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Thursday, 6 December 1973
Page: 4374

Mr HURFORD (ADELAIDE, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - I ask the Prime Minister a question which is supplementary to that just asked by the Deputy Leader of the Australian Country Party. Is it not a fact that State parliaments already have the constitutional power to control prices but that to implement price control the State parliaments must assert their power by passing appropriate legislation? Similarly, will the Prime Minister reaffirm that a Yes vote on prices in Saturday's referendum will not itself impose national price control on any goods and services? Will be remind the Australian people that even after the referendum is carried, despite the deception by people handing out how to vote cards on behalf of but not in the name of the Liberal and Country Parties, no item will be subject to price control until appropriate legislation is subsequently passed by both Houses of this Australian Parliament?

Mr WHITLAM - The honourable member for Adelaide states the position precisely. All that the people can do next Saturday is give the Australian Parliament the jurisdiction to pass laws on prices and incomes. It will then remain for the Parliament to pass such laws. The State parliaments always have had the power to pass laws with respect to prices and incomes. The New South Wales Parliament, in particular, on many occasions in the last 20, 30 or even 40 years has passed laws with respect to incomes. It is because the New South Wales Parliament has passed laws with respect to incomes that in that State all wage and salary earners, male and female, were able to get equal wages and salaries, paid annual holidays, paid long service leave, quarterly cost of living adjustments, sick leave and a great number of other benefits - all done by a Parliament which had the power to pass laws with respect to incomes. All the State parliaments have had that power to pass laws with respect to incomes. In general, they have not exercised it. But if the people endow this Australian Parliament with that jurisdiction next Saturday, then early next year we can expect to introduce laws which will apply equal pay for men and women who are employees everywhere in Australia. We will introduce a program to bring in equal pay for all men and women. We will introduce a law to ensure that there are periodic cost of living adjustments for wage and salary earners as we are doing for pensioners. As regards prices, most of the States from time to time have had legislation to deal with prices.

Mr Kelly - Mr Speaker, on a point of order, could you ask the Prime Minister to turn this way occasionally? We feel rather left out of it.

Mr SPEAKER -Order! There has been quite a number of lengthy questions from both sides of the House regarding the forthcoming referendum and no restriction has been placed on the length of the question or the length of the answer.

Mr WHITLAM - Mr Speaker,if the honourable member for Adelaide will pardon my back I will turn to his colleague from South Australia, the honourable member for Wakefield, whose questions on economic matters I have always thought to be the most enlightened coming from the Liberal Party. The South Australian Parliament has legislation on prices, and successive South Australian governments have exercised that power over several commodities and services. This was the case under Sir Thomas Playford and Mr Walsh, and it is the case under Mr Dunstan. It is because that power has been exercised by successive South Australian governments in respect, for instance, of incomes that the medical profession cannot exploit the public in South Australia to the degree that it does in other States, despite the findings of tribunals established by the Gorton Government, the McMahon Government and the present Government.

Mr Ruddock -What about petrol?

Mr WHITLAM - It is because there is price control in South Australia over petrol that in fact the cost of petrol and oil products in general has been kept down throughout Australia. The other States have applied, in general, price control to commodities such as milk and bread. Quite clearly, the Australian public in general would be much better governed if the Australian Parliament had the power - to be exercised by whatever government the people elected from time to time - to make laws over the whole country for prices and incomes as the Parliament has possessed and as successive governments have exercied for other economic matters.

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