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Wednesday, 1 December 1965

Mr BOWEN (Parramatta) .- I suggest that the proposed amendment will improve the tribunal. As the Bill was drafted it would have been necessary to approach a barrister or solicitor and offer him appointment as a presidential member for seven years. It would have been a limited appointment for a man to accept. I doubt whether we would have got people of sufficient quality. The proposal of the AttorneyGeneral (Mr. Snedden) is to appoint persons having the status of judges in another capacity who will sit for whatever times they are required to sit as presidential members of the tribunal. This is a definite improvement.

So far as the lay members are concerned, I suggest again that if we proposed to try to persuade someone of competence to leave an industry in which he had good prospects of advancement, it would be most difficult to get a man of the right calibre if we offered him a seven year term. It is most unlikely that we would attract men from the top or second echelon. We might possibly get someone from the third echelon - someone who was dissatisfied with his advancement in industry and who would be prepared to leave that industry and serve on the tribunal. It is unlikely that an industry would be happy about a person of that type sitting permanently inquiring into the industry. If this amendment is adopted lay members will still be offered a seven year term, but they will not be required to serve only on the tribunal. What it means is that there will be a panel. One can visualise that the top echelon of business will be prepared to have their names on a panel, with a seven year appointment, so that they can sit on particular matters in which they are experienced. Experience of arbitration panels in the United States of America and elsewhere suggests that we would be more likely to get a good type of person to sit on such a tribunal by having names on a panel rather than by requiring people to abandon their position in industry and devote themselves entirely to the tribunal. I support the amendment.

Mr. CONNOR(Cunningham) [8.211.- I think I might well quote to the Committee the comment of Professor Richardson as reported in the "Australian Financial Review" of Thursday last. The report stated -

Professor Richardson also criticised the decision that the members of the Trade Practices Tribunal could be appointed on a part-time instead of a full-time basis . . . Mr. Snedden's comment that the work of the tribunal might not occupy its members full time in the early stages of operation might prove to be the opposite of the tribunal's experience.

It could be that the tribunal would be fully occupied in the early stages laying down its principles of operation.

We lag 50 years behind the rest of modern industrial democracies in legislation, of this nature, and that precisely is the backlag with which the proposed tribunal will need to deal. I find it difficult to believe that the Attorney-General (Mr. Snedden) is serious. There is perhaps another more transparent motive in this because, after all, judging by his comments during the second reading, he addressed himself primarily to the " reluctant dragons " within his own ranks, explaining away their particular reservations. It would sugar-coat the pill to these people to suggest that after all these nonpresidential members will be part time functionaries only, that the Bill is not going to hurt anyone in particular and that the functions of the tribunal will be very limited indeed. However, the position will be precisely the opposite, because we live in the most monopoly ridden of the industrial democracies of the Western world.

The former Attorney-General stated that there were no fewer than 500 to 600 trade associations, a considerable part of whose activities was directed towards restrictive trade practices. The number has grown with the years. Professor Hunter made an estimate of 1,100, and in more recent months a Mr. R. D. Freeman estimated that there were 1,250 of these associations of which at least two-thirds were engaged In doing their very best to devise, promote and continue restrictive trade practices. In addition we have the word of Professor Hunter that in terms of concentration of industry Australia is twice as bad as the United Kingdom and three times as bad as the United States of America, which is normally considered to be the home of monopoly. I doubt the Attorney-General's seriousness in making a submission of this nature to this Committee. As I see it, the tribunal will have work to do - serious work. Let us consider the experience of the United Kingdom Established Restrictive Practices Court where the average time spent last year was 30 days a case. In England there were almost 3,000 registered agreements - I think the Attorney-General mentioned a figure of 2,700. I venture to say that there will be at least 1,000 agreements registered in Australia. Of course there is the possibility that some of the parties may - to use the vernacular - take a punt. It may pay them not to register their agreements. It may pay them to go on their own sweet way for a considerable time and at the worst if they are caught there will be a fine of £1,000. However, they may have made millions in the meantime by carrying on their practices. Even when caught up with, the only offence with which they will be charged is for nonregistration of agreements. There will be no antecedent damages payable from the time of the tribunal's findings.

This tribunal will have immediate work to do. The Committee must consider the implications of clause 61 under which negative clearances will be sought by people who are in a hurry to start new ventures or who wish to develop, on a substantial scale, existing ventures. In both cases they will be anxious, after the mere formalities of inquiry by the Commissioner of Trade Practices, to get a negative clearance. There, for a start, will probably be the first type of cases to be dealt with. The Bill, as originally drafted, should stand.

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