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Wednesday, 24 October 1973
Page: 1437

Senator WRIGHT -I move:

That the question be now put.

The PRESIDENT - I rule against you, Senator Wright. Senator Murphy is on his feet. You cannot move that the question be put while he is on his feet.

Senator MURPHY -I move:

That all words after 'that' be left out and the following words be inserted in place thereof: the matter be heard on the first sitting day after 3 weeks from today".

This will test the Opposition as to whether it genuinely wants some time to apply itself to the Bill or whether, as everyone knows, it is bending over backwards to help its friends, as it did when it was in government. At that time no matter what was in the hearts of honourable senators opposite and no matter what they wanted to do, whether in relation to restrictive practices or other matters- we know that they wanted to act on many of these matters- they did what they were told. I do not doubt their wishes to do something about stopping the rackets that are going on in business and stopping the injury to the consumer. I accept that that is what they want to do. But when they were in government they could not do it. They were dictated to by those who are running business. Now that they are in opposition they are being dictated to by those who are carrying on these rackets.

These people want to carry on these rackets for as long as they can, whether it be a month, 3 months or 6 months, because every day, every month, every year that they continue with these rackets they are making more money. I give credit to the individual members of the Opposition that they themselves do not want to see these rackets perpetrated. Nevertheless they have no choice in the matter because they are utterly dependent upon those business people outside who are carrying on these rackets. The Opposition has not said that there is anything wrong with this Bill. It has had the opportunity to study the Bill. Other people have had the opportunity to study it. Honourable senators opposite want to delay the passage of this legislation because every day of delay means more profit for somebody outside, more opportunity to perpetrate these rackets. Again and again we hear the theme from honourable senators opposite: What does this mean to the big company which cannot understand this legislation? Honourable senators opposite say that those who are operating the rackets do not understand these laws which say that they must not engage in restrictive practices, they must not restrict markets, that they must not engage in monopolisation, and so forth. The people in these companies say: 'We cannot understand what these laws mean that have been operating in other parts of the world, that are proposed here and have been discussed for 10 years'. They say: 'Please give us more time to perpetrate these rackets'.

Senator Wright - I rise to a point of order, Mr President. If you have been attending to the debate since it began some 3.5 hours ago, 1 think you would readily perceive that this is tedious, offensive repetition.

The PRESIDENT - Order! The honourable senator raises 2 matters. He implies that I have not been attending to the entire debate. That is entirely wrong.

Senator Wright - I made no such inference.

The PRESIDENT - That is what you said.

Senator Wright - I said, Mr President, that if you had you would know that it is repetition.

The PRESIDENT - I do not uphold the point of order. Senator Murphy has moved an amendment and he is entitled to speak to it.

Senator MURPHY -Why I not push on with the attempt to have this Bill dealt with at the earliest stage? In May last year the Opposition, which was then in government, said that there were 13,000 restrictive agreements on the register and it then said:

The Government has concluded that many of the agreements on the Register of Trade Agreements are likely to bc found on examination to be contrary to the public interest. The Government has reached this conclusion on the information that is now available to it concerning these agreements in Australia and on the experience of other countries with respect to such agreements.

The then Government accepted that there was no reasonable way under the existing laws in which those agreements could be examined and put a stop to. All that the Opposition is doing by this proposal to delay consideration of this Bill until next year is allowing those thousands of agreements to continue in operation. There are over 10,000 agreements operating against the public interest. Honourable members opposite know it. They have said that there are rackets being perpetrated against the public. Yet they are voting to allow those rackets to continue with impunity. They are also voting to allow the continuance of other practices such as pyramid selling, bait advertising, deception and fraud against the public. I know that in their hearts they do not want it. Let there not by any doubt about that. They confess by their votes that their masters outside, those who finance them and dictate to them, are telling them to delay this legislation as long as they can in the same way as they delayed even the pitiful legislation that was introduced in the 1960s. They delayed that legislation, emasculated it and watered it down.

We heard the sorry schedule that was read out by Senator Greenwood about how, after Sir Garfield Barwick said 'Let us do something about this', nothing was done for years. Then a previous government brought in legislation which sat in the Parliament, and in the end that government watered that down and would not bring it into operation. When it finally came into operation it was unworkable. Here in 1 973 a decent Bill has been introduced. It has been acclaimed by those who have looked at it. Yet the Opposition is not prepared even to debate it or to go into Committee and say whether it disagrees with its clauses. The simplest thing is to do what it is doing because those outside are saying: Do not debate it. Stall it. Delay it as long as you can'.

Senator Jessop - You are not serious. You are romancing.

Senator MURPHY -Let the honourable senator from South Australia go back to his electorate and say that he voted to delay for 6 months- that is what it amounts to- legislation to assist the people of Australia in the midst of inflation which Senator Greenwood said in May last year was the greatest menace this country faced.

Senator Webster - Oh!

Senator MURPHY -Senator Webster should read his speech of May 1972. He said then that it was the greatest menace this country faced. It is true that the previous Government launched an inflation which this Government is trying to tackle by bringing in legislation such as this. Yet what is the response of honourable senators opposite? It is to put this legislation over for an effective 6 months before we can bring in laws to stop those who are forcing up prices and carrying on rackets against the people. What honourable senators opposite are doing against their own wishes and consciences is voting to delay the laws which would prevent this occurring. It is with some regret that I have to say these things which I believe are the truth. I know that some members of the Opposition agree exactly with what I am saying. They regret that they are put in the position of having to vote against the interests of the people of this nation. However, the system we are operating under is such that those who have the money are able to dictate to the Opposition Parties that laws which are in the interests of the people will have to be postponed. This will be the case unless some Opposition senators are prepared to vote in the national interest. I ask the Senate to vote for the amendment which I have moved.

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