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Thursday, 2 December 1965

Mr KILLEN (Moreton) .- I do not want to offend the Attorney-General (Mr. Snedden) but, with very great respect, I warmly disagree with him. I suggest that this clause amounts unintentionally to a form of price control. I gave to the honorable gentleman the example of the Broken Hill Pty. Co. Ltd. If it is selling 16 gauge steel for £80, and the Tribunal tells it to sell for £60-

Mr Clyde Cameron - What is wrong with that?

Mr KILLEN - As a Socialist, the honorable member would rejoice. He would put the company out of business and in doing so he would probably put 25,000 people out of business and put people on to the labour market. That is the sort of crazy thinking that dominates his whole being. I am interested in the meaning of the words that appear here. The Attorney-General has suggested that the word " impose " has some emotive meaning. We could play with words, but surely the Tribunal is not to be caught up in some semantic chase as to whether or not " impose " means " resting heavily". One could settle for a host of other synonyms such as " set prices " or " rest prices ". I am attracted to the proposal made by the honorable member for Parramatta (Mr. Bowen) which would meet my objection. I believe that I understand the intention, but I am putting it to the Attorney-General that quite unintentionally the Government is setting up mechanism which, in the hands of the Tribunal, will enable it to impose price control on a host of industries throughout Australia. There would be no appeal - no way in which to restrain them at all. I will give another illustration. Take the case of a company producing cement at Darra near Brisbane. lt has a substantial market area, lt would be the only cement company within hundreds of miles. The Tribunal could make the intelligible move of saying: " This is a substantial area and we take the view that you are in a dominant position. We take the view, too, in our discretion that you have one-third of the market and you should sell your cement for X minus Y pounds ". There is absolutely nothing that the Attorney-General, the Government, the Parliament or any court could do about il, because these unfettered discretions will have been handed to the Tribunal. The Attorney-General may put it to me: "The Tribunal is not going to proceed irrationally, lt is not going to proceed with a deliberate intent to put these concerns out of business ". That may well be, but the Tribunal's activities cannot be controlled in any way.

I said earlier that I am not arguing the merits of the case for prices control one way or the other. What I am desperately concerned about is the loose arrangement of words in clause 37 (1.) (c) and I put it to the Attorney-General that I want to go on record as saying that 1 think the Government unwittingly is setting up a mechanism that could well, in certain circumstances, serve as a viable system of prices control.

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