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Thursday, 2 December 1965

Mr BOWEN (Parramatta) .- There is one further matter to which I should like to direct the attention of the Committee. Section 7 (1.) of the Australian Industries Preservation Act provided as long ago as 1906 -

Any person who monopolises or attempts to monopolise, or combines or conspires with any other person to monopolise, any part of the trade or commerce with other countries or among the States, is guilty of an indictable offence.

The new clause 34b proposed by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) is very much narrower than that provision. It represents a significant weakening of section 71 (1.) of the Australian Industries Preservation Act. It provides that a person who engages in monopolisation is guilty of an offence, but it defines " monopolisation " in such a way as to cover a very much narrower field than was covered by the Australian Industries Preservation Act. Sub-clause (2.) of proposed new clause 34b provides -

In this section - "monopolisation" means acquiring or using monopoly power with the intention of preventing a person from entering or expanding a business-

Mr Whitlam - Those were Sir Garfield Barwick's words.

Mr BOWEN - I know, and the honorable member realises that the Government is departing from them. The sub-clause continues - or using monopoly power in a manner that is unreasonable and detrimental to consumers of goods or services; "monopoly power" means the power to fix, or influence substantially, the market price of any kind of goods or services, or to prevent persons entering or expanding businesses.

That is a much narrower provision than is contained in the Australian Industries Preservation Act. Now let us look at the penalties provided. Section 7 (1.) of the Australian Industries Preservation Act provides -

Penalty: Five hundred pounds for each day during which the offence continues, or one year's imprisonment, or both; or, in the case of a corporation, One thousand pounds for each day during which the offence continues.

If the offence continued for 30 days the penalty could amount to £30,000 for a corporation. Then let us consider the penalties that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition has proposed. Sub-clause (3.) of his proposed new clause 34b says -

The penalty for an offence against this section is -

(a)   in the case of an offence committed by a corporation - a fine not exceeding Ten thousand dollars-

Or £5,000 as it would be now. This is not nearly as severe as the penalty in section 7(1.), which I have just read. The subclause continues - or

(b)   in any other case - a fine not exceeding Four thousand dollars or imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months -

So the proposed penalties are much less effective than the penalties in section 7(1.) of the Australian Industries Preser vation Act. What is the explanation of this? We have had this latter Act in force for 50 years or more. We know that it is no good, that it is useless. Why does the Opposition want to go back to it now? The Government has put forward clause 37 of the Bill. I interjected to ask the honorable member opposite whether he thought it would be effective. Obviously it would be much more effective than the provision that is being proposed by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. We do not want to go back to something that has been proved ineffectual. There are monopoly practices in Australia and we do want to protect the small man, but we will not do it by going back to something which has been ineffectual for many years.

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