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Thursday, 25 October 1973
Page: 2755

Mr COHEN (Robertson) - It was called to my attention that whilst I was out this evening the honourable member for Paterson (Mr O'Keefe) made some references to my earlier career as a part owner of a mens wear store. I am sorry that he has just walked out of the chamber. I do not like talking about a man when he is not present. I understand that he referred to me as one of the wealthiest men on the north shore of Sydney. I intend to get hold of a copy of that speech and take it to my bank manager because he is not aware of that and I am certain that most of the people who know me are not aware of it- Frankly, it is not a joke. I think that it is rather a low act to refer - I notice that the honourable member has returned to the House now - to a person's career and make those sort of references which are totally inaccurate. Whether they are true or not, I do not think they have anything to do with the Parliament or with the honourable member for Paterson.

We on this side of the chamber certainly do not make references to some of the holdings of honourable members opposite - the wealthy landowners. I certainly have not made any references like that. If the honourable member wants, we will run through the list of multi millionaires over there. At least if we make such statements they will be true. At least we do not make wild, inaccurate statements such as the honourable member made. I understand that the honourable member attacked me for talking about the clothing trade and the fashion industry. After spending 12 or 13 years in that industry, I would assume that honourable members would give me credit for knowing just a little about it. As a matter of fact, when I spoke about wool in the House, 7 members from the other side, including 5 former Ministers came over and congratulated me. They said that it was the best speech on wool they had heard in the House for 20 years.

Mr Fisher - They were just kidding the honourable member.

Mr COHEN - It was a funny way in which to kid me. The members of the Country Party seem to regard it as their right to be the only people who can speak on rural matters. They claim that they are farmers and ask what could anyone who was not a farmer know about farming? I presume that those honourable members would give me at least similar credit to be able to speak about an industry in which I spent the major portion of my life. The point that I understand the honourable member for Paterson was trying to make was that I was speaking from vested interest. I know that he is not very bright. But if he had listened closely to my speech-

Mr O'Keefe - Withdraw that.

Mr COHEN - I will not withdraw anything after the way the honouarble member has behaved this evening. I know that he is not very bright. But if he had listened to what I had to say he would have heard that I was attacking the retail trade of which I was a representative, not defending it. I said that the big retailers had been dishonest in failing to pass on tariff cuts that should have reduced the price of clothing in the major stores, by a considerable amount. I said that they were now taking profits of 100 per cent to 150 per cent. I understand also that the honourable member made reference to the fact that the country was going to be flooded with cheap imports. I do not know what will happen in the future. However, I do know and obviously the honourable member does not know, that there are quotas on imported goods and they still exist. The fact of the matter is that at the moment the clothing industry, for which honourable gentlemen opposite predicted absolute doom and in which they predicted that hundreds of country businesses would go to the wall, is burdened with work. It is unable to meet most of its orders.

Mr O'Keefe - A temporary situation.

Mr COHEN - That is the situation right now. If the honourable member knows anything about the trade he will know that it works 6 months ahead and it is booked out for next winter. There are quotas to protect the industry if necessary. But the fact of the matter is that the honourable member was completely and utterly wrong. That is the point. I was not defending the retail trade. I was attacking it for not doing the right thing and passing the tariff cuts onto the consumer.

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