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Wednesday, 26 September 1973
Page: 1514

Mr SPEAKER - Is leave granted?

Opposition members - No.

Mr SPEAKER - Leave is not granted.

Mr DALY - I move:

That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the Prime Minister moving forthwith notice No. 1 standing in his name.

For the benefit of the House I shall read the motion that stands in the Prime Minister's name. It is:

That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent a Bill for an Act to alter the Constitution so as to enable tile Australian Parliament to make laws with respect to incomes being introduced and passed through all its stages without delay.

It think it is recognised in this Parliament on all sides that there is no more important measure to come before this Parliament possibly in the lifetime of the Government. The Government believes that it is so urgent that Standing Orders should be suspended in order that that business should proceed forthwith. As I stated a moment ago this problem is recognised by all political parties and we on this side of the Parliament can see no reason why there should be unnecessary delay in the Parliament debating it. I shall support that with a few more facts as time goes on. I merely state that without going into the pros and cons of the actual text of the legislation. In support of what I am putting for the suspension of Standing Orders I wish to quote from a Press statement made by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden) on 13 September in which he said:

No other country in the world has thought of prices control without incomes control. Until there is control of incomes maximums as well as prices maximums these measures will be a sham, conceivable by an Australian Labor Party.

We have there an example of the Leader of the Opposition himself stressing the importance of what we are seeking to have debated so urgently today. In a further Press statement on 19 August the Leader of the Opposition, in dealing with this important matter of inflation and in stressing the need for urgency to discuss it and find a remedy to it, said:

That the problem of costs and prices is of such national importance that it must be put above party politics.

That a policy aimed at controlling prices alone will not be effective.

That there should be co-operation by all parties and all parliaments.

Surely that stresses the need for co-operation to allow the Parliament to debate this matter. Those words were spoken by the Leader of the Opposition a little over a month ago. The Leader of the Australian Country Party (Mr Anthony) has endorsed the sentiments of the Leader of the Opposition on the need for this problem to be discussed urgently. On 18 September 1973 he was recorded in Hansard as saying that he supported the sentiments expressed by the Leader of the Opposition in regard to this important problem and supported a temporary price and wage freeze as part of a complete approach.

I have mentioned those things in passing in order to show that there has been a direct indication by honourable members on the other side of the Parliament that they appreciate the urgency of this matter and realise that there is a need to protect not just one section of the Australian community but every section of it against rising prices and inflation. That is why this legislation is so important, why it has been presented so urgently and why, among other things, we seek endorsement of it. Do not forget that everybody is affected - pensioners, wage earners and people who have savings. The Australian Government, which has limited constiutional powers in this respect, seeks the urgent support of this Parliament, at a time when the States will not co-operate in overcoming this great problem, of this legislation which will have such a fundamental effect on the lives of people everywhere.

There are other associated matters. This legislation could result in a constitutional change. There must be certain delays in respect to the procedures to be followed. Those honourable members who know the procedures laid down for referendums will appreciate that there must be a delay of about 10i weeks after the passing of necessary legislation and after other formalities have been completed before any such proposal can be put to the people. If this legislation were passed by the Parliament this week a referendum would be held, it is hoped, on 8 December. That would enable the passage of the land prices stabilisation legislation which the Prime Minister has indicated i> essential to ensure that inflation is curtailed in some way. The very timetable laid down by the legislative procedures of this Parliament and this country necessitate this measure being discussed urgently. We feel, therefore, that it must be introduced, discussed and dispensed with today by this Parliament. I had felt that the Opposition might well have co-operated in respect to this matter, so urgent is the problem.

There is another reason why it is necessary to discuss this legislation urgently. There is a need for the proposed referendum to be put to the people before Christmas. Parliament adjourns tomorrow for 10 days. Unless the legislation is though the Senate by tomorrow it will not be possible to hold a referendum before Christmas. This could mean a delay until about mid-February 1974. The danger of such a delay is that some unscrupulous people will put up prices before the referendum is held in order to frustrate any action which the Government might consider desirable to take if the referendum proposal is accepted. Prices and incomes proposals will have to be put to the people at the same time. The danger of pre-empted price increases will increase the longer Parliament debates the issue. It would be scandalous if, while action on this matter were delayed by the Parliament, people were to suffer price increases unnecessarily.

By the way, a full debate on the issue of prices and incomes powers has already been held. No member of the Parliament can say that this matter was not adequately discussed on the previous occasion. All that has to be said in respect to these matters has already been said on both sides of the Parliament. In fact, during the course of that debate honourable members opposite in effect sponsored or said that they would support the incomes section of the legislation which is about to be presented to the Parliament. Of course, in keeping with their usual practice when they face the hurdle, they now baulk or back out. Today is an opportunity for Opposition members to vote quickly on this matter and to give effect to the policy that they said would be supported if it were brought forward. We think this opportunity should be given to them immediately. There should be no delay. We do not want honourable members opposite to ponder all night and worry about what will be thought. This is a time when honourable members opposite should debate the issue, not only because of the national aspects but also because the statements made by the Leader of the Opposition from time to time have practically committed his party to the policy which we have brought forward today.

The honourable member for Bradfield (Mr Turner) is looking towards me. The other day he asked a very intelligent question on this matter. I do not think it was out of line with some of the proposals which we are bringing forward. Knowing that he is one of the few democrats in the Liberal Party I hope he will vote with us on this motion because his electorate contains, amongst other things, a lot of people with savings - plenty of them. Until something is done about inflation those savings will go down and down. Every minute matters. I do not wish to delay the House. As I mentioned, the matter is urgent. I will summarise the situation as I see it and as the Government sees it. We desire to hold a referendum before Christmas and procedures necessitate urgent passing of the legislation in this place. We desire to protect the savings and incomes of people. We desire to see that inflation is checked throughout the length and breadth of this country. There is an urgent need to ensure that Liberal Party Premiers who refuse to do anything about inflation and will not accept their responsibilities at least will know that there is a Government in Canberra that will accept responsibility.

I suggest that all people who believe in the welfare of every citizen in this country should vote for this proposal that is coming before the Parliament to deal with this matter urgently. I do not know of any more pressing problem. If honourable members opposite are honest they will admit that none of them does. They know the timetable and the dangers. They know of the exploitation that can take place and the suffering and degradation that comes with rising prices and inflation. Here is a chance for honourable members opposite to be statesmen, to stand up and debate this issue today and to allow this Government to implement policies that will affect the welfare of all the people of this country and will safeguard their interests in every possible way. I hope that the motion will be carried. It is an important motion and one which I believe the House should debate at this moment without any further delay.

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