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Monday, 22 October 1973
Page: 2413

Mr McMAHON (Lowe) - I wish to make a personal explanation.

Mr SPEAKER - Order! Does the right honourable gentleman claim to have been misrepresented?

Mr McMAHON - Yes, on 2 different occasions in this House by the Prime Minister Mr (Whitlam). I was not here when the Prime Minister answered a question earlier in the day but I have been very reliably informed that he has kept on asserting that towards the end of last year I was prepared to advocate a prices and incomes referendum and that he did not know what my views were today. I think it should be clear from what I said in the House on either Wednesday or Thursday last week that I had never advocated a prices and incomes referendum and I would not do so. I stated that I was implacably opposed to giving the Commonwealth Government any further power. I said in the House that I would vote against a prices and income referendum when it occurred and that I would advocate to the maximum of my capacity that people vote against it. I think the facts can be well established. I believe in keeping both prices and incomes under control so far as they affect inflation.

I think it must be obvious to every member opposite, including my friend the Minister for Overseas Trade (Dr J. F. Cairns) because of his knowledge of economics, that when we were in government, according to Professor Nevile the implicit price deflator operating over the whole of the economic activity, not only the area covered by the consumer price index, for the December quarter we had reduced inflationary pressures in real terms to 2.2 per cent. Taken relative to gross national expenditure it was minus 2.3 per cent. We showed that we could control inflation without a prices and incomes referendum.

Mr SPEAKER -Order! I think that the right honourable gentleman claimed to have been misrepresented in regard to whether he had supported a referendum on prices. I do not think he is entitled to debate the issue.

Mr McMAHON - I am making my point because the Prime Minister said he did not know what I thought now. I am giving the reasons-

Mr Whitlam - I raise a point of order. I think I can put the right honourable gentleman out of his misery. I did not say that I did not know what his attitude was today. I did say that I did not know what the attitude of the Leader of the Opposition was today. He has spoken twice and I still do not know.

Mr McMAHON - The second point of misrepresentation relates to the Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd. If the honourable gentleman has any memory at all he will remember that in February last year I informed the House, as a result of persistent questioning and against the advice of the Treasury, that I had written to BHP expressing my grave concern that there should be any inclination on its part to put up steel prices. That was stated in the House. At that time I was hostile to a proposal to increase prices. I believe that in the meantime BHP has justified its opinion that it is entitled to an increase in price. I believe that BHP is justified too, in its logic, anyhow, in the criticism it has made of the most recent findings of the Prices Justification Tribunal.

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