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Tuesday, 18 September 1973
Page: 1127

Mr SINCLAIR (NEW ENGLAND, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Does the Prime Minister persist in his undertaking given to the Premiers at the Constitutional Review Convention that he would seek a reference of power from them with respect to price control? Were the Premiers of the States to refer a limited power on prices and incomes to the Commonwealth on the condition that both prices and incomes should be controlled and that the power should be given only for a limited period, would he still continue with his referendum proposal? Is it not true that the Prime Minister, in fact, would persist with his referendum because he sees the referendum on power over prices as fundamental to his implementation of his policy of socialisation and not towards the control of inflation?

Mr WHITLAM (WERRIWA, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Prime Minister) - I can quote precisely from the proceedings of the Constitutional Convention of a fortnight ago. I broached this matter on the Monday afternoon at the Convention and the last occasion when I mentioned it was during the summing up on the Tuesday afternoon. The principal reference to it was made in these terms on the Tuesday morning a fortnight ago:

I have heard my friend the Leader of the Opposition in the Australian Parliament refer to talks he has had with parliamentary leaders of his party in the States in a way which suggests that a reference of powers on prices and incomes might not be unacceptable. I have already said that a reference from New South Wales and Victoria at least would be essential. I should like to know precisely what these two Liberal Premiers agreed with the leaders of their party. If the States were to see fit to refer powers on prices and incomes rather than powers on prices only the Australian Government would clearly accept such a wider reference.

I can certainly assure honourable members and the public that if the States, particularly the 2 larger States - the great manufacturing States - refer powers over prices or over prices and incomes then there will be no need to have a referendum. Quite clearly, I did, in fact, suggest the reference of powers 15 days ago. It is only because both in public and in private it became clear that the Premiers of the 2 major States would not refer such powers that the Referendum Bill has been introduced. If, for instance, the honourable gentleman or any of his colleagues were today to seek leave to introduce a companion Bill on incomes to match the Bill which is to be debated today on prices, its introduction would be facilitated. It will go through the House without opposition. But if a reference-

Mr Sinclair - Of a limited character.

Mr WHITLAM - Does the honourable member mean as to time?

Mr Sinclair - As to time.

Mr WHITLAM - Yes, I would accept that, because one of the important things in this is to act promptly. There is a disadvantage in having to wait a minimum of 2 months before putting a referendum to the people because there will be many who will make pre-emptive rises in their prices, as happened during the period before the Prices Justification Tribunal was appointed and in operation. It would be very much to the advantage of the whole country if the States, particularly the 2 major States, were now to refer this power over prices or these powers over prices and incomes. It is clear that in New South Wales and Victoria in particular there are no difficulties in referring such powers because in each case the Liberal Premier has a majority not only in the Legislative Assembly but also in the Legislative Council. I thank the honourable gentleman for giving me this opportunity

Mr Lynch - Would you withdraw the Bill in that situation?


Mr Lynch - You would?

Mr WHITLAM - I thought I had made that plain.

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