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Wednesday, 19 September 1973
Page: 1227

Mr TURNER (BRADFIELD, NEW SOUTH WALES) - My question is addressed to the Prime Minister and relates to inflation. Is the honourable gentleman aware that responsible people in this community are sick and tired of shadow sparring and politicking over inflation from both sides of this chamber? Is he further aware that the cruel, unjust and potentially explosive results of unbridled inflation are gnawing at the very vitals of our society? I ask him whether, pending the proposed referendum, he will consider immediate action by inviting the State Premiers, especially of New South Wales and Victoria, to act without delay as agents for the Commonwealth Government in imposing for a limited and specified period by way of complementary legislation a freeze on prices and incomes, including rent, interest and dividends, and on all wages and salaries, to provide a breathing space while he calls a conference of representatives of labour and industry and of leading economists to hammer out a comprehensive plan covering all aspects of an effective anti-inflation policy to meet the rapidly escalating emergency situation in the hope that, so far as one country can, we may save ourselves by our exertions and others by example? May I suggest, with great respect, that only by such a course can we hope in this, the most crucial issue of our time, to receive from history the imprimatur of statesmanship?

Mr WHITLAM (WERRIWA, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Prime Minister) - If I thought that anything would come of such a conference I would certainly call it. Already, as honourable members know, the week before last on 3 occassions I publicly invited the States to take action which would enable us, as a nation, to take more actions against inflation than it is possible for us to take at present. Where the Australian Government has authority to tackle inflation - that is, under the Constitution or by statute - it has already done so, in respect of revaluation, capital inflow, tariffs and interest rates. In other matters where we have the constitutional power but not yet the statutory power we are moving to bring in Acts which will enable us to tackle inflation. As we have said for a great length of time in this House, and as recently as yesterday, the Australian Parliament, alone among the national parliaments of the world, does not have power to legislate to control prices and incomes. We have taken action to have a referendum so that the Australian Parliament can control prices. We are willing to consider immediately any proposition that comes before the Parliament from any of our opponents to have a referendum to control incomes.

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