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Thursday, 6 December 1973
Page: 4366

Mr SNEDDEN (Bruce) (Leader of the Opposition) - Let me say at the outset that I accept that what was purported to be written over the signature of the honourable member for Casey (Mr Mathews) was not his own letter and therefore I support totally the view that the matter should go to the Committee of Privileges. I believe that the person, whoever it might be, who perpetrated this acted despicably. I am glad to say that the matter has been exposed. I hope that the culprit will be identified and can be dealt with adequately, not merely by the forms of this House but, if they are available, by the forms of criminal proceedings. That having been said, I greatly regret that the honourable gentleman did not confine his remarks on the motion in the way that I have responded. I am tempted to respond in kind, but I will not do so. I am fed up with abuse being thrown backwards and forwards in this Parliament, and I will deal with the facts and nothing more.

There is only one matter introduced by the honourable gentleman to which I will refer, and that is the question which he introduced as an argument concerning whether or not prices power would include wages. The honourable gentleman made an assertion of law, and I want to deal only with that because I do not think his assertion is correct. The way in which the honourable gentleman put it was that if prices power were granted it would not include power over wages because, as he put it, if the referendum on incomes were rejected the High Court would say that it had been rejected as incomes, including wages, and therefore wages could not be fitted into prices. As a matter of legal interpretation, that is erroneous. If the High Court were asked to interpret the meaning of the word 'prices' it would interpret it according to the ordinary rules of construction and on the basis of the ordinary rules of construction while it is not certain that it would include wages, it is nevertheless the opinion of most lawyers - as the Prime Minister acknowledges - that it would include wages.

I had not intended to raise that matter but as it was put forward as argument by the honourable gentleman I had to respond to it. I will not respond to the rest of the matters. I return to where I commenced. The Opposition fully supports the reference of this matter to the Privileges Committee. I hope - in fact I feel confident - that the people of Australia in voting on Saturday will be in no way influenced by what was purported to be included in the letter.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

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