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Thursday, 6 December 1973
Page: 2592

Senator WITHERS (Western AustraliaLeader of the Opposition) - I wish to move an amendment to that motion. I move:

Leave out all words after 'day' first occurring and insert the words 'on the first day of sitting in 1 974. '

Honourable senators will recall that when this matter was before the Senate- I think it was in October- a very long debate took place during most of the afternoon and, as I recall it, most of the evening as to the pros and cons of whether another Bill, the Trade Practices Bill 1973 (No. 1) should be stood over until the first day of sitting after 1 February 1974. Honourable senators will recall that that amendment, moved by me, was eventually carried. Now, that Bill, the Trade Practices Bill (No. 1) stands on today's notice paper at page 2332 as an order of the day for the first day of sitting after 1 February 1974.

Honourable senators will recall that on the same day as this first Bill was deferred, another Bill, the Trade Practices Bill 1973 (No. 2) was introduced into the House of Representatives and came before the Senate about a week later. When Senator Murphy made his second reading speech I indicated that we would not oppose the adjourned debate being made an order of the day for the next day of sitting. Senator Murphy had indicated in his second reading speech that the Bill was somewhat dissimilar to the first one he introduced. I indicated at that stage that the Opposition would look at the Bill and see whether or not the reasons which we had advanced at great length earlier in relation to the other Bill on 24 October- at times with great heat from honourable senators on both sides of the Senate- were still valid. We have looked at the Bill as far as we have been able to do so during this very heavy legislative program. As the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) said, it is the most historic legislative program in the 70 years history of the Parliament with almost 200 Bills being introduced. It has been a colossal task even to look at them.

Senator Greenwood - There are over 200 Bills.

Senator WITHERS -I am informed that there are over 200 Bills. As far as we can ascertain, the reasons which we gave on 24 October are still valid. I might indicate- I want to be as quick as I can- as did the Leader of the Opposition in the House of Representatives (Mr Snedden) that the Liberal Party is not opposed to restrictive trade practices legislation. In fact, it was the former Liberal-Country Party Government which initiated such legislation in a different form in 1968. We are still of the opinion that there ought to be restrictive trade practices legislation and we are also of the opinion there should be consumer protection legislation.

Senator Devitt - Trying to control it.

Senator WITHERS -This is so. It has been quite on the cards. What we are saying is that we want sufficient time to consider it. I do not know when the Parliament will resume. Perhaps the Attorney-General (Senator Murphy) knows. But we are saying, in effect, let us stand over the Bill for another 8 or 9 weeks. When the Parliament re-assembles we will be ready to debate. We will not try to resist its being called on. I realise that it may not be called on the first day of sitting when we return. There may be other procedures to be undertaken. But we will be ready the moment the Parliament assembles next year to debate this matter in full and to indicate whether or not we would be opposed to the legislation and whether we would be prepared to give the Bill a second reading. We may move amendments during the Committee stage. But it is far too early for us to indicate this. It is for these reasons that I have moved the amendment to Senator Murphy's motion. It is not that we are against restrictive trade practices legislation or that we are against consumer protection legislation. If the Prime Minister had not embarked upon this enormous legislative program this year and we had had the normal flow of Bills, as Opposition parties in previous days have had we may have been able to cope. But it has been too much even for me and my colleagues. For those reasons I have moved the amendment.

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