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Tuesday, 7 December 1965

Sir Wilfrid Kent Hughes (CHISHOLM, VICTORIA) . - I have not spoken previously on this Bill.

Mr Stewart - Well, do not start now.

Sir Wilfrid Kent Hughes (CHISHOLM, VICTORIA) - I do not intend to take much notice of the expressions of the suspicious Socialist mind on a measure of this nature. We all know what is the policy of honorable members opposite. We all know what is happening in regard to small shopkeepers, who will be affected to the same extent as the big businessman will be. The big businessman can afford to pay for the extra work - legal and otherwise - that has to be done. The little man cannot afford that. The little man will have to register agreements in the same way as the big man will. It is the little man who will be in trouble in respect of the various clauses in relation to registration.

I cannot understand the attitude of the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr.

Daly) to us members who oppose registration because we believe that it will clutter up the Bill. He asks what is behind our opposition. Long before many honorable members opposite were born I opposed collusive tendering in the trade that I was in. I am glad that that trade dropped it some time ago. I am in favour of the general principles of this Bill.

Mr Irwin - We all are.

Sir Wilfrid Kent Hughes (CHISHOLM, VICTORIA) -General has not given any reason, and I do not see, why this requirement of compulsory registration has been included in the Bill. I cannot see any reason why failure to register should be an offence. The honorable member for Cunningham (Mr. Connor) referred to the United Kingdom Restrictive Trade Practices Act 1 956. I would far rather have the terms of registration provided for in that Act, which does not make non-registration an offence of itself. There is an offence only if one is called on to register and does not do so. There is some sense in that. As an earlier speaker said, there will be tens of thousands of agreements registered if it is an offence not to register. This will only clutter up the office of the Commissioner of Trade Practices, for all these agreements will have to be filed and indexed. I presume that if they are required to be registered they will also have to be read and dissected. So, as one speaker remarked earlier, the whole business will just be a gold mine for the legal profession and the accounting profession and a haven for bureaucracy.

The clause now before the Committee will not help. In general everybody knows the particular agreements that ought to be registered. So I do not know why on earth the Attorney-General wants this clause in the measure. It will only handicap those who have to administer the provisions of the Bill in an effort to achieve its true purposes. This clause will cause all sorts of trouble. As I have said, in the main it will hit the little man. Suppose two greengrocers whose businesses are in the same suburb decide that instead of each taking his own truck to the markets daily to get his supplies one will take his truck to get the supplies for both one week and the other will do it the next week and that as part of the agreement they will not compete in prices. I take it that this will be a registrable agreement and that if it is not registered both parties will be liable to a fine of up to £1,000. Will the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Hughes) tell me whether I am correct? This is the sort of agreement that should not have to be registered at least until a complaint is made about it. If a complaint is laid - all right. It can then be registered. Surely the British method, with its reference to classes of agreements or agreements in particular trades, is infinitely preferable to a procedure such as that now proposed which will only clutter up the whole organisation. The registering of tens of thousands of agreements unnecessarily will only provide useless work for a lot of public servants.

I cannot see the need for compulsory registration of all agreements, Mr. Chairman, and I cannot understand why the Attorney-General is not prepared to state clearly why this requirement is necessary. As has been pointed out, it does not exist in New Zealand or Canada. Those of us who believe in this Bill and would like to stop the activities of the main offenders who enter into trade agreements prejudicial to the public interest consider that this sort of clause will handicap the achieving of the purposes of this measure.

I was very interested to hear earlier today the Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr. McEwen). I candidly confess that I cannot understand where stabilisation of an industry begins and restrictive trade practices finish. Apparently, a government stabilisation plan is all right. Some are efficient and some are not. But an efficient stabilisation plan in private industry is apparently regarded as a restrictive trade practice. There are agreements that clearly do not provide for the stabilisation of an industry and are not in the public interest. We want a measure that will effectively deal with them. As I have said, I have yet to learn the reason why this clause is included in the Bill. The Attorney-General has said nothing to convince me of the need for it. He has not demonstrated to me the reasons why all agreements, implied, informal or otherwise, must be registered. Therefore, I shall vote for the proposed amendment as the lesser of two evils.

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