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Wednesday, 17 October 1973
Page: 2235

Mr JARMAN (DEAKIN, VICTORIA) - I direct a question to the Prime Minister. Has the Government been advised by the Attorney-General's Department and/or by an independent authority that it is legally open to interpretation that wages are the price of labour? If only the prices power is passed at the referendum on 8 December, will the Prime Minister assure the House that the Government will not then use the prices power to control incomes and wages? Can he bind future governments in this regard?

Mr WHITLAM (WERRIWA, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Prime Minister) - The Attorney-General's Department has not been asked for an opinion on this matter and has not volunteered an opinion on this matter - at least, that was the situation when I last inquired, I suppose about 4 days ago. It is true that there are opinions from distinguished counsel who specialise in the industrial relations field before State and Federal arbitration tribunals that the word 'prices1 can cover wages or wages and salaries but not, of course, other forms of income. There have been decisions by the Industrial Commission of New South Wales to that effect because the word 'prices' does occur in the Industrial Arbitration Act of New South Wales.

There is nothing I have to add to previous answers I have given about the present Government's intention in respect of using the incomes power if the Australia public confers it on this Parliament on 8 December. At this time the Australian Parliament can pass laws and, of course, for 70 years has passed laws concerning wages and salaries in the context of the arbitration paragraph in the Constitution. The Australian Parliament cannot pass laws concerning other forms of income. It might be of interest to know that the Australian Council of Trade Unions, as recently as its last congress, did urge the Australian Parliament to regulate non-wage incomes. The Australian Parliament will be able to do that when the people give it the power to legislate with respect to incomes. I agree with my predecessor as Prime Minister - the right honourable member for Lowe - who, it will be remembered, urged during the election campaign last November that there should be a referendum to give the Australian Parliament power to legislate with respect to prices and also to legislate with respect to incomes.

Mr McMahon - That is untrue. That is untrue. I did recommend it for industrial disputes, yes.

Mr WHITLAM - I hope I do not misrepresent the right honourable gentleman.

Mr McMahon - Well, you do.


Mr WHITLAM - I have in my hand an extract from the 'Sydney Morning Herald', which supported the right honourable gentleman through thick and thin and which, in fact, occasionally paid him to write articles on the editorial page. I would not think he does it free. I find it difficult to think that any newspaper would pay for those articles, but I do not believe the right honourable gentleman would write them for nothing. *

Mr McMahon - I have always given the results to charity. Do you do that?

Mr Snedden - Settle down and leave out the personalities; that would be a good idea.

Mr WHITLAM - 1 was courteous enough to respond to an interjection by my predecessor. I do not want to misrepresent the right honourable gentleman. I have in my hand an extract from the 'Sydney Morning Herald' of last November which has the leading 'PM wants power over pay, prices'. I remember quite well that I was asked what I thought about his advocacy of these referendums at the time and I supported them. I hope he still agrees. I am of the same mind as I was at that time.

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