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Wednesday, 24 February 1971

Senator BISHOP (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - My question is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate, and it relates to the statements by the Prime Minister and other Ministers including himself about the inflationary trends in the economy in which very strong criticism of wage increases was made. I ask the Minister whether the Government is concerned about the possible increases again occurring during this year in the price of steel produced by Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd, in the light of the enormous profit which this company will make this financial year, following the handsome profit that it made last year. Has the Government thought at any time of intervening in such a situation in a manner similar to that already announced by the Prime Minister in relation to possible wage increases and medical fee increases?

Senator Sir KENNETHANDERSONI am being invited to express a view or to make a response to a question asked by Senator Bishop that relates to policy. I certainly cannot answer that question. I rather suspect - and I am not suggesting that there is anything wrong in it - that the question is prompted by what we have read in the Press about a statement made by the Chairman of the BHP company in relation to profits for a 6 months' period. I do not think that I can answer that question at question time because the honourable senator asks me whether the Government will intercede, and so on. But I did read in the statement made by the Chairman of that company that a very serious and genuine effort was being made to hold prices down. I think that one has to read that in relation to the profit that was referred to.

Senator Poyser - If the Minister believes that, he will begin to believe in Santa Claus.

Senator Sir KENNETHANDERSONI am a bit old in the tooth to think about Santa Claus now, senator. Perhaps the best way to deal with the question is to ask the honourable senator to put it on the notice paper.

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