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Wednesday, 7 November 1973
Page: 1574

The PRESIDENT - Order! Is leave granted? There being no objection leave is granted.

Senator WILKINSON -I move:

That the Senate take note of the report.

The reference to this Committee last year was made in March 1972 at a time when it was involved in other business. The Committee, since then, has reported to the Senate on 3 matters, namely, the proposed takeover of Ansett Transport Industries Ltd by Thomas Nationwide Transport Ltd; Australia-New Zealand Trade; and the supply of steel pipes for the MoombaSydney gas pipeline. In addition, the Committee has virtually completed an inquiry into access to raw materials by the leather footwear and allied industries and expects to report to the Senate in the present session.

Although preliminary work on the prices reference was carried out before the election of the new Government last December, the Committee decided to defer any further action in this field in order to see what would be done by the Government in terms of its declared policy. Events have now moved to the point where legislative and administrative measures have been instituted to require certain companies to submit to examination by the Prices Justification Tribunal whenever price rises are contemplated. While the current legislation governing the Tribunal does not reflect absolutely the requirements of the Senate, as stipulated in the Committee's terms of reference, it is reasonable to expect that in time it will concern itself with the issues of interest to the Senate.

A Constitutional referendum to enable the Federal Government to control both prices and incomes will be held in December and, within the past 10 months, the Federal Government has sought to restrain inflationary pressures through currency revaluation and across the board tariff cuts on imported goods. In the light of these changes, the Committee has recommended that, subject to the decision of the Senate, it defer any further inquiry while the various initiatives undertaken by the Government are tested. We have mentioned our particular interest in the Prices Justification Tribunal and we would like to observe its operation over a period of time. The Joint Committee on Prices has already reported to the Parliament on a particular matter and, no doubt, will make further reports. We would wish to see what action is taken on these reports. Perhaps more importantly, the Committee considers that it should withhold further action on prices pending the outcome of the Constitutional referendum to be held later this year.

The Committee has taken this opportunity to incorporate in the report the results of a broad examination it made into existing and proposed legislation concerning price regulation in the Australian States and territories, the history of price control in Australia and the experience of certain other countries in this field. We have done this because there does not appear to be any composite form in which information of this kind relating to price control is readily available. I trust therefore that the Committee's report will be of value to the Senate in this regard. I ask for leave to continue my remarks.

Leave granted; debate adjourned.

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