2nd Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers;
– In reply to questions asked by the honorable members for Maranoa, Bland, and Moreton, in regard to the appointment of Colonel Lyster to the position of Commandant of Queensland, I have been furnished with the following statement : -
Colonel Lyster has been temporarily appointed Commandant of Queensland during this absence on leave, of Colonel Plomer.
The Minister has clearly intimated that this temporary appointment creates no claim to the permanent appointment. Colonel Lyster was the Officer Commanding referredto in the Drayton Grange Royal Commission’s Report. The late G.O.C. reported that Colonel Lyster’s administration as Commandant of South Australia for a period of eight months was not successful, and recommended bis transfer to the position of Chief Staff Officer in New South Wales, where he has been since January, 1904. He is the senior permanent officer now not holding command. The InspectorGeneral was not consulted. Such appointments come under the consideration of the Military Board. Before making any permanent appointment as Commandant of Queensland,the Minister will
– A requisition was presented to the Minister of Defence some time ago by certain persons in the Bendigo district in favour of the establishment of a troopof the Victorian Light Horsethere. Will the Vice-President of the Executive Council ascertain what decision the Minister has arrived at in the matter, and, if it has not yet been dealt with, will he use his influence with the Minister to secure a favorable decision ?
– I shall be gladto bring the matter under the notice of the Minister, and everything that can be done without injustice to the country to further the views of the honorable and learned member will be done.
Report (No. 4) presented by Mr.Poyn- ton, read by the Clerk, and agreed to.
– Some time ago I directed the attention of the Minister of Home Affairs to an agreement entered into between the Railways Commissioners of the States, dating from March of this year, on the subject of competitive rates, and he promised to make inquiries as to the scope of it, and as to what is being done to put an end to rates which are unconstitutional. Has he any information to communicate to the House on the subject?
– Acting on the information put before the House by the honorable member, I caused the Railways Commissioners of the States to be communicated with, and have recently received a copy of an agreement which I presume is that to which he refers. I do not know that I am at liberty to make it public, but I am going throughit with a view to ascertaining its effect, and to considering it in the light of the information supplied by the honorable member. I will also consider if any action is necessary to be taken with respect to it.
– In reply to questions asked by the honorable members for Riverina and Yarra in regard to the bursting of cartridges at Castlemaine, I am informed
– Is it a fact, as stated in this morning’s Age, that the Minister of Home Affairs has prepared a lucid explanation of the provisions of the Industries Preservation Bill. If so, why was this explanation supplied only to the Age newspaper? Why have honorable members not been supplied with it? Does the honorable gentleman think it fair to keep from us information on this highly important and contentious measure?
– When I made my speech yesterday, I gave the information contained in that explanation to the House, and I am at liberty to furnish the newspapers with what explanations I please to give them. I am not going to give information to the newspapers which deliberately manipulated or suppressed what I said yesterday.
– Is the Minister going to give this information to honorable members ?
– The official report of the speech I delivered yesterday, in moving the second reading of the Bill, will be circulated in a few minutes. It contains all the information given in the memorandum referred to, and, therefore, there is no need to furnish honorable members with copies of the memorandum.
– Has the PostmasterGeneral received a complaint from the City Council of Bendigo concerning the fees charged for the delivery of telegrams within the city boundaries? What are the regulations on this subject?
– The charge for delivering telegrams to the places mentioned in the communication referred to is2s. The Department does not deliver messages free of cost to places more than a mile and a half from the post-office, messages for more distant places being delivered by contract at certain rates. In Bendigo the rate is1s. a mile. I have the representations of the honorable and learned member under consideration, and am making inquiries into the subject, in regard to which I shall be pleased to furnish information later. ,
Bill returned from the Senate with amendments.
That the message be taken into consideration forthwith.
– I move -
That the Senate’s amendments be agreed to.
The amendments made by the Senate in this Bill do not touch any question of substance. The first provides that the Act shall commence on a date to be fixed by proclamation, to allow of notice of the alteration of the law being given at distant places, such as Port Darwin and Broome. Then, instead of making the language test a passage of not more than fifty words, it is -proposed to make it a passage of not less than fifty words in any prescribed language or languages. The provision in clause 3 that any additional language prescribed shall not be taken to be sanctioned unless ‘within a certain time the proposal has not been dissented from by Parliament has been altered so that no additional language may be used for the test, until its use has been assented to by Parliament, thus making the assent of Parliament positive instead of negative. The fifth amendment is a proposal to insert a new clause, which reads as follows : -
That makes no alteration, except in the form of the expression. The next amendment proposes to leave out the word “ agent “ in a clause in which the word was not required. The last amendment, in clause 12, is intended to meet, in a better way than we were able at the table, the suggestion of the honorable member for North Sydney for the protection of shipowners against being called upon to deport prohibited immigrants after they had been here for some time. I inserted an amendment which would accomplish the object so far as section 8 of the Act was concerned, but it was discovered that the ship-owners might be liable under other sections. Now it is proposed to limit their responsibility to the deportation of immigrants prohibited under sections 3 and 5 of the Act. With the one exception to which I have referred, these are merely drafting amendments.
– It seems to me that one of these amendments is most important. It means that no language can be prescribed in addition to those already prescribed - and none are prescribed except European languages - unless a resolution is passed by Parliament. Therefore, if it were desired to prescribe any other language in order to meet the susceptibilities pf any nation with which we were friendly, that course could be adopted only after a long and tolerably angry debate in this House. That would involve the adoption of more offensive methods than those at present provided for.
– - At present, we could not add a language to those already prescribed, except by passing a special Act for that, purpose.
– There is practically no difference between the two provisions ; the amendment effects no improvement. The object of the Bill is to tone down the terms of the present Act by making them less offensive to friendly nations. But, as the result of the amendments made in this House, and further amendments proposed by the Senate, we are providing that no other language shall be prescribed except after a possibly angry debate in Parliament. That does not seem to me to be the way to conciliate a friendly nation. However, the responsibility lies with the’ Government, and I can only enter my protest against what is now being done.
– I should like to direct attention to the fact that it will be competent for the officers applying the language test to require an immigrant to write out. not only fifty words, but the whole of the Bible or the Koran. Therefore, the provision is designed, not only to shut out immigrants who cannot comply with certain conditions, but to really prevent any one from coming here. One officer may prescribe fifty words, and another may call upon an immigrant to transcribe the whole of the Bible.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Resolution reported; report adopted.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
– I should like to ask the Minister representing the Minister of Defence whether his attention has been directed to a statement appearing in this morning’s newspapers, to the effect that Colonel Ricardo considers himself to be a State officer first, and a Commonwealth officer next. He is reported as having stated that -
It was all very well to talk of the military affairs of the Commonwealth, but the State paid for its own defences.
I should like to know whether the Minister will make the position plain to Colonel Ricardo?
– I have not seen the report referred to, and I do not know whether it is correct. All I can do is to bring it under the notice of the Minister of Defence, who, I am sure, will deal adequately with the case.
Debate resumed from 13th December (vide page 6827), on motion by Sir William Lyne) -
That the Bill be now read the second time.
Mr. JOSEPH COOK (Parramatta).A few minutes ago, the Minister told me across the table that he would be glad to present me with a copy of the speech he delivered here yesterday. After having listened to his speech, I have no special desire to be furnished with a copy of it; but I would suggest that when the Minister prepares a lucid explanation of a measure the least he should do is to pay this House the same compliment that he pays the Age. The honorable and learned member for Wannon very properly asked why honorable members cannot be treated with the same consideration and courtesy as the newspaper which is behind the Government. The Age declares very properly that this measure is the most important of the session. It far transcends any other that has been before us. As to its farreaching character, no two opinions can be entertained. Its operation will extend to the uttermost ramifications of trade in the community. If the measure is the most important that has been introduced this session, I venture to suggest that a constitutional outrage has been perpetrated by bringing it before this Chamber after the Appropriation Bill has been assented to by the Governor-General. Whoever heard of the one important legislative enactment of a session being thrown before a Chamber like this, after the Appropriation Bill had been passed by both Houses. I venture to suggest that on the next occasion we are considerate enough to afford the Senate an early opportunity to consider the Appropriation Bill, you, sir, should not allow the Bill to pass out of your hands until the business of this House is concluded. That is the constitutional procedure invariably adopted in other Legislatures of the Empire. We have departed from it in the belief that we should speedily wind up the session by passing such measures as were necessary to complete the ordinary sessional programme. Immediately we surrendered our hold upon the finances, the Government began to introduce measures of infinitely more importance than any that have preceded them. This is an outrage which the House would be quick to punish if it had a proper sense of constitutional dignity. The Government have been guilty of political trickery, and have resorted to a practice which has been adopted for the first time in the history of this Parliament. In these closing hours of the session of a demoralized House, we are whittling away some of our most precious prerogatives and privileges - but no one seems to care. I, at least, shall record my protest against what I conceive to be a violation of the fundamental principles of constitutional Government. I have had to protest on previous occasions against similar action on the part of Ministers, and I shall probably have to raise my voice again and again with increasing fervour, in protest against important’ Bills being introduced at this stage. The Minister yesterday, by way of extenuation, stated that the delay in the introduction of the measure, was due to the stonewalling of the Opposition. The answer to the Minister is to be found in the statement of one of his colleagues that the measure had not received its final preparation until two days ago. Therefore, the Minister has been guilty of a piece of effrontery in telling us that the late intro- duction of the measure was due to the action of the Opposition. There is another reply to the Minister, and that is that the greater part of the time of the session has been taken up in the consideration of two measures. The Commerce Bill occupied five weeks, and the honorable member for Bland told us that the Trade Marks Bill had engaged the attention of the House for four weeks. Therefore, nine weeks have been devoted to the consideration of measures which are not nearly so important as that now submitted to us. May I suggest to the Prime Minister, in all seriousness, that the consideration of this Bill should be deferred till the next session? A Bill affecting profoundly - as this does - all the trade and commerce of the Continent, ought not to be rushed through before the people who are most interested in it, who will suffer for whatever faults it may contain, have been afforded an opportunity of looking through if, with a view to making some representations fo the Government as to how their industrial activities will be influenced by it. May I point out that in the case of measures of infinitely less importance, the Government have paid the trading community the compliment of consultation. When the Customs Act was under consideration in this House, the then Minister of Trade and Customs, the right honorable member for Adelaide’, confidentially submitted his proposals to the various Chambers of Commerce throughout Australia. Since then, the Trade Marks Bill was held in abeyance for weeks, in order that the trading community might be consulted concerning it, and might have an opportunity of making any representations that they thought fit, as to its possible effects. The same course was pursued in connexion with the Commerce Bill. Yet the measure under consideration - a measure which transcends them all in its importance - is, forsooth, to be pushed through this Chamber in the closing hours of an already too long drawn out session. I say that the Prime Minister will be doing a great injustice to the people of the Commonwealth if he pushes this Bill through in this way, and the least that he can do is to defer its consideration until next session. Another reason why it should not be persisted in at the present time is that it purports to be a Bill to deal with trusts. It is directed against two trusts in particular, which it is alleged are operating outside of Australia to the detriment of the public, by reason of the harvesters which they are sending here to compete with our own manufacturers. Need 1 recall the fact that a Royal Commission is already -in existence whose special duty it is to investigate all matters relating to trade and commerce, and to ascertain how harvesters, and other agricultural implements of local manufacture are being affected by competition from oversea. We are now invited to break in upon the deliberations of that body with this Bill, which, so far as that aspect of the matter is concerned, takes the question entirely and ruthlessly out of its -hands. Why ? Because some enterprising, gentleman outside has declared that he is being injured by the competition referred to. We have been told that the two firms whose methods are impugned, and against whom this legislation is specially directed, have already asked to be allowed to give evidence before the Tariff Commission. Surely the House is not prepared to cut off the heads even of trusts without hearing anything which may be advanced on their sidle? These firms have petitioned this House through a Royal Commission, to be heard in reply to the charges which have been made against them. They declare that they are not indulging in unfair competition.
– The Bill does more than that. It practically says to these trusts : “ You are unfair ; we pronounce you guilty before you are tried. Prove 3’our innocence.”
– The Bill provides for an inquiry in regard to imports.
– I am quite aware of that. But I would point out to the honorable member that before an inquiry can take place, there must be allegations. The Comptroller-General of Customs must certify that in his opinion unfair competition is going on. In other words, he is to declare that in his opinion these people are guilty, and must be brought before a Board to establish their innocence.
– His certification is a mere allegation, which’, must be proved.
– Under this Bill a trust is required to prove that it is not engaging in unfair competition. That, I venture to say, is entirely anti-British, and absolutely foreign to every instinct of fair play. I maintain tha* a trust should be treated fairly by the supreme Legislature of Australia, just as should the humblest individual. These firms say - “ Before you pronounce us guilty of unfairness in our -trade relations, hear us before the Royal Commission which you yourselves have appointed to take evidence upon this point. We are willing to be judged after we have been heard.” As the Tariff Commission meets in Melbourne in the middle of January to still further pursue its inquiries, the least we can do is to defer the consideration of this Bill until a thorough investigation of the facts has been made, and until we ascertain, upon authenticated and sworn evidence, whether the peril really exists which the measure is intended to meet.
– This Bill deals with much more than Tariff matters.
– I am quite aware of that. Nevertheless, it deals with Tariff matters to a very considerable degree.
– It will close the Tariff question for ever.
– I do not hesi- tate to say that if I were ai high-Tariffist, I should still strongly object to this measure. It does not provide for protection, but for prohibition, and prohibition without rhyme or reason. I think we may very fairly charge the present Government with being the champion meddling Government that has existed in Australia. Even in this “ short and non-contentious “ session we have meddled in matters of the greatest national concern, and of which we know comparatively little. We have endeavoured to take under our control
– It was the honorable member’s party which said that the session was to be a non-contentious one.
– The honorable member himself said so too; as did, also, the Prime Minister.
– I did not say it.
– The honorable member said that it was to be a useful and non-contentious session, devoted to the consideration of non-party measures.
– I shall have to confront the honorable member with his own words from Hansard. The Prime Minister has repeatedly declared that this session would be devoted to the consideration of non-contentious measures.
– I think that the words he used were “practical measures.”
– This is a very practical measure.
– There is no doubt about that. Under it, the Minister will have an opportunity to practise his fine art of squelching the trade of Australia. There is nothing that he likes better, so long as it means political preferment to him. The Government, I repeat, is one of the champion meddling Governments of Australia. Not content to do our own work, to devote ourselves to the consideration of those great measures affecting our population, our standing in relation to the States - indeed, all those things which it was the primary object of the Constitution to achieve - we have begun to meddle in matters which do not concern us, and we have even gone outside of Australia to do it.
– Might not a trust-
– I am speaking of the honorable member’s bold attempt to take a hand in Imperial legislation, which consumed a great deal of the time of the session that might very well have been devoted to the consideration of this Bill if it was intended to pass it before Parliament prorogued. Having taken a hand in Imperial legislation, and declared tothe Imperial Parliament what it ought to do in relation to the government of a great portion of the British Isles, we are now invited to transport ourselves to America, to ascertain how people over there manage their businesses, how they assess their values, and how they make their profits. Had we not better stay at home and look after our own business? We may go tinkering all over the world when we have nothing better to do. Meantime, I suggest this is a measure which adversely affects many innocent, bond fide, honest traders in Australia, simply because. they are traders. Indeed, as I have said elsewhere, it ought to be called not an Anti-Trust Bill, because it is,’ in its essence an anti-trade Bill - an anti-commerce Bill, an anti-importation Bill.
– It ought to be called the “Real Mackay.”
– So it is.
– The wonder is that any Government would assume that they have the capacity to deal with all these matters in this light and airy fashion. The best testimony we can obtain of their inefficiency is supplied by the fact that they arrogate to themselves the capacity to do all that this Bill would require them to do. We are told that this Bill is one to deal with trusts. It sets out broadly to do that by the establishment of a huge Government trust to take the place of private ones that are to be scotched. The Government are going to set up another which, in the tyranny of its action, the scope of its endeavours, and the results it will achieve, will be a more gigantic trust than any of which we have cognisance. It will affect the consumers and the traders of Australia in a more adverse way than any private trust that it seeks to replace. Briefly put. this is a Bill to force up prices.
– How can *at remark apply to the second part of the Bill?
– I am speaking of the first part; the second part is the “ sugar coating.” The Bill may be broadly described as one to force up prices in Australia. In drafting this Bill, no thought was given to the consumers of Australia.
– The latter part of the Bill is wholly in their favour.
– So the honorable member alleges. Under the first part there is to be a determined effort by legislative enactment to bring down the most efficient trading concerns to the level of the lowest. Any country mus.t necessarily suffer when it sets out to do that.
– When there is a trust there can be only one concern; there is no competitor.
– The first part of the Bill relates not merely to trusts, but to ordinary trading. The Bill is to enact Socialism in Australia. It is to give legislative effect to many features of Socialism, without the assumption of socialistic responsibility bv the Government. The responsibility is still to be left with the private individual. The Government are going to regulate his business for him, and, if need be, to prevent him from carrying it on except under conditions prescribed by this measure. If we are going in for Socialism. Jet the Government take over the whole concern, and accept the responsibility for its management. We shall then know where we are, and what we are doing; but it is not fair to socialize the form, method, and conduct of enterprise, whilst we at the same time leave all the responsibility to those whom we so victimize.
– Would the honorable member be in favour of the Government assuming the responsibility ?
– Heaven forbid that this Government should be prepared to run the industries of Australia.
– Wait till the honorable member’s party are in office.
– We should not be so foolish as to imagine that we could run the industries of the country ; we should not try to do so, even if we could.
– It would all depend upon the voting.
– I do not know enough about business matters to undertake such a task. I have, not yet the capacity to work all the trading concerns of Australia, and indeed, I am perfectly certain that even the combined Houses would make a serious mess of such an undertaking.
– This Government must recognise the same disability on their part, because they do not propose to do what the honorable member suggests.
– My own impression is that the Government are meddling far too much in the industrial enterprises of the country, and that the more they meddle the worse they make the position. The people who suffer most from trade disorganization or anything that interferes with the ordinary regular flow of industrial life are the very men at the bottom of the scale, who are working for wages. They are hit every time. The capitalist can look after himself ; the man at the bottom of the scale cannot.
– And the honorable member objects to our protecting him.
– The honorable member is not proposing to protect him; in my judgment in many things that he is doing lately, the honorable member has simply got his heel on the neck of the man whom he thinks he is protecting.
– On the neck of the man whom the honorable member is supporting.
– I am supporting no man.
– Why does the honorable member always sneer at labour?
– I am not; ob the contrary, every sneer comes from the labour corner. Am I supposed to make no reply to the taunts hurled from that corner ?
– Why does the honorable member support the Harvester Trust ?
– The honorable member hurls at me the gibe that I am trying to support the capitalist ; he knows that that is not true.
– The honorable member is not trying; he is actually doing it.
– We shall see about that. By the time the honorable member has done with the workers of Australia they will be in a very prosperous condition, no doubt. This measure is entitled the “ Australian Industries Preservation Bill.” In my judgment, it would be better termed “ The Australian Industries Destruction Bill.” That would unquestionably describe its object and effect. I appeal to the Ministry to give consideration to the fact that Australia is to-day a great exporting country, and must remain so for generations to come. However much we may try, within our borders, to stimulate our home industries, when we ‘have done our best in that connexion, Australia will still remain for many generations a great exporting country. With our virgin continent and few people that must be so. Roughly speaking, our export trade is 30 per cent. of our total production. We may prohibit imports by this rough, rude, and ready method, but by the same proportion that we prohibit imports we prohibit exports; we prohibit the export of that upon which we depend for our very life blood. I have no desire to discuss the fiscal aspect of the question, but am speaking of broad principles of trade to which every one subscribes. Whatever we do, as protectionists or free-traders, in the way of regulating our commerce, the position is altogether different when we take power, as is proposed by this Bill, to prohibit trade, and to make it a misdemeanour to import goods. The result must be bad to Australia.
– Why does the honorable member resort to such extreme arguments?
– I am describing an extreme measure. I know, that the honorable member is a protectionist, but I have yet to learn that he is a prohibitionist. I am denouncing the prohibition to be effected by this measure, and which has nothing to do with the fiscal question, as such’. It is one thing to regulate our commerce, but if honorable members desire to secure protection, this Bill will be a dis honest means of obtaining it. The only way to secure protection for the industries of Australia is by the imposition of a protective Tariff. That would be honest, frank, and straightforward; but this is a dishonest way of sneaking in prohibition. It is not a proposal to impose a moderate protective Tariff, such as most of the protectionist members of this House profess to believe in.
– And all this is to be done on the word of one man - the ComptrollerGeneral of Customs.
– I was about to come to that point. One would think that in introducing a measure of such farreaching importance, the Minister would have made some effort to furnish data showing its necessity. But what are the facts? In moving the second reading of this Bill, the honorable gentleman did not mention anything to show the necessity for it. I believe that the Prime Minister made reference to letters that had been addressed to him, but, if they be important and material as showing the necessity for legislative action, why were those letters not produced, or mention made at least of their effect?
– I think that the honorable member is speaking of what I said about the iron industry.
– I thought that the honorable and learned gentleman was speaking of the proposal now before us.
– Not a scintilla of evidence has been placed before the House to show the necessity for this drastic action. If the harvester people are guilty of depredations upon the trade of Australia, surely that fact can be established by figures.
– Is the honorable member advocating the cause of the Sydney Harvester Trust as against labour?
– I am not speaking in advocacy of any trust. If this Bill is to meet the depredations of trusts upon our trade, the fact that they are committing depredations ought first to be established.
– Does the honorable member desire the harvesters of the American trust to be admitted free into Australia ?
– I should be very sorry to see any American trust hurt our own industrial enterprises. I should be very sorry to see either of these trusts knock out Mr. McKay, or any other manufacturer of harvesters in Australia; but I decline to have -my political leg pulled by Mr. McKay, or any other man. If he has a real 1 grievance, let him establish > the fact by evidence. Would not any one think that the Minister, in submitting this Bill to the House, would have shown, by such figures as he had at hand, how this unfair competition was ruling and ruining Australia, since it is said that our industrial, existence is in peril, and that we are being overborne by octopi, in the shape of American trusts? Not a word of evidence has been given to justify this important proposal, and, in the absence of such evidence, may we not justly infer that it does not exist? The ComptrollerGeneral of Customs is specially selected to carry out the provisions of the Bill, because of his intimate knowledge of the ramifications of trade. Why has not a report been obtained from him to show the effect which the trusts are having upon Australian industries? Has no evidence been produced because the Minister has none in his possession,? If the Minister has no evidence to justify the introduction of the Bill, the measure should not have been brought forward; while, if he has such evidence, and is suppressing it, he is not dealing fairly and honestly with us.
– Is it right to make that statement, seeing that yesterday I told honorable members the number of harvesters imported ?
– Is that all the evidence which the Minister has to buttress his case? He did not show that there is any relative increase in the importations of harvesters. If no further evidence of the injury dope by foreign trusts can be adduced, the Bill should be instantly withdrawn. All that I have learned goes to show that the Australian manufacture of agricultural implements is steadily increasing, not that it is being done to death by the octopus trusts to which the Minister referred yesterday. I cordially congratulate Australian makers that this is so, and I sincerely hope that their business will steadily advance. There is no evidence that our manufacturing enterprises are being, crushed out of existence by American trusts. I find that in 1 896 - to take the case of the agricultural implement makers - there were 852 men engaged in that industry, while eight years later there were 1,496 men engaged in it, and that, whereas in 1896 the value of their production was ,£244,000, last year it was ,£431,000. Those figures show a healthy development of business.
– When the value of this market has been proved, the eagle will swoop down on the spoil.
– Is the eagle here now?
– He is hovering round. .
– I am glad to hear the honorable member admit that we are legislating against something which is only -in the air, and may never descend to terra firma. It is our business to concern ourselves with only hard facts, and I advise the honorable member not to commit himself to anything so ridiculous as legislative enactments agains’t what may never take place.
– I do not expect the honorable member to see the danger.
– No doubt I should see it as soon as the honorable member, if it actually existed, though probably I should not be so readily scared. Yesterday, when reference was made to the rumour that there are 2,000 harvesters on the water, on their way to Australia, the Minister of Trade and Customs told us that Re know nothing about it.
– Yet .the honorable member says that I withheld the facts.
– I have not charged the Minister With withholding facts, but I have challenged him to produce evidence in support of the Bill, and I have said that if he cannot do so, the measure should be withdrawn. I am as ready as is any honorable member to deal with a real peril, and to preserve our manufacturers from unfair attacks, but I see no reason for scare legislation. The introduction of the Bill has been instigated bv one manufacturer.
– That is not correct. The workmen ,are equally interested, and are ‘taking steps independently.
– I” have known workmen to petition Parliament to do things which they did not believe, simply because thev were compelled to do so.
– That does not take place in Victoria.
– Why is the honorable member continually attacking workmen?
– I am not doing so. When I .say something which the honorable member is saying all the year round, he accuses me of attacking workmen. He, however, does not scruple to stigmatize honest working people as wage slaves, and to* assert that they are not their own masters. The workmen to whom I refer have acted under duress. I am speaking generally when I say that we must not take too seriously the statements made by workmen employed by those who want this legislation.’ I know nothing about the relations between McKay and his hands. They may be of the best, and I hope that they are. So far as I can ascertain, however, McKay is the originator of this legislation, and I congratulate him upon his cleverness, and his ability to influence the Government as he is doing. I congratulate the Prime Minister, too; on having so enterprising and active a man in his constituency.
– That is a nasty insinuation.
– The Minister lives in an atmosphere of insinuations and charges. “ Suspicion ever haunts the guilty mind,” they say, and throughout his speech yesterday he was> making insinuations against the Opposition. But whenever we say anything he terms it a nasty insinuation, or a dirty charge. He is not a good judge in these matters. He told us yesterday of the octopus- trusts of America. Have they anY parallel in Australia?
– Yes ; in the tobacco combine, the Colonial Sugar Refining Compan.. and the shipping combine.
– Does the honorable member say that these combinations are, in their nature, similar to the trusts in America ?
– So far as I know the trusts of America, they come very close to them.
– Is the shipping combination such a trust ?
– It is a huge monopoly, acting to the detriment of the consumers.
– We shall see how the honorable member will treat it when we come to deal with’ the Navigation Bill.
– We shall see how ‘we shall treat it by this Bill. I hope that we shall treat them all fairly, but at the same time we shall have regard to the interests of the people.
– A Commission is now inquiring into the alleged tobacco monopoly, and another into the operations of the shipping combination, and we ought to suspend judgment on these, matters until we have their reports. We have not yet received the report of the Commission presided over by the honorable and learned member for West Sydney.
– That Commission has been investigating the working of the navigation laws ; I do not think it has concerned itself with trading questions.
– It could not conduct its investigations without learning all about the business ramifications of our shipping. To compare our tobacco trust or* our shipping combination with some of the trusts which have been legislated for in America is to slander Australia. We have no parallel to the American trusts, which’ fleece the public, and corrupt the Legislatures of the United States. It is, indeed, suggested by some of the best writers on the subject that in that great country over the seas - “the land of the free and the home of the brave” as it has been called - the anti-trust legislation is being manipulated for their own interests by some trusts against other trusts. Trusts, which are a menace to the liberty, health, and morality, and to even the life, of the people, ought not to be made the basis for legislation such as we are now asked to consider. We have no parallels to the trusts of America, and, therefore, we should leave them alone. We should not drag them in as precedents for our conduct in this case.
– There are several trusts amongst us - the tobacco trust, for instance.
– The Minister is slandering the people of Australia when he endeavours to create the impression that the Tobacco Trust of Australia is anything like the great trusts of America. The Tobacco Trust has never attempted to corrupt our public life.- So far as I know, it is conducting its proceedings decently.
– It is treating its employes very badly.
– I am very sorry to hear it.
– It is also treating its distributors very badly.
– I have heard nothing about that. I contend that we have had no scandals such as have made anti-trust legislation in America necessary. It is very strange that we should have to go to America for all our ideals and models of legislation. I absolutely decline to take the United States legislation as a model, and for the reason. that much of it is the result of manipulation and public corruption. The sooner we drop this specious Yankee legislation, for which there is no need in Australia, the better it will be for us, and for our reputation abroad. While we are taking steps to deal with outside trusts, we are not proposing to take any measures in regard to the trusts in our midst.
– The Bill proposes to deal with inside trusts.
– Will this measure touch Mr. McKay?
– I think it will.
– The AttorneyGeneral said it would not.
– If it will not affect Mr. McKay, it ought to be made to do so.
– Exactly. What is fair for one will be fair for the other. We should not allow these trusts to grow to such an extent that they will obtain the upper hand of us. Under this Bill a person carrying on operations within a given State will not be affected.
– We cannot touch manufacturers who carry on their operations within a given State, but we have done all we can to exercise control over those who engage in business extending beyond any one State.
– The very man who is said to have instigated this measure confines his operations to one State.
– No, he does not. He sends his machines into New South Wales and elsewhere, and he will be affected with the rest.
– I believe that Mr. McKay has admitted that he belongs to a combination, the purpose of which is to keep up prices, and if this legislation would not apply to a case of that kind, we should be playing a very one-sided game. Unless the Bill applies to inside, as well as to outside, trusts, an undue preference will be given to the former. I presume that the evil attaching to trusts is inherent in the combinations, and has no reference to the country in which they operate. That which is evil in America would also be an evil in Australia. The Minister said that the idea underlying this Bill was the protection of Australian industries. If that be so, he is endeavouring to sneak in protection. A proposal for further protection to Australian industries ought not to come from a Government which has pledged it self deeply to the electors of Australia to maintain fiscal peace during the life of this Parliament. If this measure is intended to further protect the industries of Australia, the Minister is utterly condemning his own conduct,, and proving his treachery to the people. He told us that, in endeavouring to impose further protection, many ideas had suggested themselves to him. He thought, first of all, that he could impose higher duties, but he feared’ that too much opposition would be raised in this House.
– I stated that I should be attacked for raising the fiscal question.
– The Minister declared that the Bill raised the fiscal issue.
– I said it could not be discussed without raising the fiscal question.
– The Minister is quibbling again. He declared that this was a protective measure, and stated that if he could have afforded protection to our industries by increasing the duties he would have done so;_but he knew that any such proposal would provoke strong opposition. That is a fine thing for a Minister to say. In the absence of opposition, he is firm in asserting his principles. If, however, the slightest hostility is displayed, his principles vanish. That has been the outstanding feature of the Minister’s career. He is a magnificent protectionist when there i» no risk of his losing office; but if the slightest opposition is raised, his principles are found to be without solid foundation. . I do not pretend to understand many of the technicalities of the measure. A prominent honorable and learned member on the Government side of the House told me that he could not make out some of the definitions and other provisions in the Bill, and he concluded by saying that if he were a trader trying to understand the Bill, he would be completely puzzled. Therefore, there is some excuse for my not being able to understand the measure. I should like to know from the Attorney-General-
– Why not address the question to me ? I am in charge of the Bill.
– I want to ask a purely legal question which the Minister cannot answer. T should like to know whether a joint-stock company which has a board of management would be regarded as a commercial trust?
– Is the honorable member making a speech, or is he catechising the Minister ?
– I am asking for information. If the honorable member had asked a question, Ministers would have rushed over each other in their anxiety to answer him, but because I seek information I am treated with contumely”. The Minister shows his utter want of appreciation of the amenities of his position when he objects to a legal question being addressed to the Attorney-General. I wish to direct attention to the definition of what constitutes “lower remuneration for labour.” It seems to me that it is very faulty indeed. It merely includes “ less pay or longer hours.” It should include both. Under the Bill, if a man employed by one industrial combination is working for longer hours than are the employes of other combinations, that fact is deemed to constitute one of the elements of unfair competition. I, should think it would be fairer to apply the test of the rate of remuneration per hour. We are told that in many industries in America the employes work for ten hours per day, but that they receive a higher rate of pay per hour than do those who are engaged in other industries. Therefore, it seems to me that if we are to apply a. proper test, “ lower ‘ remuneration for labour “ should be judged both from the stand-point of the hours and the pay, and particularly of the pay per hour. That, after all, is the real test of the efficiency of competition. Then, in this Bill, we get a definition of what is “ unfair competition.” First of all, the ComptrollerGeneral of Customs is required to look after the whole of the industrial enterprises of Australia - a task which he cannot perform. We make the Minister a kind of socialistic boss, so far as the industrial life of the Commonwealth is concerned. He is supposed to interest himself in all matters relating to the welfare of the producers, the workers, and consumers. What does he know, about them? What special fitness has he to undertake this important inquiry into ramifications of the whole trading and producing interests of Australia? He cannot do it, and he will” not do it. No man can do it.
– Does not the honorable member suppose that he will act on certain representations made to him by private persons ?
– That is my trouble. Very likely he will act on ignorant and -interested representations. That is one of the dangers of” the Bill. If we could be sure that he would act with knowledge and judgment, there would be nothing, to be said against it. No one man can possess the requisite knowledge to undertake this stupendous task, and therefore I say that effect will not be given to the Bill. But the fact remains that the Minister is required to make the effort - ignorant, rude, and ruthless as it will be. That is the one danger that we have to fear. There is no doubt that the ComptrollerGeneral of Customs knows as much about the ramifications of trade as any one man can do. But he does not know as much as the whole trading community, and therefore he can never be a proper judge as to what affects the interests of the workers, producers, and consumers all over Australia. Neither can any Board which the Minister may set up. The Comptroller-General has to frame an opinion as to what constitutes “ unfair competition,” as it relates to Australian industries, the preservation of which, in his opinion, is advantageous to the Com. monwealth. Under this Bill, we actually allot to him the task of declaring what industries should be preserved in the interests of the Commonwealth. How can he know that? How can he tell whether an industry is likely to prove advantageous to Australia? He cannot possibly know anything about the new industries which may be established. Yet he is the “ Pooh-Bah “ to whom this matter will be referred. If he comes to the conclusion that an industry is not engaging iri competition in such a way as to lead to the preservation of Australian industries, he is obliged to report accordingly. Then we are told in the Bill that competition is to be regarded as unfair, and is to be legislated out of existence, if it will probably lead either to Australian goods being withdrawn from the market, or being sold at a loss, unless they were produced at a lower rate of remuneration to labour. One would think that the Comptroller-General would have plenty to do in. inquiring into the existing order of things. But he -is to do more than that. He is required to forecast the1 future effect of competition upon these industries. In doing that, he is obliged to have regard to what might probably lead to. ‘goods being withdrawn from the market in the distant future. When one considers the nature of the duties that will be thrust upon him, one is inclined to exclaim, with Shakespeare, “ Oh, my prophetic soul.” How can the ComptrollerGeneral tell what will probably happen in the distant future of Australian industry? I repeat that “ lower remuneration “ should take into account both the hours worked and the wages paid. That is the true competitive test. >
– Does not the honorable member think that that is a matter which would come under the purview of the Board ?
– No. The Board can only give effect to what is set forth in. the Bill. We might settle this matter satisfactorily if the Minister were out of the Chamber, because the Attorney-General might then be able to speak without giving him offence. Another matter which has to be investigated by the Comptroller-General relates to whether the means adopted by the importer or seller of imported goods are unfair under the circumstances, I notice that the “ means “ which are to be investigated relate only to the importer or seller. Why should not inquiries be also made into the “ means “ adopted by our local producers? The “means adopted,” I should say, might include advertising, agencies, and so forth. Is it not inquisitorial in the last degree to inquire into the “ means adopted “ for the sale of goods ? There may be a reason for inserting that provision, but I should like to hear what it is. The Bill further provides that if a person is importing goods or selling imported goods, and is a commercial trust, his competition is deemed unfair. That is to say, a person who is a trust is ruled out by this legislation as an unfair competitor. He is declared to be guilty before he has been tried. The fact that he exists at all proves him to be a trade murderer. I say that that is not British justice.
– That is not what the Bill provides.
– I read it in that way. It says -
If the person is importing goods, or selling imported goods, as a commercial trust. his competition is deemed unfair until the contrary is proved.
– The honorable member previously omitted to include the last words of the provision.
– Those words declare that a man who happens to be a trust is guilty of unfair competition, even if he be acting in the most innocent way. .
– Sub -clause 2 of clause 4 puts all the cases enumerated in exactly the same position.
– Yes, and one of those cases is that if a man exists as a trust he is declared to be unfair, and is put upon his trial to establish the contrary.
– One man cannot be a trust.
– Then what is the meaning of the words -
If the person is importing goods, or selling imported goods, as a commercial trust - his competition is deemed unfair until the contrary is proved. I think that the AttorneyGeneral might give us the benefit of his opinion as we proceed.
– Certainly not.
– I am much obliged to ..the Minister for his exceeding courtesy. For a Minister to decline to answer a question put to him to elicit information is an insult to the House. I venture to say that a similar request has never been refused in any Parliament in the world, and no Minister but the present Minister of Trade and Customs would be guilty of such a gross act of discourtesy. Further, if competition be deemed by the Comptroller-General to be such as will result in the’ disorganization of Australian industry or in throwing workers out of employment, it is deemed to be unfair. I should like to know what industry resting upon a competitive basis is not more or less disorganized at nearly every point of its existence? If a new machine be introduced into a shop, it disorganizes the whole establishment, and possibly displaces labour. Is that to be deemed unfair competition? Under this definition it would be. Whenever the necessity arose for the installation of a new machine in a shop, the proprietor of that shop would “ be liable to be deemed an “unfair competitor,” because the machine incidentally displaced a few hands. ,
– This will give a chance to a few obsolete machines.
– I declared, at the outset, that this was a Bill to reduce the most efficient in our industrial life and methods to the level of the lowest. Let me give an illustration. When the Tariff was under consideration, I moved the omission of the item, “Tanners’ Machines,” and after a debate extending over something like two days, the Minister consented to make further inquiries. His officer reported in effect, “ We are not making these machines in Australia, but we are making others that will do the work.” It turned out that a manufacturer employing twenty men and boys in one of the suburbs of Melbourne was making obsolete machines, and that he was the only man in Australia engaged in that branch’ of industry.
– They were not obsolete.
– They were of an obsolete pattern - one which had been thrown aside long ago by the rest of the world ; but because these machines were being made in Australia, the enterprise and skill of the rest of the world was to be taxed out of the country.
– There is a special provision against that in the Bill.
– Under this Bill if a man, said that his employes were liable to be thrown out of work, and that his industry was being disorganized by competition from outside - meaning the application of the latest methods of industrial life to Australia - that would be deemed unfair competition. And so this Bill provides for the maintenance of the worst as against thebest and latest of industrial methods. Paragraph d. of clause 4, is a very curious one. It reads that competition shall be deemed unfair
If the imported goods have been purchased abroad at prices greatly below their ordinary cost of production where produced or market price where purchased.
That means that an Australian merchant, when travelling abroad, must not pick up any bargains.
– He may pick them up, but must not sell them below fair rates.
– He must make people pay a high price for them.
– And therefore he must not pick them up, since it would not pay him to do so, unless he could sell them at a lower rate than ordinarily prevailed. I am sure that the ladies, and particularly at this season of the year, will appreciate a provision which shuts them out from bargain-hunting ! Here we have a decree that picking up a bargain is a trading crime. Then, again,it is to be deemed unfair competition -
If the imported goods are being sold in Australia at a price which is less than gives the importer or seller a fair profit upon their foreign market value, or their cost of production, together with all charges after shipment -
And so forth. How is the ComptrollerGeneral to know what is the foreign market value of the goods ? Will the Minister say whether he has yet ascertained the fair market value of harvesters in Canada?
– I have a fairly good idea.
– The honorable member said, over and over again, that it was impossible to obtain that knowledge, and in despair and desperation, he threw upon the harvester manufacturers themselves the responsibility of supplying it, or paying a higher duty. And yet he now pretends to be able to ascertain what is the fair foreign market value of various goods !
– At the present time, for the purposes of the Customs Department, we have to ascertain, as far as we can, the foreign market value of imported goods.
-That is done by rule of thumb. .
– In a fairly good way.
– The honorable gentleman could not determine the fair market value of harvesters in Canada ; but, by rule of thumb, he has rid himself of the difficulty.
– As the result of that rule-of-thumb action, the importers have to pay duty on the machines at a valuation of£65.
– When a Minister has such an arbitrary power all that he has to do is to exercise it; that does not involve intelligence or statesmanship. It is also to be deemed unfair competition to pay an agent an unusually large remuneration. I have yet to learn that we have a right to inquire what a trust, company, or firm pays its agents ; I have yet to know that we have a right to interfere in the fixing of salaries as between employer and employe. So far, we have not done such a thing, except through the Arbitration Court. But here we are providing that such interference shall take place in respect of people who would not be likely to go into that Court. We, are setting out toascertain what are the. values, the profits, and the salaries, and to interfere with the business of the community in every way. This is pure Socialism without socialistic responsibility. When any ‘ of these matters has been ascertained, the officer is to certify accordingly to the Minister. The honorable gentleman will then step into the arena, and begin his handiwork. He will first of all appoint a Board of three’ persons. A striking feature of this Bill is the enormous power that it vests in the Minister. May I hope that the Minister of Trade and Customs will not think, as he usually does., that I am speaking personally? I say that no Minister should have such a power ; the power should lie either in the Governor-General or in this House. I do not think that any appointment of this kind will ever be satisfactory, unless it be a Judge of the High Court. He is the only individual who could give any satisfaction in regard to this matter. The power to appoint a Board, which is to be conferred on the Minister, will open the door to favoritism. The taint of suspicion must always attach to appointments made by an individual Minister.
– When we are dealing with the matter in Committee, I shall be glad to consider any suggestions by the honorable member in this regard.
– I hope that, in the interests of the Minister himself - in the interests of any one Minister - an alteration will be made. The honorable gentleman ought to be glad to rid himself of this responsibility.
– So I should be.
– He can never hope to discharge it, except under a degree of personal suspicion.
– I should not mind that, because some people are always suspicious.
– But the honorable gentleman would not trust any other Minister in the same way that he would trust himself.
– I should.
-I am afraid that the honorable gentleman would not. A Board appointed as proposed in this Bill would not be the best to undertake the important work which is to be allotted it. For instance, if it were an appointment from within the trade to be investigated, it would be liable to the taint of partizanship, and if the appointment were made from outside the trade, the allegation might fairly be made that the Board lacked a sufficient knowledge of the business concerned.
– I shall give consideration to the honorable member’s suggestion.
– The Board may be characterized, not only by a want of knowledge, but by partizanship, and political taint. I suppose it will also involve some considerable expense, in that there will be some good fat fees attaching to it.
– I do not think so.
– I gather from the Bill that upon the issue of a certificate by the Comptroller-General there is to be a fresh appointment or gazettal for every inquiry.
– That does not follow.
– Then again, there is, the provision for the Board to consist of three persons. That may result in a great deal of dissatisfaction as between the States. Supposing that a Board of three, selected from three different States, were appointed to deal with a matter arising in a fourth State, dissatisfaction would occur unless the latter State were represented.
– If a case arose in Western Australia, I should appoint a Board in that State to deal with it, and so on in cases arising in other States. I should not have a Board to travel all over the Continent.
– I do not know that that would be satisfactory.
– The inquiry, whilst affecting an industry in one State, might affect consumers all over the Commonwealth.
– Quite so. The only satisfactory way out of. the difficulty would be to have a Judge to make the inquiry.
– We could not obtain one.
– Let us have a Justice of the High Court to deal with these matters ; let him be assisted by expert assessors, but let the decision rest with him. Then, again, when a certificate is presented, and the Board is appointed, notice is to be given in the Gazette, and with that notification there is to.be a prohibition of the importation of the goods affected. That, in my opinion, will be ruinous to business. This prohibition’ is to be only for the purposes of inquiry, and it may occur in the middle of the season. It may mean the ruin of a season’s business. Since the inquiry relates to importations, I presume that the Board will hear the foreign importers whose goods they hold up.
– Goods will not be held up in the sense suggested by the honorable member.
– I know that they may be released under security.
– And sold under conditions.
– Under such conditions as the Minister may indicate. He is to be a Czar in all these matters. Nobody’s business should be interfered with in this way, unless there is full, clear, and definite proof that he is committing some illegality. It is not fair to treat any business man in this way merely for the purposes of inquiry.
– The Customs Act makes the Minister a bit of a Czar, but he never does anything wrong under it.
– No doubt, when the Bill becomes law, the Minister will not dare to put its provisions into full operation:, any more than he will dare to fully use his powers under the Commerce Act. But why does he ask for wide and arbitrary powers, if thev are not to be used?
– I shall use them, if necessary.
– The honorable member is to be the judge of the necessity ; that is what I object to. The Board is to make a careful and expeditious inquiry into all these matters, but is expedition consistent with a careful inquiry? A careful inquiry must take into account all the facts and circumstances of the importation.
– And the ramifications of business interests throughout Australia.
– Yes. Goods must be followed from their source to their destination in all parts of Australia. The honorable member for Bendigo has been engaged for nearly a year in investigating the working of the Tariff, and, although the Commission of which he is Chairman has done its utmost to get through the work referred to it, all sorts of complaints have been made against him for the delays which have .occurred.
– Has any one said that the Commission has not done its utmost to get through its work?
– Yes. The Government newspaper organ has made’ as savage and unfair attack as I have ever read in a journal, and is trying to bundle him out of public life, although there is no foundation for its statements. Inquiries such as are necessary under the Bill should be intrusted to the Tariff Commission, but one cannot hope for expedition in connexion with them. The Bill is not framed to promote expedition in any direction. It is designed, not to facilitate trade, but to hinder it. The investigation which is provided for is to ascertain whether competition is, or probably will be, unfair, and to find out what may be its effect on an industry at some future time. I hope that these provisions will be struck out of the measure when we get into Committee, because they are absolutely absurd. The Board has also to make inquiry as to any goods, things, or matters whatsoever which thev consider pertinent, necessary, or material. Such inquiries cannot be made expeditiously, and should not be intrusted to any one but a. Judge. I hope that the Bill will be entirely recast, to provide for that. After a prohibition has been determined, the report of the Board is to be laid before both Houses of Parliament * if in session. Therefore, the time for the Minister to choose to play ducks and drakes with the interests of the trading community will be at the beginning of the recess. I have not nearly so much objection to -the second, as I have to the first, part of the Bill. In reality, the measure is two Bills in one - a Bill to suppress ordinary, legitimate competition, and a Bill to suppress monopolistic trusts. These two objects should have been kept separate. I do not believe in trusts any more than any other honorable member believes in them, and I do not wish to see our industrial enterprises broken down. But, in dealing with ordinary business competition, the Minister makes the decision of a Board final, whereas, in dealing with monopolistic trusts, the questions at issue must be settled by a Court. I ask the House to note this difference of treatment. Although the ordinary trader is dealt with arbitrarily by a Board, these huge monopolistic trusts are to have a “fair go” in the Law ‘Courts, after the Attorney-General has taken action against them by moving for an injunction. Surely we should not be more tender in dealing with trusts than in dealing with ordinary traders. The ordinary trader ought to be able to take his case to a Law Court, but I should not mind submitting the operations of a monopolistic trust to a Board, with a Judge at the head of it. In any case, we should not consider a trust with greater tenderness than we extend to the ordinary legitimate trader. However, I shall not pursue the matter further now, as other honorable members intend to speak upon the measure. I have said enough to show that these proposals are exceedingly drastic.
– The honorable member has not yet dealt with’ the American legislation.
– It will be dealt with.
– I have not dealt with it because I have not had any time in which to prepare my_self for the consideration of the measure. Nothing could be more scandalous than the manner in which a Bill of this importance has been thrust before this Parliament, at the end of the session, when only scant time is available for its consideration. This treatment of it is unfair to the House, and to those whose interests are likely to be affected by our legislation. Before the measure is passed, it should be made abundantly clear that it is necessary. In any case, it is far too drastic. The bad features of the American legislation have been copied, although they are not applicable to our conditions. I can only conclude that the Ministry has a vendetta against the commercial and trading interests of Australia, and they are helping to introduce an era of Socialism which will make individualistic conditions almost impossible.
– The hon.orable member for Parramatta has given it, as his chief reason why the Bill should not be dealt with at this particular time, that no evidence has been adduced to show the necessity for its introduction. He urged that American conditions cannot be cited to that end.
– This is not the American law.
– No. But I intend to deal with the conditions now existing in Australia, and will endeavour to . show that, if some such action as is - now, proposed is not taken, we shall soon be in a position similar to that of America, although I agree with the honorable member for Parramatta -that it is incredible that political corruption, such as is part of the industrial conditions there, should ever exist here. The honorable member asserted that Australia is free from the influences of trusts, and that we are not likely to have to deal with them in the immediate future.
– The honorable member’s whole argument was directed to the non-necessity for this legislation, because of the non-existence of the evil which it has been introduced to combat. But, even if it were admitted that trusts and monopolies do not exist in Australia - and I do not admit it - wise men must be guided by experience. Prevention is far better than cure, and we are justified by what we know of other countries in taking time by the forelock, and legislating for the prevention of the conditions by which we are menaced .
– The Bill would not affect a trust whose operations were confined to one State.
– It will deal with three great trusts which are at the present time operating in Australia, the International Harvester Company, the tobacco monopoly, and the Colonial Sugar Refining Company. The two latter are already causing the consumers of their productions - for whom honorable members opposite are always expressing solicitude - to pay very dearly for them, while the first-named has public] v announced its intention to secure the Australian trade in agricultural implements, as it has already secured 90 per cent, of the trade of the world.
– That is an outside trust.
– Yes, but it has fastened one of its long tentacles upon the heart of Australia, and threatens the very existence of industries which have been established at considerable cost. If it gains the upper hand it will certainly raise the prices of its manufactures to the consumers. So far as we are concerned, the trust is a young tiger, which is at present living only on mil k ; . but the time will, come when it will demand blood- the life-blood of the industrial population of Australia.
– Is Mr. McKay a young tiger?
– I believe that every trust, whether local or foreign, should be brought under control. The Bill deals not only with foreign, but also with local combinations. We have had evidence of the manipulations of the trusts in America. I would refer honorable members to two enormous volumes in the Library, which contain information collected by Congress with regard to the operations of the American trusts. There they will find indications of the extremes to which the manipulations and exploitations of the trusts have been carried on. Similar operations are certain to be conducted here, and, in fact, they are being carried on to-day. The methods of the trusts are not apparent to those who look merely at the surface of things. They take good care that what they are doing does not appear on the surface. The Bill provides means by which the surface can be broken, and their operations can bc brought into the full light of day. We should be foolish if, in considering this question, we entirely shut our eyes to what has taken place in America, where trusts have assumed the largest proportions. We should take warning bv the shocking example which the “United States presents of long continued indifference on the part of those responsible for the welfare of the body politic. The Legislature of America is largely to blame for not having taken action in regard to trusts when they could have been more easily grappled with. We should take heed of the teachings of history, and not allow the trusts to assume such magnitude that they cannot unless with great difficulty be combated. The trusts devise means by which the public can be completely hood-winked. They are able to cover uv what they are doing, and we can obtain a knowledge of their transactions only by invoking the power of the law. The evils brought about in America have been manifold. In the first place, the operations of the trusts tend to reduce employment; and in the second to increase the cost of- living. The moment that a trust gets into working order employment is reduced. We have had a case in point in Australia. The great tobacco combine has closed up a number of factories, and a number of men, from managers down to leaf strippers,, have been thrown put of employment. Evidence was given by one* of the managers of the combine that the trust was brought about partly with the object of reducing the cost of administration.
– Why does not the honorable member wait until the Tobacco Committee can make its report?
– The Committee is not inquiring into the effects of the tobacco combine, so much as into the question of the desirability of the Government taking over the industry. The evidence given, however, has been sufficient to demonstrate the evils attendant upon such large combinations.
– And yet before the Committee can bring up their report it is proposed to alter the whole state of affairs.
– That argument has always, been used in favour of delay. I do not think that the inquiry now being conducted by the Committee need be interfered with in the slightest degree. The question as to whether the Government shall take over the industry is not involved in the measure before us. The reduction of employment to which I have referred is always followed by two great evils from which this country has already suffered in some degree, namely,, centralization and concentration. The factories of -the tobacco combine are now carried on only in the greater centres of population. The smaller factories have been obliterated, and the employes have been thrown on the streets. I am sure that honorable members who are aware of the ill effects of centralization would not favour industrial methods which would accentuate the evil. One of the first results of monopoly is an increase in the price of the commodities which the trusts put upon the market. This increase is not always apparent. The consumer is not always aware that he is paying a higher price. When a combine has the power to reduce the quality of an article, it invariably does so, and thus in effect considerably increases its cost. The article’ does not last so long and does not stand the same wear and tear as does one manufactured under conditions of fair competition. The International Harvester Trust has publicly announced that it has secured 90 per cent, of the world’s trade, and intends to obtain the rest. That may be a verv laudable ambition on the part of a trading concern, but it is one which I am sure that honorable members are not prepared to assist that combination to attain. As the result of a long and sad experience, we recognise that if we were placed entirely at the mercy of such a trust, the advancement of our agricultural industry would be seri- ously retarded, and the well-being of those engaged in it seriously menaced.
– Can the honorable member ‘adduce any proof ?
– Yes. We have had undue demands made upon us for years and years by a great combine of a similar character. Before they were threatened with local competition, the American manufacturers of reapers and1 binders required our farmers to pay prices 100 per cent, in advance of the actual value of the machines.
– Why are they_ selling them cheaper now?
– The prices were reduced as soon as the Commonwealth Tariff was announced, because it was recognised that the duties might be increased under the operation of the provisions of division VI. a of the Tariff, and that factories would be started here. The honorable member for Grampians has had a life-long experience of the agricultural industry, and he must know thai! what I say is absolutely correct.
– Why did Mr. McKay join a combine in order to keep up the prices?
– I am prepared to leal with any combination of a nefarious character. I am a protectionist, and I contend that a proposal of this kind is the corollary of a protective Tariff. Protection for the manufacturer only is no protection at all. The necessary accompaniment of protection to the manufacturer, which we have secured to a certain extent by means of the Tariff, and protection to’ the operatives, which has been insured to some extent by our industrial legislation, is the protection of the consumer, which we can secure by means of anti-trust and anti-monopoly legislation. We are perfectly aware of the methods usually adopted by the trusts. They first of all lull the consumer into a false sense of security by satisfying him that they will bring about a reduction in prices. The International Harvester Company reduced the prices of their machines in order to kill local competition. It is the invariable practice of the trusts to reduce their prices in order to secure the market and shut out all competitors.
– The honorable member must know that the prices of harvesters were raised at Mr. McKay’s instigation.
– The Bill proposes to deal with those who unduly raise prices.
– The Bill cannot affect Mr. McKay, and the honorable member knows it.
– The provisions of the Bill are broad enough to include every one whose operations may be inimical to the best interests of the community. The first thing a trust does is to reduce the price of the article, and when its monopoly has been thoroughly established, to raise the price again, or to put on the market goods of an inferior quality, or perhaps do both’. I think I have succeeded in showing that any consideration which a trust, local or foreign, may extend to the consumer, will not necessarily be of a permanent character. The experience of other countries has been that a reduction in price, which has evidently been made for the purpose of securing a monopoly, has invariably been followed, either by an increase in the cost of the goods, or a reduction in their value, or both. We must assume that a similar result will follow the efforts which are at present being made in one particular direction in Australia. Surely free-traders and protectionists alike - because . I maintain that this question is a non-party one - must recognise that they owe a duty to the Commonwealth at large, and not to any particular section of it. We have, by our legislation, given certain assistance to the chief of our producing and manufacturing interests, and we are now entitled to consider the interests of the consumer’. I contend that if this Bill be passed in anything like its present form, it will extend a substantial protection to the consumer, who, hitherto, has benefited only in. an indirect fashion. There is one other point to which I desire to direct special attention. I have already spoken’ of the methods which are adopted by various combines. I wish to point out that a most reprehensible practice is being adopted in this State by one of these combinations. The company in question deals with agriculturists, and endeavours to sell its machines upon the best terms. Those terms in a very great number of cases include a mortgage upon the land of the agriculturist. This mortgage, I would point out, is npt held by any local corporation. It frequently happens that the mortgaged lands fall - as they may easily do in time of droughtinto the hands of this company, which has no home or abiding place in Australia.
– What are the mortgages given- for?
– They are given for the machines which are supplied to the farmers.
– I am afraid that the honorable member has been misled.
– This is a very serious matter, and may have the most untoward effect upon the development of our agricultural industries. In regard to local monopolies, I may mention that some years ago, as a member of the Victorian Parliament, I made inquiries into the methods adopted by the Colonial Sugar Refining Company. I found that that company, owing to the power which it then possessed of securing different prices for its product in the various States, was able to amass a considerable profit year by year. In addition to having a monopoly of the trade in refined sugar,, it was able, at the beginning of a sugar season, to compel the growers of Queensland to accept a certain price for their cane, irrespective of the yield.
– The Minister says that this Bill will not touch that company.
– If the honorable member will read its provisions, he will see that it applies to trusts, whether they are within or without Australia.
– Does it not apply only to imports?
– I do not think so.
– It applies to InterState trade. I said, in moving the second reading of the Bill, that I did not think it would apply to the Colonial Sugar Refining Company.
– If the Minister’s opinion be correct, I sincerely hope that before the measure leaves this Chamber it will be made to apply to every combine which is inimical to the interests of the consumer. The tobacco monopoly, which does extend beyond the -borders of individual States, and which, to mv own knowledge, has secured the trade of Australia in a way that would not be permitted under this Bill, has a very simple, but most effective, method of securing its profits. It is a most effective combination, because it embraces both manufacturers and importers. Let us suppose that a distributor in a country town desires to obtain a supply of a particular brand of tobacco, which he finds that his customers fancy - and we know that there are no persons who are more fanciful in their tastes than those who drink liquor and smoke tobacco - and. that he applies to the head office for, say, five boxes of that tobacco, which we will assume is called the “Mary Brown” brand. He immediately receives a letter stating that, unfortunately, there is no tobacco of this brand in stock. He then asks if the combine can supply him with even a couple of boxes to meet immediate requirements. To that communication a similar answer is made, but he is informed that the combine has another brand of equal quality in stock at a price of 3d. per lb. less,, and1, eventually, he finds himself compelled to purchase it. Under such circumstances I contend that both the consumer and the distributor are absolutely in the power of the combine. Nobody outside it either imports or manufactures these particular tobaccoes. The honorable member for North Sydney has asked why this information was not given to the Select Committee which is inquiring into the question of the tobacco- monopoly. The explanation, to my mind, is very simple. The distributors are entirely dependent for their supplies upon the combine, and is it likely that they will give information against it?
– A number of them stated that thev would not dare to do so.
– Is the honorable member sure that this Bill will apply to the tobacco combine ?
– Most certainly it will apply to the combine.
– The great distributing house of the combine has this most significant paragraph upon its price-list -
Goods supplied in this State must not be exported to other States.
We all know what that means. It means that each State is to be kept absolutely inthe grip of the combine, and that though the prices charged in the various States may be utterly dissimilar, nobody can interfere, because export cannot take place between State and State.
– And that is called free competition ?
– I recognise that the advocates of free and unrestricted competitionhave had some justification for the views which they hold. But I fail to see how any free-trader can oppose a Bill of this character, which is intended to break downmonopoly and to substitute for it a healthy competition. The sole object of combinesand trusts is to obliterate competition, and, therefore, the true freetrader must support a Bill which has for its object the annihilation of such bodies.
– Conversely, the protectionists must oppose it.
– No. I do not for a moment admit the justice of the honorable member’s definition of the term “protectionist.” We have been told that the quality of an article will indicate the likelihood of its survival. I have already shown that in the case of one article, at least, that is not so. It has been said that this Bill is intended to prohibit importation - that it marks a further advance in the protective policy of the Commonwealth. I deny that. It is a Bill which is intended to prohibit unfair competition, and that term has been clearly defined. Under it dumping will be prohibited. That is where the prohibition comes in. This Bill will prohibit the dumping of the products of other countries at a price below their value, to the detriment of the established industries of the Commonwealth, and it will also prohibit the initiation of unfair competition which would result in the destruction of local industries. Dumping is prohibited in the interests of the three classes of the community who are specially mentioned in the Bill, namely, the producers, the workers, and the consumers. I feel sure that every honorable member will admit that although the dumping of cheap goods may confer a temporary benefit upon those who use them, it is almost invariably followed by opposite results. The dumping of cheap goods means the destruction of local industries, and the destruction of those industries must eventually place those using articles so produced entirely at the mercy of the importer. In my opinion, the principle of this measure must be affirmed. The honorable member for North. Sydney, with that extensive and successful business experience which he possesses - an experience of which this House has been glad from time to time to avail itself - must feel that there is some demand in Australia for a Bill of this character. I feel sure that his extensive knowledge of the commercial world will lead him to recognise that there is growing up in Australia a tendency among the great suppliers of the community to combine. They find it to their advantage to do so. No one knows that better than does my honorable friend. Although he may consider that some of the provisions of the Bill are too drastic, I am confident that the principle involved will be affirmed by him; that, as a free-trader, he is in favour of doing away with practices which can tend only to lessen fair and healthy competition. I am satisfied that his fiscal beliefs lead him often in the direction of securing that there shall be that proper trade rivalry which we are told must result to the advantage of all concerned. In these circumstances, I am_sure that he will be found -.supporting the second reading of the Bill. Although he may be prepared in Committee to propose certain amendments, I fail to understand how he and those who think with him could at the present juncture offer any serious objection to the motion for the second reading. As I have said, the principle must be affirmed ; Australia must not be the exploiting ground of the dumper.
– Does not the honorable member think that we ought to have some evidence, apart from that of Mr. McKay and others interested, as to the necessity for this Bill ?
– The whole of my speech has been in the direction of showing the necessity of preventing abuses.
– It has consisted, not of proof, but of assertion.
– The honorable member will pardon me if I do not reply to his interjections, vociferous though they may be, since I should not for one moment endeavour to prove anything to his satisfaction. We have heard of the one juryman who complained of the obstinacy of his eleven fellow jurors, and I feel sure that in such a position my honorable friend would be found in the minority. I am not going to attempt to prove anything to him; but I ask him to accept my assurance that my desire is to prevent the creeping into Australia of those abuses which most people admit exist in great industrial countries. We hope to make Australia a great industrial centre, and, that being our desire, we must see to it, at the outset; that we do not allow to fasten upon our industrial life such a vampire as the combine has proved itself to be in older countries. As a protectionist, I believe that protection should be of a triple character; it should protect, not only the manufacturer, but the operative and the consumer. This Bill will afford protection to the consumer, by breaking up trusts and combines which’ act against his interests, as well as against those of the country generally.
– The honorable member has a vivid imagination.
– The horseshoe nail industry, carried on by a man and a boy, in the honorable member’s electorate, could not exist without some special provision. The honorable member knows that it suffered, because it had to compete with the imports from Germany. I have not forgotten the speech that he made in support of the claims of that industry.
– It was a great speech.
– Itdisplayed the possession of considerable ingenuity and intelligence on the part of the honorable member. Clause 4 of this Bill provides that -
Competition shall be deemed to be unfair if
Under ordinary circumstances of trade, it would probably lead to the Australian goods being either withdrawn from the market, or sold at a loss -
Goods could be sold at a loss–
– But the clause does not stop there.
– I wish to enlarge upon that portion of it which I have read. Goods can be sold only at a loss, if the machinery used in its production be obsolete. I commenced by saying that this
Bill would encourage the use of obsolete machinery. The employment of such machinery naturally involves more labour, and in keen competition it would have to be consigned to the dust heap. That has been the experience of Victoria since the imposition of the Tariff. The clause continues - - unless produced at a lower remuneration for labour.
If, as the result of keen competition, a manufacturer could not obtain the prices that he formerly secured for his goods would not that lead to a lower remuneration for labour? Those who claim to be the exclusive representatives of labour believe that this provision means that this Bill will result in higher rates of wages, but if we allowed a manufacturer to use obsolete machinery and obtain a large price for his goods, whilst the cost of the articles which he used were increased, no greater remuneration would be secured by him than he would gain by the use of up-to-date machinery. In sub-clause 2 of clause 4 it is provided that -
In the following cases the competition shall be deemed unfair until the contrary is proved.
A man will have to prove that his trade in the goods to which this clause relates is not unfair -
If a man be a member of a trust, that will be prima facie evidence that he is doing something contrary to law. His goods will be seized, and in this way he will be deprived of the opportunity of trading -
By the use of the words “ would probably,” the Comptroller-General is to be given the power to say whether the competition complained of may reduce the rates of wages in the trade to which it relates. The wages in most trades would be reduced as the result of competition, unless up-to-date machinery were employed here. Competition is also to be deemed unfair until the contrary is proved if it -
Would, probably, or does, in fact, result in greatly disorganizing Australian industry or throwing workers out of employment;
That must be the result of competition, unless our manufacturers have such uptodate machinery as is used in the United States. In many departments of industry we are a little behind America.
In some industries, we are far behind that country, but the enterprising manufacturer will always keep as close to his American rival as he can. We cannot hope to be fully abreast of the Americans, because they are an inventive race, and own a great country ; and it is not to be expected that the manufacturers who cater for the wants of only 4,000,000 people can be as up-to-date in their methods as those who cater for the wants of 80,000,000. No doubt the Minister would appoint three capable men to the proposed Board, but it would be very difficult for them to exercise satisfactorily the powers which are conferred by the Bill. Of necessity, the profits obtained by an importer whose machinery is not of the best, and whose business is small, must be less than those of the manufacturer whose machinery is thoroughly up-to-date, and whose business is immense. Competition is also to be deemed unfair -
If the imported goods have been purchased abroad at prices greatly below their ordinary cost of production where produced, or market price where purchased.
It is a common thing for merchants to buy in England, or on the Continent, at the end of the season, large quantities of goods, which can then be obtained greatly below cost price, the holders being glad to get rid of them in order to make way for new season’s goods. This practice has been termed dumping, but, in reality, it has conferred agreat benefit on our people, inasmuch as it has enabled them to get much more for their money than they would otherwise have got. It has increased the purchasing power of their wages.
– Suppose that a man is getting no wages?
– A man’s wages are practically the value of the goods which he produces, or the work which he does. If the honorable member gives his attention to the subject, he will find that a number of valuable books have been written on the subject of barter, a great deal of literature on that subject being issued just about ten years before he was born. Competition is to be deemed unfair if-
Imported goods are being sold in Australia at a price which is less than gives the importer or seller a fair profit upon their fair foreign market value, or their cost of production.
Apparently the Board is to inquire into theprofits made by importers, and to punish a man if lie sells at a loss. It is no uncommon tiling for ai merchant to make large purchases, and then find that he is. being forestalled j but, under the Bill, if such a man is compelled to sell at a loss, he will be liable to a penalty. Throughout, the measure is most unjust to both traders and consumers. If its provisions were strictly enforced, tens of thousands of men engaged in the importation and distribution of goods would be thrown out of employment, while the consumers* - who are chiefly working people, who have nothing but their weekly earnings to depend oh - would suffer by the reduction of the purchasing power of their wages. I hope that the Labour Party will think twice before supporting the Bill. Every free-trader wishes to see manufactures established, and it is easy to establish industries which are native to the country. Such industries must be established, and will give a great deal of employment. ‘ But competition is necessary to keep manufacturers- up-to-date in their methods, and to prevent the public from being imposed on. Our manufacturers will be able to compete with fair success against those of America and the Continent, just as the manufacturers of Sydney were able, bv using up-to-date machinery, and following good business methods, to compete successfully with the manufacturers of Victoria during the period when New South Wales was enjoying free-trade.
– How long can two men fight when one has a gun and the other only a pocket knife?
– If one man has only a pocket knife and the other a scythe, the latter will assuredly produce the better result.
– A manufacturer with £800 behind him cannot compete with a manufacturer with ,.£8,000,000 behind him.
– Every industry must become large before it can be successful. Does the honorable member think that this Bill has been introduced in the interests of the small manufacturer, the man and the boy ? In this century the man and the boy cannot compete against large factories, whose profits enable them to pay good wages, and thus obtain the best workmen ; while they are also equipped with the most up-to-date machinery. Then an importer or seller of imported goods is not « give to an agent or intermediary a disproportionately large reward, or remuneration, for selling or recommending those goods.
Apparently, if a merchant pays his agents well, he is to be punished for so doing. I do not think that it can be the intention of Parliament that men should be punished for paying high wages to induce brains and enterprise to enter their service. I could occupy a considerable amount of time in pointing out the unfairness of the provisions of the measure, but, as I think that the Bill will be dropped, and will come before us again in some other session, I intend to reserve my remarks for another occasion. I certainly counsel the Minister to drop it. He has had an opportunity to announce to the public that he is in favour of anti-trust legislation. I, too, am in favour of such legislation,- but I have shown why I cannot support this measure. If, as the honorable member for Laanecoorie stated, the Colonial Sugar Refining Company is filching from the planters the bounties which we pay, let that be stopped, and, similarly, let us put an end to any proved abuses in connexion with the tobacco trade; but do not let us pass abominable provisions which will cripple industry, reduce wages, and ruin thousands of men. It is our duty to help the workers to get as much as they can for their money, and to improve the standard of living, and. therefore, I hope that when the measure is brought forward next session the objectionable provisions to which I have referred will be expunged, and that it will be such as I can support.
– Every honorable member who has looked carefully into the Bill, that is, as carefully as the very brief opportunity which has been given to us has allowed, must recognise that, however good its object, its provisions extend into the channels of commerce to a degree which we cannot yet appreciate. Its effects upon, not only importers, but some of our manufacturing industries, and, consequently, upon the workers, are likely to be so great, and, in some cases, so evil, that we should give the matter our fullest attention, and allow the full light of public opinion, and of expert opinion, to be brought to bear upon it, before we come to a decision. The Bill seems one of those measures which we have been recently called upon to consider, possessing one or two very bacl features. We have been attempting by legislation to exercise by a side wind, powers which were deliberately withheld from us bv those who framed the Constitution, and we have created enormous instruments for the purpose of effecting comparatively small purposes. It is now proposed to use a steamhammer in order to straighten a pin. The only case of importance, so far as imported goods are concerned, which has suggested the desirability of dealing with trusts, is one which affects a single manufacturer in our midst, and I ask whether we are to allow one firm to dominate Parliament to the extent of inducing us to rush through, after only a few hours’ consideration, a measure affecting, not only a particular enterprise, but all the industries of the Commonwealth? I would rather see a measure introduced providing merely that no harvesters shall be imported into Australia. We are being asked to create an enormous instrument, which may have influences the results of which we cannot conceive, and which may be used in a manner which we cannot anticipate, in order to effect one comparatively small result. I would also point out that we have appointed a Royal Commission, which is doing its work with extreme care, for the very purpose sf considering what should be done in connexion with those of our industries which are affected by the operation of the Tariff. That Commission could have this matter referred to it, and, indeed, it has power to consider this question without any special authority from us. We are ignoring the Commission altogether, and I think that we are thereby paying a. very poor compliment to gentlemen who were induced to undertake a very difficult task. We are proposing to take out of their hands a matter upon which we need the very fullest information, and we are, in effect, saying that we have not sufficient confidence in them to permit them to inquire into it. The Minister seems to be very confident with regard to the measure and its probable effects. I know something about trade, commerce, and manufactures, and I confess that it is very difficult for me, with my knowledge and experience, to form a conclusion as to the probable effects of the measure, and as to the injuries it may inflict, not merely upon importers, but upon the industries of the Commonwealth. The Minister quoted certain legislation in other countries as affording him warrant for the introduction of the Bill. I would ask, however, whether he can point to any laws of other countries which contain provisions similar to those embodied in the first portion of the Bill ?
– Not altogether.
– I am sure that the Minister can find no precedent for the. most dangerous provisions of this measure. In quoting the United States and Canadian laws as his authorities, the Minister overlooked the fact that he has departed from those laws, and has reversed the very principles upon, which they are based. The United States law is intended to prevent restraint of trade, and to debar trusts from exercising control of the markets, and levying excessive prices upon the consumers.
– And a fat lol of good it has done.
– It has not achieved much good so far, but the object is to prevent trusts from improperly controlling the market, in other words, to take out of their hands the power which they are exercising - a power which properly belongs to the Government of the country - of taxing the people for their own benefit. The money raised by taxes levied by the Government is spent in the interests of the whole people, whereas the profits derived by the trusts are devoted to the advantage of a few persons. The United States Government are not concerned as to whether the trusts are making a profit or as to whether the people who distribute the goods are making a profit. Their object is to prevent the consumer from being excessively taxed. I am thoroughly in agreement with legislation which effectually brings about such a result. Then the Canadian law is, in one important respect, different entirely from the measure before us. One portion of that law was adopted for the declared purpose of preventing the excess output of manufactures elsewhere from being dumped upon the Canadian market, and sold at cost, or a shade under cost. That law may be put in force whenever the Ministry thinks fit. It has been acknowledged by some of the Canadian statesmen that the principal effect of that law has been to act as a warning against such importations into Canada.
– And very likely this Bill would have the same effect.
– The Canadian Act has been enforced in very few, if any, cases, and it is very difficult for the Canadian Government to give effect to it. The other portion of the Canadian law provides that where trusts are levying excessive prices and making excessive profits, the Government shall be able to declare that the protection given to their” industry by means of Customs duties shall be removed. That is entirely opposed to the principle adopted in the Bill. The Government propose that the protection shall remain, and that an additional and extraordinary power shall be conferred upon them. If there is any interference with an Austaliantrust - or it may be a State trust with which this Bill could not interfere
– That is because the Constitution would not permit us to interfere.
– Could we interfere with the Colonial Sugar Refining Company?
– Under present conditions, we could, but I could indicate a way in which the Colonial Sugar Refining Company could place itself beyond the scope of the Bill.
– We shall safeguard ourselves against any such possibility.
– The matter requires time for consideration. Trusts which confine their operations to one State cannot be affected by this legislation. The Canadian system of dealing with such a case would be to remove the protection afforded to the industry by means of the Customs duties. Nothing of that kind is proposed here. What is aimed at? There may be importations which affect the output of a State trust, the representatives of which may represent to the Minister that if he allows the competition to continue, they will be compelled to reduce the wages of their workmen. Under such circumstances, a Board wouldbe appointed to enable that trust to maintain its position by imposing a prohibition on the imports of its opponents. . That is an entirely opposite method to that which is adopted in the Canadian Act, quoted by the Minister. No parallel can be found in any legislation in the world for many of the provisions contained in the first part of the Bill. In clause 3 a most audacious attempt is made to establish the claim that the Bill has been introduced to benefit the workers, producers, and consumers. That is a very good placard. How the measure will affect the interests of manufacturers and their employes we cannot tell; but I know that it may affect them very detrimentally. We are all aware that in the various channels of trade and manufacture the finished product of one industry is very frequently the raw material of another. All products can be dealt with under this Bill. How will it affect some of our industries if their raw materials are so raised in price that it is difficult for them to supply even the markets of Australia, and impossible for them to enter into competition with the outside world ? That is a possibility with which we are confronted in connexion with this Bill. There are some provisions in paragraph a of sub-clause 1 of clause 4. and in paragraphs b and c in subclause 2 of the same clause, which show how this measure is intended to be applied, and how very injurious its operation may be. Paragraph a of sub-clause 1 says: -
Competition shall be deemed to be unfair if under ordinary circumstances of trade it would probably lead to the Australian goods being either withdrawn from the market, or sold at a loss unless produced at a lower remuneration for labour.
The remaining paragraphs to which I have directed attention, provide -
In the following cases, the competition shall be deemed unfair, until the contrary is proved -
If the competition would probably or does in fact result in lowering the remuneration of labour ;
If the competition would probably or does in fact result in greatly disorganizing Australian industry, or throwing workers out of employment.
I cannot conceive how even a protectionist can support some of these provisions. In the previous Parliament the theories of free-trade and protection were argued threadbare. I am not going to repeat the operation, so that honorable members need not be alarmed by my reference to the subjects. The protectionists have always claimed that they do not wish to establish in Australia industries which, for a variety of reasons, are unstated to our conditions.
– What are they?
– The honorable member himself claimed, in respect of a number of his votes on the Tariff, that certain articles should be upon the free list, because they could not be produced in Australia.
– On account of the patent laws.
– On account! of a good many other things as well. He has held that certain articles should be upon the free list, because they could not be produced in Australia, and were used in local industries.
– Patented machinery, for 2 n st n. ncc
– People will enter into industries which for various reasons are not suited to Australia. What will follow? ‘Finding that they cannot compete successfully without lowering the wages of their employes, they will point out that fact to the Minister, and’ thereupon the matter will be referred to. a Board. If the spirit of the Bill be given effect to, that Board will declare that the importation of ‘ the goods competing with that industry should7” be prohibited. We have also to remember that some firms might not be able to carry on successfully because of the lack of ability which characterizes their business management. If such firms were allowed to approach the Minister, and!, exhibiting their balance-sheets, to say, “ Look at the losses which we are sustaining. Our only resort is a reduction in the wages of our employes, if we are to balance our profit and loss account,” the Minister - who cannot possibly enter into the question of whether or not their management is good - might remit the question to a Board, which would inquire into it. with the result that the goods manufactured by firms in foreign parts might be excluded. I can give a specific instance of what may happen in New South Wales if this measure becomes law. Honorable members will recollect that when there was a duty of d. per gallon upon kerosene in that State, the local kerosene shale, of which there were large quantities, was used for the extraction of oil. At two places in that State large refineries were established for the purpose of turning out considerable quantities of kerosene oil. Naturally, it is impossible for a company which has to produce oil from shale by means of a costly process of retorting to compete with oil which nature sends forth from wells. When the duty was reduced, and finally abolished, these companies had to abandon their refining operations, and to limit themselves to the mining of their shale for various purposes, such as gas-making.
– They make crude oils still.
– They make crude oils principally for lubricating purposes, but they have ceased to produce refined! oil. This Parliament, with the approval of the Labour Party, has decided that, in the interests of the public,, and especially of the poorer classes, it is undesirable to impose a tax upon kerosene, notwithstanding that it would be -productive of a large revenue. If the companies to which I have referred resume refining operations when this Bill be passed, I can easily imagine that the next step taken by -them will be to form a deputation to wait upon the Minister, with a view to pointing out that, in the absence of the exclusion of oils from oversea, they cannot carry on the industry successfully unless they pay beggarly wages. Thus this Bill will afford an opportunity for the Minister, through the Board, to act in absolute opposition to the express decision of Parliament, and, by excluding the cheaper foreign article, to impose a tax upon the people of Australia, not one penny of which will find its way into the Commonwealth Treasury. Then let me take another case. Let us suppose that a machine is. being made in Australia, and that a similar machine is being imported. An improvement might be effected in the implement which would reduce its cost, and” at the same time confer a great saving upon the user of it. That might exclude the imported article, which would be quite right.
– It might be pirated.
– If it were patented it could not be pirated. Let us. assume that there is some article of that character being imported, and that a patented improvement is. made in it by the manufacturers elsewhere, by which its cost is reduced and by which the users could reduce the cost of their products.
– Or a slight alteration which evades the patent.
– The manufacturer, here would at once raise the cry that these machines were being introduced and sold at a price lower than he could afford to manufacture his for, if he were to continue to pay proper wages to his employes. Under such circumstances, there would be. a danger of the Minister concluding that he should exclude the foreignmade article, and thus our producers would be denied the advantage of securing a lessening of the cost of production, which would be of assistance to them in their competition with the world. In fact, in a variety of ways, this Bill proposes to increase the cost of articles, to the producer and also to the consumer. It may affect the cost of living in every household, and especially in those which can least afford to bear an increase. Then, it is_ provided in paragraph d of sub-clause 2, that - if the imported goods have been purchased abroad at prices greatly below their ordinary cost of production, where produced, or market price where purchased.
This power would need to be exercised with extreme care. The whole of this part of the Bill would apply to every trader and every individual who chose to buy goods outside Australia. It would even prevent a manufacturer obtaining his raw material at a low price.
– Surely that is purely hypothetical ?
– One of my objections to the whole Bill is that it is purely hypothetical.
– That statement would suggest- that there is no case to be met by this Bill.
– I do not say that. I have already said that I am in favour of preventing trusts obtaining huge profits out of the community by means of the power they secure over certain commodities. But I would say, with President Roosevelt, that we should be very careful in dealing with beneficial combinations which result in the production of goods at a much lower cost, to the advantage of the public.
– I heard the honorable member say that he was opposed to trusts, but his declaration that the whole Bill was hypothetical argued that’ there was no ease to meet.
– I do not say that the evils in question are hypothetical, but I hold that the provisions of the Bill, may be so described since they do not - and possibly could not - distinctly declare what is to be done to cope with the evil. It is to be left largely to the ComptrollerGeneral, or the Minister, to decide what action shall be taken, and to that extent the provisions of the Bill are hypothetical.
– Would this Bill prevent Mr. McKay from forming a local trust?
– Not if he confined his business to this State, and established other firms in other States. But I do not wish to deal with this matter from the stand-point of one firm.
– The Bill has been introduced simply because of the representations of one firm.
– Too much stress has already been laid on one point.
I wish to deal with what will be the effect of the Bill, not in one particular case, but upon importations and on the workers and the community generally. Paragraph d of clause 4 will apply to a manufacturer or any individual who buys something at what is considered to be below cost price. Even if the goods in question are to be used to make a local industry profitable, such a transaction may be prohibited.
– But it would not be.
– I shall deal later on with that point. Paragraph e of sub-clause 2 contains another extraordinary provision. It is to be deemed unfair competition -
If (lie imported goods are being sold in Australia at a price which is less than gives the importer or seller a fair profit upon their fair foreign market value, or their cost of production, together with all charges after shipment from the place whence the goods are exported directly to Australia (including Customs duty) r
This is a provision in favour of the importer making profits. Under it an officer may go to an importer and say, “ Look here, my dear fellow, you are not making enough out of the people. You are not making sufficient profit, and must raise your prices.”
– That is hypothetical.
– The Bill provides for it. The officer may go on to say to the importer, “ You must raise your prices, and so increase the cost of your goods to the public.” Here we have an evidence of grandmotherly care for the poor importer, who cannot look after his own interests ! The Customs Department is presumed to be better able than he is to say what is a sufficient profit for him to earn.
– I had no idea that the honorable member .possessed such a’ vivid imagination.
– I never dreamt of any one having the vivid imagination necessary to lead to the introduction of such a provision. Indeed, the whole clause is the result of a vivid imagination. It requires a stretch of the imagination -to believe that we can benefit the consumer by telling a man who is selling goods lo raise his prices. The course I have outlined may be followed, even if no local industry be affected.
– The honorable member has forgotten the provisions of .another clause.
– The clause itself is a complete one. It begins. by providing that “ competition shall be deemed to be unfair.” That might be competition between importers.
– The lowering of prices affects the importers; it is the raising of prices that affects the internal trade.
–Quite so. We have still another extraordinary provision in paragraph /, which provides that the competition is to be deemed unfair -
If the importer or seller of the imported goods directly or indirectly gives to agents or intermediaries disproportionately large reward or remuneration foi selling or recommending the goods.
What is the object of this?
– In view of his business knowledge, the honorable gentleman must surely know the reason of it.
– It is difficult to arrive at the meaning of some of the clauses; we need to be enlightened as to the meaning, as well as in regard to the effect, of the Bill. Can ihe Minister of Trade and Customs tell me the meaning of paragraph /?
– The honorable member will be given an explanation presently. I cannot offer an explanation by way of interjection.
– The honorable member is very ready to interject when no one desires him to do so.
– I wish the honorable member to bring his speech to a close as soon as possible.
– I do not intend to speak at undue length. After providing that the importer shall get a good profit, which must result in the price to the consumer being increased, the clause goes on to declare that the importer shall not pay too much to his agents, and consequently reduce the price of the goods. That is an extraordinary position. I wonder what department of life will be free from our legislation very soon. The Government propose to see that no traveller or representative of a firm gets too much salary.
– They are proposing a wages board for the reduction of salaries.
– Yes. They would not dream of proposing such a thing if the individuals affected were not comparatively few in number. If there were many of them, they would try to secure their votes, by proposing to increase, rather than to decrease, their salaries.
– Does the honorable member think that there is such a provision in the Bill ?
– I am sure of it. We are asked to deal with this Bill as if the words .used in its clauses mean something other than the meaning which they express.
– The honorable member knows how a high salary is often used by a traveller.
– That interjection gives an explanation of the provision which we did not receive from the Minister. Is this an indirect method of preventing the payment of commissions to buyers? We have already passed a law to prohibit practices of that sort, and now, apparently, the Ministry wishes to pass another law to do exactly the same thing. Agents, however, could pay commissions to buyers which would not come out of their salary, but would be paid by their principals; the Bill would not prevent that. All that it provides is that the Government shall see that travellers and representatives of firms are not paid salaries which are too high.
– Sometimes the honorable member argues that the Bill is too strong, and at other times that it is not strong enough.
-.It is quite strong enough, but it is ineffective, with all its strength,.
– What is the use of it, if it is ineffective?
– That is what I should like to know . from those who are supporting it. But a Bill may be ineffective . for the purposes for which it was framed, and yet effective and destructive in a variety of other ways.
– I want to destroy foreign trusts.
– The honorable member says that he wants to destroy foreign trade. That is a frank, straight-out, candid admission ; but a Bill of twelve lines would do that. All that would be necessary to secure that object would be to provide that no goods shall be imported into Australia. Clause 5 is a sort of drag-net provision, but, as it really embraces the matters to which I have referred, I shall not deal with it specially. The second portion of the Bill is a measure to deal with trusts or combines. I have already said that I would support an effective measure to deal with trusts or combines injuriously affecting the public, but I do not wish to prevent the beneficial effects of industrial combinations. These combinations are often of benefit to a nation, inasmuch as, by cheapening the cost of production, they enable its producers to reach markets which would otherwise not be available to them. Then they are beneficial when they reduce prices to the public of the country in which they operate. Therefore, a distinct line must be drawn between combinations which are beneficial and those which are injurious to the community. I am ready to support legislation which would be effective for the suppression of injurious trusts and combines, but I do not think that the Bill will be effective for that purpose. Its provisions could be evaded in many ways. The first set of provisions are drastic, and could be made effective largely because there are no exceptions. Although they could never be applied fairly, because they are too drastic and tyrannical ; if they were applied honestly they might be effective, because there are no exemptions. But all traders are exempt from the operation of the second part of the Bill unless they are proved to be combinations or trusts. No sufficient distinction is made between combinations which are harmful and combinations which are beneficial.
– The words “ to the detriment of the public “ are used.
– Those words would be interpreted by some Ministers to mean detrimental to a single manufacturer in Australia.
– The Court has to decide the question.
– The Minister must refer it to the Court.
Mr.Isaacs. - No; the Minister has nothing to do with this part of the measure. Any one can bring a matter before the Court.
– The Bill provides that the Attorney-General, or any person, may institute proceedings.
– Only for an injunction.
– If a Ministry were of opinion that a foreign trust was injuriously interfering with certain local manufacturers, would it not take action of its own motion?
– The prosecutions under this part will be initiated like any other prosecutions.
– I took the honorable and learned gentleman’s interjection to mean that the Minister had no power in the matter.
– The honorable member suggested that the Minister would have a special or exclusive power.
– I know that, under clause 14, any person may institute proceedings, but I understood the interjection of the Attorney-General to mean that the Minister would not, under any circumstances, take action.
– I thought that the honorable member referred to administrative action.
– Could any person, under clause 14, ask for an injunction? Is not that the exclusive power of the Attorney -General ?
– I think that the Attorney-General would have to apply for it first. This second part will be, in many cases, ineffective, inasmuch as the Constitution will not enable us to deal with trusts whose operations are confined to any one State. Consequently, it will be difficult for us to reach any trust because, by a process of subdivision, each trust can operate solely within a State, distinct from any similar trust in another State, except that many shareholders may have an interest in two or more of them. These provisions require a great deal of careful consideration. They may do a great deal of harm, and I do not think that they will prove fully effective for the end in view. The provisions of the United States law, which the Minister has described as more drastic than those contained in the Bill, have, so far, proved ineffective, and I think that; in dealing with detrimental trusts, we should require to do something more than has been attempted in America. I do not mean that we should adopt more drastic provisions, but that we should resort to more effective measures. For this reason, the matter requires the fullest consideration. and I think that we should avail ourselves of all the information that can possibly be brought to bear upon it. All wisdom and experience is not represented by Parliament, and we ought to afford those who are most likely to be affected by such a measure to give us the benefit of their knowledge and experience. The Imperial Parliament long ago recognised the necessity for adopting such a course in regard to measures relating to commerce and indus- try.. They refer such Bills to a Grand Committee. They have recognised the danger of hurrying through legislation without the fullest inquiry. Whilst we have 110 Grand Committee here, we should not attempt, in the closing hours of the session, to pass through a Bill which could fittingly occupy our closest attention during the recess. When the Minister was moving the second reading oFthe Bill, I asked him how he would be able to reach persons outside Australia. Clause 12 provides - that the doing of any act outside Australia which would if done within Australia be an offence against either of the two preceding sections - shall be regarded as an offence, and shall be punishable accordingly. There would be no way of punishing any person outside of Australia except by stopping their goods at the Customs House. The Minister said that the Attorney-General would find a way, but he did not seem to know anything about tha matter himself. The honorable member for Parramatta referred to the Board in the first portion of the Bill, the provisions of which apply very arbitrarily and drastically, not merely to combinations, but to every firm in Australia. The Minister can refer any question arising under these provisions of the Bill to a Board, which will convey its decision to the Minister, who can then prohibit the importation of any goods he may chose. He could entirely stop the trade of any firm or individual.
– I can do that now under the Customs Act.
– Yes ; but the provision as to the prohibition of imports is only intended to meet the case of deleterious goods, or to importations which are not legitimate. This measure, however, proposes to extend the power of the Minister to all classes of goods. If a manufacturer managed to _ purchase abroad some of his raw, material at exceptionally cheap rates, the goods might be stopped at the Customs House, and the importer punished. These powers relate to individuals and firms not acting in combination. Trusts, however, will have the right to appeal to the Courts. It is because they have more money to fight their cases, they will have an opportunity afforded to them to employ leading counsel to subject the law to the most searching test? The trusts are kindly provided for, but the individual or firm which is not in any com bination is to be simply snuffed out at the will of a Board or a Minister.
– The action of the Minister has to be supported by Parliament.
– Yes j but in view of the complicated process that may have to be gone through, the manufacturer might be ruined before he saw the end of it. No Board should have a right to decide matters of such importance. In the first place, difficulty would be experienced in securing the services of disinterested men who knew anything about the subject. I would rather have disinterested men who knew nothing, than well-informed men who would be guided by their own interests. Enormous issues would be involved in some cases, and a man might be deprived by the decision of the Board from continuing his business, or from earning his living in the industry to which he had been brought up.
– The trusts do not give individuals much chance to earn a living.
– Perhaps not. But why should the Government imitate the trusts by crushing manufacturers out of existence? The Minister proposes to establish a Government trust.
– But the Government will not get the profit.
– No, but. they will see that a few other people do. The Board may sometimes be called upon to settle issues involving hundreds of thousands of pounds, and the Government will require to enlist the services of the most unbiased and independent men they can find.
– Mr. Seddon must have been a great fool to constitute a Board. .
– He has not created a Board such as the Minister proposes. The New .Zealand Board is representative of many large interests, and is appointed for the purpose only,:6f making inquiries. i.
– The Board contemplated under the Bill would be only an inquiry Board - it would merely inquire and report. ‘ ‘
– It would recommend what should be done with the goods. The New Zealand Act does hot confer powers such as the Minister proposes to take, arid, moreover, it deals only with trusts and combinations, which, under this measure, ‘ will have ‘ the right to appeal to the Courts. The Minister’s proposal is a departure from the New Zealand legislation. Now, it has been said that we should trust the Minister and the Administration. Even though, by a wild flight of imagination, we could conceive that we had to-day the ablest and most honest Ministry that ever sat, or ever will sit, upon the Treasury benches, we should have no right to pass legislation of this kind which would place unheard-of powers in the hands of Ministries yet unborn.
– The honorable member is looking a long way ahead.
– Honorable members are supposed to look a long way ahead, and they certainly should not be prepared to surrender to Ministers powers which might be used in such a way as to override the decision of Parliament. Parliament should reserve to itself the power which Ministers seek to exercise under the Bill. The Bill would confer more authority upon Ministers than that which can be exercised under the Tariff. It could be used more effectively to prohibit the importation of goods, to penalize manufacturers, to injure workmen, and to tax the consumer. When Parliament will not give Ministers power to create a Tariff, surely they ought tokeep in their own hands powers such as those which are sought under the Bill. We decided only a few days ago that even duties which had been, as regards their amount, approved of by Parliament should not be imposed without reference 10 the Legislature. Such duties would not exclude, but only to some extent restrict, imports, and yet it is now proproposed that we should give Ministers absolute power to exclude any goods. It has been said that the Bill was introduced in its present form in order to avoid the necessity of raising the fiscal question, but I would point out that this measure opens up every line of the Tariff. Therefore, it becomes the duty of honorable members to consider the duties line by line, and to decide whether they are sufficient for the purpose of restriction, and whether certain goods should not be exempted from the operation of the Bill. Many of the existing duties were avowedly imposed for the special purpose of restricting imports, and assisting local manufacturers. When we are asked to place in the hands of the Minister the power to prohibit the importation of goods, we may have to consider every line of the Tariff, in order to ascertain whe ther any particular article is already sufficiently protected to render the first portion of this Bill unnecessary in regard to it.
– Surely the honorable member is not serious.
– I say again that this question should be referred to the Tariff Commission. From its constitution, from the work which it has already performed, and from the information which it has gained, thatbody is in a position to arrive at an earlier decision in regard to it than is any other tribunal.
– The honorable member wishes to bury it.
– That is a nice compliment to pay to the Tariff Commission.
– I am not saying a word against that body.
– Does the honorable gentleman think that the Tariff Commission is a cemetery ?
– The Commission cannot report upon the questions which have already been remitted to it for investigation, before the close of the present session.
– There is no reason why this Bill should be rushed through hurriedly.
– The honorable member has said that of every Bill which has been introduced.
– I wonder that the Minister is not more accurate in his statements. During the past few days I have assisted him to pass several important measures, and in return he makes a remark of that character.
– What did the honorable member say in regard to the Commerce Bill ?
– I said a good deal that was true.
– And a good deal that was not true.
– I quite admit that the Minister may think so. I shall consider that I have got into a very bad state indeed when I think all that the Minister thinks. The Board which it is proposed to appoint under this Bill will consist of three members. It will not even represent the six States.
– I am willing to alter the constitution of the Board, so as to make it consist of six members.
– That would not meet the difficulty which has been raised by the Minister himself. He stated that if a case occurred under this Bill in Western Australia, a Board would be appointed there, implying that the other States had no interest whatever in the decision given by that body. Need I point out to him that although the particular industry affected may be confined to one State, the whole of Australia may be seriously interested in the result? Take the kerosene industry in New South Wales, to which I have already alluded, as an example. If the companies that were formerly engaged in that industry resume operations, they may raise an objection to the free importation of kerosene upon the ground that it prevents them from paying proper wages. A Board would thereupon be appointed, consisting of three gentlemen representing New South Wales only. Would that be fair to the other States? As a result of the Board’s decision, every household throughout the Commonwealth might be taxed, by being called upon to pay a higher price for its kerosene. I say that the people have a right to be heard in this matter through their representatives in Parliament, and consequently Ave should provide that no prohibition should be imposed upon any class of imports until after an address in favour of that step has been adopted by both Houses of the Legislature. I do think that there is vast danger under this Bill, not merely to the importers of Australia, but also to certain manufacturers, and consequently to the men whom they employ, as well as to the poorer class of consumers. The House would not place in the hands of the Minister the imposition of a few duties, and are we to place in his hands the terrible weapon of prohibition? I do think that before that course is unnecessarily entered upon - because .we can deal with trusts and combines without going to such extremes-
– With their goods?
– Yes; under the provisions of the latter part of the Bill.
– Would the honorable member indorse that principle?
– I am perfectly willing to deal with trusts and combines, either inside or outside of Australia, if their operations are detrimental to the community, and npt, as some combinations are, beneficial. I recognise the difficulty of doing that, but I am not prepared to adopt a course which will hit at a great deal that is legitimate, and accomplish something which may be detrimental to our producers. Of course, I recognise that a great deal depends upon administration.
– A protectionist or a free-trader could administer this Act in such a way as to favour his particular fiscal belief. I claim that Parliament should not abandon its power to absolutely prohibit imports in favour of the exercise of the mere opinion or whim of a Minister. That is the position which I take up, and I say that this Bill cannot be examined too closely by either its friends or its opponents, because if it is not able to withstand criticism it* should not be placed upon our statute-book. It is one of the most faxreaching measures that the Commonwealth Parliament has been invited to consider. Consequently, opportunity ought to be given for its full consideration, not only by members of this House, but also by those who are interested outside. The light of their opinion should be shed upon it before we finally pass it.
. -I quite share the opinion of the honorable member for North Sydney regarding the importance and far-reaching character of this Bill. It is intended to be farreaching, because the evils that it is designed to cope with are of a like nature, lt is designed to prevent the establishment in this community of the evils to which I refer, and fo bring about their eradication at this early stage of their career. I propose to the best of my ability to show how far the measure goes, without discussing details which may be better analyzed in Committee. I intend to state why, in my opinion, iti does not go one step further than it should. I admit at once that it is quite possible to carry, the measure further, and I can understand the views of some honorable members, who are quite at one with us upon the necessity which exists for coping with trusts, and who would like to see the Bill extended in various directions. Matters of that character can best be considered in Committee, and I. have no doubt that any suggestions which are intended to make the measure more effective will receive sympathetic consideration at the hands of my colleague, the Minister of Trade and Customs. I have listened with” great attention to the arguments advanced bv some honorable members opposite against the Bill, and I must say frankly that those, arguments lead me to tlie conclusion that they are opposed to the enactment of any such measure.
– Not at all
– I must be forgiven for expressing my opinion in that way, because it seems to me that if every time we bring forward a Bill we are to be told that it is far-reaching,- and that it will disorganize business operations, we shall never get any legislation at all.
– We do not object to legislation against trusts.
– Then I hope that the honorable member will assist us to pass this Bill. In my opinion, it is the first measure that has been presented to an Australian Parliament which calls upon honorable members to range themselves distinctly as the friends or the foes of Australian enterprise.
– And Australian liberty.
– I am sure that my honorable friend will avail himself of an opportunity, presently to express his own views. I do not regard this as a fiscal measure. .1 regard it as one that puts “to us tha question : ‘ ‘Are we going to defend Australian industries - Australian industries of every kind - or are we going to expose them to the aggression of those who care nothing for Australia except for the prott they can make out of it?” If, unfortunately , we were to find some evilly-disposed persons bringing into Australia some instruments of destruction which would enable them to level our factories tq the ground, injure physically our operatives, and bind our citizens to their will, I am sure that this Parliament would not have the slightest hesitation in taking prompt and energetic measures against them. If the same ends can be achieved by devious methods, or bv what are, in some respects, ordinary business methods, what is to be done? If our factories can be destroyed, if our primary and secondary industries can be undermined - and, just as the Americans have done, we “seek by this Bill to protect not only the secondary but the primary industries - if by all the means that are known to huge capitalistic enterprises, this can be done without check or hindrance, then nearly all our legislative: undertakings and all the paraphernalia of our Parliaments and Government.’, are worthless.
– We have not had the slightest evidence of such a menace as the honorable and learned gentleman suggests.
– I shall give the honorable and learned member some cogent evidence.
– We expected it from the Minister who introduced the Bill.
– I must say that I hardly think it is needed. It is a matter of common knowledge. It has been noted in the newspapers and elsewhere, for a considerable period, and we should be blind and deaf indeed if we failed to see and hear that which is going on around us.
– So far, we have had the evidence of only one side.
– And the statement of the witness has been proved to be untrue.
– I do not agree with the honorable member for Grey, and I hope that before the debate closes he will see his way to support the Bill. If ever there was a measure that called for the support of representatives of labour this is one.
– lt is a Bill to help McKay.
– I am not going to deal with the merits or demerits of any one individual.
– McKay prompted the Government to bring in this Bill.
– The honorable and learned member will allow me to contradict that statement.
– For what other purpose has it been introduced? I am glad that the honorable and learned member is silent.
– The honorable and learned member is rather excited. I do not know why he should be. The matter is one that approaches more closely …… does any other the determination, of whether we are to have a White Australia. lt is not a question of whether we are to have protection. T.his Bill is not designed for the benefit of either the producers, the workers, or the consumers alone. It is designed for the benefit of no two of those sections of the community. It is for the benefit of the whole of the people. It is expressly stated on the face of the Bill, that it is for the benefit of the united whole. I am going to prove to those who are open to consider this matter from an impartial stand-point, that my observations under this head are justly founded on the wording, intent, and effect of the Bill. Honorable members have said that it has been intro- duced late in the session. It is a matter of regret on the part of the Government that is has been introduced so late, but that is not our fault. We have had a great deal of work to attend to. I am not going to pass any reflection upon any party in the House, but I do say that it is not the fault of the Government that we have not been able to devote an extra fortnight to the consideration of this measure. Although it is a matter for regret that we did not introduce this Bill at an earlier period, the way to overcome any shortcoming in that regard is by refusing to go into recess without having enacted the measure.
– It is a pity that so much time was wasted over the “gag.”
– I should like to apply it to the honorable member.
– The honorable and learned member would be specially pleased to apply the “gag” during the consideration of such a Bill as this.
– It must be evident to honorable members - it is certainly obvious to me - that these interjections are seriously distracting the Attorney-General. I must ask honorable members to allow him to make the speech in the way he desires to deliver it, and to refrain from these constant interruptions.
– I should not object to a relevant question, or to any interjection that might tend to the elucidation of any point in doubt, but when we have interjection after interjection, having nothing to do with the question before us. it is somewhat disconcerting. We are all anxious to end the session, and to return to our homes. We are anxious to take the opportunity of enjoying the coming holiday ; but the Government feel a great responsibility upon them. We have something more than our own personal convenience to consider. We must not forget that, if our view regarding the necessity of the Bill be correct, there are tens of thousands who will regard the ororogation with something like dismay, if it happens before we have done something to assist them. That is a far more serious consideration than can be any desire on the part of honorable members to hurry away from their legislative duties within the next few days. I am going to ask- honorable members to 01n , with me in determining this question finally. The Government. as I have said, feel a. great responsibility upon them, and we must do all that we can to remedy the evil.
– When did the Government first discover this fact?
– We discovered it- a long time ago. But we have had to deal with very serious measures. Then, again, it has not been an easy matter to frame the Bill. The work has been one for serious consideration. This Bill has not been framed without our examining evidence to a very large extent, and more than that, I may_ say that some of the considerations which my honorable friends opposite have advanced, as to the nature of the tribunal for which provision is made in this Bill, have received very serious attention at our hands. It was the intention of the Ministry to provide that the Judge of the Federal Arbitration Court should sit in this tribunal. As a matter of fact, we asked that learned gentleman to undertake the duty, and I must say for him that he was most willing to do so, but that it seemed to him that the issues to be dealt with were not matters for judicial decision. He felt that they were beyond the line of judicial determination ; that they embraced to some extent matters that were in some respects outside the ordinary range of a Judge’s duty, and might bring the investigation of the tribunal into what might be regarded as the region of politics.
– The matters to be dealt with by the tribunal are just as suitable for the consideration of a Justice as are the questions arising between master and servant that are dealt with by the Arbitration Court.
– No. The awards of the Conciliation and Arbitration Court are in the nature of judicial determinations, and those awards are carried out. The presiding Justice has not to report to a Minister. His determination is strictly a judicial one, and is always regarded as such. But the tribunal provided for in this Bill will be of a different nature, and as the desire of the Government could not be otherwise carried out, we had to resort to the system followed 11 New Zealand, and provide for a Board.
– Surely there are plenty of alternatives between placing the determination of these matters in the hands of a Justice of the High Court, and vesting a Minister with power to deal with it?
– A Board, not the Minister.
– But the report is to be made to the Minister.
– Surely the honorable and learned member does not think that the learned Judge of the Federal Arbitration Court should consider the question of whether goods should be prohibited, and, if prohibited, to what extent ; that would bring him into the region of fiscal controversy. All that we could expect, either from a Federal or a State Judge, would be the examination of the matter submitted to him, and the f urnising of a report upon the facts. The Minister, subject to his responsibility to Parliament - subject, indeed, to the responsibility of the whole Government to Parliament - will decide what steps shall be taken. We have done all that we can in that direction, andno charge may properly be levelled at the Government in respect to the tribunal named in the Bill.
– In one part of the Bill provision is made for a Judge to deal with certain matters.
– That relates to a totally different matter. Surely the giving of a judicial decision in a criminal case - a case that may be dealt with by a Court - should not be the duty of a Board. The position is entirely different from a matter which is simply one for Ministerial action. It has been suggested that this Bill is drastic, and that there is no need for it. I have already addressed to the House some observations in that regard. Some honorable members have said that there is no evidence whatever that the International Harvester Company is a trust ; some honorable members have said that it is an ordinary company ; that it is not in theordinary sense a trust possessed of enormous power; that it is not invested with those attributes which would cause it to be regarded in America as a trust. The evidence as to the nature of this company is altogether overwhelming.
– Who made the assertions to which the honorable and learned member has just referred ?
– I have heard them made in various directions. I heard one honorable member say that, if it could be proved that the company is really a trust, he would vote to protect the manufacturers of this country.
– There is no substantial difference ‘between a trust and a company ; it is only a matter of size.
– There is a great deal of difference; but I will deal with that point when I, come to speak on the clauses of the Bill. In America there is an Inter- State Commerce Commission, which had recently to consider the position of the International Harvester Company in connexion with railway rates and other matters; and in the tenth volume of its report, at page 386 and subsequent pages, it makes some observations which, I think, will convince honorable members and the community as to the position and status of this company -
The International Harvester Company was organized in 1902, apparently for the purpose of consolidating under one management several concerns previously engaged in the manufacture of farm machinery. It ‘ took over and is now operating the Deering Harvester Company, the McCormick Harvester Company, the Piano Company, the South Chicago Furnace Company, and perhaps others. In this discussion the McCormick division of the International Harvester Company will be known as the McCormick Company, and the Piano division as the Piano Company. The International Harvester Company now has the same interest in the Illinois Northern Railroad and the Chicago, West Pullman, and Southern Railroad, which the McCormick Company and the Piano Company formerly had, respectively. The Illinois Northern Railroad Company was incorporated in 1901, under the laws of the State of Illinois, with a capital stock of $500,000. While this capital stock did originally, and perhaps does to-day, stand in the names of various individuals, it was entirely paid for by cash furnished by the McCormick Company, was entirely owned by that Company down to the time of its absorption by the International Harvester Company, and is to-day the property of the latter company.
Whatever has been said with respect to the Illinois Northern, applies equally to the Chicago, West Pullman, and Southern.
The International Harvester Company owns these two railroads. Its officials are the officials of those roads in most instances. It absolutely controls the operations of the roads, as well as the routing of its own traffic.
The International Harvester Company owns the Illinois Northern Railroad. Whatever profit accrues to that railroad inures to the benefit of the Harvester Company, its owner, alone. When any one of these lines leading from Chicago to the Missouri River pays to the Illinois Northern Railroad Company $12.00 for the performance of a switching service, which is worth reasonably but $3.00, it gives to the International Harvester Company, the shipper of that carload of merchandise,$9.00. If these divisions, which have been in effect since January, 1904; are legal, there is no practical limit to the extent to which the lines granting them may prefer the International Harvester Company over other shippers.
The Illinois Northern Railroad Company and the International Harvester Company are one and the same thing. It is entirely immaterial whether this money goes in the first instance into the treasury of the International Harvester Company or that of its creature, the Illinois Northern Railroad Company.
The question presented by the operations of the Chicago, West Pullman,” and Southern Railroad differs from that involved in those of the Illinois Northern, in that the International Harvester Company owns a controlling interest in the West Pullman Company, but has not the entire ownership. … In the case before us, while other parties are in reality interested, the International Harvester Company is, without doubt, the overshadowing factor.
The Chicago, Lake Shore, and Eastern, as found,is the creature of the United States Steel Corporation. The questions presented by its operations differ from those already discussed, chieflyin that the practices areof longer continuance and of wider scope. The International Harvester Company, through the medium of its railroads, obtains no divisions whatever from eastern lines ;but the United States Steel Corporation, with its greater power, has been able to force from eastern connexions divisions on all business. The International Harvester Company has not yet been able to compel the railroads which handle its traffic to maintain its tracks, or perform its switching service within its iron working plant at South Chicago ; but the Illinois Steel Company has for the last eight years obtained from the railways transporting its traffic compensation for the maintenance and operation of the miles of track which are located within its private works. In this respect the Steel Trust, to use the popular expression, is as far in advance of the Harvester Trust as the latter company is ahead of the ordinary shipper.
That huge company has extended its operations to this country, and until recently charged £81 to the farmers for the stripper harvesters which it sends here. That charge is justified in the following words, published in a paper calledthe Reformer, issued on the 31st August of thisyear, in which, at page17, its case is plainly put for the company -
Finally, The Reformer would show farmers how it is that they have to pay £81 for a machine which is Invoiced at £38 os. 3d. The price which they must pay is made up of prime cost, expenses incurred in bringing the machine to Australia, selling expenses in Australia itself, and profit. It has been given on oath before the Tariff Commission by both Mr. H. V. McKay and by Mr. James Moore, of T. Robinson and Company, who spoke as a delegate chosen by the metropolitan manufacturers, that these latter expenses, the selling expenses, amount to. “ 27 per cent. of the selling price,” which works out at £2117s.5d. per machine. We have, therefore, the elements to show how the case stands, providing the selling expenses ofthe importing houses are the same as those of local makers, viz. : -
This would leave importers a profit of only £1 1s. 3d. per machine, which obviously is not extortionate. It is, however, probable that the selling expenses- of importers are kept somewhat lower by good management than those of the local makers, and that, consequently, their profits are somewhat higher than” shown here. “ Somewhat higher,” I suppose, means something very small. But when the companyfound that the Minister of Trade and Customs was firm in his determination to increase the valuations at which these machines were entered for duty, it reduced its selling price to£70 for one machine, £60 for two, and£50 for three. Is there any other explanation for that reduction than that the company is determined to oust the Australian manufacturer at all costs, and, no doubt, if successful, would, when it got the market to itself, put up the price again to £81 ?
– Were not the Australian manufacturers in a combination with the company ?
-I am not going to defend any combine. I am as strongly opposed to Australian as to other combines, and in the second part of the Bill the same penalties are imposed on Australian as on foreign trusts. I do not pretend to know all the ramifications of the methods adopted by these companies, but my information has been obtained from well-known and irreproachable sources. If the statements which have been made are not true, the real facts can be demonstrated by those from whom an explanation is sought. It will be seen by referring to the Bill, however, that those who wish to attack these trusts have four fences to get over before they can succeed.
– Can it be proved that the International Harvester Company is selling its machines at£50 each, if three are bought ?
– I have no personal knowledge on the subject, because I am neither a buyer nor a seller of these machines : but letters have been handed to me in which that is most distinctly stated. Of course, I have to rely on their authenticity.
-Why cannot they be produced ?
– They can be produced.
– I know of no reason why they should not be produced. These statements may be true, or they may be untrue, but they have been asserted so strongly that a fair opportunity should be given to thoroughly test them. What is the process provided for testing them? Some observations have been made to-day about industries employing a man and a boyonly. The Bill does not deal with such industries. There is always one preliminary question to be asked before competition can be dealt with as unfair - Do the goods which are being imported come into unfair competition with any Australian industry, the preservation of which is advantageous to the Commonwealth, having due regard to the interests of producers, workers, and consumers alike?
– Then the Government are legislating only for the big industries ?
– They are the industries which are to be protected under the Bill. The man and boy industries can be protected by other legislation. But if the Comptroller-General of Customs, the Minister, the Board, and the whole Government determine, on the evidence placed before them, that importations are injuring an industry whose preservation is advantageous to all sections of the community, they will do a great deal to prevent its destruction. If the industry is of advantage to the community, it behoves us, as a Parliament, to see that it is not destroyed by unfair competition. When we have decided that it is an industry of that advantageous nature, what is the next point to be borne in mind ? We have next to consider “What is unfair competition?” In view of some of the mistaken criticisms which have been passed upon paragraph a of sub-clauseI of clause 4, I should like the attention of honorable members. Honorable members have asked me to give some explanation, and I intend to do so. It is provided that -
Competition shall be deemed to be unfair if -
under ordinary circumstances of trade it would probably lead to the Australian goods being either withdrawn from the market or sold at a loss unless produced at a lower remuneration for labour.
That means that if an industry has been examined into, and if it is one which is re garded from the stand-point of the worker or the consumer, and of the producer alike as worth preserving, we have to ask ourselves : “ Is the competition that is threatening its destruction unfair?” If, no matter what may be done - if, in spite of improved machinery, the adoption of the most advanced methods, better advertising, more capable agents, or better patents - the industry will still fail, unless wages are cut down, and the men are sweated, I say that the competition is unfair.
– What about the Wages Boards ?
– I know that my honorable friends opposite sneer at Wages Boards. They are perfectly consistent. It is a matter of free-trade with them - free-trade in labour, free-trade in flesh and blood.
Honorable Members. - Nothing of the kind.
– Order. I have already had occasion to call attention to the frequent interjections of honorable members. Interjections are bad, even when they are not made in defiance of instructions from the Chair; but when they are repeated after I have called for order two or three times, honorable members are committing the additional offence of disobeying the Chair. I would therefore ask them to refrain from interjecting, and to allow the Minister to continue his speech.
– I contend that under such circumstances as I hare mentioned, if the industry is one which should be preserved in the interests of the whole community without reference to any particular class, and we find that there is no way of escape but that of Cutting clown wages or lengthening the hours of labour, it is time for the State to step in.
– That is what the clause can mean, but it may mean a great deal more.
– That is what the clause does mean, and nothing else.
– That is not so.
– It is, of course, impossible to set out all the means that are unfair. We know that it is impossible to define unfairness. Mr. Seddon, in his Act, has not defined “unfair competition,” but he has left the matter absolutely at large. The words he uses are : “ Com petition on unfair lines being carried on.” There is no definition of unfairness ; the question is left to be determined by the Board. We have gone a great deaf fur- ther. We have done our best to put on paper something that will guide the House, and any tribunal that may be called upon to determine what unfair competition is. I think that shows that we are doing our best to plainly indicate what is in our minds, and to help the House and the country to understand the strict meaning of the Bill. Then we come to the other portion of the clause -
In the following cases, the competition shall be deemed unfair until the contrary is proved.’
That means that only prima facie evidence will be required. If the competition has the effect of lowering the remuneration of labour, we say that a prima facie case has been made out that the competition is unfair. If an industry is being carried on under our Australian laws, and competition arises which has the effect of lowering the remuneration of labour, and lowering the standard of Australian life, we call upon the person who is responsible for the competition to show that he is competing fairly.
– Does the AttorneyGeneral argue that American artisans receive less wages than do Australian workmen ?
– No. I am not dealing with that point now. I am merely explaining the Bill. I am defending the Australian artisan. The next provision is: -
If the competition would probably, or does in fact result in greatly disorganizing Australian industry or throwing workers out of employment.
We say that such a case is a fair one for investigation. That is all. It is merely a case of prima facie evidence. The next cases provided for axe : -
If the imported goods have been purchased abroad at prices greatly below their ordinary cost of production where produced or market price where purchased :
If the imported goods are being sold in Australia at a price which is less than gives the importer or seller a fair profit upon their fair foreign market value, or their cost of production, together with all charges after shipment from the place whence the goods are exported directly to Australia (including Customs duty).
That almost exactly hits the case of the harvester trust.
– How could the Government obtain information as to whether the importer was obtaining a profit ?
– The Customs authorities have very large rowers to obtain information. As the Minister said a little while ago, these inquiries are being conducted every day in the Customs Depart ment for the purpose of protecting the revenue.
– Do they inquire into a man’s profits?
– They inquire into the market value.
– Which must include the cost of production.
– Exactly. We know the charges, and also the amount of Customs duty that has to be paid, and any one can tell us the price at which the goods are being sold We know that in the present case harvesters are being sold at a price which, on the admission of the trust itself, is not sufficient to recoup expenses. Such a case would come within the provision I have just read. All we should do would be to ask the representatives of the trust to give us an explanation, and to show that they were competing on fair lines.
– Would the Bill apply to the Colonial Sugar Refining Company?
– This portion of the Bill would not apply, if I understand the facts aright. The first portion of the Bill could not apply to any Australian firm, because it relates to the importation” of goods.
– Would competition be deemed unfair if the articles were being sold at a fair profit to the manufacturer abroad ?
– I could not give an answer to a question of that kind. That must be left mainly to the Board, which will consist of competent men. No one could say, as a matter of law, that any special circumstances would be sufficient to justify the conclusion that the competition was unfair. In answer to the honorable member for Grey, who spoke about the Board, I should like to say that I acknowledge that a great deal depends upon its constitution. That is a matter for consideration in Committee. ,It is difficult for us to designate any particular man or men, or class of men, who should be appointed. At present, it is proposed to leave it to the Minister and the Cabinet, subject to their responsibility to Parliament, to appoint a Board, presumably for each particular case. It is a matter for consideration how that Board could be best constituted. As has been explained, we endeavoured to secure the services of the President of the Arbitration Court, but we were unable to do so. I am sure that if we had been successful, such an appointment would have given satisfaction to every one. Failing in that, we could see no other course than to provide for the appointment of the Board under the terms of the Bill. We could not name any particular functionaries, and I am not sure that it would be well to indicate beforehand the particular persons who should constitute it. It is left absolutely to a non-political officer, the Comptroller-General of Customs, who is in a position to know what is going on, to certify to the Minister, if he sees reason for doing so, that an industry which it is desirable to preserve is being seriously affected. It is not correct to say, as was stated in one of the newspapers this morning, that immediately he does that, the further importation of the goods is to be prohibited. That is absolutely incorrect, and any one who reads the Bill, and desires to understand it-
– Thev are held to be prohibited goods until they are proved to be otherwise.
– Not upon the mere certificate of the Comptroller-General. The Comptroller-General looks into the matter, takes what evidence he thinks right, and afterwards places the facts before the Minister. The Minister inquires into it - and that is the second fence to be got over, because I am sure that no Minister would act without a full sense of his responsibility - and, if he thinks the matter is of sufficient importance, appoints a Board. Then, while the Board is conducting its inquiry - that is, if mischief is going on - the Minister takes precautions against further damage. He may, if) . he likes, allow the goods to come in, or he may prohibit their introduction, except under such conditions of security as he thinks it necessary to impose. Of course, he .will endeavour in every case to dislocate trade as little as possible. His desire will be to see that every precaution is taken to avert damage to Australian industries. When he has done that, the matter is referred to a Board. That body inquires into it, and it is enjoined to do so expeditiously and carefully. In Committee I should like honorable members to consider whether or not a time limit should be imposed upon their deliberations. The decision of a majority of the members of the Board con stitutes its report. But, in order that the whole of the facts may be placed before the Minister and the country, the dissenting member of the Board is requested to state his opinion, and to give his reasons for holding that opinion. Those reasons may be very weighty, and they may modify very considerably the report of the majority. The_ whole Cabinet - tribunal No. 4 - have then to look into the matter, and, with a full sense of their responsibility, knowing that they will be held accountable to Parliament, they either act or refuse to act. If a majority of the Board report that there, is no unfair competition going on, there is an end to the matter.
– Who is to constitute the Board ?
– I recognise that .a great deal depends upon the constitution of the Board. If two out of three of its members report that there is no unfair competition, the Cabinet have no power to act; but if, on the contrary, two out of three of their number report that unfair competition does prevail, the Ministry have to undertake the responsibility of investigating the matter-
– It will not be difficult to get three out of three to report that unfair competition does prevail.
– In that case the facts must be very clear. 1
– Under this Bill the Minister could treble any duty_ without parliamentary authority.
– That is not so. The Bill contains no power to impose or increase a duty. I have heard a good deal in reference to not trusting the Minister. We have been repeatedly reminded of the enormous power which ‘the Bill vests in him. Do honorable members forget that ever since 1901, when we passed the Customs Act, the Minister has possessed the power to prohibit the importation of any goods? It is within his power todayand if he had been so evil-minded as some honorable members suggest- he would have done so months ago - to stop imported harvesters from entering the Commonwealth. This Bill is an evidence that any Minister occupying a position of responsibility may be trusted to do what is a right and fair thing all round.
– The first Minister of Trade and Customs prohibited the importation of kitchen fat.
– That is not true.
– The honorable member will have his little joke. After any prohibition has been imposed, the report of the Board has to be laid before Parliament, and Ministers will inform both Houses of the Legislature of the whole of the facts which have induced them to take such a drastic step. I contend that if Australian industries - in spite of the efforts which have been made to build them up, and in spite of the time and money which have been expended in establishing them - are to be threatened with extinction, their operatives thrown out of employment, and the consumers placed in peril of having to pay more for their goods, it is time that we stepped in to preserve them. I hope that honorable members will recollect the Ballarat speech of the Prime Minister, in which he pointed out what he understood by a White Australia. He said that a White Australia meant an Australia which was fit for white people to live in. Concerning the second part of the Bill, I desire to say that it is limited to commercial trusts and persons who conspire with such trusts.
– Its provisions would not apply to the individual?
– Not unless he conspired with a trust. To a large extent that portion of the measure is based on the Sherman Act. It is not so strong as the Sher man Act–
– The reason is that it deals with a local man.
– It shows no more consideration for the local man than it does for the foreigner . The remark of the honorable and learned member for Wannon has been made several times, and is absolutely unjustifiable.
– It is absolutely correct, and anybody who compares the provisions of the Bill with the Sherman Act must admit it.
– I do not wish to say that the honorable and learned member’s statement is attributable to his ignorance, although it might be charitable of me to do so.
– Does the AttorneyGeneral say that the provisions of the second portion of the Bill are as strong as the Sherman Act?
Mr.ISAACS.-I do not. I said that it was not to strong as the Sherman Act, and that it made no distinction between Australians and foreigners. I was asked by the honorable member for Kennedy whether this part of the measure would apply to the Colonial Sugar Refining Company. I am not familiar with the constitution of that company. If it is a single company–
– It is.
– Then it will not apply to it.
– In that case it is of very little use.
– I cannot agree with my honorable friend upon that point. I am not the Minister in charge of the Bill, but, as I have already stated, if valid reasons for strengthening it are put forward, they will no doubt receive sympathetic consideration at the hands of my colleague, the Minister of Trade and Customs.
– Can we make it apply to the Colonial Sugar Refining Company?
– Certainly. We cando that without any difficulty whatever. It can bp accomplished by the insertion of a few words. I am afraid that the provisions of clause 10 have not been thoroughly understood by some honorable members who have preceded me. When ‘[ hear honorable mem bers say that this Bill contains very drastic provisions, I should like them to remember that every care - perhaps a little too much care - has been taken to insure that no innocent person shall be injuriously affected by it. I cannot conceive of any single case in which an innocent individual can suffer injustice under these provisions. Clause 10 provides -
Any person who wilfully -
I should like to know whether my honorable friends opposite would support a trust in restraining trade to the detriment of the public. That has always been held to be an unlawful act under English law, although it is not punishable by the same penalty that we seek to impose. When there is conspiracy amongst a number of persons who surrender their will to the decision of a majority, to fleece the public, I want to know what honorable member will stand up in defence of it?
– We have told the Attorney-General already that we favour preventing that.
– Then the honorable member will vote for it. Under another provision, any person who, as a trust or - as an officer, member, or agent of a trust, does any act or thing with the design of destroying or injuring any Australian industries by means of unfair competition with respect to such trade or commerce, is guilty of an indictable offence under this Act.
Can anybody object to that provision?
– Who will decide it ?
– A jury, not a board. It will be decided by the ordinary tribunals of the country, and I say that no fairer means of dealing with the matter can be devised. It is the means that has been adopted in America.
– The last four lines of the clause are not contained in the American Act
– I distinctly stated that the portion of the provision which relates to the destruction of industries is not contained in the Sherman Act. I wish to know whether any person is justified in entering into a combination to destroy Australian industries, and thus to get the public at his mercy. I now come to the next clause, which provides -
– Who will decide that?
– A Judge and jury- the Court. There is no political interference there.
– No, because this relates to the local man.
– I do not know why the honorable and learned member should be so excited ; it is not in keeping with his usual demeanour.
– It is because the Government proposals are so differential.
– Iwish to emphasize the point that this Bill does not make anything criminal which is not found to be to the detriment of the public. Practically this portion of the Bill is aimed at conspiracy to defraud’ the public, or to destroy industries. We come now to the question of aiding and abetting. I think that it was the honorable member for North Sydney who said he could not understand how we were going to carry out the provisions of clause 12. Precisely the same point was raised in connexion with the Commerce Bill. It was then explained that the act therein aimed at is an act committed in Australia. If a man in Australia commits an act in furtherance of something done outside, in defiance of this law, he will be liable. Clause 13 provides a civil remedy. The AttorneyGeneral, acting for the whole Commonwealth, may go to the Court, and say, “ Something is going on in contravention of this Act. We do not wish to resort to criminal proceedings; we ask the Court to decide that that of which we complain is in contravention of the Act, and we appeal toit to stop it.” There is no question of the Minister stepping in to decide the matter. It is to be threshed out in open Court. Could anything be fairer? Clause 13 is based on the Sherman Act. Whilst we provide for criminal liability, and the proper power of prevention to be vested in the Court, at the instance of the Attorney-General, we recognise that individuals may be irreparably injured. It may be that a powerful capitalistic company can come into the country, and crush local producers or manufacturers. In that event the penalty is to be upon the wrong-doers, by the giving of treble damages, just as it is provided by the Sherman Act. Such an undertaking takes the chance of ousting the local market, and obtaining an enormous advantage; let it run the risk of incurring severe penalties if it be found out. Following the example of the Sherman Act, we provide that treble damages may be recovered. Persons guilty of these practices will not be allowed to elude the obligation of giving evidence by the mere fact that that evidence may incriminate them; but they are to be protected in the ordinary way, inasmuch as no answer that they may give can be used against them in a criminal proceeding, with the exception, of course, of a prosecution for perjury.
– He would be a pretty smart man who could prove, to the satisfaction of a Court of Justice, that he suffered direct damage.
– That may be so, but during the progress of the debate on the Trade Marks Bill, the honorable and learned member for Wannon cited a case of Loewe and Company versus Lawlor and Others, which was brought under the Sherman Act, with the object of securing treble damages. I was not able to discover the report of the ultimate judgment.
– I took it to be the statement, not of the honorable and learned member for Wannon,’ but of some one else who had supplied him with information.
– That is a most uncharitable remark. I produced documents, and gave references from the writ.
– We have not been able to find the judgment.
– All that we know is that a case was taken.
– We have the statement of the honorable and learned member for Wannon that judgment was given in favour of the plaintiffs, but that they had not been able to collect the damages In conclusion, I would point out that we have heard from honorable members opposite that they are all very anxious to put down monopolies, and repress trusts ; that they are all very anxious to help Australian industries. I respect their desires, and accept their assurances that their intentions are strictly honorable, but I hope that they will not be too remote. I hope that my honorable friends opposite will endeavour to give effect to those intentions at the earliest opportunity. In view of the circumstances to which I have alluded, the Government feel that they would not be justified in going to their Christmas dinner, leaving a great number of their fellow-Australians, perhaps, with the prospect of not having one themselves. I believe that this is a great measure. I do not for one moment suggest that we cannot, in Committee, evolve amendments here and there which will improve it. We are here to suggest and improve. But I do say that the scope, the frame, and the central principle of the Bill are distinctly loyal to, and that I believe that they have the approbation of, the people of Australia. Although the particular wording of this Bill has not been before the country, the essence of it is well known. Time after time, Governments have promised an AntiTrust Bill, and we all know the general scope of anti-trust legislation. We have not departed very far from the Sherman Act, with the general provisions of which every one is familiar. Where we have departed from it, we have gone in the direction of providing less drastic remedies, except, as I have pointed out, in regard to the destruction of Australian industries.
– Does not the Sherman Act protect the small companies against a combine of big local companies ?
– As far as I am able to understand the trend of the honorable member’s question, I cannot say that I remember any such provision; but I shall look into the matter. There is no time like the present to do these things, and, on behalf of the Government, I would sincerely and earnestly appeal to honorable members to use their best endeavours to expedite the passing of the Bill into Committee. It appears, if we are to accept the assurance of honorable members opposite, that there is an unanimous desire to protect Australian industries, and to repress the aggression of trusts upon the people of Australia. But, in the absence of such a measure as this, the vista we have before us is not pleasant to contemplate; and unless we meet it manfully and fearlessly - honorable members may call it drastically, if they will - our motto for the future will be not “Advance Australia,” but “God help Australia.”
– I must compliment the Ministry on having at this early stage in the debate put forth their great protagonist, the Attorney-General, to defend this Bill. They evidently consider there is some necessity for the careful and elaborate argument which the honorable and learned gentleman always brings to bear on questions ofthis sort, since he has been induced to interpose so early in the discussion of a Bill of which he is not in charge. Whilst complimenting the honorable and learned gentleman upon the ability which he always displays in the matter of exposition and research, I regret that for the sake of strengthening some weak arguments in support of our being precipitate in this matter, he should have appealed to considerations of prejudice. Such a line of action could not strengthen the case for a good Bill. The honorable and learned gentleman said that this was the first Bill presented to an Australian Legislature which called upon honorable members to range themselves as the friends or foes of Australian enterprise. Surely the honorable and learned gentleman is not going to prejudice the discussion of a far-reaching measure - and so he described this Bill - by saying that those who may happen in a deliberative assembly to differ from him as to its expediency must necessarily be the foes of Australian industry ! Such a statement is scarcely in keeping with a debate in a Federal Assembly. To my mind, it is hitting below the belt, and is hardly worthy of a member of a Commonwealth Ministry. To some extent, the honorable and’ learned gentleman maligned, unintentionally, no doubt, the great race from which ‘ we have descended, when he said that all our competitors cared for Australia was represented by the profit that they could make out of it. If we are to be told that those in the British Possessions, who compete with us, are actuated only by such’ selfish feelings towards Australia, what is ali this cant about Imperialism, and as to extending the range of sympathy throughout the British Empire, by establishing trade relations at the mutual instance of the various citizens of that Empire? I am sorry that the Attorney-General at the inception of the debate attempted to poison the wells of controversy by introducing such an exceedingly strong appeal to prejudice.
– Does the honorable and learned member think that people outside are led to compete with us from patriotic reasons ?
– I make no assertion, one way or another ; but it is not reasonable to try to impute an exceptional degree of want or patriotism to those who happen on a far-reaching measure of this kind to differ from the members of the Ministry. The Attorney-General has said that the Bill is a far-reaching one. If that be so, the necessity for it must have been foreseen long since. If its necessity has arisen only within the last few weeks, surely I am entitled to say that we are asked to be exceedingly precipitate in placing a measure of this compass upon the statute-book in the dying hours of the session. The excuse for doing so is not’ to be found in one of the closing allegations of the Attorney-General to the effect that the question of whether certain people are to enjoy their Christmas dinners de pends upon the passing of this Bill. If that does not savour of the introduction of cant and prejudice into this debate, I do not know what would. If the measure is a far-reaching one, the conditions which justified its introduction must have been foreseen long since. The honorable gentleman might have introduced a measure at a time when it could have been carefully considered and debated under that full light of publicity “which is so necessary when commercial and mercantile interests are affected, and when proper attention could have been given in Committee to the points arising out of the various clauses. I call it scarcely less than fatuity to try to place this measure on the statutebook between now and Christmas Eve. The mere attempt is unfair to the interests affected, and to the great mercantile public. The Attorney-General referred to the pressure responsible for this measure as due to a recent reduction in the prices of the machines imported by the International Harvester Company. I wish to weigh with an unprejudiced mind any case presented to this House,’ and am, therefore, desirous that the matter shall be put before us in all its completeness, with the statement of all considerations, pro and con, and after the report of the Tariff Commission has been made, so that we may do justice to all the interests concerned. I have not hitherto heard a case presented by the local manufacturers against the International Harvester Company or other importers, which justifies me in voting for the Bill. According to statements made a few months ago in the public press, the importations of the International Harvester Company into Australia were equal to about only onetenth of trie importations of this class of agricultural machinery from other parts of the British Dominions. It was stated in a letter published in the press that the Massey-Harris Company, whose competition is most complained of by the local manufacturers, sends’ about 90 per cent, of the agricultural machinery which comes here.
– The International Harvester Company sends more harvesters than are sent by the Massey-Harris Company.
– I have looked carefully into this matter, and read what has been published on the subject, (arid I shall, therefore, endeavour to recall one or two points which have struck nic in the corre- spondence, as a corrective of the statements of the Attorney-General. He mentioned that the International Harvester Company had reduced its prices from £&i to ^70 for one machine, to £60 for two, and to £50 for three, and a similar statement was made in a letter which appeared in the Melbourne Age of the 13th October. That letter was followed immediately by one from the International Harvester Company, in which it was pointed out that they had for some time previously been selling their machines at from £70 to ^75 each. They explained that their reason for doing so was that the combine’s price was too high, and that the small manufacturers, whose machinery was imperfect, compared with theirs, had also been selling at the lower prices; and I have seen that statement repeated in many quarters. The writers very properly asked why large manufacturers, who might be supposed to have the best kind of machinery in their works, could not make a reduction in price similar to that of the small local manufacturers, whose machinery might not be quite so good.
– A small manufacturer at Corowa, in my electorate, was selling his machines for j£8o each.
– Some extraordinary things happen in the honorable gentleman’s electorate at times. I am dealing with the newspaper dialectics only for what they are worth, and, in my opinion, the counter statement to which I have referred is of as much importance as the original statement quoted by the Attorney-General. He referred, towards the close of his speech, to the Bill itself, and it is a pity that honorable members have not a month or two in which to consider the real bearing of its clauses. We are all, as were those who walk the torrid pavements of a certain region, which I hope none of us will reach hereafter, actuated by good intentions; but the public expect something more. They require a certain, amount of scrutiny to be given to the machinery proposed to carry out any policy, even though that policy may be acknowledged to have been sent by Providence itself. Under clause 14, local manufacturers are to be permitted, not only to prevent foreign, manufacturers from competing with them, but to recover treble damages. I interjected, when the AttorneyGeneral was speaking, that the Courts award damages only where the bad results of certain actions complained of can be directly traced, and it will require great ingenuity to prove that any local manufacturer, has suffered such special harm by the importation of foreign machinery as to justify the awarding to him of treble damages. That surmise, I ‘think, is justifiable, in view of the fact that, so far as I know - though I have not made exhaustive researches - in only one or two instances, since the Sherman Act was passed in 1:890, have proceedings been instituted under it to recover treble damages, and they included the case referred to by the honorable and learned member for Wannon. I hope, therefore, that our friends, the manufacturers of this country, will not be duped, either by this plausible clause, or by the more plausible explanation of it which has been given. It is a little too bad that the Bill should have been framed to strike a blow at an import trade about 70 or 80 per cent, of which comes from -British Possessions, and mostly from the mother country. They have acted differently in New Zealand. That country is frequently referred to here as an example to us, .and Ministers, not having much power of initiation, are very fond of copying New Zealand legislation, relying upon the democratic reputation of Mr. Seddon to get it passed. They do not, however, copy that gentleman’s virtues. The Minister has adopted only the debatable portions of his policy, and left the rest to the winds. The New Zealand Act, I think, does not apply to British goods. If that is so, our Act has about three times its compass, and directly affects a much larger importation.
– What does it matter whether the combine is a Yankee or a British one.?
– If the merits of “the Bill are so clear that it does not need consideration, there is no more to be said. But it seems to me a ‘ strange course to provide against evils which are merely surmised. We have not been given proof of the need for this legislation, and have not even waited for the report of the Tariff Commission. It has been introduced on the mere conjecture that a certain state of things may arise, and continue in existence for a few weeks or months. To meet such an occurrence, we are asked to practically suspend the operation of the Tariff, and to substitute prohibition for the range of duties which was elaborated after eleven months of debate in the first session of this Parliament. I have such a regard for the true Imperialism at which we should aim, and such a feeling of kinship with the people of the British Islands, that I hesitate to agree to a measure to which only a few hours’ consideration can be given, prohibiting, their importations. The Bill is not only unfair to the British people with whom we are allied in blood, but it is also unfair to our local merchants. There are many merchants who are purely distributors. They do not necessarily purchase all their machinery from local manufacturers, and it has been saidthat one of the causes why the competition of which we have heard so much has sprung up within the last four or five years, has been that some importers have found it more economical to manufacture abroad and send their goods here than to purchase machines locally made. We should consider these large mercantile distributors, whose businesses extend throughout Australia. But it is proposed that, on the mere certificate of the Comptroller-General of Customs a Board may be appointed by the Minister, which may suspend importations, without any limit as to time, because it cannot be compelled by mandamus, or in any other way, to present a report, and may therefore delay reporting as long as it likes. The Minister thus has power to prohibit importation, or to allow it only subject to such conditions as he may think fit. I object to the delegation of this tremendous power to the Minister, who will require to be almost purity itself, and to have a marvellous capacity for recognising the honesty of others, as well as an immense grip of the conditions of manufacture and importation, to properly exercise it. The effect of its exercise may be to practically ruin some of our local distributors. I use the word “ distributors,” because some honorable members who are supporting the Government get their back up when “ importers “ are mentioned. They seem to regard the benign dispensation of Providence which makes the abundance of one nation minister to thescarcity of another, by the interchange of products, as baneful in its operation, and, as such, a thing to be put an end to. We should pay some attention to the interests of those whom, in recognition of this prejudice, I prefer to term distributors, rather than importers, and to the interests of the general consumers, who have not been consulted in regard to this measure, although they comprise the great body of the electors.
I admit that the manufacturers must be fairly considered, but the consumers, who far outnumber them, and particularly the consumers of machinery in connexion with the primary industries, are entitled to be remembered. The conditions of the primary industries are not beyond challenge. Any one who looks at the records of production in the Argentine Republic will see that right through the whole range of our products that country is becoming our dangerous competitor. Even in merino wool of high quality, the Argentine is becoming a fairly successful competitor.
– The Argentine wool is nothing like the Australian wool in quality.
– It has been stated, on good authority, that it is, but I da not wish to be led into a discussion upon that point. All I wish to point out is that the Argentine may largely challenge us in the markets of the world, and particularly in the markets of the British Empire, to which this Bill is mainly directed.
– In what way?
– In its operation. The bulk of the imports which will be affected by this Bill come from British Possessions.
– The bulk of the trusts are not in Great Britain.
– No; but Canada is a British Possession, and there are trusts and combinations there.I have heard some complaints made against the MasseyHarris Company, which is a Canadian concern.
– It is the International Harvester Combine, and not the Massey-Harris Company.
– It has been stated” that the Massey-Harris Company is connected with that trust.
– No; it was stated to have joined a local trust.
– At all events, the competition of the Massey-Harris Company has been largely complained of, and the Bill aims at stopping, not only American imports, but also at putting an end to the competition of men who are British subjects like ourselves. I say that the natural corollary of all this legislation will be a series of provisions for the protection of the local consumers. The conditions of local trade, as well as the conditions of the import trade, must weigh with us. It is not enough for us to show that the imports challenge local products. We must also demonstrate that the returns upon the capital employed by local producers are not sufficient, and, further, that the remuneration given to the workers is fairly proportionate to the profits derived from the enterprise. We must satisfy ourselves that the profits derived from local industry are not too large before we destroy that competition which tends to keep prices at a fair level. The logical result of passing such legislation will be a measure for the investigation of the profits of those who have to compete with the imports which it is proposed to prohibit. We ought to be able to ascertain the amount of wages paid and the total value of the products, the return obtained upon the capital invested, and also whether the conditions are such as to lead to that gradual perfecting of machinery that is going on throughout the world. Whilst we limit competition from outside, we should see that the perfection of the Australian product is not seriously affected by our policy. I do not wish to say anything in disparagement of local products, because many of them are no doubt excellent; but it seems to me that a wholesome check is imposed even upon business men of the highest character by fair competition from outside. No honorable member will deny that it is essential that our primary producers should be able to purchase the machinery they require at fair prices. Prima facie, if you diminish competition, you increase the power, and by consequence the likelihood of unfair prices being charged. The effort made by American Legislatures is to increase competition, to restrain attempts to limit competition, and to prevent the levying of high charges upon the community. We may talk as much as we like about importers destroying competition, but that evil has not assumed such magnitude amongst us as to justify the precipitate determination of this question. If we limit competition from outside, prima facie we shall increase local prices. That argument may not be very convincing, but it indicates one of the points from which those who are opposed to excessive haste in this’ matter view the question. I object to the tremendous powers which it is proposed to confer upon the Executive. This is a most vicious development of Australian legislation, for which this Parliament is largely responsible. We are delegating to others many of the powers which the electors expect us to exercise. If honorable members will look at clause 3, they will see that it is provided that the industries to be affected by this measure are to be left to the decision of the Comptroller-General. Instead of following, the example afforded by the New Zealand Act, which has a very restrictive schedule, limiting its scope, the Minister proposes to place it in the power of the Comptroller-General of Customs to say what industries shall be brought under the protection of the measure. Unfair competition is defined as having, reference to- those Australian industries the preservation of which in the opinion of the Comptroller-General or the Tribunal (which has to determine any matter under this Act) as the case may be, is advantageous to the Commonwealth.
The word ‘ ‘ tribunal “ is used there to some extent to make the clause more palatable, but the power of initiative does not lie with the tribunal. That rests entirely with the Comptroller-General. The Minister is empowered to appoint a Board, and the action upon the report of that Board will depend upon the Executive. -It is proposed by clause 3 to surrender an enormous amount of power over which we should 1 etain control, even though we do not desire to exercise it at once. The clause pretends to give the power of initiative to ;he tribunal which is to be appointed, but it does nothing of the kind. Clause 5 provides that, whenever the ComptrollerGeneral has reason to believe - and no one can challenge his belief - that any person is importing goods that may be sold in unfair competition with Australian goods he may certify accordingly. The word “unfair “ opens up a very wide question. All those considerations to which I have referred, such as the fair returns obtained upon the investment of local capital, the conditions of labour, the proportion of the total profits paid to labour, and other matters, should be inquired into. The conditions of production and exchange, so far as external commerce is concerned, should also be examined before the ComptrollerGeneral decides that certain competition is unfair. But he has arbitrary power conferred upon him, which he can exercise without any guidance or reason. If we do not mean to convey that, it will be necessary for us to insure that inquiries such as I have suggested are made. The Comptroller-General will then have to enter upon avenues of inquiry, along which he will have to travel far before he can find a firm footing. Upon receiving a report from him, the Minister will appoint a Board, and immediately the importation of the goods in question, except on such conditions as he may prescribe, will cease. Such action may involve, not only the importers, but also the distributers, in very heavy loss. So far as I am aware, there is no precedent for legislation such as that now proposed. Under clause 4, the unfairness of the competition is assumed, practically for all purposes, unless the contrary can be shown. It is assumed, under sub-clause 2, io exist not only for the purposes of the Comptroller-General in giving a certificate, but also for the purposes of the report of the Board. There is no limitation of the effect of sub-clause 2 merely to the discretion of the Comptroller. Therefore, unless the importers could show that their competition was not unfair, the Board could report at once, without hearing evidence, that it was unfair. I do not think that that is a proper power to vest in the Board., It is certainly repugnant to all the principles which should govern judicial bodies in arriving at : their conclusions. Unless the Board can be satisfied by evidence - which may not be easily procurable - because, say, an American exporter could not bring witnesses here except at very great expense - that the competition is not unfair, they can at once report to the Minister that it is unfair. A Canadian or American exporter would find it very difficult to prove, on the comparison of the conditions of production and the rates of wages paid litre with those prevailing in America, that his prices were not unfair. Then, again, the Bill makes no exception in favour of reasonably lowering the prices of commodities, or for that disorganization of industry which may “reasonably be expected to occur under the conditions of international trade. It assumes that the effects of the ordinary conditions of exchange must be baneful to an industry. That is the prima facie assumption, whereas we know as a matter of fact that there is no local trade which will not be affected, more or less, by large exports from other countries. This Bill assumes that competitive imports tend to make the conditions of labour unfair, to decrease employment, and to unduly diminish the profits of capital, and makes the rebuttal of the assumption in cases difficult. It is therefore repugnant to British justice. Reference has been made to American legislation, but on looking at the Sherman Act, I can find no provision which is aimed against attempts to lower prices.
The Sherman Act of 1890 is intended to protect trade and commerce against unlawful restraints and monopolies.
– That is to say, it is aimed against interference with trade.
– Yes. The Bill, however, will result in the diminution of competition and in an enhancement of prices. The effect of the first portion of this Bill is directly the opposite of the American Act. Act No. 570, section 73, of the United States Statutes deals with combinations and contracts of- the class mentioned in this Bill.- It refers to -
Combinations or contracts between persons or corporations, either of whom is engaged in importing any article from any foreign country into the United States, and when such combination, conspiracy, trust, agreement, or contract is intended to operate in restraint of lawful trade or free competition in lawful trade, or commerce, or to increase the market price in any part of the United States of any manufacture into which such imported article enters or is intended to enter.
That section shows the distinction in objects between American legislation and the Bill ; the one being against enhancement of prices through artificial trade limitations, and the other against the lowering of prices through competition assumed to be unfair. That is the language of the American Act, which, as I say, is altogether different in character from the Bill before us. There is only one Act with which I am familiar which contains a provision in regard to the lowering of prices. It is a State Act which was passed in Arkansas, and it forbids any act being done which would tend to advance, reduce, or control prices, or the cost to the producer or to the consumer of any product or article. In Tiedeman’s work on State and Federal Control of Personal Property. Vol. 1, which was published this year or last year, the general principles underlying the American Acts are stated to be -
First, that the act of entering into such combination or contract is itself an actionable conspiracy, which is punishable criminally ot actionable civilly according to the provisions of the particular statute, and, secondly, that all contracts, agreements, or combinations which have the purpose or effect of restraining trade and suppressing competition are illegal whether the restraint was reasonable or unreasonable - the restraint of trade be:ng in the direction of the diminution of competition so as to enhance prices. I would further point out that our powers of legislation in regard to internal matters are exceedingly limited. In America there are State as well as Federal laws dealing with’ such matters. There, the Acts, which are directed against trusts, are chiefly State Acts. Since allusion has been made to the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, I should like to refer the Attorney-General to a decision given in connexion with the American Sugar Trust. In the case of the United States v. E. C. Knight, 156 U.S. page 1, a question arose as to the “Federal power to control the operations of the Sugar Trust in America. As bearing upon that question, I have made the following extract from the opinion of the Court : -
In order to give Federal jurisdiction to a Court it must be held that the article does not become a part of Inter-State commerce until it has started from one State to another
That is a very far-reaching decision. The operation of these Acts is nearly always local. In Australia it would be ivery easy for an internal trust to establish independent’ trusts in the different States, and so evade the Federal law. We know, from the broken package case in America, that when an article once gets into the stream of interchange between the States, it becomes subject to Federal control. But when its transit ceases, and the package is broken, it is no longer subject to Federal control. Consequently, I cannot see, even if we amend this Bill, how we can do more than touch the Colonial Sugar Refining Company in relation to its exchanges between the States.
– In the case to which the honorable and learned member refers, there was a dissent by Mr. Justice Harlan, and his opinion, has since been upheld in the Addystone Pipe case.
– It is clearly laid down by all writers that the Federal jurisdiction over commerce does not begin until an article has reached the stream of interchange between the States. But after it has reached its destination it ceases to be under Federal jurisdiction from the moment the package is broken. Consequently, the main principle which I deduce from the quotation I have given is not affected by any decision such as that to which the AttorneyGeneral has referred. Section 1 of an Act which was passed in New York in 1893 says : -
Every contract or combination in the form of trusts or otherwise made after the passing of this Act, whereby the competition in the State of New York in the supply or the price of any article of common use in the said State for the support of life and health may be restrained or prevented for the purpose of advancing prices, is hereby declared illegal.
Clause 10 of this Bill, which deals with restraints on trade between the States or with foreign countries, is an exceptional one. I think that it is susceptible of amendment. In adding the final words to that clause, which render it penal for a trust to do anything which may have the effect of injuring Australian industries^ we are opening up possibilities which were certainly not contemplated by the framers of the American legislation. In” the earlier part of the Bill there is no provision made to protect small producers against internal competition or State monopolies. These are the men who, prior to the establishment of the International Harvester Company, reduced the prices to the consumer. They are not protected by this Bill against the State combination, which may completely destroy them.
– That is a State matter. We cannot do everything.
– So far as the public have had an opportunity of judging this Bill, they imagine that its scope really extends to the protection of all manufactures, whereas in its operation it will chiefly protect the larger men against competition, whether fair or unfair. I have no desire to trespass any further upon the attention of honorable members, but I think I have adduced some arguments which tell against the too hasty passing of this Bill, and against precipitate action on our part. My own feeling is that the evil has not arisen. At any rate, I would prefer to deal with the matter six months hence in the fuller light which may be shed upon it by the well-considered reports of the Tariff Commission.
-It is a pity that a very important proposal of this kind should be brought before us at this stage of the session. The AttorneyGeneral has stated that the ideas embodied in it have been before the public for months, and that the people have been demanding a. measure of this character for some time. If honorable members will cast their minds back to the first occasion upon which an Anti-Trust Bill was promised in this Parliament, and if they will examine the measure before us, they will at once realize that a complete change has taken place in the ideas of those who asked for it. An Anti-Trust Bill was promised in the first instance by the right honorable member for Adelaide, and it was intended to prevent the formation of local combines and trusts. It was admitted that the Tariff would probably foster the creation of those bodies. The Government of the day, which comprised the present Minister of Trade and Customs and the Prime Minister, promised that the Bill would be introduced at an early date. Their pledge in that connexion was not fulfilled, and no attempt would have been made to deal with this question but for the fierce controversy that has arisen over the. importation of harvesters. It is an unfortunate fact that the largest manufacturer of harvesters in Victoria has been able to exercise so much political influence. He has been able to exert sufficient influence to get the valuation of harvesters raised at the Customs House, and also to precipitate the introduction of this particular measure. I am not one of those who object to the passing of a Bill which will deal rationally with trusts and monopolies. When Henry Demerest Lloyd, the well-known American writer upon this subject, was in Australia some years ago, I had the pleasure of many conversations with him, and I was in possession of his books when there were only two or three of them in the Commonwealth. I have taken great interest in the literature bearing on American trusts, and have paid particular attention to the question.’ It has agitated the public mind for some time. I venture to say that the means adopted in this Bill are not such as will adequately control local industries ; on the contrary, they will increase their power. They will lead to local trusts springing up in many branches of industry in which they are at present unknown, and will press most injuriously upon the producers of Australia. The measure with which we are now dealing owes its origin to the harvester incident, and it is my intention to devote a few minutes to a re-statement of that matter, in order to show that many unjustifiable aspersions have been cast upon the importers of the machines. I wish to show that they have been subjected to a great many misrepresentations. Only a few days ago a well-known Victorian senator journeyed to the Mallee and the Wimmera, and delivered an address at Warracknabeal, and also two lectures at Horsham, which is within my electorate, in support of theimposition of an exceptionally heavy duty on harvesters. On the following Saturday the farmers of the Horsham district held a meeting to con sider the question, and only seven were in favour of his policy. That does not lead one to believe that the Canadian exporters of harvesters have driven terror into the hearts of our farmers. Notwithstanding an exposition of the situation by a keen debater and an experienced orator, resolutions were passed against the imposition of an additional duty. I have been inundated with resolutions passed by many of my constituents, urging me to oppose any measure likely to restrict the importation of harvesters, or to increase the duty upon them.
– And these are the men who use them.
– That is so. I am one of those who believe that? the opinions of those who use these machines should have far more weight with us than the opinions of the individuals who are brought together by the ringing of a bell in one of the suburbs, and who would probably not be able to distinguish between a harvester and a hay rake. I have received the following letter from the Natimuk Farmers’ Association: -
Dear Sir, - I have been instructed by my association to write you as their valued representative - “ That this association is vigorously opposed to any additional duty being levied on harvesters, and that they thoroughly appreciate your splendid work in safeguarding the farming interests, and sincerely assure you of their continued support.”
I have referred to this communication to show that the farmers of one of our important wheat-growing centres are strongly opposed to the imposition of an increased duty on harvesters. I have also received the following letter from the secretary of the Vectis East Farmers’ Association, which comprises many of the men who settled on the Walmer Estate, purchased by the State Government when the honorable member for Echuca held office as Minister of Lands, and I have no hesitation in saying that they are all of a fine type: -
Dear Sir, - At the meeting of our association on the 7th inst., a motion was passed to the effect that this association was opposed to any increase of duty on imported harvesters, and that you be asked to use your influence in trying to prevent the duty from being increased.
I have also received the following letter from Lower Norton, another wheat-growing centre, near Horsham : -
Dear Sir, - I have the honour to inform you that at a representative meeting of farmers in this district, the following resolution was carried unanimously : - “ That this meeting strenuously protests against any increase of duty being placed on harvesters and harvesting machinery, and that the resolution be forwarded to Mr. Robinson, our member.”
I propose to read to the House the following extract from a local newspaper: -
At the last meeting of the Murtoa Farmers’ Association, the president, Mr. Nowotna, brought forward the matter of the proposed increase of duty on harvesting machinery, and during the discussion which followed he mentioned that some years ago he had been a shareholder in the McKay Company, who used to have their machines built at a cost of about£50 for each machine, and he thought that an extra duty on “the imported article would simply keep up the price of machines without giving them a chance of choosing their own makes. He therefore moved, says the Dunmunkle Standard, “ That this association protest against a further increase of duties on such articles.” The motion was seconded by Mr. Degenhardt, and carried.
These letters and reports should show honorable members that there is a feeling, at all events in some parts of the country, that the agitation which has been so skilfully conducted, and so ably supported in the press, in favour of the prohibition of the importation of harvesters, should not be encouraged. It is hardly necessary for me to mention that every one of these letters was entirely unsolicited by me. Most of the resolutions were passed without my knowledge, and most of the correspondents to whom I have referred are personally unknown to me. The unfortunate individuals who are responsible for the importation of harvesters have been under a very severe fire from certain quarters since the 20th April last. On that day Mr. Moore, manager for T. Robinson and Company, manufacturers of agricultural implements, carrying on business at Spottiswoode, was examined before the Tariff Commission. Mr. McKay gave evidence a few days later on. Since then a vigorous campaign has been conducted against the importation of harvesters, and it is a singular fact that no opportunity has been afforded the importers to put their case before the public. At the time that the Customs Department took the extraordinary action in connexion with harvesters that is now a matter of history, there was on the file of the Department the draft of a letter to be written to the MasseyHarris Company, asking for an explanation of certain matters. But some zealous individual in the Department wrote across it, in pencil, “ Hold over until Mr. Smart has seen Mr. McKay.” The letter was to remain in abeyance until the axe-grinder, Mr. McKay, had had another opportunity to speak against the importers. The departmental action in regard to the duty on harvesters was taken without any explanation being demanded from the Massey-Harris Company.
– The incident to which the honorable member refers occurred before I took office.
– I do not wish to attribute blame to the Minister. The Department took action without asking for any explanation from the importers, and although charges of unfair competition were made against them as far back as April last, they have not yet been afforded an opportunity to state their case before the Tariff Commission. It is true that the Commission paid them rather a back-handed compliment by suggesting that they should give evidence before it in Adelaide. Not being absolute idiots, they refused to do so. They urged that their evidence, like that of their opponents, should be given in Melbourne. I am now informed that in January next - after a lapse of nine months - they are to be afforded an opportunity to go before the Commission in this city. I do not say that an opportunity to state their case has been wilfully denied them by the Tariff Commission. The trouble has possibly occurred owing to a faulty arrangement of work. But we are now asked to pass legislation very much in the dark, inasmuch as the importers have not had a chance to express their view of the matter. On the other hand, the campaign started by Mr. McKay to protect his business against foreign competition has been conducted for many months with great skill and ability. Accusations have been hurled against the Massey-Harris Company and the International Harvester Company, and at a time when the. public mind has been strongly inflamed by ex forte statements this Bill has been introduced. In the closing hours of the session, we are asked to agree to it, without having had an opportunity to give it reasonable and proper consideration. We have been asked to proceed with its consideration on the day following the Ministerial explanation of its provisions. The Attorney-General, striking one of his heroic attitudes, declared that the Bill was to divide the friends and foes of Australia. That being so, no one can deny its importance. I have been anxious to check it, and to compare it with the legislation of America and other countries, but it was only yesterday that I was able to secure a copy of the Sherman Act, whilst the New Zealand Act reached me only this afternoon. Most of the books and papers dealing with this subject are practically under the control of the Government, and when they desire to use them, it is exceedingly difficult for private members to obtain them. I do not wish to blame the Ministry for this ; they wished, of course, to have the use of these books, to enable them to prepare the Bill. But I hold that honorable members should have been afforded a reasonable opportunity to study similar laws passed by other Legislatures, in order that they might determine in what respect the Bill differs from existing legislation in other parts of the world.
– The moment I had finished with the books to which the honorable and learned member refers, I returned them.
– I do not blame the honorable gentleman. But it is hardly fair to expect an honorable member who has obtained possession of the Sherman Act, and the decisions thereunder, about three hours after the speech made by the Minister in moving the second reading of this Bill, to be able to debate these proposals in detail. The consideration of a measure of this kind must extend over not a few hours, but several days. We know that its preparation has occupied several weeks. Its approach has been heralded by paragraphs in the newspapers, and it was only placed in the hands of the printer on Monday or Tuesday last. The Bill was introduced and explained to us only yesterday by the Minister of Trade and Customs, while a memorandum relating to it appeared in. this morning’s Age, and the Attorney-General made a speech on it’ this afternoon. Is it fair to ask honorable members to pass it absolutely without consideration? In no Parliament of the world would legislation of this kind be brought forward as this has been; and in that opinion I am supported by an excellent article appearing in this evening’s Herald, a newspaper which cannot be said to be unfriendly to the present Government, since none has been more eulogistic of the Prime Minister and the Attorney-General than it has been. It points out that for the Government to press the Bill through the House at this time would justify charges of indecent haste in dealing with a very important measure, and it shows that if a similar Bill were introduced in the House of Commons, or in any other deliberative assembly, it would be referred to a. Select Committee, in order that its provisions might be thoroughly investigated, and those likely to be affected might be heard. The article goes on to state that. -
It is incumbent on Parliament to look most closely to the means by which it is intended to give effect to the principle, with a view of ensuring, so far as that is possible, (1) that no needless restriction is placed on trade ; (2) that interests affected by the Bill are fairly treated. No opportunity is given for that. Honorable members have not had an opportunity to properly consider the probable effects of the clauses of this measure, or to compare it with similar legislation in other parts of the world. Outside wild-cat Legislatures like that of Arkansas, a measure of this kind would not be similarly treated in any other part of the world. A reason for the introduction of the Bill may be found in the attempt by local manufacturers of harvesters to prevent the importation of such machines from abroad. Material facts are being suppressed, and a skilful selection of misstatements has been made, to induce the public to believe that the total exclusion of foreign-made harvesters is necessary to prevent the destruction of the local industry. But if it is reasonable to prohibit the importation of harvesters, it is equally fair and reasonable to prohibit the importation of all implements used by farmers. We know, from the sworn evidence of those connected with the local manufacture of harvesters, that they desire to absolutely prohibit importations, although they have had to admit that they themselves have combined to keep up prices in Australia. Both Mr. McKay and Mr. James Moore have made that admission. It is further admitted that the effect of the combination was to considerably increase the price of agricultural machinery to the farmers.
– What was the increase?
– Certain machines made by Martin and Company were being sold at from £60 to£70 each, and the combination increased their price to £81 each. This is the evidence of Mr. Moore, when before the Tariff Commission - question 1 5841 - . . How do you put your case? - Briefly, I claim that a duty should be imposed which would cause the importation of stripperharvesters to be discontinued.
These gentlemen desire to prevent the importationof harvesters altogether, although in May last they could not declare that they were suffering loss because of the importation of foreign-made machines. This is some more of Mr. Moore’s evidence - question. 1 5901 a -
Can you say, of your own knowledge, whether other firms are suffering loss from the operation of the Tariff? - None that I know of are ‘losing.
Then again - question 161 75 -
Are you getting no more than the same rate of profit now that you did before? - Perhaps a little more.
Not only have the local manufacturers not suffered, but they are doing, better than they were. Why, therefore, should the importation of harvesters be prohibited? Until quite recently, the imported machines were sold at the same price as the locallymanufactured machines. Then a number of local manufacturers, headed by McKay, commenced to agitate for the prohibition of the importation of harvesters, and made a number of misleading statements in the endeavour to blacken their trade rivals. The International Harvester Company of America, thinking that it was not good enough to persist in keeping up prices, chiefly for the benefit of McKay and Co., and be blackguarded by that firm, determined to leave the combine, and’ to sell its machines at what it thought to’ be a fair profit, allowing McKay and others to shift for themselves. It therefore reduced its price to .£70, which is more than has been charged by some of the local manufacturers for a similar machine, a fact which is conclusive evidence that the operations of the company are not disastrously affecting the local makers. Mr. Moore gave evidence before the Tariff Commission that, in 1902, Martin and Company were selling stripperharvesters at /”.6o a machine, and in a previous debate in this Chamber I laid on the table a telegram from a constituent of mine at Murtoa, stating that they had quoted to the Farmers’ Union ^70 as the price of a single harvester, with a reduction of 10 per cent, if any farmer, or combination of farmers, took three machines, which would have brought down the price to £6$ each.
– Delivered at Murtoa?
– No; all these prices are free on truck. We have had a howl of anguish from McKay because his profits will be reduced if harvesters are made cheaper to the farmers ; but he will still continue, to make a good profit, and a much larger amount than any honorable member is ever likely to make. If the present com- petition is allowed to continue, farmers -will be able to get machines during next year for between ^70 and ^75, while prices will go down still lower in the future. Tt has been said that the American manufacturers have pirated an Australian invention ; but, as every one knows, it- is impossible to lawfully use patents which are protected in this country, and McKay’s exaggerated statements resolve themselves into this - that the Americans are using time-expired patents. McKay himself, however, does the same, and not a manufacturer in the world could carry on his business if he did not use such patents. Many persons think that, as patentees have had the advantage of the designs of the brains of others, they should not be given a monopoly of any invention, and that view is held by both Socialists and individualists. While I do not agree with it, I admit that any particular patent is merely the culminating result of the efforts of many men, through, perhaps, many centuries. McKay, in the manufacture of his machines, uses timeexpired patents - American, English, and Australian - and, if that is piracy, he is as much guilty of the crime as is the International Harvester Company. The word, however, is an improper one to use in this connexion. Every manufacturer is at liberty to use time-expired patents, and no more blame is attachable to an American firm for doing so than is to be laid to the door of H. V. McKay and Company. I could, if it were relevant, show the House that a certain firm of manufacturers in this city which has been calling out for the prohibition of imported harvesters were once agents for some American machines - disc harrows, I think - and copied those machines so faithfully that certain private marks of the American company were repeated on the copies.
– Would that be affected by the Bill ?
– No ; but it shows that the charge of piracy should not be made by some of those who utter it so glibly and so frequently. We have been told that, unless the importation of American machines is prohibited, 3,000 men will be thrown out of work here. That statement was made in my electorate by Senator Trenwith, and has been made by various public speakers throughout the suburbs. No statement that has been made is more devoid of truth. It is a gross and wicked exaggeration that has been put before the people, with the object of deluding them. At question 15946, Mr. Moore was asked -
Have you any information as to the wages paid by all thedifferent firms in the industry?
Mr. Moore replied
If the 3,000 persons employed in the industry, as alleged, that amount would provide for an average annual wage of only ?50. That, on the face of it, is absurd. The 3,000 employes referred to includes every person engaged in the manufacture of agricultural implements, of whatever kind, and only a fraction of the number would be employed solely in the production of harvesters. Yet the public have been told that 3,000 men would be thrown out of employment, unless the importation of foreign harvesters was prohibited. These statements are indicative of the means which have been adopted to inflame the public mind on this question. They exhibit a reckless disregard of the truth. So far from the local industry having been crushed, we find that there is a very considerable export of locallymanufactured harvesters. Recently the Minister was good enough to inform me that over 400 locally-made harvesters had been exported during the current year. I have no doubt that these figures represent a large increase upon the export of a few years ago, and an industry which is capable of assuming such proportions cannot be said to require much spoon-feeding at the hands of the Legislature. There may be reasons why the Americans can produce machines more cheaply than can the local manufacturers, but it must not be forgotten that, inclusive of the Customs duty of ?5 per machine, the cost of bringing a harvester from Toronto to Melbourne amounts to ?20. The local manufacturers enjoy the full benefit of this enormous protection. I have no objection to that, but I am strongly opposed to a man who enjoys a privilege of that kind - a privilege which none of our farmers can have extended to them - seeking to further exploit our producers. The object of this Bill is to exclude all competition, and if that result were brought about, there would be nothing to prevent halfadozen or a dozen firms in Australia from raising their prices as high as they chose. The manufacturers openly state that their object is to. prevent the importation of harvesters. It would be impossible to discuss this question without raising the fiscal issue. My objection to the proposal of the Government lies in thefact that they are proposing to empower the Minister to exercise powers in regard to the imposition of duties and the prohibition of imports which should be left entirely in the hands of Parliament. All the Minister has to do is to go to the Comptroller-General, and say to him, “ McKay has been biting my ear, and wants the importation of harvesters prohibited.” The Comptroller-General would look into the matter, and decide upon ex parte statements that a prima facie case had been made out. Then the Minister would appoint a Board, of which the honorable member for Melbourne Ports and Mr. McKay might be members, and upon their making their report, the Minister could go to the Cabinet, and with their approval, either prohibit the importation of the harvesters, or subject them to a duty of?25 or?50 per machine. Only a few days ago, honorable members refused to permit the Minister to exercise any such power in regardto the duties on metals and machinery under division VI. a of the Tariff. They decided that the duties should be imposed only by resolution of both Houses, and I amglad to pay that honorable members of the Labour Party took a firm attitude on that question. Customs duties should be increased only by Parliament, acting in the full light of day. If the Bill were passed the only way in which Parliament could override the decision of the Government would be by turning Ministers out of office. There are many reasons, apart from fiscal considerations, which influence honorable members in supporting a Government, and many of them might prefer to submit to what they considered to be an injustice rather than turn a Ministry out of office. If the Bill reaches the Committee stage I trust that we shall take care to provide that no duty shall be increased or prohibition imposed without the consent of Parliament. I would go so far, in the interests of expedition, as to make the action of the Cabinet subject merely to a resolution of both Houses of Parliament. Those who are asking our protection should show us that they are prepared to accord some privileges to those in whose interests they profess to be taking action. I should be prepared to support a provision under which no employer who seeks to prohibit competing imports would be able to place himself beyond the control of the Wages Boards. Before a man could come to Parliament and ask for a special privilege, or even before he approached the Minister and asked for a searching inquiry, he should be called upon to show that he was paying the union or standard rate of wage and employing his men for only eight hours daily. Any man who wishes us to prohibit imports which compete with his products should Show that he has clean hands. He should not ask for special advantages at the expense of our producers, the majority of whom are exposed to the competition of the Indian ryots, the Egyptian fellaheen, and the products of the cheap laws of the United States and Canada, unless he can show that he is paying the full union rate of wage. He should” shOw, further, that he is not making an excessive profit. I am sure that honorable members would not agree to the restriction of imports if it were found that the local manufacturers were underpaying their employes, and were at the same time making such profits as would enable them to pay a good rate of wage after making allowance for a fair return on the capital they had invested. I do not object to the manufacturer making even a very good profit, but I have no sympathy with the man who, in spite of the fact that he is making thousands of pounds per annum, squeals as if only a copper stood between him and destitution. Some of the manufacturers have been very glad to obtain the support of honorable members in connexion with contentious proposals such as those embodied in the Trade Marks Bill, but. so far as I am concerned, they will be called upon to give something in return for any privilege they may obtain at our hands in connexion with the exclusion of imports. They will have to show that they are not merely talking with their tongues in their cheeks when thev say that they are prepared to maintain a fair rate of wage. They will have to furnish genuine proof that they are treating their men properly. I should like to refer to the unfair treatment which is meted out to the two different classes of persons against whom the provisions of the Bill are directed. I am one of those who believe that the fact that a man is an importer furnishes no reason why he should not receive fair play. He should be treated with as much consideration as if he were a. manufacturer. I would ask honorable members to contrast the treatment which is meted out to importers, under clause 4. with that which it is proposed to extend to local trusts under clauses 10 and 11. The importers are to have their cases submitted to a political Board, whereas local trusts have to be proceeded against by ordinary methods of prosecution, or the Attorney-General has to take proceedings to obtain an injunction. In a case of prosecution some one will have to stand the racket of instituting proceedings in the Police Court, and if there is a committal! the defendant will have the advantage of appearing before a Judge and jury, and of” having his case conducted by a skilful advocate. He will have his case adjudicated” upon by a judicial tribunal, whereas the importer will be called upon to appear before a political Board appointed bv the Minister. Under certain circumstances, the importer will have no opportunity to do anything, because the case will ‘ be assumed against him. It is provided in clause 4 -
That may mean anything. A dozen different meanings may be attached to it. What the “ordinary circumstances of trade” are is a question upon which the seventy-five members of this House would express a dozen different opinions. It is to be decided not by a judicial, but by a political tribunal, which is bound to be of a partisan character. Then subclause 2 provides that competition shall be deemed to be unfair, unless the contrary is proved, if the person importing goods, or selling imported goods, is a commercial trust. How will that provision operate? The kerosene supply of the world is practically obtained from two companies - the Standard Oil Company, and the British Shale Transport and Trading Company. One of these firms is a trust, and the other an enormously wealthy company. Under the operation of the Dibbs Tariff, kerosene used to be manufactured in New South Wales. A duty of 6d. per gallon was imposed upon that article, to assist in the establishment of the industry. Will it be possible under this Bill for a manufacturer who may possibly produce enough kerosene to light the houses in one small suburb of Sydney, to approach the Minister and say: “I cannot carry on operations in the face of the competition of these powerful companies. I therefore ask you
– It seems to me that that is possible under this Bill. Are we going to refuse light to residents in the backblocks because a commercial trust for which we are not responsible has control of the kerosene supply ? It appears to me that if the matter be followed to its logical conclusion, the case which I have cited is one which the provisions of this Bill fit to a nicety. There are other examples, which show what an extraordinarily drawn measure this is. If an importer gives too large a remuneration to his travellers, that may constitute an inducement to the Minister to certify that the competition is unfair. Another provision of the Bill states that an importer cannot purchase a cheap lot of goods abroad, because competition shall be deemed to be unfair - if the imported goods have been purchased abroad at prices greatly below their ordinary cost of production where produced, or market price where purchased.
That means that it would be within the power of the Minister to prevent the importation of any line of goods which were sold off in any part of the world. Honorable members who have had the misfortune to invest a few pound’s in mining, know that many a mine has been able to carry on successfully by purchasing machinery from a claim that has proved a. “ duffer. “ Yet any goods imported under similar circumstances would be liable to be “ held up “ at the whim of the Minister and his precious. Board. ‘ On the other hand, the way is paved so nicely for the local trusts that it is practically impossible for them to come under the operations of the Bill. It is admitted that the Colonial Sugar Refining Company will not be affected by it.
– Is there any provision in the Bill which will have the effect of preventing the formation of a local combine?
– If honorable members will refer to the Sherman Act they will see that it contains a general provision that contracts in restraint of trade are void. That Statute also embodies a section, the safeguarded. The literature of America reveals the fact that the best way of dealing with trusts is for the Government to control the means of communication, and to make trade between the States as free as possible. This Bill contains no far-reaching proposal of that kind. On the contrary, it contains a provision which will confer on the Minister power to increase the Tariff without reference to Parliament. The only remedy for an abuse of that power that we possess is the power to turn him out of office. Many of the biggest trusts in Australia will not be. touched by this measure.
– What is to prevent a number of companies forming themselves into a single company instead of into a trust ?
– It seems to me that there is no provision to prevent a number of companies combining to form a single company. For instance, there is nothing to prevent a number of leather companies from forming themselves into an Amalgamated Leather Company Limited, or to prevent the manufacturers from taking shares in the new concern.
– Has the honorable and learned member read the Northern Securities case in America - the Merger case?
– I have read a good deal in reference to it, and I do not think the Attorney-General will be able to apply it to a company in which the persons interested take their payment in shares. In such circumstances, it is quite possible for individuals to sell out and leave no trace of their original deal. But under the Sherman legislation, I believe, they could be reached in another way.
– It would be very difficult to catch them.
– I admit that it is very difficult to catch them. Nevertheless, the attempt should be made. I have never regarded the operations of trusts with unconcern. I have always believed that legislation should be enacted to control them. I go further, and I say that in Australia we enjoy many advantages which will tend to prevent the undue creation of trusts, if Parliament is only watchful. But under the provisions of this Bill, if we do not create trusts, we shall call into being all the evils attendant upon them, and that without benefiting the public. It is not my intention to delay honorable members by speaking at greater length. I crave the indulgence of the House for the somewhat disjointed nature of my remarks.
Mr.WATSON (Bland).- I am one of those who have thought for a considerable time that there is great necessity to deal with what is perhaps the most outstanding feature of modern industrialism. The concentration of capital, its accumulation, and its greater power to-day, as compared with a few years ago, have led to developments in industrial organization that have been recognised by every inquirer into social events throughout the world. It is increasingly evident that, whether by State or any other form of Socialism, or whether by restrictive legislation, society will be compelled, in the ordinary march of events, to take some steps to curb the increasing power which is being vested in the hands of the few by the vast accumulation of capital, and by the better organization of industrial forces. I am far from denying that some forms of trusts or combinations of capital act in a most beneficent way. There can be no doubt that better organization leads, in the first instance, to economy of production and distribution. Nor can there be any doubt that by forming a trust any set of producers, manufacturers, or others can produce more cheaply, and put their goods on the market more economically, than they can when they are competing with each other, and absorbing a great deal of energy and money in keeping their goods before the market, and maintaining useless stocks. That is a truism that is recognised to-day all the world over. Modern methods tend in that direction, and it is useless to expect that Australia, any more than the rest of the world, will escape from all the evils which, in the present condition of society, follow in the train of irresponsible power. I was glad to hear the honorable and learned member for Wannon say, towards the close of his speech, that he believed in the public ownership of public utilities. That is a doctrine that the Labour Party, and a number who do not belong to that body, have been trying, for many years to instil in the minds of the community. But I was under the impression, in view of the campaign upon which the honorable and learned member’s leader has entered, that private enterprise was to be the feature of the future, so far as Australia was concerned.
– That, surely, is. not inconsistent with his statement.
– I think that it is. If private enterprise be such an ideal system - if it leads to the development of the highest qualities in man - we ought- to be consistent, and allow it to work its way, and to expand the ability and the resourcefulness of individuals warring one with the other.
– Food is a good thing ; but should we gorge ourselves all day?
– No; but if honorable members opposite have so profound a belief in the virtues of private enterprise, it seems rather inconsistent that they should discover that there are some spheres wherein it is not wise in the public interest, to allow private enterprise to work its own sweet will.
– May I say that I hold the view.s in question, because I believe that competition is impossible.
– Quite so. I quite agree with the honorable member as to the ownership of public utilities. The only point at issue between us is as to what constitutes a public utility. I hold that with improved organization, with the greater appreciation of the economy that follows upon organization, the conditions are changing, so rapidly that that which may not be regarded to-day as a public utility will inevitably be regarded as one to-morrow. As soon as one line of industry is under the control of one set of individuals, who, like the Standard Oil Trust, for instance, pay all their employes, from the manager down to the ordinary labourer, good wages, and so make them loyal to them, while, at be same time, they fleece the people a.t every available opportunity, we may expect others to be dealt with in the same way. Surely the Opposition must see that when such a condition of affairs is reached, one of two courses must be taken. Either legislation of this kind must be introduced, with the object of returning to the public some control, and of securing to them some chance of receiving the benefit of competition; or, on the other hand, the community must step in and, in some form or other, resume the industries, and work them for the public benefit. Apparently, therefore, it is only a question of time and degree, and circumstances, as between ourselves and the honorable and learned member for Wannon and his friends.
– In, say, a few hundred years.
– I fear that events; are marching- sb’ rapidly that it is not a question of many years before this will be the position in regard to many main lines, of industry. I have followed, as closely as an outsider may do, the course of antitrust legislation in the United States, and I am free to confess that that legislation has not been attended with the degree of success that one would have liked. Apparently, a loophole has always been discovered, by means of which the law may be broken and its intentions evaded. But that should not deter us from making an effort in the same direction. There is no reason why we should not profit by the mistakes, if they be mistakes, of the United States, or, at all events, by the example which that country has set us. It may be that the measure which is now before us will not prove more effective than the legislation of the United States has done; but even if that be so. we shall have at least the satisfaction of knowing that we have tried ordinary methods before resorting to more extreme measures to secure the public interest.’ The United States have undoubtedly had a most trying experience, There is a great deal of truth in the suggestion put forward bv the honorable and learned member for Wannon that the private control of railways and other means of freight-carrying has had much to do with the abnormal success of some forms df trusts and combinations in that country.
– Coupled with their large ownership of land.
– That is so. A number of factors have combined to help combinations in that country - factors which I admit do not exist here. But making allowance for that, it must become more and more apparent to capitalists as the years go by that they can run their businesses much more efficiently by an arrangement amongst themselves. That has been evidenced by the tobacco monopoly which exists to-day in Australia. As to the question of imports, I hold that we have a right to consider Australia’s interest in regard to Australia’s industries. It is al! very well for some honorable members to declare that it is to the interest, say, of the farmer that he should be able to obtain his harvesters at the cheapest rate. I admit that if the farmer could be assured that, as the result of fierce competition, he would be able for a considerable time ahead to purchase harvesters at a very -low rate, or even obtain them free of cost, some degree of benefit would immediately result to him. But whether that benefit would be equivalent to the collateral advantages of having the whole country a busy hive of industry, and so providing employment for his children and his children’s -children, is a question I do not propose at present to argue. If the trust system of invasion of markets is to obtain in this country, in common with others, there is no reasonable guarantee that prices will remain at a low rate for any considerable time. It is the commonest of experiences that so soon as the dominant industrial concern has crushed competition out of existence, or rendered it so helpless that it can do nothingas against the larger enterprise, prices are put up to the highest possible limit, and the users of implements, or the consumers of other products similarly affected, are at the mercy of those who at first professed friendship for them.
– Can the honorable member mention a case in point that has ever occurred in Australia?
– The Colonial Sugar Refining Company.
– I could name many cases in which this has occurred. As one “who has had some commercial experience, the honorable and learned member must “know of instances where the large trader has forced the smaller one out of the market, and then raised prices.
– Can the honorable member point to any case where a big business shop has crushed a small one?
– I hold that that is the natural tendency of business. We are not to assume–
– The honorable member spoke of a case in which a small trader was crushed out by a large one, who immediately raised prices. Where has that occurred in Australia?
– That has been the result of the brick-makers’ combine in Melbourne.
– I do not say that an industry in which such incidents have occurred has been killed ; but competitors have been forced out of the market, and the dominant party has immediately increased its prices. It is only natural that any body of men who succeed to irresponsible power, whetherit be in politics or industrialism, will abuse that power, and use it to the full est possible extent for their own personal advantage. It would be most unfortunate for the farmers of Australia if a foreign trust were able to force out of the market the local producers of implements, leaving them at the mercy of the manufacturer abroad. The International Harvester Trust, whose resources we are assured by all reports from America are almost illimitable, boasts that at present it holds 90 per cent. of the world’s trade in implements. It is as clear as noonday that, in its endeavour to get possession of the Australian market, it will use every effort, first of all to scotch local competition, and secondly, to reimburse itself in respect of the losses incurred thereby, by forcing up prices as soon as it has obtained control.
– They state in their circulars that that is their intention.
– They do not say that it is their intention to force up prices, but they do assert that they are after the market. It is only to be expected that, having obtained control of the market, they will at once take advantage of it.
– Are not all the manufacturers after the market?
– Certainly they are.When the Bill is under consideration in Committee, the honorable member will find that I am as anxious as I hope he is to curb local combines as well as those from outside. In my view, there is a reason for taking action in this connexion, so far as importations are concerned. Whether we are justified in following the lines laid down in the Bill is a matter for consideration when we come to deal with its details in Committee, and I do not propose to speak upon it at length at the present stage. I trust that the general principles of the measure will be affirmed. It is not. as some honorable members seem to think, proposed to confine the application of the Bill to importers ; it is intended to impose reasonable conditions upon local manufacturers, and to punish any attempt to create monopolistic combines in Australia.
– But it will be more difficult, under the Bill, to deal with local trusts than with foreign trusts.
– That is a matter to be considered in Committee, and I shall be ready to give assistance to those who wish to insure that we can bring within the purview of the Courts the operations of all persons - whether local or foreign
– The shipping companies have combined pretty effectively.
– Nothing is more adversely affecting the fortunes of our producers to-day than the existence of the local shipping ring to which the honorable member refers. The local companies, by an arrangement between themselves which is equivalent to the formation of a trust, are fleecing our consumers and producers alike, who are at the mercy of a little knot of men who control the shipping trade, and impose what freights they choose for the conveyance of goods from State to State. By an ingenious system of rebates, such as operates in the shipping trade all over the world, they bind to them those who have freights to send, in a manner which makes escape impossible. Only a little while ago I saw a letter from a man who complained of the treatment which his firm was receiving at the hands of the shipping companies, but who said that the information must be regarded as confidential, because he dare not think of what would happen if he publicly stated all that he knew in this connexion.
– The system of rebate exists in connexion with the fruit trade between Tasmania and the mainland.
– Have not the shipping companies controlled the coal trade of Victoria for years past?
– Yes. Honorable members and the outside public seem slow to recognise, or to be wholly unaware of, the effect which the operations of this combination have upon the fortunes of our producers, and even upon the consumers.
– During the years in which I was connected with the shipping trade, the local shipping companies
– The shipping combine is not effective in connexion with the coal trade, because of the competition of Messrs. J. and A. Brown.
– Newcastle coal can be bought in the suburbs of Melbourne to-day for 5s. a ton less than it costs in the suburbs of Sydney.
– The fact that one firm has been able to neutralize the effects of the ring, so far as the. coal trade is concerned, proves how thoroughly the combine controls all other trade.
– It ought to illustrate what happens when a trust abuses its opportunities.
– In this case the competing firm is very wealthy. It owns coalmines and vessels, and was compelled to compete by reason of the oppressive charges of the combine. But very few producers, and practically no consumers, are so happily circumstanced.
– The coal trade is a business which requires hundreds of thousands of pounds to embark in.
– That makes it so much the more difficult for an ordinary producer to break down a monopoly in it, and is an additional reason why the Government should interfere when there is an abuse of power by a combination. In ordinary businesses, in which any person who possesses a few pounds can set up, a monopoly is impossible. But the tendency of modern industry is such that an increasingly large amount of capital is required to start in any business, and consequently opposition is becoming increasingly difficult to establish.
– Because of the taxation on raw material.
– The honorable and learned member is obsessed in regard to that matter. Combines, however, are not confined to countries of any particular fiscal policy. They exist everywhere. Their influence is almost as great in free-trade as in protectionist countries. I am reminded by the honorable and learned member for West Sydney that the Chamberlain-Nettleton screw combine in England is one of the most efficient in the world.
– It has crowded out all other makers.
– Then there is . the Coates combine in linen thread. Those examples prove that there are combines in countries where there are not heavy protective duties. The shipping combine to which I have referred merits the serious attention of Parliament, with a view to affording relief to those who are suffering by reason of its operations.
– They hold our rebates over from season to season to keep the trade.
– They tie the producers up in such a way that there is no escape. They are like the fly in the spider’s web, and cannot break away without outside assistance. It rests with this Parliament to say whether they shall receive assistance, or remain victims to the rapacity of the combine. Then there is the tobacco combine. Up to the present the evidence of its malevolence towards the public is comparatively little, but it is only gathering strength, of which it will take advantage later on, when an opportunity presents itself So far, it has succeeded in lessening the cost of the production and distribution of tobacco very materially, but a distributing monopoly may work injury to the public, by increasing the price of tobacco.
– I prophesied its formation in 1901, when the question of Excise was being considered.
– I think that I helped to raise the Excise on tobacco. The importation and distribution of tobacco is in the hands of the combine, so that something more is needed than to increase the Excise.
– We get smaller plugs now than we did for sixpence.
– And the quality of the tobacco is worse.
– The workers are not allowed to average more than £2 a week.
– Personally, I have no complaint to make about the quality of the tobacco which I buy, but we have evidence that the combine is likely to operate detrimentally to the public interest.
– It is in a position to do so if it chooses.
– This example shows that local combines are sometimes more dangerous than foreign combines.
– Both are bad. Besides, it! is as easy to arrange a combination of importers in connexion with certain lines as to arrange a combination of manufacturers.
– No, because, with freetrade, importers cannot keep a market to themselves.
– When there was no duty on reapers and binders a combination of importers kept the price of these machines up to about £55, though they were imported at about £20.
– There is a similar combination to keep up the price of cream separators.
Mi. WATSON.- There have been a number of such combinations. The Colonial Sugar Refining Company is another large monopoly. I was in error a year or two ago, when I said that the Millaquin mill, in Queensland, was their only competitor. I have since discovered that there is a refinery in Melbourne which is nominally a competitor.
– There is another in Queensland.
– I do not think that the best quality of sugar is refined at Fairymead.
– The point I wish to make is that the existence of two or three small concerns does not prove that there is not a monopoly. In America the concluding indictment against the great beef trust of Chicago was that it designedly allowed a few small concerns to exist, though it controlled 75 per cent. of the meat trade in the United States. That was intended to afford the public some sort of guarantee that the trust v as not a monopoly ; whilst, at the same time, the combine fixed the prices at which beasts were to be bought, and also the prices at which meat was to be sold. The small proprietors were all right, so long as they remained civil ; but woe betide any one of them if he dared to cross the path of the big combine. He would find himself frozen out in a very short time. So long as the small men did not seek to run up the prices of the steers, or to unduly reduce the price of meat, they were allowed - as the lion allows the jackal to pick the bones after he has concluded his feast - to carry on their small operations. Therefore, the fact that there are two or three small concerns which carry on the refining of sugar in Australia, affords no proof whatever that the Colonial Sugar Refining Company is not a monopoly which operates detrimentally to the public. I have been informed by those who have made this matter a study, that we pay for the refining of our sugar - that is, the “difference -^between the .cost of .raw. sugar and of the refined article - just double as much as people in other parts of the world are called upon to pay.
– -Knock a couple of pounds off the duty, and we will soon settle that.
– I know that that is the honorable and learned member’s sovereign remedy for everything. A gentleman in Sydney, for whom I have a high regard, has one cure for every evil, and that is, to clap another few pence in the £1 upon the land tax. He tells us that that is the remedy for every evil which is mentioned to him.
– Remove the duties, and you will knock the monopolists out of time.
– I have referred to the fact that ‘a number of monopolies < in free-trade England are flourishing to the detriment of the people. However, I do not wish to again discuss that matter. It seems to me that we are paying for the refining of our sugar nearly double the amount that we should be called upon to contribute if anything like fair methods were followed. If that be so, it is clear that the Colonial Sugar Refining Company is operating against the public interest. The Attorney-General said that he did not think that the company would come within the purview of this Bill.
– I said that I did not think it would come within the definition of commercial trusts.
– The Colonial Sugar Refining Company would operate within a single State, and, therefore, the Bill would not affect it.
– The honorable and learned member is mistaken. The company’s products are transferred from one State to another, and its operations would clearly come within the scope of the Bill.
– But it could sell its t roduct to a man in the State in which it was operating, and he could distribute it to other people elsewhere.
– I do not think that that would place the company beyond the scope of the Bill, if we thought fit to include it in the definition of “trust.” One honorable and learned member assured me that the definition of “ commercial trust,” as set forth in the Bill, would allow of a single . company being brought within its purview, if it was acting detrimentally to the public interests. That is to say, the definition of “commercial trust” is wide enough to include a single company which can be proved to have done something in restraint of trade, and to the detriment of the public. If the Bill does not sp provide, it should, in my View, be made to do so. We should be able to summon the company before the bar of public opinion, and subject its operations to some sort of examination, in order to assure’ ourselves that the community is not being unfairly treated. In my opinion, the company is not treating the community well, but if it can demonstrate the contrary, I shall have no further cause of quarrel with it. If the Bill does not clearly indicate that the company will be affected, we should! amend it. Some reference has been made to the local harvester trust.’ In my view, a combination which keeps the price of harvesters up to ;£8o per machine - or, as it was until recently, £90 per machine - is not treating the users fairly. The price of the machines should be reduced to considerably less ‘than ,£80. Of course, it is said - and there may be some truth in the statement - that the methods of pushing business adopted by their competitors from America, who have been able to spend more money than the business was worth for the time being, have forced our manufacturers to incur a similarly huge expenditure, which, of course, has been added to the cost of the machines. If that be the case, it only argues that our manufacturers must, in the interests of the consumers, organize their business on such lines that they will be able to sell the machines to the public at a price representing a fair advance on the cost of production. Therefore, we require legislation which will enable us to deal with local trusts and combines, and with monopolistic companies, whose operations are of the same nature.
– Is the case-so urgent as to require “rush” legislation?
– That is another question. There seems to be necessity for legislation affecting both the importers and the local manufacturers. In each instance, I think that we require, for the protection of the public, something partaking of the nature of this measure. I do not intend to say a great deal in criticism of the Bill itself. In the first place, I think it would be altogether wrong for us to intrust the selection of the Board that is suggested to any Minister, no matter who he may be. I believe that we have every right to be proud of the records of our Ministers of State generally, and I- have- no desire to cast the smallest reflection upon any one who has occupied, or who may occupy, the highly honorable position of Minister of Trade and Customs.
– Not even when he artificially raises duties ?
– I think that the action to which the honorable member refers was justifiable. I contend that if the Minister appoints the Board, he will be placed in a false position, and would be open to all kinds of imputations of unfairness in regard to matters of great importance^ If a freetrade Minister were in power, and he happened to select a majority of free-traders, there would be an immediate outcry from the protectionists that they were not receiving fair play. Similarly, if a protectionist Minister were to appoint a majority of protectionists, a like outcry would be made bv the other side. Therefore, in the interests of the Minister himself, and especially in the interests of the public, who have a right to know upon unimpeachable authority what are the facts, it is highly desirable that no one of less standing than a Judge of the Supreme Court, or a Justice of the High Court, should conduct an inquiry of the description contemplated. In Canada, as has been pointed out, the Tariff provisions with respect to trusts enable an inquiry to be held, but it must be conducted by a Judge of the Supreme Court. In answer to the statement put forward by the Minister, that His Honour the President of the Arbitration Court felt that he would not care to undertake work of a semi-political character, I may say that the Judges of every Supreme Court in Australia, at one time or another, undertake, as Royal Commissioners, work of a character similar to that held in view. At present, Judge Rogers and Judge Owen are engaged in conducting inquiries of that description in New South Wales.
– That is all right, so long as they have only to find as to the facts.
– Yes. The Judge would have to find only as to the facts, so far as thev were ascertainable. And it would not be derogatory to a Justice of the High Court to ascertain facts such as would be brought under his notice in cases of the kind dealt with in the Bill. I think that the community value our Judiciary very highly., and that they would be much more inclined to agree with _ the finding arrived at if a Judge were to conduct it. Mr. “Hutchison. - We could-appoint a Judge for the purpose, if necessary.
– Quite so. Although I voted for limiting the number of the High Court Justices to three, I am under the impression that very shortly we shall have to consider the question of strengthening the Bench.
– There are ten or twelve cases that will have to go over as remanets from this month until next year, because the Court is already overtaxed.
– That is very unfortunate for the litigants, and it is evident that, within a very short time, we shall have to increase the number of Justices. Some time ago I expressed the view that the work of the Court would increase to such an extent that an additional Justice would be necessary. I was prepared, in the meantime, to vote for the appointment of three Justices only, with a view to ascertaining what the work would really amount to. It is being demonstrated more clearly every day that the work is growing to such an extent that we shall have to reconsider the matter. Therefore, the suggestion that a Justice of the High Court would not be able to find time for this work may be put aside. I think that Ministers should consider whether; there should not be some preliminary inquiry in regard to local combines before the AttorneyGeneral takes action - just as is provided for before the Minister takes action in regard to imports. My own position is absolutely tentative, but it occurred to me that an inquiry might be held before we force on the Attorney-General the duty of taking action in the manner proposed.
– We shall not have to force him.
– The present AttorneyGeneral may be succeeded by one who will have a much narower conception of his duties as a public officer. I must admit that there seems to be a great deal of force in the objection raised to the hurried consideration of this measure. I am strongly in favour of the principle embodied in the Bill, and I believe that there is grave necessity for taking action. But it must be admitted, even by the most enthusiastic members on this side of the House, that the Bill is a most important one, and will be farreaching in ‘its effects.
– These proposals are simple.
– WhenI tell the Prime Minister that the opinion of one honorable and learned member differs very materially from that of the Attorney-General as expressed to-day in regard to one or two points, he will see that it is not as simple to the minds of those who have not had it under consideration–
– The ends which it seeks to attain are simple.
– In regard to those ends, I am quite at one with the Prime Minister. But the experience of anti-trust legislation in America is that there is considerable doubt as to how far it can be made effective. Because of that doubt, there is the greater need for us to pick our steps carefully, so that when the Bill is passed it will achieve its purpose. The Sherman Act, from which is taken that portion of the Bill which deals with local trusts and combines, has been in operation since 1890, and yet the trusts have continued to flourish. Amending legislation has since been enacted, and some of it is proving effective. How long it will take the trusts to break through the amending legislation it is difficult to say.
– The Court has repressed many of the trusts.
– Two years ago an injunction was obtained from the Supreme Court of the United States against the great beef trust, but, nevertheless, that trust continued to flourish until a month or two ago.
– It was dissolved and reformed.
– That fact emphasizes the necessity for having every phase of the Bill carefully looked into, and I do not think that within the past couple of days honorable members have had that opportunity. As the measure is likely to affect a very large proportion of the trading operations of the States, it is only fair that the community should have a chance to express an opinion in respect to it’s provisions.
– What is the good of attempting to save the city after it has been plundered?
– I admit that the case is urgent. That, however, affords only a greater reason for so marshalling our forces that when we make the attack we shall be sure of demolishing the enemy. Upon that ground, I think ‘that we should go no further at the present moment than to affirm the principle involved in the Bill. The delay of the few months that will elapse between the prorogation and the next meeting of Parliament - we cannot postpone its consideration for long, in view of the fact that we must go to the country in less than twelve months–
Honorable Members. - Do not say that:
– I do not wishto remind members of the Opposition of the unpleasant prospect which is ahead of them. There is, however, no doubt that Parliament must meet within a reasonable time from now. With regard to the importation of harvesters, which is a matter of pressing importance, nothing is likely to be done within the next six months.
– Does not the honorable member think that the harvester trust people should be heard before action is taken ?
– I think that their case should be investigated, and I would have it inquired into before Parliament reassembles next year. There is no necessity to await the passing of the Bill before Ministers can arm themselves with such information as will justify them in taking action. They can submit a Bill dealing with the matter as the first measure of next session.
– Let the local manufacturers submit their books for examination.
– That is a detail that might be attended to. I cordially approve of this attempt to limit in some way the operation of trusts and combines. If a majority of honorable members feel that the Bill ought to be postponed, I trust that after having had an opportunity to study the measure in detail they will come prepared to pass it next year. In that way greater benefit will accrue than ifwe passed the measure in a hurry at the fag end of this session, when honorable members have had no chance to familiarize themselves with its full import.
– I admit that this is a great and important measure. There are thousands of men in this country whose living dependsupon the machinery which it would bring into operation. The honorable member for Bland has spoken of the great Beef Trust. Two years ago, the authorities were fighting that trust in America, and the other day many of the members of that trust re- turned to Chicago and surrendered, and were fined ,£5,000. Two days afterwards the price of beef was raised 3d. per lb., and they thus secured enough profit to pay the fine.
– What moral does the honorable member draw from that ?
– The moral which I draw is that while some people sing that America is “ the land of the free, and the home of the brave,” it is not so. It used to be. Now it is the land of the boodler and the home of the slave. I say that this is the day of salvation. We ought to pass the Bill at once and give it six months’ trial. If it endangers the wellbeing of Australia we shall be in a position to repeal it. The same Parliament that enacts it can unmake it. I will not deny that honorable members are tired and worn out. I am more fit to be in the hospital than to be here. At the same time, whilst the livelihood of hundreds of native-born Australians are in jeopardy as the result of Wie operations of outside trusts and combinations, this Parliament should not prorogue without doing something for them. I believe that it is our duty, notwithstanding the feelings of my honorable friends in Opposition, to take action. We have a duty to perform, and as a labour protectionist I shall stand by any Bill of this character. In the United States, the trusts are stronger than the Government, and one of the greatest Presidents since George Washington has been fighting them for the past three years. But what has he accomplished? Absolutely nothing. The same thing will happen in this country if we do not legislate against it. I am satisfied that this Bill is the forerunner of Socialism. We have only one hope left. Mr. Bryan, who will be in Australia in the course of a few months, wrote to President Roosevelt some time ago as follows: -
You have the contest of your life before you, and I desire to render you all the assistance in my power. The railway companies will try to persuade you; if they fail in this they will try to scare you. If they fail in this also, they will try to defeat your recommendations. It will embarrass you to have strong party leaders against you. You may even be embarrassed by having so, many party leaders against you that even the democrats may co-operate with you. But be firm.
I trust that the Government will insist upon pushing this Bill through. Let us place it upon the statute-book. This country is just as full of rings, trusts, and combina tions as the United States is’ full of boodlers and “boodleiers,” and in proportion to (heir size the former are the more venomous. These trusts are a government to themselves. Why should we be afraid to face them? If we cannot finish the work of the session before Christmas, let us reassemble early next year for the purpose of enacting legislation to prevent the destruction of our industries.
– I have listened attentively to some very able speeches which have been delivered to-day. I was specially interested in the utterance of the honorable member for Bland, who always makes a good speech when he deals with matters of this kind. I desire to say that it was not the wish of the Government to include in this Bill provision for the appointment of a Board. It was their intention, in the first instance, to appoint a Judge in lieu of that body. In regard to the appointment of the President of the Arbitration Court, to whom reference was made by the honorable member for Bland, I wish to say that an attempt was made to obtain his services for the position, but he did not consider he had time in conjunction with his other duties ; if, however, it is possible for that gentleman to fill the position, nobody would be more delighted than the Government, and I am confident that nobody would fill it better than Mr. Justice O’Connor. Had we been able to appoint the President of the Conciliation and Arbitration Court to deal with these matters, I should have been relieved of a very great responsibility in administering this measure - a responsibility that I have no desire to have cast upon me. I have mentioned this matter merely to show that it was not the desire of the Government to refrain from providing that these questions should be dealt with by a Judge, but that, in the circumstances, we were compelled to provide for the appointment of a Board. The position of the Commonwealth is different’ from that occupied by New Zealand, since it consists of six. States, whilst New Zealand is a separate Colony. Had we been in the same position, no doubt we should have been able to select certain responsible persons, as has, been done there, to carry out this Work. I would remind honorable members, however, that we shall be able in Committee to deal with this and other questions. We shall be able for instance, to consider the desirableness of amending the provisions relating to trusts on the lines suggested by one of my honorable friends. I have already said that theBill is a far-reaching one, but it rests with the Committee to decide whether it shall be. made even more so. I trust that honorable members will not consider that there has been any desire on the part of the Government to vest in themselves more power than is absolutely required for the proper administration of this measure, for, as I have already said, the responsibility which will be cast upon the Minister administering is one that I, for one, should be glad to see placed on others.
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
In Committee :
Clause 1 (Short Title).
– I propose to test the feeling of the Committee on the question whether or not it is wise to proceed further with this Bill at the present time by moving -
That the clause be postponed.
I am strongly opposed to all trusts that are calculated to injuriously affect the people. I hold that we should have a law dealing with combines who send their goods to Australia, as well as with local combinations; but I am anxious to see a Bill passed that will be in every way effective. We have been told that the anti-trust legislation of the United States has proved a failure, and, that being so, we should endeavour to profit by the experience of that country. It seems to me that by postponing the further consideration of this Bill until next session we shall be enabled to make it more effective. The honorable member for Darwin spoke of the failure of the anti-trust law of the United States to cope with the conditions created by the beef trust, and it seems to me that he furnished a strong argument for the postponement of this measure. Some remarks have been made as to the delay in bringing it forward. It must not be forgotten, however’, that the Government took office shortly after the opening of the session, and consequently did not enjoy the advantage of a recess in which to prepare the necessary measures for our consideration. Nevertheless, we have been kept closely at work, and our record of legislation is better than is that of any previous session. As we are likely to meet again in a few months,
I think we may well delay the consideration of this measure until then. That will not only enable us to give further attention to it, but will afford the people of Australia an opportunity to become fully seized of its purport. So far, most of the people of the Commonwealth have not learned of its provisions. I do not suppose that a copy of the Bill has yet reached the State of which I am a representative, and whilst I am a protectionist, I wish to fairly represent the free-traders in my constituency, and to give them an opportunity to express their views in regard to it. It would be much better if all Bills were circulated throughout Australia a few weeks before we are called upon to deal with them. We are legislating, not for a small State over which the mails can be distributed daily, but for a vast continent, and we should, therefore, give the people ample time to learn the effect of the measures with which we are called upon to deal. I am not blaming the Government for having introduced this Bill so late in the session. They have undoubtedly done good work. I recognise that they have succeeded in passing many measures, but I am extremely anxious that a Bill for the preservation of Australian industries shall be a thoroughly effective one. It is only because of that desire that I have been induced to submit this motion. If it be the intention of the Committee to deal with the Bill this session, I hope that the discussion will be brief and to the point. But, on the other hand, if the majority of honorable members support my motion, I trust that the Government will take it as an indication that, in our opinion, the further consideration of the Bill should be delayed until next session.
– I hope that the Committee will not accept this motion, because, whilst I recognise the extreme friendliness with which it has been submitted, and the fairness of many arguments that could be used in its favour, it does not appear to me that in taking this course we shall be serving the best interests of the country we represent.
– We have not had much time to consider the Bill.
– I admit that, and grant that the strain upon honorable members has been severe. It has probably been greater noon some of us than upon the bulk of the House. But the stress upon ourselves, and even some imperfection in our work, may be overlooked in this case, since the bulk of the House appears to be at one in regard to the importance of the question and the greatness of the principle at stake. This is no new departure from my point of view. I have always regarded measures of this sort as amongst the most necessary safeguards in modern industrial legislation - as inseparable from the commercial developments that have taken place of recent’ years in civilized countries. Parliaments have either to face them in defence of the people whom they represent, or to consent to the passing of their powers into the control of the great financial corporations that are becoming a menace to the general prosperity and to the stability of democratic institutions. As soon as the first Adminisstration of which I was the head began work, we took up the task where it; had been left by my then colleague, the right honorable member for Adelaide, and proceeded to frame a Trust Bill which should deal both with aggression from abroad and the possible growth of local capitalistic combinations. The experience both of the old world and the new has shown that if financial magnates are left to their own devices, under unrestricted competition, modern developments have worked such a transformation that what were at one time the characteristic conditions of “a fair field and no favour “ have now become the conditions of the gravest tyranny of modern times. Experience has shown that it was a necessity that in the growth of industrialism there should be a time during which individual expansion was absolutely uncontrolled, and then a period when combination was recognised and authorized by law, with many beneficial results. But it was not then realized, as it has since been discovered, that corporate power and authority, with its distribution of responsibility and its concentration of the power of money, might become a serious danger. It has become a danger so great that there are now to be found intelligent and well-informed men who are asking themselves whether the limited liability principle, upon which presentday operations so much depend, is not tending to work more injury than it is now working good. It has become clear that, if it is to be retained, it will have to be restrained - that the responsibility that has been evaded by its being divided into almost infinitesimal morsels will have to be restored to all corporations, and that, unless the State is prepared to see itself dispossessed by a larger power, it must exercise the authority it now enjoys to assert’ its primacy on behalf of the people. I do not intend to enter even upon an outline of the history of the development of the great modern trusts whose tentacles are visible in all directions, or to say a word more than is necessary to the consideration of this particular proposal. But I wish to point out to the Committee that the trust peril is not of our seeking. Its imminence has been forced upon us, not only by these general considerations, which I now dismiss, but by the fact that, as protectionists, and as men who aim at industrial justice, we have to deal with an invasion from abroad which, through our Customs law, brings us face to face with trusts and their deceptive tactics. What is their method of working ? A trust does not consist simply of a manufacturer, or a company, or a combination of manufacturers; nor does it consist only of a number of companies making goods of the same kind. If it did, it would be comparatively easy to deal with. But, as the experience of the United States has shown, a trust may include the company that mines raw ore, another company that manufactures it, a third company beyond it which sells the perfected article, a railroad company that transports it, an insurance company that insures it, and the steamers of accompany that conveys the product from place to place. That being so, how are we, in administering the Customs law of Australia, to endeavour to levy a duty upon the fair market value at the port? of shipment of the product of a trust? How are we to arrive at that value named in our law when we are dealing with a trust that in one or more of its agencies alters its manufacturing charges, its freight charges, its shipping and insurance charges, as it pleases? How is it possible for the Customs to discover by ordinary methods what is the! fair market value of the products of such a combination? That is the actual problem we have to face.
– And yet the Government set out to ascertain it.
– That is so. We are confronted at the Customs by trusts the fair market value ofwhose products has to be ascertained amid entirely novel complexities, in a manner for which we have no precedents. But, having regard to the Tariff we have placed on the statute-book, we have to determine that value. If not, -our Customs duties would give an advantage to these corporations, as against every other importer, and as against our own Australian industries. We have not created this question ; it knocks at our doors. To preserve our Australian industries we must enter upon an investigation which will be difficult and complex. The Government spent more than two months in considering and reconsidering the subject, in the endeavour to find some tribunal which would command public confidence, and possess the knowledge and authority necessary to enable it to obtain the information required to arrive at any just determination.
– The Government took two months to consider the Bill, and asks Parliament to deal with it in two days.
– Honorable members are not called upon, as we were, to weigh and put aside, for some reason or another, a great variety of expedients. They have to deal with only the last and least imperfect of the practical proposals which were before us.
– We desire to estimate their practicability for ourselves.
– We wish to see that done now. We bring forward our proposals in no spirit of dogmatism, nor do we consider that we have reached ultima Thule in this legislation. This is a rudimentary and elementary measure, which will create a procedure by means of which we may discover, and then repair, the defects in our law.
– Are we not entitled to give it serious consideration?
– That is impossible, in the time at our disposal.
– It is not an absolute law of nature, though no doubt it is desirable, that Parliament should be prorogued before Christmas. It would be better that we should meet again after Christmas, and sit as long as is necessary, giving the measure the consideration which it deserves, than that we should go away without having dealt with it. The Bill has been caricatured both inside and outside this Chamber, and we must submit to that, but, in itself, it is a simple measure. It merely provides that when an officer of high standing and long experience certifies that unfair competition exists - which we have attempted, though perhaps incompletely, to define for the guidance of those who will administer the law - an inquiry is to be held by the best tribunal possible. The Government can then acton the finding of thattribunal. It must be remembered that the Government must take full responsibility for everything which is done under the measure. It will act with its life in its hands,conscious that it must answer to Parliament and to the constituencies. If the inquiry shows that the impression that competition was unfair was a mistaken one, if suspicion is discovered to be unfounded, or a case cannot be proved, no injury will be done, beyond the causing of inconvenience incidental to the probing into the circumstances of particular firms. The prohibition that may be used, if unfair competition is proved, is not the prohibition of all goods of a certain kind imported from abroad, but the prohibition of the goods of particular companies or corporations which are so linked together as to form a trust. It is aimed at a redressing of the balance, so as to put fair importers on the same level, and to do justice to all Australian industries.
– The best proof of the simplicity of the measure is that it took two months to draff.
– No; to design and then draft. The first part of the Bill merely provides that, where unfair competition is suspected, an impartial inquiry shall be instituted, and the Government must take the responsibility for acting on the facts which are found. The cases which will be dealt with are few, and, at the present time, suspicion points to only two or three instances.
– Could not the Government appoint a Royal Commission to make this inquiry ?
– A Government has always that power; but what we desire to do is to prevent excessive importations taking place while the inquiry is proceeding.
– The Government might refer this matter to the Tariff Commission.
– That Commission is doing excellent work in considering the effect of the Customs duties on the normal conditions of trade; it is.no part of its heavy task to inquire into the importations of trusts, which are abnormal. They could never be dealt with by a protective Tariff. If duties were imposed high enough to prevent the operations of trusts, they would prohibit all honest importations as well, and honorable members opposite would not like to see” that done. All that is proposed is that, if importers form themselves into combination’s, such as I have described, and import their goods in breach of the fair conditions set forth in the Bill, they shall be dealt with and the industries of Australia shall be protected, until Parliament can pronounce upon the action which the Government has thought fit to take.
– The first part of the Bill goes further than that.
– That is the main provision as regards trusts ; but, as the honorable member pointed out, there is a general provision against dumping, when exercised upon a scale worthy of the application of this complicated and elaborate procedure. Minor importations would not be worth noticing. The second part of the Bill deals with trusts operating within, as well as with those operating without, Australia. There the provisions of the Sherman law have been so ameliorated as to be capable of application to Australian conditions. These clauses will provide a means of bringing to book those engaged in enterprises which, highly advantageous to the few rich, are destructive to deserving Australian industries. Those two statements summarize, with a few exceptions, the provisions of the Bill. In both instances there is to be an inquiry ; the parties concerned being heard, and only those who are attacking our producers being dealt with, while Parliament will have ample control of the actions of the Government, and will be able to punish any abuse of the power intrusted to it. Are not those proposals simple and fair? Could any simpler proposals be made for the protection - of Australian industries which deserve to be protected?
– It is a pretty little tiger, which any one may stroke.
– There will be no obstacle raised by the Government to any improvements which honorable members may suggest in the phraseology of the Bill. All we desire is to get a good effective measure. There will be no clinging to words or to phrases. What we want is authority to take action after there has been at independent inquiry into the facts. All we seek is the opportunity to protect honest Australian industries. We therefore appeal to the House to consider the measure, and, if they can, to make its provisions more adaptable to our circumstances while passing it into law. We shall welcome suggestions for its improvement. I admit that this .is pioneer legislation. In America they have been trying for fifteen years to pass effective trust laws, and have not yet succeeded, though they appear to be on the verge of doing so.
– The conditions there are different.
– With their immense population, energetic ability, and what I may call exaggerated individualism, their extraordinary development of capital and industry, and their powers of organization, they are confronted with a problem which differs materially, if not fundamentally, from any that we have to face.
– The railway problem.
– The finance problem complicates the railway and every other problem. The lords of finance there, who have their fingers in insurance businesses, railways, shops, transport, telegraphs, telephones, and every other form of enterprise, have created conditions in America which are very different from those in this country. We may envy the United States their material prosperity, the ability, and energy of their people, and their rapid progress: but there are many other things which we do not envy, and from which we pray to be delivered. We should use our best efforts to protect ourselves in time against many of the abuses now rampant in America. This Bill is an attempt to do so. This will not be the last legislation of the kind which Parliament will have to pass; it is only the beginning. Neither if we deal with the Bill now, nor if we put it aside, shall we see the end of it. We cannot evade the issue. Honorable members wish to put off dealing with it for a few months ; but why not give the ‘ Government the simple powers which this Bill offers, or whose exercise will practically be confined to an investigation during the period when Parliament is not in session. Then when we meet again facts will have been proved by an independent and impartial authority, on which action can be taken.
– An inquiry can be made in any case.
– Of’ course, we can dosomething. The wheels of Government- will not be stopped if the Bill is not passed. But it would be better if we could proceed on a path marked out beforehand, and by a means which would allow the promptest action to be taken. I recognise that the strain of this session has been great, and particularly during the last few weeks; more than honorable members should ordinarily be asked to bear. I therefore do not blame those who complain that it is more than they are able to sustain. But, having been able to thresh out and to reduce to their simplest terms, two plain propositions which will enable us to deal with trust or dumped imports from abroad and trusts at home, let us make a beginning with the work which we must undertake for the preservation of Australian industries. I venture to appeal to honorable members, even at this late stage of the session, to make still greater personal sacrifices, so that we shall not go into recess until an effective measure has been placed on the statutebook. If we do so, we shall enjoy our holidays much more than if Parliament is prorogued, and we go to our homes knowing that we did not grapple with this difficulty when we had an opportunity to do so simply, justly, and effectively.
– The question before the Committee is the postponement of the clause, and, strictly, debate should be confined to the giving of reasons why the postponement should or should not take place. The Prime Minister,however,did not speak on the motion for the second reading, and under circumstances with which, I think, all honorable members are conversant, was allowed a certain amount of latitude. The same privilege will be accorded to other honorable members who did not speak on the motion for the second reading.
– I understand that it is the general desire of honorable members, while agreeing to the principle of this legislation, that it should not be passed before the Christmas holidays. If that is a mistaken idea, the position should be squarely faced. I am entirely in favour of the measure, but it seems to be impossible to pass it within the short time remaining at our disposal before the close of the session. Let me say. in answer to the Prime Minister, that there is no idea of taking the business out of the hands of the Government, or of inflicting any humiliation upon them. I understand that the motion for the second reading was agreed to out of consideration for the Government.
– There was no arrangement, so far as I know.
– I recognise the difficulties in the way of passing the Bill before Christmas, and I would urge that its consideration should be allowed to stand over for the present, and that honorable members should be asked to meet again early in January.
Honorable Members. - Oh !
– If the case is of such urgency as the Prime Minister represents, I see no reason why we should not meet under the conditions suggested. The honorable member for Bland, the leader of the party to which I belong, has made an arrangement in the utmost good faith, and I shall feel compelled to follow him.
– I should not have addressed the Committee had it not been for the remarks uttered by the Prime Minister. I consider it due to myself that I should explain the position in which I stand with regard to the Bill. I have accorded to the Government very liberal support since they have taken charge of the public business, and I stood by them when they adopted special measures to prevent the Opposition from further obstructing business. I then told them that I would do all that I could to assist them in carrying out their programme. I did not understand, however, that we should be asked to deal with a number of measures which honorable members have had no opportunity of considering. I have been absent for a few days, and upon my return this morning, I found that the Government had introduced an entirely new piece of legislation, which would seriously affect the commercial and industrial interests of the whole of the Commonwealth. I do not intend to vote for any measure with the provisions of which I am not conversant. I have not been able to even read the Bill, far Jess to make myself acquainted with its provisions, or to judge as to its probable effects. The speeches which have been delivered by members of the Government, and other honorable members, should serve to present matters in a clear light to the electors, and I think that having proceeded so far, the Government will be very illadvised if they force the matter further at the present time. I am not opposed to legislation directed to the restriction of the operations of trusts, but I will not commit myself to panic legislation, and especially when I do not understand its purport. Whilst I am prepared to maintain an open mind, and to study the question as fairly as I can, I shall not support the Government if they per.sist in their efforts to force this legislation through during the closing hours of the session. If the measure is of such great importance as Ministers represent, why was it not introduced at an earlier stage? The Attorney-General was very anxious to secure the appointment of the Tariff Commission, which is now investigating, among other things, the condition of the iron industry, and the influence exerted upon it by the operations of foreign trusts. Yet we are being asked to pass this Bill without having the results of that investigation before us. Surely, we are entitled fo know what is the finding of the Commission. If the matter is one of urgency, why has not the Commission, which comprises a number of protectionist honorable members, brought forward its report? It seems to me very much as if those who were engaged in the agricultural implement industry were rather afraid of the result of the inquiry conducted by the Commission, and that thev wanted to force the House into taking action which would not be justified if’ the full facts were made known. That is one of the reasons why I view this Bill with suspicion. I want more information with regard to it, before I commit myself to supporting it. I hope that time will be given to the public, and to those who would be specially affected by the Bill, to fully consider it’ in all its bearing. I would recommend the Government to postpone its further consideration for the present, so that it mav be dealt with at a later stage, when the result of the inquiries made by the Tariff Commission are before us. If the report of the Commission justifies such a course, the Government should ask honorable members to meet early next year, and deal with the matter. In view of the suspicious circumstances surrounding the Bill, I cannot support it.
– I cannot understand why honorable members should hesitate to go on with the Bill. There can be only one explanation, and that is that they are anxious to get away into recess. I think that honorable members should be prepared to deal with this important matter without delay, because there is no doubt as to the urgency of the situa tion. If we cannot deal with the Bill before the Christmas holidays, we should meet early again in January. Personally, I am prepared to go right on. The measure is a simple one, and its purpose is quite clear. It confers upon the authorities certain powers of investigation, which will relieve the Minister of Trade and Cussome of the necessity of taking action such as that for which he was recently denounced. I shall certainly support the Prime Minister in his desire to proceed with the Bill this session. If he does not do so, I trust that we shall meet during the first week of January for the purpose of dealing with this very important question.
– I think that it is desirable to adjourn the discussion of this measure. It is perfectly clear that the whole object of the Bill is to deal with an alleged abuse on the part of the great harvester trust of America.
– Not the whole object.
– The Prime Minister, only a few minutes ago, distinctly stated that that was the reason why it was forced upon the attention of the House at this stage of the session.
– lt is a very good reason.
– I do not say “that it is not. But I have no evidence before me as to the facts upon which these allegations are made. It seems to me that there are very grave reasons why the protectionists’ of this country should take cognizance of the operations of the harvester trust. If the Government had brought down an enabling Bill to deal with that specific case, and if they had appointed a Justice of the High Court to take evidence from representatives of the trust, and also to examine the books of the firms which have made these allegations-
– But the Tariff Commission is inquiring into this very matter.
– I am quite aware of that. But certain allegations have been made, and I say that we could have vested the Government with extraordinary powers to deal with this special case. Subsequently we could have considered the general question of trusts. As it is, we are being rushed into legislation which the Minister of Trade and Customs himself admits is very far-reaching. During the past two days I have endeavoured to ascertain how far it will reach, but I have beenunable to “do so. It mav interfere with every business enterprise in the country, and we ought to have time to consider it in all its bearings, and to deal with it calmly and judicially. If the harvester trust threatened to ruin our local industry, I believe that the House would arm the Government with plenary powers to meet the case.
– I very much regret that the House, in its wisdom, cannot see its way clear to proceed with the consideration of this Bill. It is a very important measure, and any reader who is conversant with the political literature of the world must recognise that trusts are a source of danger. The Japanese, for whom the honorable and learned member for Parkes has so great an admiration, have grasped the tobacco trust by the throat, and have practically crushed it out of existence. Surely he should assist to pass legislation of this character. Might I suggest to the Prime Minister that, if we cannot pass this Bill this session, we should proceed with other work, and have a special session in January for the purpose of dealing with the question. I regard this as the most important Bill that has been submitted for our consideration during the current session. What have we to fear ? Even if the Bill were carried in a form which was far from perfect, does anybody suggest that harm would result? What Statute is perfect? If we approved of this Bill at the present time, the Government would have an opportunity during the recess of formulating a better measure, the merits of which would appeal to every honorable member. Surely this is not going to be made a party question. Personally, I always respect a free-trader who is honest in his convictions, because I know that he will certainly help his own race in preference to another. Within the past few days I was visited by an old schoolmate of mine - one of many who have lost their positions as the result of the operations of this harvester trust. He said : “ You have known me for years, and you are aware that I cannot save much when I have to support a family of eight. I have a little home for which I pay no rent; but I am feeling the pinch now that I am for the third week out of employment.” I repudiate the suggestion that I am speaking on behalf of Mr. McKay. As a matter of fact, I have reason to loathe one of his actions. I know that he removed from Melbourne in. order to avoid complying with the Factories Act. But in this Bill there is a principle involved. There are other manufacturers who are honestly endeavouring to comply with the law, and it is on their behalf that I am speaking. I say that if we cannot pass the Bill before the session closes, we should meet in January for the purpose of dealing with this question. Surely within a fortnight we should be able to pass a Bill which would permit the Government to do all that is necessary before the beginning of next session.
– Any idea that honorable members could give this Bill reasonable consideration before Christmasis manifestly absurd. That might have been possible if the measure had dealt only with one foreign trust. Under the circumstances, I shall certainly vote for its postponement. So far as the prorogation is concerned, that is a matter for the Government to consider. If they desire that Parliament should re-assemble in January, in order that this matter may be properly considered, I shall certainly be one to attend.
– I do not think that it is because honorable members are opposed to this legislation that they desire its postponement. The feeling is that we have passed through a very long and arduous session. It is all very well for the honorable member for Melbourne to suggest holding a special session. He must, however, recollect that his home is in Melbourne.
– My vote will be cast in favour of moving to the Federal Capital at any time.
– If Parliament were to meet in January at Charters Towers, what possible hope should we have of getting a House? I am sure that the honorable member for Melbourne would attend, but he and I would be about the only members present. We must recollect that the representatives of the distant States should at least be afforded an opportunity to get into touch with their constituencies.If I were to devote six solid months to canvassing, I could not visit every part of my electorate. When honorable members appreciate that fact, they will understand why it is necessary that we should have some recess. I contend that it is our duty to visit every portion of our constituencies. Those who reside in the outlying parts should not be neglected in favour of those who live in more populous centres. I hope that the Government will consent to defer the consideration pf this measure until next session. I say unhesitatingly that if I thought that by voting for the motion I should reflect the least discredit on the Government, I should .refrain from doing so. But I do not consider that any such construction could be placed upon my action. From what I have heard from various honorable members, it would appear that there is a general desire that the further consideration of the Bill shall be postponed until next session, in order that the House may have a reasonable opportunity to investigate the whole subject, and I may tell the honorable member for Melbourne that if this course be followed, he will obtain support from quarters whence he least expects it.
– I regret exceedingly that it is apparently impossible this session to reach finality in the consideration of this Bill. But there is nothing to prevent the Government from -appointing a strong judicial Committee to make full inquiries into the question of the importation of harvesters. Having been placed in possession of the information so obtained, together with the evidence taken before the Tariff Commission, the Government should experience no difficulty next session in carrying into law such a measure as this. To my mind, however, the Bill, as presented, is not strong enough ; it will not safeguard the interests of the workers or the consumers, and I candidly confess that I am more concerned with those sections of the community than I am with local or foreign combinations of manufacturers. I hope that if the motion be carried, the Bill will be brought forward next session in such a form that it will deal effectively, not only with foreign trusts, but with those formed in Australia. I trust that it will cover the Sugar Refining Company, and the tobacco monopoly, as well as the brickmaking and pottery combines, and, indeed, every other trust. I shall vote with the Government ; but if they be defeated on this motion. I trust that they will appoint a Committee to make full inquiry, and that its report will be ready for our consideration when we meet next session.
– Cannot the Tariff Commission, deal with the question?
– I think not. I . am anxious to have the matter settled during my lifetime, and I trust that we shall meet early next year and deal with it.
– I do not think that the Government will be defeated on this question, for, although several honorable members have urged the postponement of the clause they are certainly not opposed to the Bill. I shall vote with the Ministry, although at the present time T feel that the House is stale, and that at this late stage of the session we cannot bring to bear upon this question that freshness of mind that is so absolutely necessary to its proper decision. The constituency which I represent is, perhaps, more closely interested in this matter than are many others ; but I do not think that the importations of harvesters that may take place between now and January will seriously affect the position. It is not the fault of the Government that the Bill has been delayed; and I think they ought to be satisfied with the splendid work that they have accomplished this session. As a straightout Government supporter, I appeal to them to agree to the postponement of the Bill, in order that we may be able to approach its consideration early next session with clear minds and renewed energy.
– I sincerely hope that the Government will stand by their guns and proceed with the consideration of the Bill. At a time like this its passing is a matter of the utmost importance.
– When did it become urgent ?
– I am told on credible authority that thousands of mortgage deeds are being sent out with the harvesters of the International Company, that the company is taking liens over the goods and chattels of the farmers, and that in time to come we shall find here a foreign garrison, which is very undesirable. T am not speaking from mere hearsay. I have seen one of these forms, and the agents of the company are travelling from place to place, obtaining the liens that I have mentioned. Therefore “now is the accepted time” for the passing of this Bill. We have been told that there is no hurry; but I would say, with the utmost earnestness, that it is not a case of Hannibal being at the gate. Hannibal is inside, and if we pass the Bill only for the purpose of coping with the operations of the International Harvester Trust, we shall do good work. It has been said that tHat combination might be dealt with bv special legislation ; but such legislation is always bad. It is highly desirable that we should pass such a Bill as this, rather than appoint a Commission or special tribunal to investigate the harvester question. As to the suggestion that it should be referred to the Tariff Commission., I maintain that the question is entirely beyond their province. If the allegations we have heard with regard to the deliberate attempt to stifle native industry be true, the harvester combine deserves but little sympathy. There is a question of patriotism involved. Are we to see our natural industries wantonly stifled while we stand idly by? Yet that is being done by the importers’ monopoly. If it be only a matter of the convenience or inconvenience of honorable members - the hurrying away to eat mince pies and roast turkey at Christmas - let us throw such considerations to the winds, and determine to complete the proper business of the session.
Motion agreed to ; clause postponed.
– This will be the first Bill next session.
Mr. AUSTIN CHAPMAN laid upon the table the following papers,: -
Recommendations, &c, and approval of Mr. W.C. Harris to be postmaster at Bunbury,
In Committee (Consideration resumed from 12th December, vide page 6771.) :
Amendment (by Mr. Groom) agreed to -
That the following new clause be inserted : - 4a. Section 4 of the Principal Act is repealed.
– I move -
That the following new clause be inserted : - 50A. After section 202 of the Principal Act the following sections are inserted : - “202A.- (1) No party to the petition shall, ex cept by consent of all parties or by leave of the Court, be represented by counsel or solicitor.
In no case shall more than one counsel or one solicitor appear on behalf of any party. 202B. The Court may award costs against an unsuccessful party to the petition.
Provided that the amount of costs to be paid by any party shall in no case exceed the sum of One hundred pounds.”
When the Bill was last in Committee I undertook to have a clause drafted which would provide for a reduction of expense in any litigation before the Court of Disputed Returns. I think that this clause will have that effect. It) provides that no party to a petition shall be represented by counsel or solicitor except by consent of all parties, or by leave of the Court.
– It would be better to say “and by leave of the Court.”
– The wording of the clause is the same as that in the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. The Court would not authorize the appearance of counsel if mere questions of fact were involved. In no case is more than one counsel or one solicitor to appear on behalf of any party, and the costs to be paid by any party are in no case to exceed £100, the intention being, where necessary, to allow something to the successful party to recoup him for the expense incurred in bringing forward witnesses, and in paying fees of Court, and so on.
– If all parties do not agree, counsel cannot appear.
– That is so, unless the Court considers that the assistance of counsel is necessary.
– How will that provision be enforced ?
– The Court will not be able to hear any other counsel who may wish to appear. Only one counsel may take part in the proceedings.
– A junior counsel might sit in the Court and instruct the senior counsel .
– Any second counsel would have no more right to take part in the proceedings than any private person, and could not obtain a fee for anything be might do.
– Although I belong to a profession whose members are supposed to be always endeavouring to create means of increasing their fees, I shall show that I am perfectly willing that, in this instance, its wings shall be clipped. I shall not deal with the exaggeration in the statement of the honorable member for Riverina about the proceedings between himself and Mr. Blackwood.
– There was no exaggeration. I will prove my statements.
– I have already shown that those proceedings did not cost the honorable member anything. I understood the honorable member to stand up here as the champion of the poor man. who, he considered, ought not to be called upon to nay even a minimum of £100.
– I say so still.
– These clauses as they stand are of such a character that I am satisfied that the High Court would not investigate a case without requiring that the two parties should be represented by either counsel or attorney. No Court that desires to carry on its business expeditiously would willingly permit two parties, unless they showed themselves to have the competence of counsel, to conduct their own cases. . Therefore, the Committee may assume that the High Court would in every case require the parties to be represented. The clauses provide that one suitor may recover from the other costs amounting to £100. I would ask honorable members whether they consider that that is a condition that ought to exist? I pleaded for the High Court, because I considered that it was an eminently superior, and more impartial tribunal than a Committee of the House. But we know very well that parties can appear before an Elections and Qualifications Committee without incurring any costs. I want honorable members to see where these clauses will lead them. They would expose the poor candidate, who might fail in his suit, on account of the neglect of some electoral officer, to the risk of having to pay £100 ; and as no Court would undertake to hold an inquiry without ordering the suitors to be represented, there is every chance of that amount being incurred.
– I desire to move that clause 48 be recommitted for the purpose of amending it by providing that in future tribunals for the hearing of election disputes shall consist of Members of Parliament.
– It will be competent for the honorable member to take that course on the motion for the adoption of the report of the Committee.
– I wish to thank the Minister for having introduced the clause. I think that he has more than kept his word. I shall not, however, rest content, but shall, at the first opportunity, endeavour to take all these inquiries out of the jurisdiction of the High Court. I do not think that suitors in election disputes should be put to the expense of even£100. I think that where a justifiable difference of opinion exists as to the result of an election, the parties should be able to get justice without incurring any cost whatever. There is no reason why the Government should not appoint counsel to act for both parties. I am afraid that under the conditions spoken of by the honorable and learned member for Parkes, the costs as between lawyer and client would be just as great as at present.
– No. Mr. Blackwood had to pay his own costs, and also the costs of the honorable member for Riverina, which amounted to , £251.
– The honorable member is slightly in error.
– I should like to know whether, in the event of my going before the High Court, I would be permitted to plead my own case?
– Certainly. Counsel could be engaged only in the event of both parties consenting, or upon the Court certifying that counsel were necessary.
– I shall support the proposal of the honorable member for Wilmot.
– I think that the clause will make some difference, because if discretion is vested in the Court, the result will probably be that where facts only are involved they may dispense with counsel, and that where matters of law are likely to arise they will permit them to appear. I should like to ask the Minister whether he is quite sure that the question of allowing counsel to appear can be determined before the Court actually sits. It would be unfortunate if the parties did not know beforehand that counsel would be permitted to appear on their behalf. The poor litigant would save nothing if he briefed counsel before the Court sat, and then found that his legal representative could not appear for him.
– A regulation could be framed to meet that case.
– I do not know that it could ; but, at any rate, the matter should be considered. I do not think that an application can be made by a party to a Judge in chambers.
– The Justices have exercised jurisdiction in chambers, I think.
– It ought to be made clear that if counsel appears, a solicitor cannot appear upon the same side.
– Either counsel or solicitor can appear.
– Does the clause mean that when the solicitor commences a case, and counsel appears by permission of the Court, the costs of the solicitor are not allowed?
– I do not think so. Counsel only can appear in the Court.
– The clause appears ambiguous, and I think that we ought to remedy it.
– Its wording is exactly the same as the provision which is embodied in the Conciliation and Arbitration Act.
– If the Minister is satisfied with it, I have no further objections to offer.
– I should like to understand exactly the effect of the words contained in clause 202&. As I read it, the successful suitor is required to pay all his own costs, and all of the costs as between party and party, with the exception of £100
– It will have the effect of curtailing expenses.
– Perhaps so.
– I am not at all satisfied with this clause. I can quite imagine a case in which the two parties interested may decide not to employ either counsel or solicitor.
– In a case of that sort, the Court would never exercise its discretion, unless it felt that very complicated issues were at stake.
– My experience of the High Court is the reverse of a pleasant one. ‘ The honorable and learned member for Parkes has said that under this provision it would be within the power of that tribunal to order the parties to any disputed election to be represented by counsel. If so, I say that the first paragraph of the clause is valueless, and I do not see much virtue in the second paragraph, which declares that in no case shall more than one counsel or solicitor appear on behalf of any party. I know that in the case which . I contested, three eminent barristers were engaged on the opposite side.
– Only one counsel was paid.
– The clause further provides that the Court may award costs against an unsuccessful suitor, but that those costs shall be limited to £100. The honorable and learned member for Parkes has admitted that Mr. Blackwood’s bill of costs amounted to something like £700. I am absolutely certain that as long as the High Court continues to act as the Court of Disputed Returns, counsel will be employed. I hope that the Minister will do something to meet what I am sure, notwithstanding the result of the division which took place on this question a Bay or two ago, is the wish of the Committee.
Mr. CAMERON (Wilmot).- I rise simply to correct a statement made by the honorable and learned member for Parkes. I understood him to say that in no case had two counsel appeared for the one party to an electoral dispute.
– I said that two counsel did not appear at the same time in the Riverina case.
– In the case of the Denison election petition, my opponent was represented by two counsel, and they claimed thirty guineas each as their fee.
Mr. MALONEY (Melbourne).- I am aware that this clause has been taken from the Conciliation and Arbitration Act; but it seems to me that it may yet be capable of improvement. I propose to move an amendment which should enable us to settle the question without delay. If carried, it will render it impossible for a party to a petition before the Court to be put to large expense. I move -
That the words “ or By leave of the Court “ be left out.
Mr. GROOM (Darling Downs - Minister of Home Affairs). - I trust that the Committee will -not accept the amendment. The underlying principle of the clause is that, subject to certain modifications which are absolutely necessary, no party shall be represented by counsel or solicitor. In the first place, neither counsel nor solicitor are to appear except by consent of all parties. If the parties agree to counsel being briefed, no one can find fault with the adoption of that course. In the next place, a party is not to be represented by counsel or solicitor except by leave of the Court. It is quite possible that where the parties had refused to agree to legal assistance being retained, the presiding Justice would not exercise his discretion to allow counsel to appear. I feel confident that he would exercise it only when there was some important question of law to be investigated in the interests of the parties concerned.
– Why should they pay for the interpretation of the law?
– That is a remark which might be made in regard to all litigation. Under this clause, only one counsel may appear on behalf of any party, and the Justice, in exercising his discretion, ‘would probably allow counsel to appear only for the purpose of dealing with certain questions.
– If I were a party to a petition before the Court, and objected to counsel appearing, whilst my opponent, on the other hand, desired legal assistance, could not the Court compel me in those circumstances to agree to counsel appearing?
– I might say that it was desirable to have counsel. We know that counsel appear before Elections and Qualifications Committees, and that there is no limitation as to the number who may be so retained.
– If we had an Elections and Qualifications Committee we should do away with the right of counsed to appear before it.
– I am sure that we should not do so. As a rule, Elections and Qualifications Committees are glad to have the assistance of counsel. Under this Bill we shall have a well-trained Justice to deal with election petitions.
– Then he should be able to do without counsel.
– No; counsel have often to make researches, just as private individuals have to do. The learned Justice might say : “ This is a matter involving the interpretation of the Constitution, or the investigation of the history of the law of elections, and inasmuch as my decision will become part of the law of the land, I think that, in the interests of the whole community, counsel should be engaged.”
– Does the honorable and learned gentleman think that a fledgeling lawyer is of any assistance to an experienced Judge?
– Undoubtedly. It often happens that a young barrister, eager to win his spurs,puts before the Court more complete information than a busy counsel would do.
– The honorable and learned member is arguing against the competency of the Judges.
– No ; the most brilliant Judge in the world could not be expected to know of all the decisions which have been given on a particular branch of the law unless he had time to look them up.
– But a Judge works only five hours a day.
– His hours of labour are not represented by the time that he sits on the Bench. Then again, a Judge does not have an opportunity to look into the facts and the law of a case weeks before it entersthe Court; he has to deal with it at the first blush.
– There is no compulsionon him to give his decision forthwith.
– The reserving of judgment leads to increased cost. Our desire is that decisions shall be given as expeditiously as possible. I urge honorable members not to accept the amendment, for in the light of my own experience, I think that the presiding Justice would sometimes find it invaluable to have counsel appearing. By passing the clause as it stands,, we shall, in effect, exclude counsel from the Court in relation to the consideration of questions of fact. Practically, this will be simply a Court of investigation. I ask honorable members to consider the position of the parties themselves. A litigant might have a very complicated and difficult question of law to face, or awkward points raised by an astute opponent. Besides, I ask the Committee to remember the absolute helplessness of some persons, even in appearing before a Committee of Elections and Qualifications. It is not every man who is gifted with the power of speech and of reasoning, or is able to properly put his case before a tribunal.
– Such persons have no right to be in Parliament.
-A man might make an excellent Member of Parliament, and yet be unable to argue questions of law glibly and quickly.
– All that is necessary is to have the numbers.
– Questions affecting legal rights, the validity of ballot-papers, or a nomination, the acts of returning officers, and so on, may arise, and honorable members, by voting for the amendment, may be depriving themselves of the opportunity to obtain assistance in such cases. Moreover, I ask the Committee not to do the Court the injustice of depriving it of the assistance which is essential if we are to have sound decisions on important questions of law. If what is done now does not prove satisfactory, it will be possible for us to make further amendments of the law, and I have already promised to do my best to obtain a simpler procedure, so that we may have what all desire - an impartial Court, which will try cases in the most expeditious and cheapest manner possible.
Mr. CAMERON (Wilmot).- Before the establishment of this Court election petitions were heard by a Committee of this House, a procedure which, I believe, is followed in come of the States Parliaments. That Committee not being composed of legal men, there might have been some reason for giving it legal assistance ; but surely a properly qualified Judge should be able to decide cases coming before him without the help of counsel.’ Of course, if all the parties wish to employ counsel, I have no objection to that being done, but I hope that the amendment of the honorable member for Melbourne will be carried.
Mr. CHANTER (Riverina). - When Parliament established the Court of Disputed Returns it provided that it should be guided by the substantial merits and good conscience of each case coming before it, without regard to legal forms or technicalities, or the laws of evidence. Our wish was to create a tribunal before whom any man could appear and state his case, without being hindered by a want of knowledge of legal procedure. The Court is not called upon to decide matters of law ; those can be dealt with by the Full Court. The marginal note of section 199 of the principal Act reads, “Real justice to be observed.” I naturally feel very strongly about this matter, because I have been through the mill, and ground pretty small, and I know what a serious mistake Parliament made in setting up the present tribunal. I hope that we shall get back again to this Court, which is the highest in the land. Even if the clause is amended as proposed, there will be nothing to prevent a party who is sufficiently wealthy from , feeing eminent counsel to sit alongside him, and prompt him in regard to legal procedure. I want to prevent that sort of thing. I shall vote for the amendment, because I think that, if carried, it will improve the clause ; but I hope that we shall yet retrace our steps, and make a Parliamentary Committee the Court of Disputed Returns.
Mr. SPEAKER reported the receipt of a message from His Excellency the GovernorGeneral, recommending that an appropriation be made from the Consolidated Revenue for the purposes of this Bill.
That the message, be taken into consideration forthwith.
In Committee :
Motion (by Mr. Groom) proposed -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of a Bill for an Act to determine more definitely the Seat of Governmentof the Commonwealth in the neighbourhood of Dalgety, and the territory there within which it shall be, and to provide for the grant to and acceptance by the Commonwealth of the territory, and to provide for other matters in relation thereto.
– According to the motion, it will be impossible to suggest any site other than Dalgety.
– That is so.
– The Minister proposes to take certain action, and as we may be committed to a certain course, I ask whether he will give honorable members an opportunity to consider the resolutions passed by the New South Wales Parliament during their last session - I am not referring to those which were adopted a few days ago - and also whether, in connexion with any other steps he may take, he will leave some freedom of decision to Parliament? I should also like to know whether the Dalgety site, and no other, must be adopted under the Bill which it is proposed to introduce ?
– I understand that, according to the terms of the motion, honorable members, when considering the Bill, will be limited to the discussion of the merits of Dalgety. In view of the fact that the opinions of honorable members were pretty evenly divided as to the merits of three different sites–
– But we adopted one site. Mr. BROWN. - A good many honorable members who voted in favour of that site say that they did so under a misapprehension.
– Would it not be better to allow the matter to rest for the present?
– I do not know what reason has actuated the Government in rushing the matter forward at present.
– The Prime Minister is merely keeping the promise he made a week ago.
– I understood from that promise that we should be free to consider the selection of sites other than Dalgety ; and if the scope of the measure is limited in the manner now proposed, honorable members willnot receive fair treatment. There is not a majority of honorable members in favour of any one site.
– A majority of both Houses voted in favour of Dalgety.
– Dalgety secured the largest number of votes on the final ballot, but the largest number of straight-out votes were recorded in favour of Lyndhurst at the first ballot.
– Does the honorable member think that we ought to consider the matter after the threatening attitude assumed by Mr. Carruthers?
– We need not consider Mr. Carruthers at all. We are not bound by any action he may take. We should endeavour to meet the State Government as far as we can, but if they are unreasonable we cannot help it. It is for us to do what we consider just, both to the Commonwealth and the State. I hope the Government will make their proposal wide’ enough to enable honorable members to consider sites other than Dalgety.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Resolution reported; report adopted.
That Mr. Groom and Mr. Deakin do prepare and briny in a Bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Mr. Groom, and read a first time.
Motion (by Mr. Isaacs) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
Mr.GROOM (Darling Downs-Minister of Home Affairs). - In reply to the question put to me a few minutes ago by the honorable member for North Sydney, I desire to say that the Bill, which is founded upon the resolution that we have just adopted, is intended to give effect to the decision which was arrived at by Parliament on a previous occasion.
Mr. LONSDALE (New England).This afternoon the Attorney-General made a statement, to which I desire to refer. I understood him to say that the International Harvester Company had sent out a communication to their clients, in which they stated that they would sell one har vester at£70, two at £60 each, and three at £50 each. I communicated with them; and they have assured me that the statement is incorrect.
– The AttorneyGeneral informs me that he did not make that statement, and I am quite prepared to accept his assurance. The company affirm that they have made no such offer, and that the following is the latest circular which they have sent out to their clients : - 545-547 Bourke-street, Melbourne,
October 9th, 1905.
Dear Sir, - We have decided to reduce our prices on stripper harvester from this date to the following : -
Cash on starting,£70.
March1st,1906 , £73.
Half March 1, ‘06, and half March 1, ‘07, £77.
Four equal payments,1/4 cash on starting, and 1/4 each March1st, 1906, 1907, and 1908 respectively, £80.
One third each March1st, 1906, 1907, and 1908, £85.
The company have made no offer for job lots. They have never authorized anybody to offer any machine at the prices to which I have previously referred.
Mr. WATSON (Bland)__ A little over a month ago I was shown a letter in this connexion, which quite bears out the statement of the Attorney-General. Whether that letter was authentic, I have no means of knowing, but it purported to be authentic. How far it stated the facts, I do not know.
– I also saw a letter which was written by some up-country person in Victoria, in which - I think my memory serves me rightly - the writer said that he had actually been offered one of these machines new for £60, and that terms could be given him at that price.
– I have here a copy of a letter which I will read to the House. I will read it, signature and all, but I wish to say that I did not state that the letter to which I referred was written by the International Harvester Company. The following is the letter : -
Bealiba, 25th October, 1905.
Mr. H. V. McKay, Melbourne.
Dear Sir, - I have been offered £70 cash on starting for a Sunshine Harvester. Kindly in- form me if you will accept it; it is going into a new district, and my client has been offered good terms by the International, and intends going for one if you cannot do a Sunshine at this price offered.
I was present when the International Representative offered the following terms, viz. : - 1 or 2 machines, at £60 cash; 3 machines at £150 cash.
So you can see what is being done. He sold two at £120 to one man. Of course, I could not go near him at your prices.
Early reply will oblige.
Yours faithfully, (Sgd.) j. W. Pennington.
I stated that I could not vouch for the authenticity of the facts, but the letter which I have quoted bears out what I have said.
– The House understood from the honorable member’s speech that the letter was from the company.
– I did not say that.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 11.42 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 14 December 1905, viewed 6 July 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1905/19051214_reps_2_30/>.