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Tuesday, 8 November 1977
Page: 3039

Mr Ian Robinson (COWPER, NEW SOUTH WALES) -The attack by the honourable member for KingsfordSmith (Mr Lionel Bowen) on the amendments is certainly something that could be regarded as predictable. His case falls to the ground and has no substantiation. It will be recalled that amendments to the Trade Practices Act have occurred on a number of occasions in the life of this Parliament. It is all directly related to an undertaking given. That was that imperfections, serious anomalies, would be reviewed and appropriate action taken when it was found reasonable so to do. That is exactly why these current amendments have been introduced. I do not propose to traverse them aU because they are clearly understood by those who want to apply themselves on a basis of fair judgment of the Government's action.

Unfortunately the Opposition feels some disappoinment because its extreme approach in this matter a few years ago was designed quite clearly as a socialist approach. It was an approach which was summed up in the words of the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith when he said that there had been pressure from an international combine, as he described it. He referred to multinationals and the like but failed to recognise the importance of balance between this and the field of commercial operation in this country. This was particularly so when he said that we should be taking action that differs from that taken in the United Kingdom and other places where greater experience has occurred and where, of course, there is a greater appreciation of the involvements. He suggested that we should be the pacesetters in some of these matters. How ridiculous! It astounds me to think that we could approach matters of this kind on the basis that the more limited business scope in this country is sufficient upon which to base judgment. But still that is the proposition that has been put.

Quite clearly there is a lack of understanding, particularly of the import of clause 5. The difficulties that arose as a consequence of the provisions of clause 5 are very clear. What is proposed is to bring about a fairer situation, not just for large companies- the honourable member named IBM-but for the whole spectrum of those commercial operations that supply equipment up to a certain value. The assertion that it should be fair that damage should be entertained in the matter of losses that might occur is a very one-sided view. I say to the House that if that is the view in this matter, what about industrial disruption? What about damage that occurs then to the success of a commercial operation? It is a very different argument when that kind of thing is raised in this forum or in any other place by the Opposition. Therefore I repeat that the expressions by the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith in this matter are predictable. Obviously a political judgment rather than a factual one has been made by the Opposition in looking at this particular issue.

I said that I did not propose to traverse all the details. That is for the reason that there is a time limitation and also that it is not really necessary. What we want to be clear on is that the Government is honouring an undertaking to amend where there is justification so to do, when proper cases have been put as to the effect of the legislation in its original form. No doubt there will be further instances where there is a need to take action of this kind. It is very clear that the Government is seeking to free Australian commerce from unnecessary straitjackets imposed by the legislation and where there is unnecessary restrictiveness. Small business will be assisted to a very great extent by the amendments. In fact the interpretations that have sometimes been placed on the present legislation have been shown to be quite wrong. That is particularly evident in the attitude that was displayed by people commenting in financial columns and the like as to the effect of the amendments. This caused some real worry and concern for retailers when they were not going to be involved at all in the way that was described. It is a pity, when we want to have an effective trade practices measure, that there is distortion and that that distortion is so often strongly expressed on wrong premises. For that reason I commend the amendments contained in the Bill. Very clearly, they are aimed at assisting the consumer, and the supplier- indeed the whole spectrum of straight forward business in this country.

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