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Thursday, 6 December 1973
Page: 2593

Senator MURPHY (New South Wales) (Attorney-General and Minister for Customs and Excise) -There is no doubt about the importance of this Bill. There is no doubt that it will affect a great many practices that operate throughout industry and commerce. I suppose it is quite reasonable that those who engage in practices that would be prevented by this Bill if it were to become law are entitled to put their point of view. However, it must be remembered that the Government's case- and it is a case that has been agreed to by all Parties in the Senate and the House of Representatives and by people throughout the nation- is that for the last decade at least restrictive practices have been operating in industry and commerce to the detriment of the community. Every day that effective legislation is delayed is a day in which people are being injured. Industry and commerce are being injured by practices which are detrimental and injurious to the public interest, which bring about inefficiency in industry and which contribute to inflation. We have a strong case for saying that these practices ought to be stopped at the earliest opportunity.

If the Bill needs to be considered, there are experts available to all the Parties who are able to look at it. Within a few days of the Bill 's being presented to the Senate, experts in this field were able to make a detailed speech on its provisions and what they meant. My own Department has met and listened to many people who are engaged in industry, explaining the provisions of the Bill to them. In some cases, the Department has indicated that some modification will be agreed to in order to enable any possible unintended effect to be removed from the Bill. I should have thought that this Bill should be brought to a debate, with any kinds of representation that might be made being dealt with when the Bill was being considered in Committee. I should have thought that no possible proper objection could be taken to large parts of the Bill, especially the provisions relating to consumer protection and dealing with a large range of restrictive practices. I should have thought that no one could take any possible objection to those provisions.

Although I am not saying that honourable senators who have spoken in this debate are in any way engaged in any conspiracy, it is a tragedy that in this field, in which we need effective laws against unfair trade practices carried on against consumers, we have not been able to get such legislation for some 10 years, there having been delay after delay. I am very concerned that these delays are continuing. I have heard it said in this debate that, if this amendment is carried, the matter will be dealt with expeditiously at the beginning of the next session, and I hope that is so. However, I must say that some of the most outstanding figures in the Liberal Party opposite- some men who have been in this chamber and who are well aware of what goes on- have said to me: 'Do you think you will get that law through? I will believe it when I see it'. I have had these people tell me that the pressures against this kind of legislation are enormous.

This is good legislation, and attempts have been made sometimes on the other side of the House to introduce legislation of this type. The desire to pass restrictive trade practices legislation is not peculiar to the Labor Party. It is well recognised that there should be laws to stamp out restrictive and unfair practices. After a great deal of attention has been given to this Bill, this legislation having been introduced again, I regret that once more, if the indications are correct, the Bill will not even be considered in Committee so that its detailed provisions can be dealt with. Although I have heard the indications that the Bill will be dealt with expeditiously early next session, all I can say is that at this stage the Government will regard the failure by the Opposition to deal with the Bill now as a failure to pass it within the meaning of the Constitution.

Question put:

That the words proposed to be added (Senator Withers amendment) be added.

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