive.

The honorable gentleman who proposed that comprehensive legislation has now been elevated to a higher place as Chief Justice of the High Court of Australia. He spoke with the best of motives and ideals, but he was removed from this Parliament to that distinguished office because the legislation that he proposed to introduce would have been effective. The honorable member for Sturt went on to say -

Therefore, I support the Bill, but I urge the Attorney-General to give consideration to what I believe is its great weakness - the compulsory registration of all agreements whether or not they are contrary to the public interest.

What a statement for the honorable member to make. He has reservations. Then we come to the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth), who knows everything about everything generally. He said - . though I support this legislation I have grave disquiet about it ... I think the objective of the legislation is good and, in fact, that the introduction of some legislation is necessary, but I an not prepared to say that I have no doubts. I am not happy about the framework or the details of the Bill . . .

He may find a Communist plot somewhere before the Bill passes the Committee stage. The honorable member added -

I sympathise with the Government in its difficulties-

He is one, of course - without being altogether happy about the solution that it has placed before us.

I ask you, Mr. Deputy Speaker: In view of these comments by Government supporters, where did this legislation come from? Was it ever debated in the party room or the caucus of the Government parties? Did those honorable members whose comments I have read to the House express their views in the party room? In view of the fact that a minority of the Government supporters who have spoken support the Bill, we are led to ask: Was it approved by a majority in the party room? If there is majority rule in the ranks of the Government parties, the statements made by these honorable members in this House show either that they are disloyal to party decisions or at least that they did not know what the measure was about. From where does the opposition to it come? It comes mainly from Victoria where the citadel of big business stands, with financial and monopoly control. With the exception of the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Killen) and the honorable member for Sturt, the Government supporters who have opposed the Bill represent Victorian electorates. The honorable member for Moreton, in a bitter attack on the measure, said that he took a very poor view of the Attorney-General's treatment of members of the Parliament in what he described as "this offhand way". The honorable member stated that he proposed to test the bona fides of the Government on certain matters in Committee. In his unrestrained language, he said that he was frightened by the possibilities of this Bill. He added his views to those of his colleagues which I have already outlined.

Government supporters have attempted to put up a facade. They claim that they are independent and may vote and talk as they like. They will have plenty of opportunity to do so in the consideration of this measure in this chamber. They can support the Opposition's amendment if they really wish to establish that they expressed what was in their hearts and minds by speaking as they have done. Honorable members opposite, in speaking against this Bill, have responded to the demands of their political masters. In 1949, with the assistance of all the money that the private banks could muster, they were put into office. They came here under false colours to advance false doctrines. They have now been forced, after five years of delay, to put the views of those who control them. The public knows now, without doubt, where the control of this Government lies. Many honorable members opposite are opposed to even minor amendments of this measure, as they were opposed to the proposals of the former Attorney-General. They do not speak in this Parliament for the people who elected them as their representatives and for the shopkeepers and small businessmen. Instead they speak for the big business interests. Mr. Deputy Speaker, how can we expect a party that represents monopoly, big business and the financial interests to introduce effective control of money and wealth even though the Government implies that this will be done? I say again: How will honorable members opposite vote? Do they stand on the side of the Attorney-General who seeks to control only in a very limited way malpractices and exploitation of the poor, the sick, the needy, the wage earners and others or do they stand for big business interests that back them? I suggest that Government supporters should speak on this issue and vote for what is right when this measure is ultimately put to the test.

This measure fails in many ways. I see in it nothing for big business to be fearful about. This is just a half baked measure. For example, it will not control the strange form of competition - or lack of it - that exists between Trans-Australia Airlines and Ansett-A.N.A. One is a government airline, but both are actually financed by this Government and we are told that they are in competition. They operate to the same timetables, use the same types of planes and charge the same fares. Everything about them is similar. This Bill specifically excludes that area of operations. My good friends who sit in the Australian Country Party corner will not have margarine in competition with butter under this free enterprise Government. This Bill specifically exempts from control that type of monopoly activity. Members of the Country Party smile and support this elimination of competition between T.A.A. and Ansett-A.N.A. and between margarine and butter. They support the elimination of competition in all kinds of other fields. These people who claim that they support free enterprise and free competition will not interfere with the trade associations which exist and which restrict the entry of people into certain industries. They deny men and women the opportunity to go into various sections of industry from which they are at present excluded by a variety of means. Had this legislation followed in its entirety the pattern set by Sir Garfield Barwick, who was prompted by the highest motives in moving against exploitation of the people, a much more effective measure would have been introduced.

Mr Stewart - Does the honorable member think that this was why the former Attorney-General was sacked?

Mr DALY -I believe that there are more than passing reasons why he was disposed of. One can see this if one reads the speech made on Sir Garfield Barwick's behalf by the present Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr. Freeth) at a time when the former Attorney-General was absent from Australia and when the Prime Minister torpedoed the former Attorney-General's proposals. The Minister for Shipping and Transport, in that speech, outlined proposals which, had they been given effect, would have been of tremendous importance in this field of restrictive trade practices. But those proposals have now gone by the board.

One could go further and mention the field of shipping. No section of the Australian community is more exploited than primary producers and exporters are exploited by the overseas shipping companies. Yet this measure excludes thatfield of activity from control. There is to be no control over the overseas shipping companies. I have here a copy of a form of agreement between shippers and overseas shipowners. It is in these terms -

On behalf of each of the following companies and firms (hereinafter referred to as the Shipowners) namely: -

Peninsular & Oriental Steam Navigation Co.

P.   & O. Branch Service.

British India Steam Navigation Co. Ltd.

Federal Steam Navigation Co. Ltd.

Orient Steam Navigation Co. Ltd.

Australind Steam Shipping Co. Ltd.

Shaw Savill & Albion Co. Ltd.

The Aberdeen & Commonwealth Line Ltd. (Geo. Thompson & Co. Ltd., Managers).

Port Line Ltd.

Alfred Holt & Co.

Clan Line Steamers Ltd.

Scottish Shire Line Ltd.

Ellerman & Bucknall Steamship Co. Ltd.

Blue Star Line Limited.

Holland Australie Lijn

Wilh. Wilhemsen (Norwegian Australia Line).

Rederiaktiebolaget Transatlantic.

Compagnie Des Messageries Maritimes.

East Asiatic Co. Ltd.

Lloyd Triestino Societa Per Azioni Di Navigazione.

Norddeutscher Lloyd.

Hamburg Amerika Linie. being companies and firms loading vessels from ports in the Commonwealth of Australia to the United Kingdom and/ or Continent of Europe on the one part . . .

The shippers are the other party to the agreement, which ties them body and soul to these firms that control the world's shipping services. This legislation, if anything, allows them to escape their responsibility. I suggest to the Minister that by that provision alone the Government is throwing overboard the protection that should be given to the Australian primary producers and exporters. The situation is so grave that even the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt), antiSocialist as he says he is, has advocated the establishment of an Australian shipping line. If that is not scraping the bottom of the old Liberal free enterprise barrel, I do not know what is. But the people to whom I have referred escape this legislation because they are powerful enterprises and powerful combines.

Having outlined to the House the differences that exist between this and the other legislation and the complete failure of the Government to give effect to the full programme that we should have had in respect of restrictive trade practices, I express my regret that Government supporters, even on this minor Bill, could not show a united front in the face of the fierce opposition to the general welfare of the people of Australia. After five long years the Government has ultimately introduced to the House this doubtful legislation which was promised so long ago by the former Attorney-General who has now been elevated to a higher place. The legislation is far from satisfactory. It represents only a very timid and fearful approach to the problem. It has little support or enthusiasm on the Government side because it conflicts with the interests of the huge financial concerns that send honorable members opposite to government. It might be termed legislation that appears to be ruthless yet is toothless and may well prove to be useless. The criticism by the Opposition is soundly based and the amendment moved is an endeavour to give some substance to this creaky legislation. I support the amendment.

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