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Tuesday, 3 April 1973
Page: 962

Mr WILLIS (GELLIBRAND, VICTORIA) - When the Treasurer was in the United States of America was his attention drawn to the rapidly rising food prices in that country as evidenced by the increase of 31 per cent over the last 6 months in the farm products and processed food section of the American wholesale price index? Can he inform the House whether such rapid increases in food prices in the United States in any way account for the recent increases in food prices in Australia?

Mr CREAN (MELBOURNE PORTS, VICTORIA) (Treasurer) - There was deep concern in the United States of America at the rapidly rising price situation particularly, as has been suggested, with respect to food prices, meat standing out as the worst example. Perhaps I should say one or two things in passing. In the United States there have been some pretty good examples of consumer resistance to the situation. I should hope that more of this would begin to be evident in Australia and also that there would be a realisation that in Australia the States have far more power in these fields than they have cared to exercise.

Mr Nixon - Including Labor States.

Mr CREAN - Including the non-Labor States and particularly the 2 States which between them contain two-thirds of the population of Australia - Victoria and New South Wales - and which do not have Labor governments and whose governments seem to be concerned about the fate of the electors only a month or two before an election. If Mr Hamer, in particular, instead of taking action against mock auctions took action about this very real problem that is evident the public might take him a little more seriously. As the questioner has said, in some respects the prices that have been received for meat in the United States of America have had adverse effects on the price of meat in Australia although here again the easy answer is that it is all a question of the law of supply and demand. I think that every party ought to recognise, as is being recognised by the United States, that the question of rapidly rising prices seriously concerns the public and, rightly or wrongly, the public believes that the problem is remediable by government action, and most believe that that remedial action should be at the Federal level. I think that is a rather over-simplified situation. I do not think that there can be a serious grappling with that problem in Australia unless in the process there is the fullest co-operation by the States and the Commonwealth and also by the Opposition in this Parliament. I hope that those lessons may be observed. At least consumer resentment in the United States did lead to very firm action at the Presidential level to control the prices of beef, lamb and pork.

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