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Tuesday, 30 November 1965

Mr CLYDE CAMERON (Hindmarsh) . - I begin by paying a tribute to Sir Garfield Barwick for pioneering the field of thought in legislation of this kind. I am sorry, and it is with great regret that a lot of people have found that the far reaching and carefully drawn proposals Sir Garfield Barwick prepared have been emasculated in the way they have been. Sir Garfield Barwick is, if not the greatest constitutional lawyer Australia has ever seen - many would say Dr. Evatt holds that position - certainly one of the greatest lawyers Australia has ever seen. One is not boasting when one says, and one has every right to say, that this means that he is one of the greatest lawyers in the English speaking world today.

Mr Snedden - Hear, heart

Mr CLYDE CAMERON - I am pleased to hear the Attorney-General agree with me because this is the view of most lawyers [and other people in a position to express a view. Sir Garfield Barwick understood fully the machinations of private enterprise and the effects of trade collusion. He was aware of all the restrictive practices that occur in Australia. He made it his business to understand them. Sir Garfield Barwick has a keen and analytical mind. Having studied the way business is conducted in Australia today he was convinced that nothing short of drastic legislation would cure the evils that flow from restrictive trade practices.

It was Sir Garfield's common practice to lay proposed legislation before the public for a period of time so that it could be discussed and obvious errors or ways of improving it could be brought to attention. This was one of the great features of anything that Sir Garfield Barwick did in this Parliament. His handling of the Matrimonial Causes Bill and the bill relating to uniform marriage laws were two examples of the way he thought legislation should be hammered out in Australia.

Sir GarfieldBarwick was such a skilful lawyer and had such a thorough grip of logic that, while he was prepared to listen to all manner of criticism of his proposals, he would not easily be swayed from what he originally thought was right unless he was satisfied in his keen analytical mind that the proposals put to him were valid. Although the Matrimonial Causes Bill was before the public for a long time before it was eventually dealt with ki the Parliament, Sir Garfield Barwick did not accept many amendments to his original proposal. He accepted some amendments and explained in that clear and precise manner which he almost alone is able to bring to bear why he did so and why he rejected others. His reasons were so compelling that one could easily see why they were accepted.

I do not wish to be unkind towards the present Attorney-General (Mr. Snedden). He would be the last to want to assume Sir Garfield Barwick's mantle as a lawyer. I do not think anybody could say that the Attorney-General is deliberately slothful, lazy, gullible or easily led astray. He is very young. He has had quite a deal of parliamentary and legal experience but, like most of us, he cannot claim to have been able to master the things that flow from the kind of political intrigue that occurs when powerful interests in the community are likely to be adversely affected by a proposal brought into the House, especially when those powerful interests are also powerful influences within the organisation of his own party. The Attorney-General is not a member of the Cabinet. He has always been at a disadvantage whenever matters pertaining to his administration have been the subject of discussion in the Cabinet. I have never been able to understand the attitude of the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) in not having the Attorney-General a member of the Cabinet. If the Attorney-General had been a member of the Cabinet I am certain that whenever proposals were before the Cabinet to alter the restrictive practices legislation the results would have been different to those that we now have before us.

I do not blame the Attorney-General for what has happened. He is in the same position as are other Ministers. If Cabinet decides by a majority decision that certain amendments will be made to legislation, he must accept that decision. I am convinced that the watering down of this Bill compared with the original proposal of Sir Garfield Barwick is the result, not so much of gullibility on the part of the AttorneyGeneral and certainly not gullibility on the part of that very astute lawyer-politician, the Prime Minister, but the result of deliberate pressures brought to bear upon a receptive party machine which is ever willing to listen to the voice of privilege and wealth. This is why the Bill now before us has been weakened. There is no other valid reason.

I sympathise with the Attorney-General in the position in which he finds himself because I recall, as did the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Kelly), the very fine speeches which the Attorney-General made against restrictive trade practices when he was a backbencher. He was one of the most outspoken backbenchers on the Government side against the collusion, conniving and public theft allowed by this Government through its failure to take action. He made good speeches on the subject. He knows, and I know that he knows, what is going on. When I listened a moment ago to the honorable member for Wakefield I could not help but think that a person would need to have a heart of stone not to be moved by the touching plea the honorable member made to the Parliament on behalf of this poor devil Robertson, who had plenty of know-how and a spirit of adventure, but who was driven into the ground and sent bankrupt because he found it impossible to compete against the restrictive practices of those who were engaged in the same field as he.

I thought the honorable member for Wakefield made a speech that every member on the Government side should read. Those who heard the speech had the full benefit of the emotion with which the honorable member delivered his speech. Those who did not hear it should read what he said and see whether they are prepared to go to Robertson and tell him that there should not be any restrictive trade practices legislation. I am pleased that my learned friend, the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Hughes), is indicating that he agrees with me because he, too, is a lawyer with a keen analytical mind. He knows what is going on. He knows, as does the honorable member for Wakefield, that today restrictive trade practices are permitted which should be outlawed as being near criminal. I am staggered that Government supporters should claim that this Bill is monstrous, that it should never have been introduced and that the Government should be condemned for its action. The Opposition welcomes this legislation but condemns the Government for not acting quickly enough and with sufficient severity to meet the trouble that exists. We approve the legislation and we say so in our amendment. We say there is public demand for this legislation. We deny categorically the statements of some honorable members opposite that there is no public demand for the legislation. Perhaps members of the public are not very articulate in their demands. It may be true that members of the public are not fully aware of the restrictive trade practices that exist and of their full effect, but no member of the public could have listened to the honorable member for Wakefield without feeling that this legislation was long overdue.

I regret, however, that I cannot share the honorable member's optimism regarding the outcome of this legislation. I cannot share his optimism that everything will work out all right. I cannot share his belief that, although the Bill is weaker than Sir Garfield Barwick's proposal and although most of the teeth of that proposal have been drawn, it still will be an effective piece of legislation. Frankly I do not think it will be an effective piece of legislation. I think it represents nothing more than a kind of compromise, the compromise of doing something to meet public demand for a bill something like this in character while at the same time hoping to placate the wealthy and tremendously influential friends of the Liberal Party machine, because they are the people who finance the Liberal Party machine. They are in the position of being able to go to the administrators of the Liberal Party machine and lay down their terms. They can say: " Unless you do as we say there will be no more funds for your campaigns ". The members of the Liberal Party know very well that in an election campaign the case they can make out is so weak that unless they have plenty of funds to dress it up well enough to deceive the people they will have no chance of winning. This is why the Government is ever receptive to the point of view of big business.

Let me give one example of the kind of nonsense we heard from speakers on the Government side. Let me interrupt myself at this point to remind the House that very few members who have spoken on the Government side have given full support to the Government. Of those who have spoken so far on the Bill, on the Government side, I think far more have expressed either complete or partial opposition to it than have wholeheartedly supported it.

Mr Duthie - The ratio has been two to one.

Mr CLYDE CAMERON - The honorable member for Wilmot says that the ratio has been two to one. I had not gone into the figures and I had not thought that those on the Government side expressing opposition to the Bill were in quite such a majority. 1 would have thought, however, that there were more than 50 per cent, of them who opposed the Government's proposal. I know that the honorable member for Parkes supports the Government. I think the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Fox) supported it. Naturally our friend from Moreton (Mr. Killen) would be opposed to the Government because it has gone too far in dealing with the very wealthy people, and the honorable 'member would not like any intrusion at all into the right of private enterprise to make up its own mind as to what the public shall pay. I did not hear all his speech; I heard some of it while coming here in a motor car.

Mr Killen - The honorable member has given a complete misrepresentation.

Mr CLYDE CAMERON - Have I? I was travelling in the motor car when the driver directed my attention to the broadcast, saying: " Listen to this utter nonsense." He did not say " nonsense " but used some other word. He said something like this: " Listen to this balderdash that this fellow is talking. Who is it? " I said: " Let's listen." I could not pick the voice but I could pick the logic or lack of it. I said: " It sounds like Killen." Sure enough, as time went on I was able to identify the cultured voice of the honorable member for Moreton. However, the driver could not put up with it for very long and he switched it off. It seemed to me from what I heard that the honorable member was not supporting the Government as enthusiastically as we might have expected an honorable member on the Government side to do.

Let me quote a few words of wisdom from the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Whittorn). The honorable member for Balaclava is not a violent man. He is a nice, gentle little person. But listen to the tenor of the speech that he made in dealing with a measure that might interfere with his wealthy friends. He roared -

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 and tertiary industry and intrusion by the Government and its officers into the affairs of free enterprise about which they know very little.

There is not a person in this country who does not know a lot about private enterprise, because everyone has been hit by it. It would be impossible to appoint a government servant - "bureaucrat" is the term usually used, but in this case it has been reduced to "government servant" - to administer this legislation who has not had some experience of trying to obtain, for instance, a load of bricks from a certain brickyard at one half penny less than the price being charged at another brickyard. Of course it is impossible to do so. There would not be one person in this country able to get a load of quarry stone from one quarry at one halfpenny a yard less than the price charged by another quarry. There would not be one person in Australia who has been able to go to an insurance company, other than the two or three companies that are not in the cartel, and negotiate an insurance policy at a premium lower than that fixed by all the other companies. No one can tell me that this is healthy competition.

Mr Turnbull - Does the honorable gentleman include car insurance?

Mr CLYDE CAMERON - Of course I do - car insurance, workmen's compensation insurance, house insurance, every kind of insurance. It is all governed by the cartel. Although there is no known agreement fixing premium rates everyone knows that an agreement exists.

Mr Luchetti - Local government bodies have had experience of such agreements when they have encountered collusive tendering.

Mr CLYDE CAMERON - My friend from Macquarie directs attention to the problem of collusive tendering that faces local government bodies. These authorities call tenders for the supply of, say, petrol and oil, and they find that the same price is quoted by every supplier. I admit that sometimes the suppliers take turn about. On a particular occasion the Shell company may say: " It is the turn of the Vacuum oil company to have this contract, so that company can quote one halfpenny a gallon less than all the others ". This is the kind of practice that is constantly indulged in, and no one can deny it.

Mr Buchanan - Does the honorable member want utter chaos?

Mr CLYDE CAMERON - I know that there are circumstances in which some form of agreement is necessary. We have an example in the dry cleaning business. Occasionally a price war will break out among dry cleaning firms, and the price of dry cleaning a suit will drop from 10s. to 9s. and then to 8s., 7s. and 6s. It has reached the stage in Adelaide at the moment that various dry cleaning establishments are displaying signs " 2s. 6d. a garment." It is not possible, as we all know - and this is in answer to the interjection of the honorable member for McMillan and following my statement that there are circumstances in which agreements are justified - to dry clean and press a garment properly for 2s. 6d. and at the same time pay award rates of wages, overhead and other expenses. Of course the honorable member is right in implying that some agreements are justified. We can never have everything completely black or white; there are always shades in between the two extremes. All I am trying to point out is that it is idle for people to pretend, as some Government supporters seem to do, that there is no collusion going on, or that there are no restrictive trade practices.

Consider the selling of motor tyres as an example. Let any retailer try selling any brand of motor tyre below the price fixed by the wholesaler and see how many tyres he is supplied with afterwards. If we have the free enterprise society that honorable members opposite claim to believe in, should we not welcome healthy competition as a manifestation of free enterprise? At one time " healthy competition " was the term that was always used, but now it has been changed to " free enterprise ". It is a long time since I heard a member on the Government side talk about healthy competition. Perhaps the agreement between Ansett-A.N.A. and Trans-Australia Airlines has made honorable members opposite ashamed to use the term " healthy competition". Healthy competition used to be a recognised manifestation of private enterprise. No longer is this so, because no longer is there competition. The aim of private enterprise today is to prevent competition. The honorable member for Balaclava sees nothing wrong with this. He said that the owners of industry and of businesses ought to be allowed to conduct their affairs in the way they consider proper. Then he sent on to spread the theory a little by saying -

How can a public servant talk to a businessman and say: "Thou shalt do this in this way; thou shalt do that in some other way"? The businessman has been trained to use the way he knows best.

Of course he has, and the way he knows best is to get on the telephone and tell all his competitors to club together and charge a rate outrageously higher than a correct, decent and proper rate, and to call upon the suppliers of raw materials and upon wholesalers to make sure that anybody who sells below that rate is cut off the supply list. Bank interest is another example. Can anybody really tell me that this nonsense we see on television every night about private enterprise banks and about healthy competition between banks has in fact an atom of truth in it? Of course it has not. I invite anybody present, by way of interjection to name one single private bank which will lend money at a rate of interest lower than that charged by any other bank.

Mr Buchanan - The Bank of New South Wales and the English, Scottish and Australian Bank do so.

Mr CLYDE CAMERON - This is news to me.

Mr Buchanan - The Government itself has given the banks the opportunity to charge varying rates.

Mr CLYDE CAMERON - The Government has given them the opportunity to do so. They therefore cannot make the excuse that they are not allowed to do so, but the plain fact is that they do not do so. The honorable member who has interjected is the first person I have ever met in my life who has been able to find a bank manager who will lend money at a lower rate than the manager of another bank.

Mr Buchanan - It does occur.

Mr CLYDE CAMERON - I do not say the honorable member is telling lies but I just do not think it happens. It has never happened in my experience and it has never happened in the experience of anybody I know.

I want now to speak about another kind of collusion. I refer to the practice of firms to split up a State into spheres of influence or of control and for each firm to sell its particular goods in one sphere. In South Australia there are two cement companies, the Adelaide Cement Co. Ltd. and the South Australian Portland Cement Co. Ltd., both of which are making Portland cement. These two firms have entered into an agreement under which the State is divided into sections. One company will not send any of its cement into the section of the State that has been allocated to the other. This allocation has not been made by a Government authority or by a zoning authority; it has been done by an agreement between the firms. It is utterly impossible to have competition between the firms because you just cannot find a storekeeper in Burra, Port Augusta, Port Lincoln or Mount Gambier who would stock the two brands of cement. The cement a storekeeper was selling could be inferior in quality or higher in price but it would be utterly impossible for any person in those towns to buy better quality or cheaper cement by asking for the other brand. The other manufacturer just will not send his product to the town. This is something which in my view is outrageous. It cuts right across the principle of healthy competition and the kind of thing that we believe personifies all that is good in private enterprise.

Tobacco is another commodity in respect of which this kind of thing happens. All the tobacco firms have an unofficial agreement as to price. There is no gre,at competition so far as the price of tobacco is concerned. My friend opposite who is smiling will recall that recently W. D. & H. O. Wills (Aust.) Ltd. sent to each member of the Parliament a packet of cigarettes made from tobacco which it claimed to be unusable leaf. I do not smoke but I sent the cigarettes to some of my friends and they rather liked them, especially the price. I wrote to the firm and said: "If you have any free samples left over will you send me a few cartons so that I can supply my friends with Christmas presents? " I said that most people thought that the cigarettes were not much different from other cigarettes. I received a very nice letter saying that it was obvious that I was not a smoker. The company thought that a man of my culture would not appreciate cigarettes of that type and that only people who were of a low grade would not notice the difference. The company said that in order that any relations with my friends would not be strained at Christmas time it would send me a large carton of Benson and Hedges' cigarettes. It arrived this morning and I am very grateful. That is the lighter side of things, but no one can get away from the fact that collusive trading does go on.

One thing I regret is that the Bill provides no control over mergers and takeovers. There has been a lot in the newspapers lately about what is happening with Cresco Fertilisers Ltd. Something crook is going on somewhere because if suddenly the shares of Cresco Fertilisers Ltd. are worth what it is now claimed that

Mr Turner - There is nothing crook about it.

Mr CLYDE CAMERON - It is crook. The Adelaide Steamship Company Ltd. directors had been hiding away the real assets of the company for years and years in order mainly to avoid taxation until somebody discovered that the real value of the assets was ever so much greater than the value shown in the books. This person made a takeover bid on the basis of the high value of the assets of the Adelaide Steamship Company Ltd. Suddenly the directors decided to make a bonus issue so that the value would be eaten up and the attraction for a takeover would disappear. That is what happened.

Prices can be fixed without formal agreement. It is not necessary to have a written agreement drawn up by lawyers in order to fix prices. We know what has happened in America. This was pointed out by a member on the Opposition side. Some companies have a very complicated and complex system of fixing prices. Mention was made of false letter heads, code names being used, and telephone calls being made from public telephone boxes to talk about prices. All these things were being done in order to circumvent the effect of the Sherman Act The Sherman Act in America has not destroyed industrial expansion in that country as somebody tried to pretend this legislation could do in Australia. In America, in spite of the Sherman Act, the country has gone ahead and is the greatest and most highly industrialised country in the world. Can anyone stand up and say that this legislation is going to stifle industrial expansion? Of course it will not. The only thing it will stifle, and which it should stifle, is the wholesale exploitation of the ordinary people and the ordinary consumers of goods who have no other way to protect themselves than by legislation of this kind.

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