4th Parliament · 3rd Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– Can the Prime Minister -say how a certain Sydney newspaper has been able to obtain the whole, or a part, of the report of the Sugar Commission before that report has been laid on the table of this House?
– I believe that the newspaper referred to got the report before I received it
– That is a scandalous state of affairs.
– If the statements made are correct, and the newspaper got it early enough to be able to publish it the same afternoon, it must have got it before I did, because I did not receive my official Copy until about 1 o’clock.
– Some one -must have betrayed a confidence.
– I can say nothing as -to how the report got into the newspaper.
– Apparently it got to -only one newspaper.
– There is some dishonorable person in a responsible position.
– The Minister should -make a strict inquiry.
– If this person can be discovered, he will be discovered, and when discovered his name will be made known to the public ; more I cannot say. No community can protect itself against traitors, and no organization is secure against unfaithfulness. We can only reveal to the -public when we discover them the names -of those responsible.
– I understand that there is a minority, as well as a majority, report.
– Both will be laid on the table immediately.
– Were both published in the Sydney newspaper referred to?
– I believe bo.
– I wish to know whether it is intended to have printed more than the usual number of copies of the report - 950? Does the Minister intend to have any additional number printed?
– I am informed by the Clerk of the House that 1,250 copies are being printed, and I understand that about 200 are now available for distribution to honorable members. I arranged for that yesterday with the Government Printer. Other copies will be available within a day or two, and if there is- a great demand for copies you, Mr. Speaker, will no doubt make arrangements for the printing .of an additional number.
MINISTERS laid upon the table tha following papers : -
High Commissioner - Report of, on his visit to Canada and the United States of America.
Sitmar Industry - Report of the Royal Commission.
Ordered to be printed.
– In view of a notice of motion just given by the Prime Minister, I ask the right honorable gentleman if he will take an early opportunity to inform us of the business to be brought forward in the remaining weeks of the session,, so that we may address ourselves, as far as possible, to the necessities of the case, and be in a position to consider whether his proposal .is called for? ‘
– Yes. It is not intended to press the ‘ -motion until such a statement has been made.
– Some weeks ago, a deputation, representing the Electoral Registrars of the Commonwealth, waited on the Minister of Home Affairs. Has the honorable gentleman come to a decision on the matters brought before hia. by the deputation?
– The matters are still in a state of incubation. No feathers arc on the birds yet.
Vaucluse Telephone Exchange - Tasmanian Mail Service
– Will the PostmasterGeneral take into consideration the application of the automatic’ telephone system to Watson’s Bay, to remove the telephonic difficulties under which the municipality of Vaucluse is now labouring?
– I am acquainted with the necessities of the locality referred to, and, in the event of automatic telephone exchanges being introduced into Sydney, it, no doubt, will be one of the centres attended to.
– Can the PostmasterGeneral give me an idea as to when the correspondence between his Department and the steam-ship companies which have the contract for the mail service to Tasmania will be made available, in accordance with the promise he made me some time ago.
– It is available now.
Cadets : Harness Factory
– When is the Minister representing the Minister of Defence likely to give me a reply with reference to the charging of legal expenses in the case of certain cadets who were fined for nonattendance at drill, and which is now overdue a fortnight?
– The information has not yet come to hand, although I know that the Minister is doing his best to get it.
asked the Minister representing the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
– The honorable gentleman has asked for something in the nature of a return. I am afraid that it will be Wednesday of next week, at the earliest, before he can possibly have it.
LAND TAX : Mr. E. BYRNE.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
Referring to question No. 8, asked of the Minister on Thursday, 28th November, by the honorable member for Riverina, to which the Minister later stated, in reply, that the Mr. Byrne alluded to was not identical with the organiser of the Farmers and Settlers Association, and that partisanship would be regarded as a disqualification for the position of check land-valuer -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are : -
asked the Minister of Trade and Customs, upon notice -
Has he read anything in the Age newspaper, or received any communication from its proprietors, urging increased protection for the following Australian manufactures : - Printing paper known as newspaper, printers’ ink, roller composition, printers’ type, printing machines?
asked the Ministerof Home Affairs, upon notice -
Is the Federal Territory, including the site for the future Capital, under any - and if so, what - law relating to local option and the granting of licences for the sale of intoxicants?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows’: -
With regard to local option, it is held that the New South Wales laws on the subject are no longer operative within the Federal Territory. Commonwealth provision for the taking of a local option poll has not yet been made. The granting of licences for the sale of intoxicating liquors is governed by Ordinance No. 2 of1911, relating to the provisional government of the Territory of the Seat of Government, section 6 of which provides as follows : - “ No licence to sell intoxicating liquor in the Territory shall be granted ; and no such licence existing at the commencement of this Ordinance shall be removed to other premises. Provided that this section shall not prevent any publican’s licence, in existence at the commencement of this Ordinance, being renewed from time to time for the same premises.”
Debate resumed from 3rd December (vide page 6313), on motion by Mr. Hughes-
That this Bill be now read a second time.
.- There are a few remarks with regard to this Bill which I could not well include in my previous speech. It proposes to take powers in regard to the control of corporations, not only on their formation and their dissolution which might be a reasonable thing to ask, but also throughout their existence. There are, however, a few types of corporation which are to be excluded. I wish to suggest to honorable members opposite that, by making these exclusions, they have shown that they do not think that there is much claim with regard to the general control of organizations throughout their continued existence.
Apart, altogether, from the very strong point put before the House yesterday by the honorable member for Darling Downs - that should this amendment pass there will be within the boundaries of a State one law governing corporations in the transaction of their ordinary business, and another law governing business individuals, and that the resulting confusion will be very serious - we have the introduction of a number of words in the “ exception “ paragraph, which will be productive of still further confusion, and are only valuable as giving a line to the fact that the Labour party imagine that these proposals will not be popular with the persons who would be expected to operate under them.
The following are the words I wishto direct attention to - or any corporation formed solely for religious, charitable, scientific, ‘ or artistic purposes, and not for the acquisition of gain by the corporation or its members.
I defy honorable members opposite to say what would not be covered by that provision, provided that arrangements are made to meet it. Take, for instance, a corporation formed “ not for the acquisition of gain by the corporation or its members,” but “for artistic purposes.” I take it that an “ art union “ will be exempt under the Bill, and the honorable member for East Sydney will, I think, agree with me in that.
– No; do not put words into my mouth.
– Order !
– I am trying, sir, to get light on this subject. I am seeking to find out what sort of corporations would be included in paragraph b of clause 2.
– Fish somewhere else.
– The honorable member for East Sydney will not help me, sir, but I really think that this provision will apply, and is intended to apply to art unions, which, I assume, are covered by the phrase “artistic purposes.” Art unions are occasionally rather artistic enterprises. I hold in my hand a statement of how the art unions which my honorable friends opposite run-through other hands, of course - for the benefit of their funds. I have here a few extracts from the balancesheet of a recent art union, in which no less than£13,837 3s. was collected from the general public. Out of that sum, only £1,563 was distributed in prizes.
-Where did the rest go?
– Some of it went to provide spurs for the distinterested altruism of those who ran the art union.
– Order ! The honorable member must see that that question has no relevance to the Bill.
– With the utmost deference, I fail to see how it can be held that this Bill does not cover art unions. I think I am justified in advancing reasons why certain words in clause 2 should be struck out. I would remind you, sir, that in connexion with another Bill the iniquity of certain trusts was held to justify the discussion of their operations in this Chamber.
– Order ! Will the honorable member confine himself to the question before the Chair?
– This is a Bill which provides for certain exemptions from the operation of the Commonwealth law in respect of corporations. Those exemptions include “ Municipal or governmental corporations, or any corporation formed solely for religious, charitable, scientific, or artistic purposes.” Here was an art union which was a fraud upon the public. I say that a fraud upon the public ought not to be exempted from the operation of Commonwealth legislation. But if you, sir, rule that I am not permitted to discuss a fraud upon the public-
– Order ! I have asked the honorable member several times not to pursue the course which he is now following. It is a gross reflection upon the Chair. I have never ruled that the honorable member is not entitled to discuss a fraud upon the public, and he knows that perfectly well. He ought not to reflect on the Chair in the way that he has repeatedly done. I regret to be obliged to remind him of the fact, but he must not repeat the offence.
– I take it that I am permitted to refer to this art union?
– The honorable member must not refer to it in detail.
– I merely wish to point out that there ought to be no exemption from the operation of the Commonwealth law in cases of this kind. Under the legislation proposed, it may be found impossible for art unions to pay these heavy fees to those who run them-
– The honorable member is now discussing a matter which is entirely foreign to the Bill. I must again ask him not to do so.
– I rise to a point of order. I really do not understand your” ruling, sir. Many honorable members believe that these lotteries are a pernicious form of gambling, and that consequently they ought to come under the control of the corporation power, which, under this Bill, it is proposed to vest in the Commonwealth. Inasmuch, however, as in this Bill they are specifically excluded from the operation of Commonwealth legislation,I submit that the honorable member for Wentworth is justified in arguing that they ought to be brought within the scope of such legislation.
– The whole point is that the honorable member for Wentworth wishes to discuss in detail a matter which is entirely foreign to the Bill. Under the pretence of dealing with corporations, he has selected a particular organization or lottery, or whatever he may choose to call it, which he proposes to debate in detail. If I were to permit him to do that, I can conceive of another honorable member rising to deny what he has said, and of a discussion ensuing which would practically have no limit, while the proposed amendment of the Constitution in respect of corporations would be altogether lost sight of. The honorable member must not follow that course.I took no exception to a general reference by him to an art union ; but if I permitted!’ him to discuss that matter in detail, there would be no limit to the debate.
– I bow to your ruling, sir. But the deliberate exclusion of this particular form of art union is, I think, a. matter of utmost importance.
– The honorable member can discuss the question in Committee.
– Yes ; and, therefore, L shall decline to address myself further lathe Bill in this House.
.- It may be as well for me to state that members of the Opposition, desiring to economize time as far as possible, and to interpose no unnecessary delay in the passing of these Bills, will, in all probability, not. think it necessary to move the series of amendments which they moved on a prior. occasion. But it must be understood that to-day we adopt exactly the same attitude in regard to these proposals that we adopted then. The amendments of which I have spoken, taken together, express. broadly not only what was, but what is the view of the Opposition.
As honorable members will recollecct, ourformer amendments sought to omit from this particular measure all the denning words of paragraph a of clause 2 excepting the words “the creation, dissolution.” The creation and the dissolution of corporations we think is essential, on the merits of the case, to equip the Commonwealth for dealing with’ corporations. We see the best of reasons for desiring to establish an Australian law controlling corporations which will be effective. This will accomplish by far the larger portion of the ends intended to be achieved by the larger proposal which is now before us. The additional power sought by the Government would saddle this Parliament with responsibility for the framing of laws for the regulation and control of corporations, without restriction as to their character, their purpose, their dimensions, or their importance. This would not only involve most intricate legislative provisions, but would bring the legislation of the Commonwealth into continuous and direct conflict with the legislation of the same character still permissible on the part of the several States.
On the last occasion, and recently during the present debate, special attention has been called to the fact that His Honor Mr. Justice Higgins, speaking from the Bench with authority expressly ridiculed any attempt at the “ regulation and control “ of corporations in the various States. His express censures covered the very matters which are sought to be included by the Government, and which were sought to be excluded by us, those relating to the regulation and control of corporations in the various States. When a lawyer of his experience, a Judge of his eminence, felt called upon to speak so strongly from the Bench in condemnation of this proposition on account of the unending confusion to which it is certain to give rise, this House received a warning which it should take into the most serious consideration. We cannot question the motives from which His Honor spoke. There can be no suspicion that he had any possible motive other than a desire for the well-being of this community, and the maintenance of a Commonwealth law in dignity and effectiveness.
Assuredly the States should be given no justification for such a charge of trespass against the Commonwealth laws as would be involved if the measures which may be various in the several States, were at one point and another, overridden by Commonwealth legislation. A proposition like this is, literally speaking, meat and drink to members of the legal profession. The more complex our laws, and the more uncertain the character of the legislation we pass dealing generally with wholly different corporations, the more boundless the opportunities afforded for legitimate legal differences of opinion; which can only be settled, if they can be definitely settled there, by appeals to the Courts. But what of the public? I did not hear on the last occasion, when a similar measure was before the House, nor have I heard during this debate, any justification for such a wanton incursion into a territory not of the highest importance, and not essentially Federal in character. Exceptions may, of course, be cited, but they would be so few that they would in no sense disprove that statement. Here, therefore, we go astray, without gain to the Commonwealth, but, on the contrary, with the addition of new burdens upon us and upon all the States. Instead of confining our attention to the foundation of corporations, and the control of their cessation of being - not content with ruling the beginning and ending of all corporations from an Australian point of view - we are asked to hinder our own work and damage the success of our legislation by introducing innumerable administrative matters, the bulk of which must be relatively trivial by comparison. Having repeated this protest” once more and explicitly, I very much regret that the Government on review of the situation, and after the reasonable consideration which they should have given to this portion of their proposals, have not seen fit to place this particular measure more in line with Commonwealth legislation, restricting it to those conditions which are, so far as we are concerned, national. It should have been restricted to a general and effective control of corporations during their creation and dissolution. We ought to leave to the State Parliaments, what it is not our province to deal with, the whole series of confused and intricate business relationships arising out of the everyday management of six often differing State laws established under one dominating law of the Commonwealth.
– Then the honorable gentleman would oppose the passing of a Companies Act for the whole of Australia?
– No. I have said that if we pass a measure dealing with the creation and dissolution of corporations retaining the control, in the first instance, of the creation of such institutions, and in the second place, of the circumstances under which they should cease to be, we should be doing work which the Commonwealth Parliament is qualified to do, and which only the Commonwealth Parliament can do. If we enter into subsidiary fields of legislation on the subject, we shall intrude upon areas for which the State Parliaments are better qualified, for which we have many disqualifications and practically no qualifications, while they have many qualifications and few disqualifications. That would be a natural and reasonable division of the work, saving the Commonwealth, and the bodies liable to be affected, expense, difficulty, and delay, which, under the measure submitted by the Government, it seems tome we shall be imposing upon both, through a mere abstract ambition to deal with the institutions completely, merely because they are in our midst.
– Why deal with their creation and dissolution any more than with their regulation and control?
– Because the regulation and control of corporations must require us to provide for the whole of the details and minutiae connected with their daily working, including minor matters, which there is no reason for dealing with in the same way throughout Australia. I repeat that the attitude of the Opposition and their desires are still faithfully represented by the amendments they moved on the last occasion when a similar measure was before the House. This is the same House, composed of the same members, the same, parties confront each other ; and we hold that there is little to be gained, though a good deal of time might be lost, in again going over the ground that was traversed on the former occasion. It is sufficient to say that the amendments previously moved represent the general attitude of the party on this side.
– What is the objection?
– The objection is to the inclusion in this measure of the regulation and control of corporations once they are constituted, and when it is not sought to dissolve them ; our plea being that the work of the Commonwealth Parliament in connexion with this matter is to safeguard the creation of corporations, and to provide for the conditions under which they cease to be, leaving all the details and minutae of their general operations, as they have hitherto been, in the hands of the State Parliaments. By the adoption of this course, we shall be able to exercise an effective control and supervision over all corporations, while they would continue their operations generally under that sanction, but more particularly under the legislation of the different States. Speaking generally, 1 have not heard the legislation of the States in this regard seriously impugned. No doubt it is open to improve ment, as all legislation is. Having made it clear that the attitude of the Opposition to these proposals as a whole is precisely the same as it was on the last occasion when they were submitted, that we are in favour of the creation and dissolution of corporations by the Commonwealth, we have submitted a fair alternative solution of this question.
– I am sure that we have listened with pleasure to the Leader of the Opposition. From his concluding remarks I gather that while he thinks this is a very useful power for the Commonwealth Parliament to possess, he considers it slightly in excess of that which is necessary.
– The Leader of the Opposition nods his assent.
– I do nothing of the kind. I was merely conveying by my nod the fact that I was following the Prime Minister.
– It is an old axiom that uncertain law is no law. We need to make our laws as secure and certain as the Constitution will allow. If there is one branch’ of legislation that ought to be uniform throughout Australia it is that relating to companies.
– In its foundation.
– Both in its foundation and its ramifications. It is of no value to the poor man who has a little to invest to be told “You are secure up to a certain point, but beyond that we can give you no security.” A man should know when he is making an investment that he is investing with a company working under a uniform law for the whole Commonwealth, and that no corporation, whether well or badly managed, can depart from that law without suffering the consequences. The whole trouble in relation to these proposals is that there has entered the minds of honorable members opposite, and some of the people outside, the idea that this is a Parliament that cannot be trusted. In my opinion, such an idea is erroneous. I believe that the electors will take care to elect to this Parliament, at each succeeding election, men competent to express the views of the majority of the people, and that they will from time to time correct any error. In connexion with the exercise of this power over corporations we should be just as capable of acting fairly between the States, and of protecting the general interests of the people, as are the Minister of Trade and Customs and the Minister of Defence, in the administration of their respective Departments.
– A very different problem indeed.
– I need not go into particulars, but the Leader of the Opposition knows that the Minister of Trade and Customs, if he chose to exercise the power he possesses, could prescribe to-morrow that no man should work in a ship’s hold unless he wore a dress suit and white kid gloves.
– But any regulation made by the Minister would apply to the whole of Australia.
– The point I wish to make is that, although the Minister has power to direct that a man shall not “work in the hold of a ship unless he wears a dress suit and white kid gloves, he does not think of exercising that power. If he did, he would not remain long in office. And so with the exercise of this power over corporations for which we ask. It is a power to protect, and not to abuse. No Government or individual member of Parliament could gain any advantage by violating or straining the law to the detriment of the public interest. Any Government that did so would certainly suffer. My own opinion is that the States would not be prejudicially affected even if these powers were granted to us in their entirety. The powers asked for are not in excess of the necessities of the situation, and the granting of them to the Federal Parliament has already been too long delayed. I believe that there is a majority of the people in favour of the grant of this particular power to the Commonwealth, and I trust that the Bill now before us will not be in any way modified. Indeed, I was hopeful that it would be unanimously agreed to.
.- I hold the view that we should not take powers from the States until things in the realm of Federal politics have found their true level. The time has not yet arrived foi graining vo the Commonwealth Parliament such a power as that for which this Bill provides. The point that I wish to emphasize is that, if this Bill be passed and indorsed by the people, power will be given this Parliament to control even corporations formed under the law of a State. So great is the power which we propose to take that, even in regard to corporations brought into existence under the agis of State laws, we shall be able to dissolve, regulate, and control them. That is a grave power for this Parliament to assume, and, if granted, will, I am sure, lead to friction between trie States and- the Commonwealth, and pave the way to a great deal of litigation. Several exemptions are embodied in the Bill, including the proviso that it shall not apply to corporations formed “not for the acquisition of gain by the corporation or its members.” I should like the Altorney General to state whether that exemption means that trade unions having a corporate existence are not to be brought under the control of the Federal Parliament ?
– The honorable member will find the same words in the Victorian Companies Act.
– I think that I am entitled to ask the Attorney-General to answer my question. I know that he can decline to do so, and that is practically the attitude which he is taking up.
– That is not fair. The honorable member knows that the AttorneyGeneral has not heard what he has said.
– I know that the AttorneyGeneral sometimes does not hear what is said. It seems to me, however, that if corporations, are to be brought under the control and regulation of the Federal Parliament, trade union corporations should also be brought under our regulation and control. I should like some one on the Ministerial side of the House to give me a definite answer to my question. Ostensibly, trade unions are not corporations for the acquisition, of gain, but actually they are. Trade union corporations are not formed to make gains in the way that a commercial concern does, but they have a political basis, and work largely for political ends, and to that extent, for gain.
– If the trade unions are included in any of these Bills, will the honorable member vote for them?
– I want to know from the Ministerial side whether such power will be covered by this Bill ? Does the measure give the Federal Government power to take control over Labour organizations, in view of the fact that the Bill states that companies are not included?
– The Bill does not say that. Read it.
– It says-
Corporations formed under the law of a State, including their dissolution, regulation, and control, but not including municipal or governmental corporations, or any corporation formed solely for religious, charitable, scientific, or artistic purposes, and not for the acquisition of gain.
That would exclude companies.
– No, it would not. It expressly says that if the corporations are for the acquisition of gain, they are not excluded.
– The point is that, this power being granted to the Federal Government, it will be compelled to inquire whether certain organizations are run for the purpose of gain. I maintain that trade unions are run for the purposes of gain - not solely for monetary gain, but” for the purpose of gaining what their members believe to be advantageous to themselves. I venture to say that there are no corporations in the Commonwealth which have a more important bearing upon all -the commercial, manufacturing, and producing interests than the Labour corporations. They may be called unions, or whatever honorable members like, but they are corporations ; and we certainly ought to be in a position to know that corporations having such a dominating influence will be subject to the same legal control and authority as are any other corporations. It is not exactly a party question, because the Government in power today will not be in power to-morrow. There are bound to be changes in the political circumstances. The “ins” of to-day are the “ outs “ of to-morrow. We are legislating for the control of certain organizations until the law is amended. I want to make quite sure whether, if we obtain the sanction of the people to transfer these powers to control corporations established under the laws of the States, we shall have power to control, for instance, Wages Boards ?
– Are they corporations ?
– My honorable friend speaks as a lawyer. Whether Wages Boards are corporations in the legal sense of the term, I am not prepared to say. But trade unions are undoubtedly corporation* in intent, if not in the legal sense. They are associations of people who have joined together for their own advantage, though not always for the advantage of others.
– Like the Millers’ Combine.
– I do not know why the honorable member should be always introducing the’ Millers’ Combine, because 1 have nothing to do with it.
– This is the first time I have mentioned it.
– The honorable member has mentioned the subject offensively more than once.
– I will quote the rules of the Combine to-morrow?
– If they are of interest. I hope the honorable member will make the information available to the whole House. We are taking power under this Bill, if the people agree to it, to override the laws of the States, under which certain corporations may have been formed. It is, to my mind, an extremely dangerous precedent for us to establish. But if we are to have control over any corporations at all, we ought certainly to have a larger control over the corporations in which the members of trade unions are operating. The Attorney-General does not hear what I am saying. That is very inconvenient from some points of view. But other Ministers have heard, and I should like to know from them how far this Bill goes in regard to bringing trade unions under the purview of the Federal law.
– I could quite understand the Government asking for power to deal with corporations whose ramifications extended beyond more than one State if they had not that power already. But I believe that they have it, and, therefore, I wonder at their asking for it. But I object to their asking for power to deal with all corporations. I do not know whether I am correct in my surmise, but I take it that there is very little difference, if any, between a corporation and a company. I believe that a corporation may be defined as a combination which is authorized under the law. A company which is registered under the law is, I take it, precisely the same as a corporation; and I certainly object to power being granted to the Federal Government to control and regulate all companies. I see no reason why companies within States should be controlled from a central authority. To do so is absolutely to carry out the principle of centralization in its very worst aspect. In my opinion, decentralization in all these matters is the policy which should be pursued in the interests of the people geneTally. How can this Parliament expect to deal satisfactorily with companies carrying on business in the smaller towns of the different States? At all events, it must be more difficult for the Federal Government to exercise properly such control <than for the State Governments to do so. Control of small companies in country towns cannot be nearly so well exercised toy the Central Government as by the State Governments, and that is the reason why decentralization has been sought by the creation of local-governing bodies, even within States. The parliamentary representatives in the State Houses possess all the requisite local knowledge to enable them to attend to the interests of companies of the kind; and it is only right that those interests should be looked after in that way. It might be said, of course, that there are local representatives in this Parliament j but the two authorities are not on the same plane, members here not possessing that knowledge of local details which are always at the command of Slate members. All these proposals tend in the one direction of concentrating the control in this Government - in the direction of Unification - and I distinctly object to anything of the sort. It has been asked whether the proposed power will extend to -that most powerful corporation or combination in our midst, known as trade unionism. Such questions, however, are rather amusing, because, in my opinion, the “ boot will be on the other foot,” and the trade unions will control this Parliament with that active outside influence which dominates the constitutional machinery. At the present time trade unionism practically controls the State Legislatures ; and so we see the New South Wales Parliament markedly influenced by the Trades Hall. I do not see what greater power the Commonwealth could have than the control of all companies and combinations, which, I take it, include all trusts and similar bodies, and any two or three men banded together for trade, and registered, would come with in this legislation. The Bill before us looks a very simple one; but I do not think that honorable members realize its scope and far-reaching effects. It means the control of the thousands of private, but registered, trading companies throughout Australia, including the wool-selling firms, the great stores, and so forth, which are nearly all limited liability companies. Whether a combination be a trust or a company, and whether it represents a monopoly or not, or whether it be inimical to the public interest or not, it will come within the Bill.
– Does the honorable member say that a trust or a combine is a registered body?
– No, but a company, which is registered, may be a trust or a combine.
– What about the trust that is not registered?
– I admit that such a body would not come within the Bill; but all companies, whether in restraint of trade or otherwise, would be within the control of this Parliament.
– Suppose they were, what matter?
– I do not think it is well to give to the Commonwealth the control of all companies of which this Parliament knows nothing. Of course, I know that honorable members opposite are in favour of all trading and industrial matters being brought within the purview of this Parliament. I notice that corporations formed for religious, charitable, scientific, or artistic purposes, and not for the acquisition of gain, are excluded, although they were included in the previous proposed amendment of the Constitution, and I take it that that is because of the serious and reasonable objection? that were raised. Then, again, I see that municipal or governmental corporations are not included ; and there is no doubt that, if these amendments be carried, these institutions will very much increase in importance. If we take from the State Parliaments much” of their importance and many of their functions, more work must devolve upon the municipalities and shire councils, which eventually will be entrusted with the whole of the local governing functions of the State.
– We are not interfering with them.
– You are going to put more work on their shoulders, and to increase their responsibilities by taking powers from the State Parliaments.
– We are not doing that.
– The proposals of the Government are to take from the State Parliaments many of their powers. This Bill provides for taking from them the control, regulation, and dissolution of companies.
– We have not taken away a single power.
– The Bill provides for the vesting of powers in this Parliament should the people approve, and any powers given to us must be taken from the State Parliaments.
– The honorable member says now that we are giving the municipalities too much to do. At the last referendum he said that we were taking away everything from them.
– I am not complaining; I am merely stating the position. I say that these local governing bodies must increase daily in importance. Municipalities are excluded from the Bill because, no doubt, of the objections raised to their inclusion on the former occasion.
– They were not included last time, though it was said that they were. We wish to prevent the recurrence of that misrepresentation.
– My reading of the last proposal was that it covered the municipal and shire councils.
– So it did.
– That is my opinion. I wish to put on record my protest against this attempt to vest in the Federal Parliament the whole power to control, regulate, and dissolve companies.
.- When addressing the House on a previous occasion, I drew attention to what I thought was the view of the people at the time when Federation was adopted. I feel confident that they thought then that under Federation they would get a companies law applying to the whole of Australia. The Leader of the Opposition admits that such a companies law is essential.
– I said so on the last occasion.
– On the last occasion the Opposition wished to have the issues submitted separately, so that electors of all manner of opinions could express their views on each proposal, among them that which we are now considering. Most of the members of the Chambers of Commerce and Chambers of Manufacturers in the various States have, at their annuals meetings, pointed out the disabilities which arise from the want of a universal companies law, and at the last Premiers’ Conference an attempt was made to arrive at an understanding which would enable this Parliament to pass such a law. No proposal put. forward at the Conference met with a better acceptance, but those who, like myself, have taken an interest in the public life of Australia for the past thirty or forty years, know that it would be impossible to pass a universal companies law through the six Upper Houses of the States. The members of those Houses are connected with companies, and would try to frame a law in the interests of the companies, and the Premiers soon saw how difficult it would be to arrive at an agreement by striving to make the State legislation uniform. In some of the States the investors are not properly protected now, while in other States there are good companies laws. It was intended when Federation took place, and thirty-nine specified powers were conferred on this Parliament, that we should be able to make laws applicable to the whole of Australia in those respects. The whole object of the Federation is to make laws on certain subjects to have effect throughout Australia. I am afraid’ that the honorable member for North Sydney has been looking through green spectacles, because his vision seems to be quite obscured. This measure seems to have caused a perfect nightmare amongst honorable members on the other side. Judging by their speeches, I think that they cannot get much rest. They certainly come here with very erroneous ideas. I hope I may say, without being offensive that I have never heard honorable members get so far away from the real question before the House as they have done in this matter of corporations.
– The Speaker has to continually exercise his control, and rightly so, too. This Parliament was constituted for the purpose of legislating for the people of Australia, but we find that nearly every honorable member on the other side is fighting for State rights.
– Order. Will the honorable member confine himself to the matter before the Chair?
– I am sorry that I have transgressed, sir. I was only replying to the remarks of members of the Opposition,. -and I regret that I cannot go so far as I should like to do. I certainly think that some honorable members on the other side would be better in a State House than here ; they are not Federalists.
– Order. Will the honorable member confine himself to the question ?
– Am I going too far now, sir? At the last referendum there was a complaint that the issue was confused, but now the issue is made perfectly plain, and the people can give a clear vote on this question of extending the Federal control to corporations. The definition of the power in this Bill is very concise, indicating clearly that it is not intended to interfere with the control of the municipalities, which, of course, was not really intended at the previous referendum. Our opponents then knew very well that the proposed power over corporations did not apply, and was not intended to apply, to those institutions which the States themselves controlled, .because that would be offending against an essential of Democracy. So long as an institution is controlled by the people they are satisfied. The municipalities are controlled by the people, and so, too, are the State Governments. The Federal Parliament never intended to intefere with the control of such institutions, but now the proposed power is defined so plainly that I cannot understand the attitude of the Opposition, that is, apart from their belief that the present Government should not have any other power. That is apparently their real objection to this proposal, and to my mind it does not show much confidence in the Parliament, because no Parliament will ever go beyond the will of the people.
– It shows no confidence in the people.
– Seeing that the Opposition have no confidence in themselves, how can they have confidence in the people? lt will be purely for the people to decide how far we should go in any direction, and what we should do. Under none of these proposals will the Parliament go any further than the people permit. No Parliament has ever done that yet, for all the powers we desire to secure to this National Parliament have been exercised by the State Parliaments. All the awful things that were depicted to the people as likely to happen if the powers were transferred to this Parliament have never happened under the exercise of them by the State Parliaments. This gloomy talk has been indulged in ever since I have been acquainted with politics. I remember that the same predictions were made in connexion with the British Parliament when the question of reform was under discussion,
– Order I
– It was said that various things would happen if the Reform Bill were passed. These tactics were always resorted to with a view to frighten the people.
– Will the honorable member confine himself to the question ?
– An honorable member opposite tells me that I am miles away from the question. Of course, when an honorable member speaks the truth here it is very hard for other members to sit and hear it.
– Order !
– I can quite understand the position on the other side. I hope that when this proposal is put to the people honorable members opposite will not do the same as they did at the last referendum. I understand that I am not allowed to state what took place then, but I believe that statements have been made by some honorable members to whom the people of Australia have been very good in the way of emoluments and positions-
– Order ! Will the honorable member confine himself to the matter before the House?
– I think that instead of opposing those who bring forward measures they ought-
– Order !
– I regret to think that when we are explaining to the people the object of applying for this power to frame a companies law, honorable members on the other side will not be assisting us to state the true position instead of placing that which is contrary to fact before the country., I feel confident that the grant of this power will do much to improve industries, to cause the wheels of industry to go round much better, to protect the public from the companies which are not doing that which is in their best interest, and also to give companies an opportunity to trade’ throughout Australia. It is generally recognised now that no large business can confine its operations to one State, but finds itself compelled to trade beyond the State. All trading corporations are formed with the view of increasing the volume of their business. Sometimes they are formed to reduce the cost of production. I am not one of those who believe that every company is formed with the view of doing an injustice to the community. There are some companies which have been established to reduce the cost of production, and so enable the consumer to have a say as to the price.
– Order !
– I think that we should encourage the formation of such companies.
– The honorable member is now going beyond the question.
– Am I ? I shall endeavour to keep within the scope of your ruling, sir. I am satisfied that it was always intended that this Parliament should have the power to deal with corporations. There are other matters on which I should like to say a few words, but the Speaker thinks that I am getting beyond the line of demarcation. That is due to my enthusiasm in trying to put the real position before the House; but, of course, I shall bow to the Speaker’s ruling, as I do at all times. Mr. Willis would not be so notorious as he is if other persons had followed my example. It is the members of the Liberal party who have made Mr. Willis notorious.
– Order !
– I think that, of all the proposals put before the House, there is not one on which the people of Australia will be found so unanimous as the one under which we ask for power to frame a Companies Act, so that the commercial life of the community may be based on sound principles, and creditors and other persons may be secured against those institutions which, in many cases, have been established, not for the benefit of the public, but for their own gain. We all know that many of our friends have suffered losses through not having a Companies Act to protect the interests of all parties concerned in the ramifications of industrial life under corporations.
.- There appears to be some difficulty in the minds of some honorable members who have addressed the House as to the real meaning of paragraph b of clause 2, which reads -
Corporations formed under the law of the State, including their dissolution, regulation, and control -
– I ask the honorable member not to go into details of a clause of the Bill.
– I am not going into details, sir, but trying to arrive at the correct meaning of the clause, if I possibly can.
– I would point out roche honorable member that that may be done in Committee.
– I wish to get a clear idea of what this Bill means. It contains only two clauses, and yet some honorable members experience a difficulty in arriving at its true meaning. This morning, the honorable member for Echuca asked the Honorary Minister, in the absence of the Attorney-General, what position trade unions will occupy under it? That seems to me a very simple question, but it elicited no reply. The Bill will empower the Commonwealth to deal with corporations formed under the law of a State. That is a very far-reaching and dangerous power tovest in the Commonwealth. It is one which will affect not only the big corporations, but the smaller corporations and companies which have been established by primary producers on co-operative lines, in order to improve their position. In Chambers’ Encyclopedia a corporation is defined as “ A body or society authorized by law to> act as one individual.” Under the proposal of the Government, therefore, all ourbutter factories, our co-operative institutions throughout the length and breadth of Australia, which at the present time are subject to State laws, will be brought within the ambit of Commonwealth legislation, and will be dealt by one centralized authority. We all know that in every country to-day the tendency is to get away from centralization, and consequently it seems the acme of absurdity to attempt to deal with all these organizations from one centre, like that pf Melbourne or Yass-Canberra. On behalf of the producers, who have done so much to add to the wealth of Australia, and who will be specially affected by this, proposal, I enter my protest against it. I do not trust the Government which is in power.
– The honorable membermust think that we are coming back?
– I do not. I feel satisfied that the people of Australia have had quite enough of the Labour party, and that at the next election they will speak in nouncertain voice. From the utterances of” the honorable member for South Sydney and the honorable member for Capricornia, I take it that the institutions to which I have referred, and particularly the dairy farmers of the Commonwealth, will not receive much consideration at the hands of the party opposite if this power be vested in the Commonwealth.
– Specify one of the remarks to which the honorable member refers.
– Only the other day, the honorable member for South Sydney stated that it was a scandal that this Parliament had not the power to fix the prices of our dairy products.
– Order ! Will the honorable member confine himself to the question which is before the Chair?
– I shall endeavour to do so, and I regret that I was drawn off the track by an interjection.
– I have caught the honorable member making so many incorrect statements.
– That assertion is absolutely without foundation, and, to use the Honorary Minister’s own expression, “ he knows it.”
– I called the honorable member’s attention to his incorrect statements at Mount Gambier, but he refused to qualify them.
– Order ! I must ask honorable members not to interject, as such conduct only provokes other interjections.
– I wish also to emphasize that the Coal Vend will come within the scope of this Bill. That vend - as has already been pointed out - was created at the instance of the coal miners of Newcastle. It was at their request that the colliery proprietors in that centre entered into a combination for the purpose of raising their wages. We have had Ministers representing that district who have proclaimed that the Vend is a very beneficent institution. No doubt it is. But it cannot ever become a monopoly for the simple reason that the Newcastle field is not the only coal-field in New South Wales. Some eighteen or twenty fields exist in the southern district of Illawarra, and there is also a field at Lithgow. The Vend, therefore, can never become a monopoly, because keen competition exists between the northern, the southern, and the western fields. Consequently there is no necessity for the Vend to be dealt with by Commonwealth legislation. This morning, in answer to ai question by the Leader of the Opposition, the Prime Minister stated that what the Government wanted was one law for the whole Commonwealth, so that the poor man would know that his small investments would be secure. It is not usually suggested that the corporations with which* the Government are so anxious to deal are institutions in which poor men have their savings invested, although the share-list of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company; includes a number of comparatively poor people who are,, to some extent, dependent upon the dividends paid by that company ~ We are all anxious that, in every walk of life, the interests of the poor man shall; be properly protected, but what I should> like to know is how the Government conclude that the poor man’s investments inpublic companies will be better protected* if their operations are controlled by theCommonwealth Parliament than if they are controlled by local Parliaments possessed of a much better knowledge oflocal conditions than this central Parliament can possibly have. In my opinion,, the savings of the poor, and of other persons in the community, can be better secured under State legislation and administration than under Commonwealth*legislation with administration from Melbourne or Yass-Canberra. The acceptance of this proposal might give rise to a peculiar anomaly. If the Commonwealth Parliament is placed in a position to deal with corporations in the way proposed by the Government, we may have two businesses conducted in the same street, one by a corporation, the other by an individual.carried on under the provisions of entirely different laws. The corporation would be carrying on its business under Commonwealth legislation which’ would not affect in any way the business carried on by theindividual. When this matter was previously before the House, I made my position perfectly clear, and I have also madeit clear to the electors. Believing, as P do, that the grant of these powers to the Commonwealth Parliament would be injurious, I trust that the people will not/ accept the Government proposals. The Minister of Trade and Customs seems to bevery confident as to his own and his party’s position in connexion with these matters, but I feel equally confident that the peopleof Australia, recognising how dangerous itwould be to vest these powers in a central authority will in the next five or six months give as decided, if not a more decided answer to these questions than that which they gave when they were last submitted to them.
.- I do not wish to take up much time in connexion with this Bill as there are one or two of the other proposed alterations of the Constitution on which I desire to offer a few remarks, but there is one point arising under this Bill which I think I should emphasize. It should always be (remembered that these powers are to be taken from the States. The proposals of the Government do not involve any increase in the total sum of sovereign power exercised by the different Legislatures of Australia, but rather a change of venue of the exercise of particular powers from one Parliament to another. In the circumstances, any change of the kind proposed should be amply justified by reasons given to this House and the country. This particular Bill exemplifies what I may term a desire to grab the greatest amount of power possible for this Parliament, without any definite reasons being given, and I venture to say without the existence of any such reasons. What we have to guard against more than anything else is the asking of power for its own sake. The tendency amongst men is always to secure as much power as they can. I confess that at times I feel the difficulty of this Parliament being unable to do certain things owing to the limitation of its powers. Honorable members opposite ask over and over again, “ Can we not trust the Federal Parliament with this power? “ It is not a question of trusting this Parliament. We can always trust it to do its best according to its lights, in the interests of the country. It is a question of the wisdom of investing this Parliament with any particular power. We have to ask ourselves, “ Can this Parliament exercise the power asked for better than can the State Parliaments?” We should not forget that once a power is granted to this Parliament, and is exercised, our legislation overrides that of the State Parliaments. It has been said that the grant of power asked for on the last occasion did not include the power to deal with municipal corporations, but we have it on the authority of eminent constitutional lawyers in Australia that it did, and, in my opinion, they took up a very logical ground.
– If the honorable member refers to Mr. Mitchell, he did not sustain his contention as regards municipal corporations.
-Yes, he did.
– I know that Mr. Mitchell gave it as his strong opinion that the last measure did ask for that power.. It shows the danger of granting unconditional powers to this Parliament. Once they are given in such terms, they are inclusive of everything coming within them. I do not regard the Constitution as sacrosanct in any way. I quite recognise that as we continue under a Federal form of government circumstances will arise proving the necessity for giving this Parliament additional powers. The necessities of the case at the present time show conclusively that this Parliament has not the power to pass a general companies law in regard to the creation, dissolution and winding up of companies in Australia. That has been proved. I am willing and ready to vote in this House for, and to advocate in the country afterwards, the granting of that power to this Parliament. If this Bill had been so limited, it would have had my vote in this House, and my support in the country. There are other proposals in these measures to which I partly agree, because I think we have had proved the necessity for the granting of certain additional powers to the Federal Parliament. When, however, the Government propose to go beyond the proved necessities of the case, then I think they are asking for power for its own sake, and not to advantage the community. I think that they are asking for this power, not because this Parliament can exercise it better than can the States, but simply because the Attorney-General is desirous of so clothing this Legislature with authority that whatever legislation it passes in regard, to corporations, whether it be for the benefit of Australia or not, cannot be vetoed by the High Court. He desires that this Parliament shall take so wide a power that it will be able to pass any law that it pleases in regard to almost any subject touching corporations, and that that law shall not be subject to the veto of the High Court. That is a very nice position for the Parliament itself to occupy ; but, from the point of view of the Australian public, I doubt whether it is wise. The question at issue is not whether this Parliament is to be trusted but whether, in the division of sovereign rights between the Commonwealth Parliament and the State Parliaments, it is wise to give to this Legislature such wide and far-reaching authority as the Government propose.
The honorable member for Flinders and others have dealt so fully with the confusion that must necessarily arise if this Parliament exercises the powers proposed to be taken in regard to the regulation and control of corporations that I do not think I need make any further reference to it. What we unquestionably need is the power to pass a general companies law. As honorable members are aware, a law relating to the creation, dissolution, or winding up of companies does not cover their operations in any way. It has regard only to their creation and dissolution as legal entities under the companies law. It goes no further, and that is all that is necessary from a commercial stand-point. If we attempt, through this Parliament, to build up a whole code of laws under which companies may trade and conduct their business - laws which are bound to conflict with some of the laws of the States - we shall not only create endless confusion, but override those State laws. We would practically have an automatic power of veto over the whole range of State law in this regard. That, whatever else it is, is certainly not in accordance with the scheme or ideal of a Federal system of government. As Mr. Justice Higgins once pointed out, the proposal is big with confusion. Mr. Mitchell described it as a bastard form of government, which would mean neither a Federal nor a Unitary system. It was an attempt; he said, to graft on to the Federal form of government a Unitary system, with all its consequent confusion. If this Parliament obtained and exercised the powers that are now being sought, it would not be long before the people, owing to the confusion that would arise, would cry out for relief, and would accept a Unitary system of government as the easiest way out of the difficulty. For statesmen, as honorable members opposite are supposed to be - whatever the Opposition are-
– I ask the honorable member to confine his attention to the question before the Chair.
– I do no* intend to do otherwise. I think I am entitled to address myself to the advisableness of altering the Constitution in the direction proposed by this Bill. For statesmen to attempt to so mix up two vitally different principles of government - to attempt to graft one on tothe other-
– The honorable member is now going beyond the matter before the Chair.
– Since this Bill provides for an amendment of one of theparagraphs of section 51 of the Constitution, am I not in order in referring to theprinciples on which constitutions are framed? I take it that the scope of thisBill, so far as it proposes an amendment of the Constitution, is as wide as any of the other Bills dealing with proposed* amendments.
– The honorable member is quite wrong.
– I fail to see how that can be. The titles of these Bills are practically the same - they are all Bills toalter section 51 of the Constitution.
– That will not justify the honorable member in discussing at thisstage anything beyond the principles of the Bill now under consideration.
– I do not propose to doanything more than that; but I do claim, from you, sir, the right to discuss this Bill, in relation to the Constitution. The AttorneyGeneral, in moving that it be read’ a second time, was permitted, not only todeal with the subject with which I am attempting to deal, but to enter upon a long, discussion on trusts and combines. I presume that a similar courtesy will be extended to me.
– I do not wish to extend to any honorable member any courtesy or latitude beyond that which is hisright. As the honorable member is aware, when these several Bills to amend the Constitution were introduced, I said that I should allow the widest possible discussion, on the first, but that after that had been disposed of I should confine honorablemembers strictly to the subject-matter of the particular Bill before the House. Tha*) was the general understanding, and I desire the honorable member to conform to it.
– I am endeavouring to do so.
– No; the honorablemember is discussing the Constitution; he might just as well discuss butter.
– I would if the honorable member would listen to me, but he listens to no one but himself.
– That is not so. The honorable member for Hindmarsh is most regular in his attendance.
– I did not suggest that he was not. However, Mr. Speaker, as you rule that I may not discuss the Constitution I shall not attempt to do so. I have practically covered the ground that I wished to traverse on this particular measure, and do not feel disposed, under the circumstances, to discuss it at further length. I feel that the method adopted by the Government in limiting the debate as they have done has prevented honorable members from dealing with important aspects of the subject as they should have been dealt with. I am very sorry that that course should have been adopted, because there appears to me to be no option but to leave undiscussed certain matters of very great importance, in my opinion, however unimportant my opinion may be in regard to them.
– The Attorney-General, in urging why this Bill in regard to corporations should be passed, stated, among other reasons - what is a recognised fact - that trade and commerce at the present time is largely carried on by trading companies or corporations. I not only agree with the Attorney-General in that respect, but I realize that the preponderance of trade and commerce is nowadays carried on in that particular way. He urged that for that reason the Federal Government should have the most complete control in the regulation of corporations. Trading corporations are so well recognised at the present time, and have grown so popular, that there is no doubt that they not only invite, but demand, the attention of this and other Parliaments. A most comprehensive measure was passed by the Imperial Parliament in 1908. I refer to the Companies Act. Legislation based upon that Act has also been passed by the Parliaments of several of the Australian States. In Victoria, it was passed with certain additions, and some rigid provisions in certain respects were inserted. Two classes of companies are commonly known to commerce, and will be very seriously affected by this measure. One is that which is known as the proprietary or private company. Within the last few years it has become a practice of leading firms to carry on their business by means of proprietary companies. A proprietary company is the same as a private company under the English law. Two men can create a company. It is a very justifiable and convenient course to resort to. It permits the division of a business into shares. For family reasons it is a useful method of dividing up interests. It also has the advantage that there is a limited liability.
– It has also the advantage that shares can be deposited with a bank.
– Exactly so. The formation of such companies is a legitimate course to follow. Therefore, in dealing with corporations we are dealing with an important element in our daily life. It behoves us, for this reason, to offer the utmost facilities for companies to carry on their business. In addition to proprietary companies, there are public companies, in which the public are more or less interested. It is in connexion with such companies that efforts are being made by legislation to secure the utmost protection to the public. The AttorneyGeneral made a statement which, I think, is hardly borne out by the law as it stands. He said that it was practically impossible in Australia to obtain any information in regard to companies. My honorable friend was greatly in error in that regard. In regard even to private companies, full publicity is demanded by the terms of the law. The Victorian Companies Act of 1 9 10 makes provision as to what shall be done by all companies, including private companies. It is necessary that every company having a share capital shall, once at least in every year, make a list of all persons who, at the date of the first, or of the only ordinary general meeting in the year, are members of the company, and of persons who have ceased to be members since the date of the last meeting ; or, in the case of a first return, since the incorporation of a company. Further particulars are also required by the law to be given. I may enumerate what they are -
The number of shares or amount of stock comprised in each share warrant;
Any company which fails in these respects is liable to considerable fines. It is quite true that proprietary companies are not compelled to file balance-sheets for public inspection. There is really no reason why they should be. None of us is compelled to file a balance-sheet in regard to our private affairs. Proprietary companies are really private companies, and there is no reason why they should be required to disclose their private balance-sheets. But where the public is interested, and is invited to take shares good faith is a vital factor, and the law requires full publicity. The utmost precaution is taken. I was a member of a State Government which introduced, I suppose, the most rigid and stringent company law which has ever been in force in Australia, and many of the features of which are now being adopted elsewhere. I am now dealing with the contention of the Attorney-General that, under the present law, sufficient information is not given to the public, and that, therefore, it is necessary that the proposed powers should be given to the Commonwealth Parliament. So far as public companies are concerned, it is provided, by section 115 of the Victorian Act -
Every company, and the directors and manager thereof -
The balance-sheet shall be audited by the company’s auditors as hereinafter provided, and shall contain a summary of the share capital of the company, its liabilities, and its assets, giving such particulars as will disclose the general nature of those liabilities and assets, and the balance-sheet shall include a statement of profit and loss.
The balance-sheet may, in the case of a banking company, and shall in the case of any other company, be in one of the forms in the Second Schedule to this Act, or to the like effect, and comply with the directions (if any) at the foot of the form.
Not only are the requirements very stringent in regard to public companies, so far as the disclosures to be made are concerned, but in the schedules, which I need not quote now, further information is provided for. The Attorney-General, I think, quite overlooked the public requirements made by the laws of the several States in this regard ; and it is not necessary to clothe the Commonwealth Parliament in order to get more complete information than that already obtainable.
Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 3p.m.
– I have not heard from the other side any reply to the argument of the honorable members on this side, and to the statement of high judicial authority, that an extraordinary anomaly would be created if the Federal Government had power to make laws regarding corporations, and it were left to the States to make laws regarding individuals carrying on the same business. It would create an extraordinary state of things if, in any branch of trade or commerce, corporations were subject to one law and individuals to another.
– What has the honorable member in his mind?
– The embarrassment and confusion suggested by Mr. Justice Higgins and others. I wish to deal with the subject from its practical aspect. Although trade and commerce, as the AttorneyGeneral has said, is carried on for the most part by corporations, a substantial part of it is carried on by individuals.
– What regulation would apply to a company which would not also apply to an individual?
– It is difficult to foresee exactly what would happen, but the States have within the ambit of their powers the right to regulate the carrying on of trade, and may prescribe certain regulations in regard to a particular trade. But if the proposals before us are carried, it will be within the competence of the Federal Parliament to prescribe regulations for the conduct of corporations in that trade, and the Federal law would not necessarily be consonant with the State law. For that I have the authority of men like Mr. Justice Higgins, who has great judicial and political experience, and occupies a position which gives him a view bounded % a very wide horizon. No honorable member opposite has attempted to answer that objection to this proposal, which, in my opinion, is unanswerable.
– The honorable member has not given us a concrete case.
– I have already referred the honorable member to numerous instances cited in the oft-quoted judgment in the Huddart Parker case of Mr. Justice Higgins. The company laws of the States are not now in absolute agreement, and if it were possible to have a uniform law, it would be a good thing; but it is not what is proposed. The proposition is not to provide for the regulation of a particular trade, but to provide for the regulation of that trade so far as it may be carried on by corporations. I do not urge this difficulty from a party stand-point, and it has, as I have said, been suggested by the Judiciary.
– Difficulties relating to wages or labour conditions would be dealt with under another measure.
– I am thinking of the regulation and control of companies. I am in favour of a portion of the proposals of the Government, realizing that we should have uniformity in regard to the initiation, registration, and dissolution of companies. At the present time, a company has to be registered ‘ in every State in which it does business, and to have one Australian registration would be a very substantial convenience. Similarly, when a company that has been registered in several States dissolves, there must be a separate winding up in each State - separate assets and separate division amongst creditors. This causes difficulty and confusion. There should be a proper distribution of the assets of a company among its creditors as a whole.
– Should we not deal with companies between the time of their formation and the time of their dissolution ?
– That would involve regulation ; and in that matter you have the practical difficulty that there may be one law applying to companies and another to individuals.
– Could not individuals be dealt with under the trade and commerce power ?
– I do not think so. Besides, each proposed amendment of the Constitution is to be submitted by itself, and one may be accepted and another rejected.
– Our proposals are a complete whole.
– In that case, they should be submitted as one proposal.
– The Opposition objected to that last time.
– I should object to it now, because I do not regard the proposals as a complete whole; but 1 say that each proposal should be complete in itself. The proposal regarding companies should be complete in itself if the difficulty to which I have referred: is to be avoided. Should the people accept this proposal and reject the trade and commerce proposal, there would be an incomplete amendment of the Constitution. Does my honorable friend think that that is desirable?
– No; I want the lot.
– Then the honorable member must put all the amendments together. But they are being put; separately, and, therefore, each amend- - ment ought to be complete in itself.
– When we put them together the honorable member’s party said that we did the wrong thing.
– That is no reason why an incomplete amendment should be submitted separately. Intra-State corporations ought certainly to he subject to the domestic control of the State in which they carry on operations. That is a contingency which has to be contemplated. The Attorney-General has not attempted to meet the practical difficulty which has been raised by members of the Opposition, and, from his stand-point, by a greater authority than they are. I refer to Mr. Justice Higgins. Take the law of libel as an example. A particular law of libel may be enacted by this Parliament in regard to corporations, and a totally different libel law may be enacted by a State applicable to individuals carrying on the same business. Under the circumstances the Bill is incomplete, and I would urge the Government, having regard to the real and practical difficulties which have been pointed out by men of great experience, to consent to strike out of clause 2 the words “ regulation and control.” If that course be followed, it will certainly alter my views on this Bill, because I am prepared to support a proposal to empower the Commonwealth to legislate in regard to the creation and dissolution of corporations, and I make that statement as one who has had some little practical experience in connexion with company law.
– Is not this Bill an improvement upon the present system?
– It will be a great improvement upon the present system from the stand-point of creation and dissolution of corporations. I would support such an amendment in every possible way, but its value is being largely discounted by the introduction of the words “ regulation and control.”
– The omission of those words would practicality cut the heart out of the Bill.
– No. The measure would then achieve a very practical result in that it would permit of the uniform registration and winding up of companies. Substantial results can be achieved by striking out the words “ regulation and control.”
.- I think that every honorable member would welcome an amendment of the powers vested in. this Parliament by the Constitu tion so far as corporations are concerned. Experience has demonstrated the necessity for such an amendment. The difference between honorable members opposite and members of the Opposition seems to resolve itself into one of degree. This is a question which requires to be dealt with deliberately. An amendment of the companies law, which would render it possible for this Parliament to legislate for companies all over Australia, is a question which has not merely an Australian’ but an Imperial interest. I would remind honorable members that at the Colonial Conference which was held in London in 1907, the question of a uniform companies law was debated. At that gathering Mr. Lloyd-George moved -
That it is desirable, as far as circumstances permit, to secure greater uniformity in the company laws of the Empire, and that the memorandum and analyses prepared on this subject by the Imperial Government be commended to the consideration of the various Governments represented at this Conference.
Sir Wilfrid Laurier thought that the proposal might be accepted. The chairman agreed with him, as also did Mr. Deakin. So that the Conference affirmed not only that we should have a uniform companies law in Australia, but that, as far as possible, a uniform companies law should’ operate over the whole Empire. Consequently, this question is one of more than? Australian interest. That should be a sufficient justification for action being taken to empower the Commonwealth to deal with corporations all over Australia. In the Huddart Parker case it was clearly shown that the conflict between Federal and State laws rendered both, to a large extent, ineffective, and that some amendment of the Constitution was therefore essential. The point at which the Opposition part company with the Government has reference to the regulation and control of corporations. No impartial reader of the speeches delivered by the honorable member for Angas and the honorable member for Flinders can be other than convinced that if we include the words “regulation and control “ in this Bill we shall propagate the endless confusion which was alluded to by Mr. Justice Higgins. I am sure that honorable members are not anxious to secure an amendment of the Constitution which will cause Commonwealth laws to be enacted which will come into direct conflict with State laws in matters over which the States have complete jurisdiction. A good deal of confusion exists in regard to corporations, trusts, and combines. I believe we should have power to enact a uniform companies law, and that we should have power to prescribe the methods to be followed in the creation and dissolution of companies. The question of corporations is distinct from that of trusts and combines. Not long ago I read of an American trust which was formed out of quite a number of companies. The trust held a majority of the shares in each of those companies, although the corporation existed separately from the trust itself. It would be possible, of course, for the different companies to disappear. In one instance, they did disappear, so that what was formerly a trust became merged in a huge corporation. In cases of that kind it might be necessary incidentally to have control over trusts and combines after they have merged into a huge corporation. Possibly that could be dealt with ‘ under the heading of monopolies. If we could prescribe the conditions under which companies or corporations shall come into existence, and the methods of dissolution which shall be followed, we should go a long way towards preventing the development of trusts and combines. Why should it not be possible for this Parliament to prescribe that a company starting in any business shall not be allowed to hold shares in any other company, and thus prevent trusts which might be formed out of corporations from springing into existence?
– The honorable member would cripple some of the best companies in Australia. Nearly all our dairy companies are registered in that way.
– At the present time we cannot foresee how far legislation ought to operate. But it may be possible by means of legislation to prevent the growth of huge trusts and monopolies out of the operations of individual corporations which may pool their shares in order to gain a monopoly in any industry. When this question was before us on the last occasion it was submitted in a very similar form. But I am glad to see that the Government have recognised the danger, which we then pointed out, of the possible encroachment of the Federal power upon municipal and State powers. But the most objectionable portion of their proposal still remains, namely, the “ regulation and control “ of corporations, to which legal members of the House have already referred. On the last occasion the Government sought to substitute for the power vested in the Federal Parliament to deal with corporations, the power to regulate and control them. On behalf of the whole Opposition, I believe, the honorable member for Angas took exception to the introduction of the words “ regulation and control,” and moved their omission so that the Parliament would have power to make laws with respect to the creation and dissolution of corporations. That amendment was rejected, but Ministers apparently have not profited by the weighty arguments which were then adduced in support of it.
– The chances are that if we had proposed such an amendment on this occasion some other objection would have been raised by the Opposition.
– The honorable member should be able to discuss a question of this kind on its merits.
– The point that I wished to make was that even if some honorable members of the Opposition on the last occasion did speak in favour of a certain amendment it is quite possible that on this occasion, if a similar proposal had been made they would have spoken against it.
– That does not alter the merits of the case.
– The Minister is not allowed to change his opinions.
– A wholesome feature of our party is that we are entitled to hold different opinions on various questions. Members who are not prepared to profit by information obtained in the course of a debate in this House are not fit to represent the people. The whole House is unanimously in favour of power being secured to pass a uniform companies law, but one cannot read the debate that has taken place on this question, or listen to the criticism levelled at the Government proposal, without feeling convinced that its adoption would lead to endless confusion between the States and the Commonwealth. On the other hand, the proposal made on the last occasion, by the honorable member for Angas, would give this Parliament all the power it requires to pass a uniform companies law. According to leading authorities - including Mr. Justice Higgins - whose opinions have been quoted in this House, the proposed amendment of the Constitution now before us would lead to endless confusion between the States and the Commonwealth. If it were adopted we should have one set of laws, passed by 4he Commonwealth, and another passed by the States, controlling and regulating companies in Australia.
– Bring them all under “” trade and commerce.”
– That is another point.
– It is a very sore point for honorable members opposite. It ought not to be mentioned.
– The honorable member is referring to a Bill which was dealt with last night. There seems to be a disposition on the part of honorable members opposite to side-track the issue. Whilst I admire the Attorney-General’s eloquence, and have listened with great interest to many of his speeches on important questions, I certainly think that the speech in which he dealt with the proposed enlargement of our powers in respect of corporations and companies was disappointing. He scarcely dealt with the merits of the question, and we have had to depend on the analytical legal elaborations of the honorable member for Angas, and the honorable member for Flinders, to enlighten us as to the real scope of the proposed amendment. At the Imperial Conference in 1907 a resolution in favour of a uniform companies law was agreed to. Surely if the subject was of sufficient importance to be considered by the Conference - if it vitally affects the financial and trading concerns of the whole Empire - this Parliament should lose no time in asking the people to give it power to deal with corporations and companies.
– That would be a useful proposal, but would provide very poor political capital.
-I am afraid! that is so.
– The honorable member’s party was in power for about two years after that Conference was held ; but, as usual, it did nothing in regard to the passing of a uniform companies law.
– I do not know that that is any reason why we should delay any further. On the last occasion, the present Government rejected an amendment proposed by the Opposition which would have given the Commonwealth full power over companies, whether operating in one State or more; and they come forward to-day with the same old proposal which would lead to the difficulties so graphically described by Mr. Justice Higgins in the
Huddart Parker case. It should have been possible to arrive at a unanimous vote on this question, considering that there is no difference of opinion on the part of honorable members as to the necessity for a uniform law. Instead of dealing with the question separately, however, the Government are mixing it up with something else relating to corporations which is foreign to the subject, andi must make the exercise of the whole power confusing, if not abortive.
I am glad that the honorable member for Indi is present, because I wish now to refer to a statement made by him a few evenings ago.
– The honorable member will not be in order in replying to a speech made by the honorable member for Indi upon another Bill.
– The honorable member for Indi made the charge that the defeat of the Government proposals at the last referenda was due to the expenditure of large sums of money by this party.
– The honorable member cannot deal with that matter.
– It relates to the whole question of corporations.
– Honorable members had ample opportunity, during the discussion on the first of these Bills, to deal with all such matters. The honorable member now states that he desires to reply to a statement made by the honorable member for Indi, who has not spoken to the question now before the Chair. That being so, he must refer to a statement made by the honorable member for Indi during a debate on some other measure. He would not be in order in discussing that matter.
– I am referring to a quotation made by the honorable member charging this party with having used funds-
– The honorable member will not be in order in referring to that matter.
– Shall I be in order in making a personal explanation? If I am not to be permitted now to reply to the statement, I do not know how I shall be able to get in my reply.
– Will the honorable member proceed?
– If the honorable member for Indi does not address himself to this question, how will it be possible for me to get in this reply? The charge was made in a quotation-
– I have already ruled that the honorable member cannot reply to a speech made in the course of another debate.
– The statement to which I refer was made when the question of the power to deal with trade and commerce, and corporations generally, was being dealt with.
– I cannot argue with the honorable member. I have already told him that he cannot reply to a speech made by the honorable member for Indi on another question. He is now trying to evade my ruling. If he does that, he will not only be discourteous to the Chair, but will be guilty of a grave breach of parliamentary procedure.
– T rise to a point of order. My point of order is that, in the debate on this Bill relating to corporations, every honorable member is entitled to address himself to any argument relevant to corporations and in doing so is entitled to refer to any utterance by any other member at any time. Your ruling, Mr. Speaker, as I understand it, was that, while in the discussion on the first Bill we were permitted to deal with every subject relevant to any of the Bills, we are now confined solely to this particular Bill. I submit, however, that in dealing with the Bill before us an honorable member is entitled to- refer to any utterance of any honorable member relevant to it no matter when the utterance might be made. If such reference is not allowed it certainly completely cripples discussion on these measures.
– The discussion would be of undue length.
– It is not a question of undue length; if there is improper reiteration there is another mode of dealing with it.
– The point of order that has been raised has nothing to do with the position taken up by the honorable member for Wimmera). That honorable member distinctly stated that he was going to reply to the speech made by the honorable member for Indi the other evening; and I ruled that such a reply is not in order. The honorable member for Wimmera then sought to evade that position; and he must not do so. He has no right to reply to a speech made on a question that has already been settled.
– May I say a word in> explanation ?
– I cannot allow anyfurther discussion. The honorable member must proceed with his speech, or resume his seat.
– I merely intended to show the relevancy of the remarks of the honorable member for Indi to- the subject before us.
– The honorable member did not say that, but said that he wasgoing to reply to a speech of the honorable member for Indi on another Bill.
.- The whole of the discussion turns on the useof the words “regulation and control.” Until I heard the honorable member for Echuca and the honorable member for North Sydney, I understood that all parties were agreed that it was desirable tohave a uniform company law ; but now I find that on this, as on many other matters, the Opposition are divided. In our desire for a uniform company law, it appears to me not sufficient to confine ourselves to the words “creation and dissolution.” When the subject was last discussed here, the honorable member for Flinders pointed this out very clearly -
I think that if this amendment (to leave out “ regulation and control “) were carried it would* give a general control over corporations, but limited to what lawyers call the status, or, inmore general terms, the constitution of companies, the conditions under which they arebrought into existence, and those under which they come to an. end.
That does not appear to me to be sufficient. We do not desire a general law limited’ merely to the bringing into existence anc? the dissolution of companies. The honorable member for Flinders went on to say -
I should not object to including in the Federalpower everything that is included in the ordinary company. law. That is to say, everything dealing with the formation - and regulation in a narrow sense : that is regulation as to theduties of companies in publishing balance-sheets,, and so forth - and the dissolution of companies.
If we are not to be able under the proposed amendment of the Constitution tx> make a uniform company law as to theduties of companies in regard to balancesheets, and so forth, we need not bother about any amendment. We do not desiremerely to establish and dissolve companies, under a uniform law - we require a general law to take the place of the various Statelaws.
– We are all withthe honorable member as to that. Theonly question is how to do it.
– It is certain that if the words “ regulation and control “ be left out, the case will not be met. The honorable member for Flinders on a previous occasion also said -
I should, perhaps, prefer a somewhat different general wording from that proposed by the honorable member for Angas, but I do not feel that i could take the responsibility of going into the matter.
If there is no one to suggest the words that will give us the exact control desired, the best course is to take the greater control, and trust to the sanity of the Government and Parliament to limit its exercise to “the management, balance-sheets, and so forth.
.- I take it that the idea of this Bill is to give the Commonwealth Parliament an opportunity to pass a uniform company law to meet the varying conditions of the country. With that idea I am heartily in sympathy; and it may easily be carried out without going to anything like the extent now proposed. The judgment of the High Court :in the Huddart Parker case shows that our present power does not allow us to exercise any control over corporations after they have once started operations ; and I do not know that, as a Federal Parliament, we need any such power. If we have the control of the starting and the dissolution of companies, we can impose such conditions as to insure that only corporations of which we approve shall come into existance. When once a company is launched under the conditions to be imposed, it is only right that it should then come within the various State laws. There has “been no demand on the part of the business people for more than I have indicated; and the Attorney-General has not, in any of his speeches, shown why any further power should be granted. I am afraid that at the election the public will become very confused as to the distinction between this amendment and the amendment to give us power to deal with trusts and combines ; and if they read the Attorney-General’s speeches they can only become the more confused. Mr. Justice Higgins, in the Huddart Parker case, pointed out the peculiar position that would arise if the words “ regulation and control “ were retained. We should have the Commonwealth passing a law to regulate a business carried on by a corporation, while a precisely similar business, carried on by a private person, would be quite outside the powers of the Commonwealth. Under the circumstances, the retention of the words is not only unnecessary, but ridiculous. I hope that honorable members opposite will remember that this is not a question for Parliament, but for the people, and will endeavour to enlighten the public, as far as possible, by laying the facts before them. I am quite satisfied that the people of Australia are sensible enough to see how unnecessary this proposed amendment is, and to reject it as on a previous occasion. My only fear, as I have said, is that the people will confuse this particular Bill with the Bill relating to trusts and combines ; and this makes it all the more necessary that the case should be fairly put before them.
– The honorable member said just now that the people would be intelligent enough to reject the proposal.
– If the case is fairly put, the intelligence of the people will prevail.
– Will the honorable member allow me, as a layman, to say that he will lose his legal reputation if he goes to such lengths?
– I could quote the judgment of Mr. Justice Higgins at length, but I merely allude to it, considering that it has been quoted before; but if there is one Judge on the High Court Bench who ought to appeal to my honorable friends opposite he is the man. The Opposition have always favoured the strengthening of the power of the Commonwealth in regard to corporations; and the public, when they know this fact, will realize the lengths to which the Government proposal goes, while conferring no benefit. Surely the people will see that it is to their interest to hold their hands until there is a party in power prepared to give them the legislation that is necessary. The honorable member for Indi made a. remark concerning corporations-
– The honorable member for Indi has not yet spoken on this Bill.
– I was going to say that the remarks of the honorable member for Indi were relevant to this particular amendment.
– The honorable member is now proposing to reply to a speech delivered on another occasion. I see that he has Hansard before him.
– I do not wish to use Hansard.
– The honorable member cannot reply to a speech made on another occasion.
– I thought, Mr. Speaker, that, when you were giving a ruling a few moments ago, you said that the honorable member for Wimmera was out of order because he did not show that what he was about to say was relevant to the subject of corporations.
– I shall not attempt to press the matter further, but I am very sorry that I cannot use a very good answer that I have here to the honorable member for Indi. There is great danger that the public will not get fairly and clearly into their minds the distinction between this amendment and another that is proposed, and great harm may thereby result to the community. If we take the power over corporations which is proposed, it is a guinea to a gooseberry that endless trouble will afterwards arise from the clashing of Federal and State laws, which will cause taxpayers to be heavily mulcted in a series of law suits. The power asked for will enable us to go much further than is needed, and harm will result. I do not know why the Attorney-General asks for an excessive grant of power, because he has said nothing in support of his demand. His speeches only tend to inflame the public mind againstcorporations as against trusts and combines, although much that he has said has been contradicted by the speeches of those on this side of the Chamber. With a little common sense, the Government might bring about a satisfactory solution of our difficulties, and then we might have on the statute-book before very long a proper company law for the whole of Australia. The words “ the creation and dissolution of corporations” would give us all the power we need. Once a corporation has been formed, each State is able to police it better than the Federation; but the power to pass laws governing the creation of corporations will enable us to lay down all the conditions with which they must comply. The power asked for, however, would enable us to pass all sorts of laws clashing with State legislation, to the injury of the taxpayers. I appeal to the Attorney -General to dismount from his high horse, and propose what the people need. He has not told us why he makes an excessive demand, or what he intends to do with the powers for which he asks, and the judgment of Mr. Justice Higgins shows that the adoption of his proposals will in the end produce a silly state of the law. The words “ regulation and control “ are mere ridiculous excess.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Roberts) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 21st November (vide page 5840), on motion by Mr.
That this Bill be now read a second time.
.- I spoke incidentally on the trust question when dealing with the commerce power, and again when following the Attorney-General in the debate on the corporation power ; but there are, nevertheless, one or two matters to which I wish now to direct attention, as relevant to the question whether the amendment proposed to the people should be agreed to by them in the terms of the Bill. This proposal is a modification of that submitted at the last referendum. The word “ trusts “ is now added. That is an improvement. It confers, but unnecessarily extends, a power that I suggested should be conferred, the power to regulate trusts, combines, and monopolies in restraint of trade in any State or part of the Commonwealth. The word “ trust “ has a well-defined meaning in America, as I could show by quoting legal authorities, which justifies its use in this Bill. The power asked for has been widened by the employment of the words “ in relation to the production “ instead of the words, ‘ ‘ in restraint of production.” In all the cases which have been decided in England and America the gist of the charge has been operations in restraint of trade. The Bill gives a power to legislate for the control of operations which may not amount to a restraint upon trade, production, or manufacture. The use of the words “ production “ and “manufacture” widens the scope of the power still further. “ Manufacture “ includes primary products transformed by labour, as I shall show by referring to the Sugar case decision in America. It is not correct to say that the anti-trust legislation of the United States of America has failed, though it would be correct to say that human energy and legislative wisdom cannot compass alt the evils of trusts unless all the powers which are to hand including the revision of the Tariff, are employed. In America the Tariff power has not yet been used. It is the tremendous complexity and extent of the interests involved in such cases as those of the Standard Oil Trust, the Steel Trust, the Tobacco Trust, and others that has, to some extent, discounted the effects of judgments sustaining the application of the provisions of the Sherman law to the operations of the trusts. I regret that the States, except New South Wales to some extent, have not yet legislated in this matter ; but whether the Commonwealth or the States exercise the power we shall still be faced by the mass of obstacles which, by the growing complexity and magnitude of modern commerce and industry is placed in the way of all legislative attempts, however well directed, to control commercial or industrial operations. If one looks into the American decisions, and into the reports presented for the guidance of Congress and some of the State Parliaments, it will be found that it is these obstacles chiefly which have made ineffective some of the judgments of the Federal Court, and many of the judgments of the State Courts. In America thirty-seven States have legislation directed against trusts, and there is nothing to prevent the Australian States from passing even more efficacious laws directed against the growing tendency to form trusts and combines. That there is a growth which in time will certainly become pernicious none would deny. Whether it is due to the protection afforded by our import duties, or would occur under ordinary conditions, is a question that I shall not discuss “in this debate. It may be asked, If there is a tendency for the establishment of arrangements and combinations in Australia which will ultimately injure the consumer, and the States have done nothing to prevent it, why should not the Commonwealth interfere? I would give the power to the Commonwealth for reasons set forth in the memorandum that has been referred to once or .twice, but I would not give it as proposed in this Bill. I would give ample power to deal with all restraints of trade. The words “ restraint of trade “ have a recognised meaning in English law, and also in relation to our local jurisprudence, because a case, Collins v. Lock, 4, A.C., 674, was decided in the Privy Council about T879, in con_nexion with the operations of some firms in Melbourne, in which the principle of what was unreasonable restraint of trade by combinations was declared. The political reason advanced in favour of extending this power and making it as wide as the proposition before us is that the States have failed to do anything because their Upper Houses are more Conservative than our Senate. As a matter of fact, no attempt has been made, even by State Labour Governments, to introduce measures dealing with combines and trusts. The Upper Houses of the States cannot be blamed for failing to pass legislation which has never been presented to them. In 1908, a measure was passed in the New South Wales Legislature making an offence an act which might be committed by either Labour or Capital, and may be described as a violation of the statutory law regarding conspiracy. The question arose as to whether certain prosecutions should be instituted under our Australian Industries Preservation Acts in connexion with a coal strike, or whether the matter should be dealt with by the State authorities. It struck me at the time that the State had ample power to deal with it, and that it was not for us to interfere, if we could not justify our interference, on general and clear legal grounds, with the right of the men to strike. They were prosecuted under the State Act and at common law. Since then there has not, I think, been any attempt made to introduce another measure into the State Parliaments, and, therefore, I trust we shall hear no more of the political reason for agreeing to this Bill, namely, that the Conservative branches of the State Parliaments have blocked legislation in this direction. I do not object to extending the power of the Commonwealth in respect of trusts. I have looked closely into the authorities mentioned by the AttorneyGeneral, and I have read every line of the articles in the July number of the Annals of the American Academy of Social and Political Science, in which this question of trusts is carefully considered. I think that Mr. Seager put the case strongly from the point of view of those who are directing their energies against trusts. But something has been said in extenuation of the acts of the Steel Corporation in America, where, however, so far from trusts being beneficial in their operations, the position is that while they did injure the consumer, they did not protect labour. The hours worked by the majority of the men engaged on blastfurnaces in America,’ according to one writer, is twelve hours a day, and 20 per cent, of 153,000 of the employes in blast furnaces, steel works, and rolling mills work seven days a week. Of course, in their position, as one of the Courts stated - without some power representing the workman, acting as a check on the great powers of the corporation, there can be no real democracy in the steel mill industries.
It is for that reason that on the last occasion when it was proposed ‘to amend the Constitution to confer power on this Parliament to deal with trusts, combinations, and monopolies, an offer was made by the Opposition to concede the power to deal with trusts, combinations, and monopolies whose operations were in ^restraint oT trade or manufacture, though manufacture may not be necessary - no matter whether they were confined to one State or extended throughout the Commonwealth. I still think that it would be better to have one law applicable to all these combines, so that they would not, in respect of their State operations, be subject to one law, and in respect to their Inter-State operations, be subject to another law. The morality of the law would be more recognised in a homogenous community like ours if the same penalty were imposed for the same offence.
– In what way would that assist in doing away with the miserable rate of pay to which the honorable member has referred?
– I merely mentioned that the plea which was urged that the trust was beneficial to labour is not borne out by recent reports. But I may tell the honorable member, without offering anything more than a prima facie opinion, that if the Commonwealth be vested with direct powers over trusts, combinations, and mono- polies, in relation to production, manufacture, or supply, it will be within our power to do what we like.
– To deal with wages?
– Yes. But that is not necessary, because, if the commerce power which is sought under another Bill, be conferred upon the Commonwealth, it will be found that this power is included in that. ,Similarly this power is covered, to some extent, by the power which is sought in the Constitution Alteration (Corporations) Bill. Consequently, we are unnecessarily multiplying our powers. I do not know that under the power to deal with trusts, combina tions, and monopolies in restraint of trade we could not control prices to the extent that is necessary. The power possessed by the United States of America is the power to regulate trade and commerce among the States, with foreign countries, and with Indian tribes. Under that power it has been decided, in the case of In re Green, that Congress can regulate freights and prices in relation to Inter-State commerce. That was a case in which it attempted to regulate the profits of a corporation which was formed under a State law. The Court held that, while Congress could not control the operations of that combination in regard to domestic commerce, it could control its operations in regard to Inter-State commerce..
– Under the power conferred by the Constitution?
– Yes. But if that power be widened in the way that the Government propose, I believe that we could control prices, as they are attempting to do in America. In that country, the power to regulate freights by means of the InterState Commission has been deduced from the commerce power. The power to prescribe freights has been conferred on that Commission, and has been exercised under the commerce power. But I would like to refer to the question of controlling production and manufacture. It has been said that unless we are empowered to control manufacture we cannot possibly deal with alleged trusts, such as the Sugar Refining Trust in America. I do not want to prejudge the case of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company in Australia. But in America it has been held that, so long as the Sugar Refining Trust produces and sells to Inter-State purchasers or directly sends its products into the stream of commerce, whether Inter-State or external, it is, under the commerce power, subject to the control of Congress. The first case decided in America was what is known as the Sugar case. In it the prosecution failed. It was the first case brought under the Act of 1890. Subsequently the company was successfully prosecuted. In 1908, after a little more experience had been gained of the operation of the AntiTrust Acts, the prosecution was successful. The reason why it failed in the first instance was because the operations of the trust had no relation to commerce or trade at all. The Sugar Refining Company took over control of the four other concerns. They were all Pennsylvania corporations. The direct sales by the trust were for consumption within the States. The sales for consumption outside the States were made by the primary purchasers from the trust, and not under any arrangement between the trust and themselves. Hence there could be no successful charge brought against an amalgamation which directly related to manufacture, and did not relate to sales for the purpose of commerce. In 1908 the question of the trust again cropped up. In the meantime there have been several successful prosecutions. There was a prosecution of a combine in connexion with the supply of iron pipes throughout America, in what is known as the Addyston iron pipe industry. In that case the distinction between it and the Sugar case was referred to. It was mentioned that in the Addyston Pipe case, which was decided in 1899, every member of the Court indorsed the view of Mr. Justice Harlan, who was the dissenting Judge in the Sugar case, that -
There was proof that the combine was engaged in disposing of their manufactured goods in diverse States; “and that such proof, the majority of the Court held, was lacking in the Knight case.
In a subsequent case, Pennsylvania Sugar Refining Company v. American Sugar Refining , Company, 166, Federal Reporter, page 254, the latter company was prosecuted, and successfully prosecuted, because it attempted, by controlling manufacture, to control the operations of a rival manufacturing company by limiting the volume of exports from Pennsylvania to other parts of the United States of America. That circumstance shows that, if a prosecution of some of our local companies were instituted under our AntiTrust Acts as they stand, it does not follow that that prosecution would fail. In that case it was mentioned -
If a contract in restraint of trade only affects products within the limits of a State it is subject only to State laws, any remote or incidental effect on Inter-State commerce being insufficient to bring it within the Federal law; but if, in addition, it attempts to control the disposition of the manufactured article across State lines it then directly affects Inter-State commerce, and is within the prohibition of the Federal Act.
In the judgment it is stated -
An agreement or combination for the elimination of competition, from an economic point of view, may not operate in restraint of trade. It may actually develop and increase trade. Such an agreement, however, from a legal view-point is necessarily in restraint of trade. The law regards competition as the life of trade, and so that which restricts competition restrains trade.
But a contract in restraint of trade may or may not be in restraint of Inter-State trade. If it directly affects only production in the limits of a State it is in restraint of Intra-State trade, and is subject only to State laws. Any remote or incidental effect upon Inter-State trade is insufficient to bring it within the Federal enactment. If, however, the contract go further, and for example, control the disposition of- tha manufactured article across State lines, it directly affects Inter-State commerce, and thus may contravene “ both State, and national laws. On the other hand, a conspiracy to prevent a manufacturer who procures his supplies and disposes of his products by means of InterState commerce from engaging in business at all necessarily places restraints upon such commerce. Its flow is restricted and interrupted. The importation and exportation of articles of commerce are directly prevented, and none the less so because the conspiracy may be of so wide a scope as to interfere with Inter-State commerce also.
There was an attempt to destroy the competition of a rival manufacturing company by preventing it re-starting. The only relation to Inter-State or external commerce was that the company had to import its raw materials and exported the product. That is very often the case in Australia. Even in the case of sugar, raw material, has to be imported. This company imported its raw materials and exported the finished product to other States, and by suppressing the competition of a manufacturing company, it had a direct relation to trade and commerce, and as such was held to be subject to the Federal jurisdiction of the antitrust laws. So far only one case hasbeen brought before the Court to test the efficacy of our legislation within the present power. It has been said that itwould be equally futile tq attempt to prosecute in other cases. My reply is that the Government can prosecute in cases of similar facts under the authority of the more recent American decision to which I. have referred. Let me quote from another part of this judgment -
It must be clearly borne in mind that the defendants in this case are not charged simply with preventing the plaintiff from engaging in a manufacturing business. If they were, the Knight decision would undoubtedly be applicable. They are expressly charged also with preventing tie plaintiff from engaging in InterState commerce - with preventing the importationof raw materials and the exportation of the manufactured product. In fact, the allegations go so far as to charge a conspiracy to prevent the Inter-State transportation of materials and products. In the face of these allegations this Court cannot say, as a matter of law, that the main purpose of the conspiracy was to prevent manufacture, and that its effect upon Inter-State- trade was incidental and remote. The combination in the Knight case was for the purpose of procuring control of the corporations in question, and, undoubtedly, of monopolizing the sugar business. The purpose of the conspiracy in the present case was not only to obtain control of the plaintiff corporation, and thus doubtless acquire a monopoly, but to exercise the power of control so obtained to wholly prevent the plaintiff from engaging in a business, the carrying on of which necessarily involved Inter-State commerce.
We have been told by the Attorney -General within the last twenty-four hours that the operation of a local sugar company extends beyond two States - that the refining process is carried on in one State for the purpose of supply in another. I do not say that there is or is not an offence in that case. All that I can submit is that in the light of the American decision it is too soon to say, merely because an obstacle on the facts has been met with in connexion with the first case brought under our anti-trust law, that that law is a failure. I could point to case after case since 1890 in which the law has been successful in the United States of America. I could point to a tile combination - a combination carried on in a State but which? affected the stream of commerce by diminishing the volume, and was therefore successfully prosecuted. I could also point to a successful coal trust prosecution under circumstances somewhat similar to those alleged in the local case.
– Did it affect produc tion?
– Yes. Why should we believe that we cannot get at these bodies here under a power quite as ample as that in operation in the United States, although in expression it is not identical. We have amended our legislation by omitting the words “ to the detriment of the public.” When you first include a phrase, and subsequently omit it, you impliedly give to the first words - in the case of our Act the words “ restraint of trade “ - a wider significance than they would have had had they been passed originally without the words “ to the detriment of the public “ being attached to them. That Is a rule of construction. In America, although the words “ to the detriment of the public” do not occur in the Sherman Act, they do in the decisions of the Court. Cook on Combinations defines “ monopoly “ as-
Any combination the tendency of which is to prevent competition in its broad and general sense and to control and thus at will enhance prices to the detriment of the public.
That, according to this authority, is a legal monopoly which may also exist without combination. Under our Act it is open to the defence to show that the matter complained of was not to the detriment of the public, and was not unreasonable in the circumstances. If there is a difference between the American and the Australian law, it is in favour of the Commonwealth law, because in America a prima facie case of detriment to the public must certainly be established. That is also the law as to restraint of trade in England. A restraint that is merely partial, even although it may involve some limitation upon the right of competition of other people, is held to be good as long as it is reasonably applied. But if it is more than partial, if it covers a very wide area - and in America they take the test of “extent,” the Court in the Standard Oil case saying literally that the question of extent involved the question of whether it was reasonable or not - then it may be successfully dealt with. If, in the opinion of any man of common sense the extent is so great as to amount to a detriment to the public, either in its tendency or operation, then it is opposed to the Federal law in America, and also to our law. The chances of a successful prosecution in our case, however, are greater than they are in America, because we have so amended our Act that now all that the Crown need prove is that there is restraint of, or an attempt to restrain, trade where the prosecution is for monopolization or for entering into a contract to monopolize or restrain trade. Then the person charged, if on the whole the acts complained of involve some detriment, must prove that the act is not to “ the detriment of the public,” and - the phrases are conjunctive - “ was not unreasonable in the circumstances.” The defendents may show that it was not to the detriment of the public, and still be convicted, unless they can show that it was not unreasonable in the circumstances. It is not unfair to suggest that there may be in Australia cases which, if prepared with that care that characterizes all prosecutions by the Crown, would be successful. The Crown Law Department, I believe, does its work very well. We cannot always command success, but I believe, as the result of direct knowledge, as well as of indirect knowledge gained by reading reports of proceedings in Court, that a great amount of energy and zeal is given to the consideration of the evidence in these cases before they are «ent on to the Court. It is too soon to say :that we have failed under an Act more favorable to the prosecution than is the American Act, seeing that in the United ^States of America a great many prosecutions have succeeded. As regards the scope of this amendment, in pointing out what its effect will be, I shall confine myself to what was said in the American Sugar case. “We are proposing to deal with production. How can a combination in production be injurious to the public? One can conceive df very few cases in which it would be injurious to the public. A man produces for exchange. Cases where men produce merely for their own requirements, or to supply every one gratis, are too rare to be worthy of consideration. Presumably, production is for the purpose of exchange, and the moment you proceed to the course of -exchange you become subject to the antitrust power. That being so, if this amendment were passed in the terms which I :have suggested, such dealings would be subject, if not to the power in regard to restraint of trade, at all events to the general Inter-State power, and to the special trust power as regards all trade. Production will cover everything, apart from trade and commerce, and the supply of services, that manufacture does not touch. What 4he effect would be of including manufacture was pointed out by the Chief Justice in the first of the American Sugar cases known as the Knight case. He said, quoting the words of the judgment in another case in which there was a successful prosecution -
No distinction is more popular to the common -mind, or more clearly expressed in economic and political literature, than that between manufacture and commerce. Manufacture is transformation - the fashioning of raw materials into a change of form for use. The functions of commerce are different. The buying and selling and the transportation incident thereto constitute commerce ; and the regulation of commerce in “the constitutional sense embraces the regulation at least of such transportation. … If it bc held that the term includes the regulation of all such manufactures as are intended to be the subject of commercial transactions in the future, it is impossible to deny that it would also in- elude all productive industries that contemplate the same thing. The result would be that Congress would be invested, to the exclusion of the States, with the power to regulate, not only manufactures, but also agriculture, horticulture, stock raising, domestic fisheries, mining - in -short, every branch of human industry. For is there one of them that does not contemplate, :more or less clearly, an Inter-State or foreign market? Does not the wheat-grower of- the north-west, and the cotton planter of the south, plant, cultivate, and harvest his crop with an eye on the prices at Liverpool, New York, and Chicago ? The power being vested in Congress and denied to the States, it would follow as an inevitable result that the duty would devolve on Congress to regulate all these delicate, multiform, and vital interests - interests which in their nature are and must be local in all the details of their successful management. . . The demands of such supervision would require, not uniform legislation generally applicable throughout the United States, but a swarm of Statutes only locally applicable and utterly inconsistent. Any movement towards the establishment of rules of production in this vast country, with its many different climates and opportunities, would only be at the sacrifice of the peculiar advantages of a large part of the localities in it, if not of every one of them. On the other hand, any movement toward the local, detailed, and incongruous legislation required by such interpretation would be about the widest possible departure from the declared object of the clause in question.
Then he goes on to deal with what may be called the political considerations against the policy of such an extension of power, which, of course, in a matter of doubtful interpretation, must have some force with Courts of Justice^ I have trespassed, perhaps, more than I intended in dealing with the legal aspect of the case, but it is necessary to do so for the right understanding of what the power is. Let us now take the case of combinations in relation to manufacture, supposing there was no direct relation, in the operations of trusts, between manufacture and commerce. Could we control such trusts under the existing power? I have said that it is the duty of the States* to do so ; and we are not to suppose that the States will fail in these matters when they really become conscious of the substantial growth of the evil. It is true that the evil has not attained very great magnitude up to the present, but it is our duty to check it. Thai is, I think, common ground of policy on the part of honorable members on both sides. I said that no attempt had been made by the States to control these trusts except in New South Wales by a somewhat limited Act. I cannot see why, however, if there be a detrimental combination among producers - say, sugar producers - it is not possible to reach it under the Tariff, as well as the commerce power - under the power in reference to restraint of trade. Why could we not provide, - as in Canada, that if any such combination is helped b; an import duty, that duty should be reduced or abolished until the evil is checked ? What objection could there . be to that?
– We should be continually altering the Tariff.
– If the honorable member found to-morrow that there was a huge trust in Queensland affecting the consumption of a commodity, and, under our policy, inflicting an annual fine of £1,000,000 on the people of Australia, would he think it too great a trouble to alter our policy once in three or four years in order to mitigate the evil ? What would the people of Australia say to their representatives if the latter appeared on the hustings and said that, although they had at hand an easy method of automatically affecting the operations of a body which inflicted a fine of£1, 000,000 a year on the consumers, they had refused to use it because of the trouble?
– That is not a fair way of putting it.
– That would seem to be the logical result; but I shall not prejudge the case until I have read the report of the Sugar Commission. I have never hesitated to ask why it is that the people of Australia should be asked to pay £1,000,000 a year more than is necessary for their sugar ; and I think we could, by the ordinary operation of the Tariff, attain the same result as in Canada. A few years ago the Canadian Parliament passed an Act providing that the duty should be reduced or abolished under the circumstances I have indicated, and I believe that the law has proved pretty effective. There is in Canada a Committees Investigation. Act, passed in 1910, and a similar law has been adopted in America. That Act provides for the appointment of a Commission of Inquiry where there is any allegation by a representative body of people that a trust exists ; and if, after evidence, the Commission reports that a trust does exist, and that it affects the public prejudicially, and the operations of the trust do hot cease, a fine of $1,000 a day is inflicted, with other incidental penalties. I am sorry that the Attorney-General has not seen fit to propose some auxiliary to the operation of the Australian Industries Preservation Act on the lines so successfully adopted in Canada. It was only within the last week that we heard that the United Shoe Company had been dealt with, and there have been other cases in which combines have been put an end to. Even in America, as we learn from the newspapers, there have been successful prosecutions of some of the trusts originally controlled by Mr. Harriman ; and all this has been done under the unextended commerce power. I believe that the Leader of the Opposition, and other honorable members on this side, would be willing to give whatever power is necessary to deal with trusts on such lines.
– Hear, hear !
– Trusts are condemned by no one more than by honorable members on this side; but all that it is necessary to do is to extend the power to cases where there is restraint of trade, whether within a State or in Inter-State commerce. I am quite sure that Parliament would be quite willing to give legislative effect to any proposals that the Government could show to be reasonably necessary. Under the circumstances, I again express regret, as on a former occasion, that the power adequate to the necessities of the case has not been asked for, because that would! have resulted in unanimity on both sides.
.- Personally, I feel under a great debt of gratitude to the honorable member for Angas for the very valuable contribution he has made to this debate. Honorable members on all sides ought to recognise the untiring industry and thoughtfulness of the honorable member in helping us to arrive at an independent judgment on these various complicated questions. The proposed amendment of the Constitution before us is one of tremendous importance and significance, deserving particular attention and detailed discussion. I believe that it will form the real battle-ground of the parties; and it is highly desirable that the public should be assisted by the debates in this. House as to the possible meaning and development of the proposed constitutional amendments. I, therefore, desire to subject it to careful analysis in order to see what it really means. We have to consider whether any case has been made out showing the necessity for such an amendment, or whether the Constitution is strong enough as it stands to deal with the problems presented by trusts and combine’s. Then, again, we have to ask ourselves whether Federal’ legislation, as it exists at present, is sufficient to deal with such organizations, or whether there is any possibility of improving Federal legislation under the Constitution as it is to meet the circumstances. In the first place, I desire to point out that the proposed amendment, in reference to the supply of goods, is, after all,a mere fraction carved out of the commerce power as it stands in the Constitution ; instead of limiting the operation of the proposed grant to Inter-State and foreign trade -and commerce, it extends it to all parts of the Commonwealth, regardless of State boundaries. The grant of power in the Constitution over Inter-State and foreign trade and commerce is wide enough to cover trusts, combines, and monopolies for the supply of goods. The greater necessarily includes the less; and the grant of power in reference to trusts, com.bines, and monopolies for the supply of goods between the States, and with other countries, is only small compared Wl[11 the larger Federal grant in reference to Inter-State trade and commerce. In the words of the proposed amendment we find a limitation rather than -an extension of the Federal power, because “here we have combines and monopolies in relation to the “supply of goods.” Honorable members will note that the words cover only the sellers or suppliers of goods, and do not deal with or cover the purchasers of the goods. Here, in the very forefront of the proposals, we find a most extraordinary limitation. There may be a combination on the part of buyers of goods, and yet this grant of power will not be strong enough to deal with it ; and I cannot understand why there should be this limitation. When we contrast this proposal with the wider grant of power over trade and commerce generally, it seems an extraordinary piece of draftsmanship, of which no explanation has been given. The principal novelty in this proposal is the extension of Federal authority over trusts, combines, and monopolies in relation to the production and manufacture o’f goods, or the supply of services; and the contention is, I understand, that it is necessary to grant Federal power over manufacture and production in order to reinforce the Federal power over the supply of goods, 01 trade and commerce in reference to goods. We are, I think, under an obligation to the honorable member for Angas for the information he has supplied in the course -of his several speeches, and particularly today. He has shown that there is no real necessity for such an amendment to reinforce the power over trusts and combines in reference to the supply or exchange of goods by an express authority in reference to the production of goods. The honorable member has shown, by the American cases, that a Federal power which was strong enough to deal with restraint Of trade and to fight combinations in Inter-State trade is strong enough to cover restriction or restraint in the case of manufacture and production resulting in the diminution of the volume of Inter-State trade. The AttorneyGeneral dwelt several times with eloquence and unction on the decision of the American Court in the Knight case, 156, United States Reports. In that case it was held that the Court would not grant an injunction to restrain a monopoly, or the proceedings of a corporation that was gradually acquiring a monopoly over sugar production in one State. The Attorney-General re’ferred to that case as a terrible example- of the limitation of the Fedeal power over trade and commerce, “because,” he said, “you cannot effectually protect trade and commerce unless you have power to control manufacture.” An examination of that case, however, shows that the monopoly alleged, for which relief was sought, was a monopoly of production, absolutely and completely dissociated from the volume of Inter-State trade, because the company that was gradually acquiring a monopoly by buying up sugar-refining businesses sold its products to wholesale buyers, who conducted the volume of Inter-State trade. The company itself was not engaged in Inter-State trade, either directly or indirectly; it was merely engaged in the sugar-refining business. In that respect it differed from the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, which is engaged, not merely in the production of sugar in one State, but in the Inter-State transportation and sale of s sugar. I have prepared a brief analysis of some of the cases to supplement the very able argument of the honorable member for Angas. In the Addyston Pi De case, 175 United States Reports, 239, Mr. Justice Peckham practically foreshadowed the decision subsequently given in the case of the Pennsylvania Sugar Company v. American Sugar Company 166 Federal Reporter 256, in which the decision in Knight’s case was qualified by the declaration that where monopoly and manufacture result in the diminution of the volume of Inter-State trade, the operations come within the Anti-Trust Act. Mr. Justice Peckham said, in that case, that if an agreement or combination directly restrains, not alone manufacture, but the purchase, sale, or exchange of the manufactured commodity among the States, it is brought within the provisions of the Anti-Trust Act. In the case of The Pennsylvania Sugar Company v. The American Sugar Company, it was made obvious that the Federal authority is not crippled where production and manufacture are concerned. The plaintiff company alleged that its business had been to purchase raw sugar in different States, and to transfer it to Pennslyvania, where it . was manufactured into refined sugar, and, sold in the course of Inter-State commerce. The defendant company, which figured also in the Knight case, had conspired, lt was alleged, to prevent the plaintiff from engaging in the refinery business in competition with it. It was held by the Court that the conspiracy alleged directly operated, not alone in restricting and preventing the manufacture of sugar in the State of Pennsylvania, but also in restricting InterState commerce, and the transportation and delivery of raw material and of the manufactured product, and was, therefore, within the Anti-Trust law. The object of the conspiracy, the Court held, was to exclude the plaintiff from the business. The refinery was to be shut down, and the Inter-State shipments would thus have been prevented or reduced. Knight’s case turned on the manufacture and production of sugar within a State, without reference to any effect on Inter- State commerce. It was held that if a contract in restraint of trade not only affects production within a State, but in addition attempts to control the disposition of the manufactured article across State lines, it then directly affects Inter-State commerce, and is within the prohibition of the Federal Act. It was held, too, that the conspiracy alleged directly operated not alone on the manufacture of sugar within the State of Pennsylvania, but on Inter-State commerce in the transportation and delivery of both raw material and manufactured! product, and was therefore within the Federal Anti-Trust Act. In my opinion, those cases cut the ground away from the contention of the AttorneyGeneral that there is necessity for an amendment giving the Federation control over production and manufacture. The decision in Knight’s case has been modified by the declaration that where production and manufacture is limited and restricted, and there is an interference with Inter-State trade, the Federal jurisdiction attaches, and if the facts are proved, the case comes within the Federal law. When I say the Federal law, I mean both the anti-trust legislation of the Commonwealth of Australia and the Sherman* Act of the United States. I am firmly convinced that a careful and calm survey off the cases decided in the Supreme Court of the United States under , the Sherman Act,, coupled with the decision of our Court in-, the Vend case, will show that” we have astrong power over trusts, combines, and’ monopolies engaged in Inter- State trade, whether for good or for evil. The wordsin our Constitution enabling us to legislate in respect of trade and commerce between* the States and with other countries are, in my opinion, as strong as could be used toconvey a grant of power. They are strong; enough to give this Parliament authority, to deal with trade and commerce- between’ the States and with other countries in any shape, form, phase, manifestation or development. This Parliament has as strong a power as has the Imperial Parliament in? this matter. Within the limitation that the trade and commerce must be betweenthe States, or with other countries, there isno restriction. If it be thought that our Anti-Trust Act is not drastic enough,, allowing too much latitude, or is not sufficiently specific, it would be easy to amend? it.
– Without straining the Constitution ?
– Yes. Our powersin regard to trade and commerce, subject to the limitation I have mentioned, are asgreat as the Imperial Parliament could’ give us. By putting into the Constitution, a provision dealing with trusts, combines, and monopolies in reference to tradeand commerce, we do not add to our power; we merely carve off part of thelarger power granted by the Constitution. Why should we do that? It is possibl’ethat the words may prove a restriction oni our legislation instead of giving an extension of our power. The trump card of the Government in this connexion is said to be the proposal of a grant of power to legislate in respect of production and manufacture. I have shown that we have alreadypower to deal with any limitation or restriction of production or manufacture interfering with the volume of InterStatetrade. Is there .now any pronounced publicgrievance in respect to interference with? production and manufacture? Is thereany evidence of a conspiracy by any company or group of individuals to seriouslylimit production? Is it not contrary to> the interests of producers to limit production? Does not that cripple their operations? It is only under extraordinary circumstances that any one would conspire for the limitation of output.
– The limitation of output lis common all over the world.
– Any conspiracy or agreement for the limitation of output which affects the volume of Inter- State ;trade comes within the Federal power, as <the cases show. One would naturally think that the ordinary process of competition would operate to prevent undue limitation of output, or the restriction of production -or manufacture. Our Anti-Trust Act is a strong and effectual piece of legislation, clearer in its formulation of prohibitions than that of the United States ; but if it is considered ineffective, and there are other prohibitions which might judiciously be inserted, there would be no difficulty in amending it. I believe that in the United States the advisableness of passing a law to establish a bureau of corporations to watch the flow of Inter-State trade is being considered. Such a body could be vested practically with all the powers of a Royal Commission. It might be empowered to demand the production of books and documents, to conduct an examination of witnesses with a view to ascertaining their trade relations, and whether they are conspiring with others to restrain the trade to the detriment of the community. There is (nothing to prevent a similar law being enacted here. We can, if we choose, constitute the Inter-State Commission the guardian of Inter-State trade. It can be vested with special power to investigate the operations of the Shipping Ring, or of the Coal Vend, or of the Tobacco Trust, or of any other trust. The real evil of which complaint has been made undoubtedly lies in the region of Inter-State and external trade.
– How does the honorable member account for the large body of legislation which has been passed by the States of America in reference to trusts ?
– But, after all, the great fighting arena has been the InsterState domain. But here the air rings with cries of trusts, combines and monopolies within the States, although we do not find any evidence of their existence. It is singular that though there has been a lot of talk about the Brick Combine in Victoria, and though it has been alleged that it has interfered with the State Go vernment in. the erection of its works, up till a few weeks ago the State Government was hot sure whether a combine existed to the detriment of the public. In a paragraph in the press I read quite recently that when the Chief Secretary of Victoria was asked to appoint a Commission to inquire into the operations of the Brick Combine, he assented to the proposal with a view to ascertaining whether there was such a combine in existence which was detrimental to the interests of the community.
– Every builder knows that there is a Brick Combine.
– There may be a combine, but is it detrimental to the public interests? The Minister of Trade and Customs and his party do not denounce all agreements. There may be honorable understandings which do not injure the public, but Which prevent cut-throat competition. My contention is that the grievances or mischiefs which exist, and which are of such a character as to justify Federal intervention, are of an Inter-State, and not Intra-State character. If there are local combines which require fighting we may fairly leave them to be dealt with by the State Legislatures.
– Does the honorable member think there is any chance of them being dealt with by the State Parliaments?
– My reply is that in New South Wales a Labour Government has been in power for two years, and has not brought forward an Anti-Trust Bill.. Surely if there had been any serious complaints in that State it would have utilized its golden opportunity to put such a measure on the statute-book. Yet the old bogy of the Legislative Councils of the States is trotted out on every occasion. Where is there an instance of any Legislative Council in the Commonwealth having rejected an Anti-Trust Bill? The State Governments, Liberal and Labour, would undoubtedly have introduced such a measure if the occasion for it had arisen.
– Does the honorable mem- . ber think that the Victorian Legislative Council would pass it?
– It is becoming a habit with honorable members opposite to sneeringly point to our Legislative Councils.
– How many times did the honorable member denounce the Legislative Council of Victoria when he was a member of the Legislative Assembly of this State?
– I have denounced it upon land questions, but not in respect of trusts and monopolies. I would not be afraid to criticise the Legislative Council of Victoria if it rejected any measure which was demanded in the interests of the public. But no honorable member opposite can point to any case in which an Anti-Trust Bill has been thrown out by a Legislative Council. The principal area in which trusts and combines operate in Australia is the Inter-State area. In that area we have unlimited power over them. If the present law is not adequate to deal with them, we have a right to amend it. In doing that we can follow the precedents established in the United States of America, in Canada, and in New Zealand. As I have already pointed out, in the United States of America it is intended to establish a Bureau of Corporations to watch the operations of corporations engaged in Inter-State trade. In the same way we might constitute the Inter-State Commission a Bureau of Corporations to watch the flow of Inter-State trade. It could be empowered to do that, and to see that nothing was done detrimental to the public interest. Last night the Attorney-General referred to what he considered to be some defects of the present Act. He spoke of the difficulty of securing the necessary preliminary proofs. If it be necessary to remove any difficulties in that direction, let him bring down an amending Bill, and I am sure he will have no difficulty in inducing Parliament to pass it. We could vest the Inter-State Commission with authority over a wider area than is controlled by the ComptrollerGeneral of Customs.
– Has the present AntiTrust Act ever been properly tested?
– Only in one case, in which the Government had to feel their way to some extent, in order to ascertain what really are our powers. But, in the light of the experience gained in the prosecution of the Coal Vend, the Department ought now to be in a positionto formulate whatever amendments may be necessary.
– Was not that prosecution instituted under the previous Act?
– It was instituted under the Act of 1906. In that case the onus of proof was, to some extent, cast on the Crown. Under the latest Act all that the Crown has to do is to prove that the operations of a trust are in restraint of trade, and the onus will then be cast on the defendants to show affirmatively that that restraint of trade is not detrimental to the public and is not unreasonable. They will have to prove that they are innocent, instead of the Crown having to prove that they are guilty. That may have been one of the causes of the failure of the prosecution in the recent case. I mention this to show that if the Ministerial party arc earnest in their desire to fight trusts, monopolies, and combines, and the law is not strong enough to enable them to do so,. Parliament should be asked to strengthem it. But, apparently, they will not adopt that course. What they want is the sanction of the people to wholesale proposals, which are part of a wider scheme of nationalization and Socialism. I repeat: that it would be better to vest in the InterState Commission the inquisitorial power which is at present vested in the ComptrollerGeneral of Customs. But whatever may be the composition of that Commission, I presume it will have to obey the mandate of Parliament. If the power to examine records and witnesses in order to pave the way to a prosecution be vested in that body, it can be exercised more effectively than it can be exercised by the Comptroller-General of Customs, who has other duties to perform. It will be the duty of the Commission to maintain Inter-State Free Trade.. The honorable member for Angas has already directed attention to the manner in which trusts, combines, and monopolies are fought in Canada. I think that it will be found instructive to look a little more in detail at what has been done there. I wish to supplement the honorable member’s remarks, and to show to what extent assistance and light can be gained from a perusal of the Canadian law. The Act, which is entitled “ An Act to provide for the investigation of Combines, Monopolies, Trusts, and Mergers,” and was assented to on 4th May, 1 910, begins by providing for the appointment of a Board of Investigation, and giving a definition of what constitutes a combine. It declares that - “ Combine “ means any contract, agreement, arrangement, or combination which has, or is designed to have, the effect of increasing or fixing the price or rental of any article of trade or commerce or the cost of the storage or transportation thereof, or of the restricting competition in or of controlling the production, manufacture, transportation, storage, sale or supply thereof, to the detriment of consumers or pro- ducers of such articles of trade or commerce. : .
Then, again, section 5 provides that -
Where six or more persons, British subjects resident in Canada, and of full age, are_ of opinion, that a combine exists, and that prices have been enhanced or competition restricted by reason of such combine to the detriment of producers or consumers, such persons may make an Application for an order directing investigation into such alleged combine.
Section 7 provides that -
If upon such hearing the Judge is satisfied that there is reasonable ground for believing that a combine exists which is injurious to trade or which has operated to the detriment of consumers or producers, and that it is in the public interest that an investigation should be held, the Judge shall direct an investigation under the provisions of this Act. …
The order of the Judge directing an investigation is transmitted by him to the Registrar, and then goes before the Minister, who proceeds to appoint a Board, which, it is provided, shall consist of three members. Section 11 provides that -
Of the three members of the Board one shall be appointed on the recommendation of the persons upon whose application the order has been -granted, one on the recommendation of the persons named in the order as being concerned in ;the alleged combine, and the third on the recommendation of the two members so chosen.
Then, in section 18, it is declared that -
The Board shall expeditiously, fully and carefully inquire into the matters referred to it and -all matters affecting the merits thereof, including the question of whether or not the price or -rental of any article concerned has been unreasonably enhanced, or competition in the supply thereof unduly restricted, in consequence of a combine…..
The Board is to make a full report to the Minister, and it is provided, under section 23, that -
Any person reported by a Board to have been guilty of unduly limiting the facilities for transporting, producing, manufacturing, supplying, storing, or dealing in any article which may be a subject of trade or commerce ; or of restraining or injuring trade or commerce in relation to any such article ; or nf unduly preventing, limiting or lessening the manufacture or production of any such article ; or of unreasonably enhancing the price thereof ; or of unduly preventing or lessening competition in the production, manufacture, purchase, barter, sale, transportation, storage or supply of any such article, and who thereafter continues so to offend, is guilty of an indictable offence and shall be liable to a penalty not exceeding one thousand dollars and costs for each day after the expiration of -ten days. . . .
This Act of the Dominion Parliament has already been successfully applied. I read in the Argus of 29th ultimo a report from its Canadian correspondent, stating that -
The Combines Act, placed on the Dominion statutes three years ago, has had its first test. The majority of the Federal Government Commission appointed to inquire into the United Shoe Manufacturing Company have reported that the company is “a combine in restriction of trade,” and, as such, liable to a penalty of 1,000 dol. a day. The commissioners recommend that the company be given six months’ grace within which to dissolve, or cease its monopolistic operations. It is a United States enterprise, which furnishes Canadian boot and shoe manufacturers with machinery for their factories. It controls the patents, and forbade its customers to purchase from rival machinery men. A large boot manufacturer complained to the Government, and the finding outlined above is the result.
The report of this successful prosecution suggests that the Canadian Act contains prohibitions which might be added to our own law, with a view to strengthen and improve it. I think we ought to avail ourselves of any legislation, whether it be American, Canadian, or otherwise, to improve our own, and to make it so effective as to preserve the principle of freedom of Inter-State trade. New Zealand, also, has in force ari Anti-Trust Act, which was passed in 1910. The hearing of the first test case under that Act was concluded in Wellington about the 28th ultimo. In a report, dated Wellington, 30th November, it is stated that -
The Supreme Court has reserved judgment in the prosecution of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company and the Merchants’ Association for a breach of the Commercial Trusts Act.
This is the first prosecution under the Commercial Trusts Act, passed two years afro. Besides the Merchants’ Association and the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, several other firms are concerned.
The statement of claim alleged that the defendant firms named were members of the Merchants’ Association, whose objects and business included the restriction of competition among its members in the sale and control of merchandise. The firms named were further alleged to be members of a ring or combination of sugar buyers who had entered into an agreement among themselves as to the price and terms on which they would re-sell the sugar purchased from the Colonial Sugar Refining Company.
The provisions of the Act, under which that prosecution was instituted, might well be considered by the Attorney-General’s Department, with a view of determining whether they would be of assistance to us in formulating an improved anti-trust law. I propose to refer to several of its provisions. It is provided in section 3 that -
Every person commits an offence who, either as principal or agent, in respect of dealings in any goods, gives, offers, or agrees to give to < any other person any rebate, refund, discount, concession, allowance, reward, or other valuable consideration for the reason or upon the express or implied condition that the latter person-
Deals or has dealt or will deal, or intends or undertakes or has undertaken or will undertake to deal, exclusively or principally. . . . and so forth. Section 4 provides-
Every person commits an offence who, either as principal or agent, refuses, either absolutely or except upon disadvantageous or relatively disadvantageous conditions, to sell or supply to any other person, or to purchase from any other person, any goods for the reason that the latter person -
Deals or has dealt or will deal, or intends to deal, or has not undertaken or will not undertake not to deal, with any person or class of persons. . .
Section 5 deals with illegal monopolies; section 6 provides for penalties in respect of sales at prices fixed by a commercial trust;section 7 deals with sales by a commercial trust; section 8 provides when prices are to be deemed unreasonably high ; and section 9 imposes a penalty of£500 for aiding and abetting offences against the Act. It will be interesting to observe the result of the litigation in New Zealand to which I have referred, and to see whether it is likely to help us in improving our own Anti-Trust Act. The Attorney-General in some of his addresses, and particularly in the speech he delivered last night, referred to the Vend case. He seemed to cite it as an example of the failure and inadequacy of our anti-trust law, because upon appeal the decision given by Mr. Justice Isaacs in that case was upset. There is a rather curious circumstance connected with that case. At the hearing, before Mr. Justice Isaacs, the Vend, consisting of eighteen or nineteen companies, was convicted of an illegal conspiracy in limiting its output in restraint of Inter- State trade, and each member of it was fined£500, with costs amounting to nearly£18,000. The members of the Vend have paid those penalties and also their share of the costs, and the Commonwealth is now in possession of that money. The Vend, comprising the coal companies, did not appeal against the decision given by Mr. Justice Isaacs, and that decision, so far as they are concerned, is affirmed. They apparently acquiesced in the judgment, and allowed the ship-owners to fight out the case before the High Court. It is true that the ship-owners succeeded in upsetting the conviction, but they succeeded only on the ground that the case against them had not been proved. The decision given by Mr. Justice Isaacs was not upset on the ground of the inadequacy of either the Constitution or the Federal anti-trust law. I propose to quote a paragraph from his judgment, portion of which remains unchallenged even by the decision of the High Court in the appeal case. Dealing with the meaning of the word “ monopoly,” he said -
I have now to ask myself the question, Does this amount to monopolizing, or an attempt to monopolize, or combination, or conspiracy to monopolize the Inter-State trade or commerce in Newcastle coal, with intent to restrain, to the detriment of the public its supply or price? The intent is obvious - and to prevent any possible misconception I unhesitatingly find its existence as a matter of fact from the whole circumstances.
I invite the attention of the AttorneyGeneral to another quotation, because it shows that, according to the view of Mr. Justice Isaacs - and his dictum is unchallenged even by the judgment of the High Court - the Federal authority extends to production and manufacture which interfere with the volume of Inter-State trade. Here is what he said -
I have no doubt, and I cannot imagine any doubt existing that the intention of the defendants was to monopolize in the sense in which I have explained that term. They intended to efface competition in every form - competition of production, which is only material here as bearing on the Inter-State trade in the article when produced, and competition of carriage. They intended to grasp into one huge hand the whole Inter-State supply of Newcastle coal.
I lay stress on the passage which speaks about the intention to” efface competition.” All this is consistent with the American cases quoted by the honorable member for Angas and myself this afternoon, showing that the authority does extend to production and manufacture when there is such restriction as to interfere with the free flow of commerce between the States. It will be seen, therefore, that there is no necessity for the amendment as proposed. This decision, so far as the shipping companies were concerned, was reversed on appeal, but stands as against the Coal Vend; and the Federal Government have in the Treasury the£20,000 paid by the Vend. This, of course, shows that the Federal law has been vindicated, and the conviction remains in the absence of any appeal. I contend, therefore, that the Federal law has proved strong enough to deal with all this class of cases. The Coal Vend, no doubt, had exercised its- influence to limit the output and to impose a maximum and minimum price ; and it was convicted because its action limited produc- tion and interfered with the flow of InterState trade. This proposition was not challenged either before Mr. Justice Isaacs or in the High Court. It is of no use for the Attorney-General to continually harp and lay stress on Knight’s case, when it is quite obvious that, both in America and in Australia., that case may be differentiated from any in which there has been diminished production resulting in diminished Inter-State trade. The reversal of Mr. Justice Isaacs’ decision in the shipping case was not on any legal point at all - not on the inadequacy of the Federal Constitution or law - but on the facts themselves ; and I should like to quote one or two passages from the judgment, in order to give honorable members and the public generally the opportunity to consider the real facts of the case. I confess that it did seem somewhat strange that there should be a reversal of a judgment so well considered, so elaborate, and, apparently, so well built up. But we here are not in such a. good position to form a judicial estimate of the merits of the case as were the Judges on the Bench. We are in the fighting arena, and we, naturally, have our own bias and opinions, while the Judges are placed on the Bench to deal out justice between man and man and company and company. It is true that there may be some who do not agree with the reversal of Mr. Justice Isaacs’ decision ; but still the judgment is there.
– Has the judgment against the Coal Vend prevented it doing what it was doing before?
– Certainly. I apprehend that the injunction that was granted is operative and may be enforced, and that if it is not obeyed the AttorneyGeneral may move for execution of judgment. The following are extracts from the judgment of Mr. Justice Griffith, reported in the Argus Law Reports of 12th November last: -
Cut-throat competition is not now regarded by a large portion of mankind as necessarily beneficial to the public. Indeed, it is against the evil consequences’ of that class of competition that the second part of section 4 is aimed. . . From time to time during the last forty years arrangements have been come to between the owners and the men for the purpose of fixing the hewing rate of coal, which is obviously an important, hut by no means the only important, element in the cost of production. Tn 1873 (if not before), and again in 1886, 1888, 1893, 1900, and 1901, collective agreements, called district agreements, were made between the owners and the men on the basis that the hewing rate should vary with the selling price of coal. Substantially, the basis has always been to fix a minimum rate, with a proviso that for every shilling added to the selling price, fourpence should be added to the hewing rate. Other additional expenses at the mine, varying in like manner, raised the total labour additions to the direct cost of extraction to about sixpence halfpenny for every shilling of increase. In substance, therefore, the arrangement was that the owners and the workmen should divide in proportion of about eleven to thirteen any increase in the selling price. This arrangement may or may not have been based on sound principles of political economy, but during a period, as we have said, of forty years, it commended itself as satisfactory to all persons concerned. It may therefore, -prima facie, be regarded as not unreasonable. . . .
We now come to deal with the alleged illegal acts with which the defendants are charged. We remark, in the first place, that this appeal is by way of re-hearing, and that we are bound to form our own independent conclusions as to the facts. We find, as a fact, that at this time all parties honestly believed - and believed on grounds that were not only reasonable but very substantial - that the prosperity of the Newcastle and Maitland districts was in danger, as well as their own individual interests, by reason of the excessive competition and unremunerative prices obtained for coal. Whether they were right or wrong in this belief is immaterial, so far as regards the criminal responsibility of the defendants for acts done under it. . . -
First then, as to the Vend agreement. We have already stated the facts as we find them to have existed when it was entered into. In our opinion it was, under the circumstances, a lawful and even laudable transaction, which was intended to operate, and did operate, to the advantage, and not to the detriment of the public at large, notwithstanding that it was intended to operate, and did operate, to raise the price of coal. It ‘would be absurd to attribute to the members of the Vend purely altruistic motives, but a, desire to promote 0 legitimate enterprise from which you desire to obtain pecuniary advantage is not incompatible with an absence of desire to injure the public. When a man enters into an agreement which can be carried out by lawful as well as by unlawful means, the Court will assume primo facie that he intended to do so by lawful means. This has been many times laid down by this. Court. …
We proceed then to consider whether an intention to cause detriment to the public should be inferred from the acts of the defendants consequent upon the agreement. The detriment primarily relied upon bv the Crown is what is called an “unreasonable” increase in the price of coal in the Inter-State market, and the suggested intent is an intent to obtain arbitrary and unreasonable prices for coal for the benefit of both the Vend and the ship-owners. . . .
The first point made for the Crown is tha1 the prices fixed by the Vend for coal f.o.b. fc the years 1907 and following years were ii fact unreasonable and exorbitant, from which we are asked to infer detriment to the public and also a common intent to cause such detriment. . . .
The argument on which the Court is asked to infer that the f.o.b. prices fixed by the Vend after 1906 were unreasonable appears, when carefully examined, to be based on the following assumptions : - i. The price at which a commodity sells in any year is prima facie a price actually remunerative to the producer. 2. That price is prima facie a reasonably .remunerative price, i.e., affords a remuneration with which the producer ought to be contented. 3. Any higher price would be unreasonable. 4. All conditions affecting prices are to be taken as remaining stationary until the contrary is shown. 5. Any rise of prices is prima facie detrimental to the public. In our opinion, none of these assumptions is well founded. . . .
We find, as a fact, that the f.o.b. prices of a os. a ton fixed for 1907, and ns. a ton fixed for 1908 and afterwards, are not only not shown to have been unreasonable rates, but are shown affirmatively, to have been reasonable. No inference of intent to cause public detriment can, therefore, be inferred from them. . . We have already said that we cannot find anything on the face of the shipping agreement itself to show that the specified prices c.i.f. were unreasonable. It is not, in our opinion, unfair that the merchants who pay a higher price for Coal should ask on re-sale a price higher than a sum representing the exact equivalent of the in- crease, in cost price. . . . We are, therefore, bound to decide the case upon the evidence, and upon that evidence we are of opinion that the Crown has failed to prove any intent -on the part of the appellants to cause detriment to the public. This disposes of the case as regards penalties. We are also of opinion that the Crown has failed to prove any actual detriment to the public. This disposes of the claim to an injunction under section 10.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
Mr. JOSEPH COOK (Parramatta)
I5-58]- - I am very. g’ad> indeed, to hear the quotations just read by the honorable member for Bendigo, because they bear out the fact that I pointed out last night. They show that, from time immemorial, almost, there has been in the Newcastle district an arrangement between masters and men as to the fixing of the selling price and the hewing rate. There is not a miner or a man interested in the Newcastle district, or any one who knows the district intimately, who will say that the selling price “at the pit’s mouth now is an unreasonable one. The honorable member for Newcastle is present, and will confirm me when I say that the Vend has operated in a beneficial and fair way - that it has been a good thing for both miners and masters.
– As a vend, yes.
– The honorable member will recollect that it is only a little while ago when the men were anxious for the employers to raise the price another is., so that 40!. might be added to the hewing rate. Whatever goes on up there cannot be in the nature of a monopoly. There are several reasons for that. In the first place, there is abundance of competition, so far as at least half their trade - which goes oversea - is concerned, and as to the rest there is the curb of the prices ruling in the western and southern districts. There is no trust whatever there, in the sense in which we use the word when we apply it to the American combinations.
– Why was a verdict given against the Vend then?
– The verdict was in favour of the Vend.
– The honorable member for Bendigo said the opposite.
– He was referring to the decision of Mr. Justice Isaacs.
– The Vend decision was not appealed against.
– That is what the honorable member for Bendigo said.
– Honorable members are quibbling. They know that the Vend case to which I am alluding was specifically excluded by Mr. Wise from the consideration of the Court. It was something that happened after the coal had left the district altogether that was complained of, and formed the subject of the trial. I understood the honorable member for Bendigo to refer to Mr. Justice Isaacs’ decision to show that at no time during the trial had the validity or effectiveness of our legislation been questioned. Mr. Justice Isaacs indicated that he had complete power, and proceeded to exercise it. The appeal was not on the ground that there had been undue exercise of power, but that there had been a misinterpretation of facts. Nothing was said about the ineffectiveness of the Act.
One of those who heard the appeal was Mr. Justice Barton, and he had occupied a position enabling him to know the circumstances of the northern coal-field. That is why, in the summing up read by the honorable member for Bendigo, all the details are set forth with such lucidity, and the local circumstances are so fully grasped. Any one comparing the judgment of Mr. Justice Isaacs with that of the High Court, will find that the latter contains a clearer and more succinct statement of the local conditions. Mr. . Justice Barton for some years presided over one of the district Boards alluded to, and while thus presiding as arbitrator appointed by the New South Wales Government, gave quite a number of deci- sions. He has had a long, intimate, and varied experience, in an impartial and detached position, of the operation of these agreements in the Newcastle district, a circumstance which, I think, resulted in the clear and complete comprehension of all the facts relating to the Coal Vend.
– Had not Mr. Justice Isaacs the same evidence before him?
– No doubt ; but the High Court had the evidence, and the long personal experience of Mr. Justice Barton, so that it is safe to assume that it was fully seized of all the local circumstances.
– It could deal only with the evidence.
– That is so. But a man who has had local experience is able to appreciate and comprehend evidence and its bearing in a way that another may not do. On this one case alone, the Attorney-General has based his argument for the introduction of the present drastic proposals. His only reference to Australian conditions was to the Vend. Having finished with that case, he took us on an excursion to the United States of America, and bade us behold the goblins there, the menacing trusts and combines, which he says are doing so much damage. I do not know that we ought to pay over much attention to what is going on in America. Of course, I do not suggest that we ought not to be guided by the experience of the world, because we should. But our first consideration should be our local circumstances. Trusts can never be so harmful and malign in their influence, nor so extensive in their operations, in Australia, as they have been in the United States of America.
– What makes you think that?
– Because the operations of the dangerous American trusts are based on the possession of railway franchises in nearly every case. Nearly every big trust there has its own railway, and uses it to prevent competition.
– Does the English Cotton Trust control the railways of the country ?
– I do not suppose so. The conditions of England are very dissimilar from those of America. The honorable member for Hunter the other day, quoting figures from Mulhall, I think, told us with some gusto that in the last decade the cost of living in England had increased by 8J per cent. Every one in Australia would be very glad had the cost of living here increased by only 8£ per cent. I have seen it stated in the Arbitration. Court on more than one occasion that the increase in cost has been over 30 per cent. here in the last decade. Therefore, it would not appear that the trusts are doing much evil in Great Britain.
– There must be something wrong in Australia.
– There is ; but we differ as to what it is. I shall probably tell the honorable member later, when we come to the labour and employment proposals, what I think is at fault here, and deal with the statements of the Attorney-General last night.
To return to my contention, trusts and:combines cannot do as much harm here as they do in America, because our railways belong to the States.
– Not all of them.
– The other day I had the pleasure of riding on a small line in the honorable member’s electorate which is a private concern, and from what I saw, very well managed ; but, nevertheless, what I say is true - our trusts cannot manipulate our railways.
– The honorable member admits that there are trusts here ?
– There are combinations that look very like trusts.
– The honorable member went further than that just now.
– Then, to oblige the honorable member, I shall admit that there are trusts and combines here, one or more of which seem to need investigation. I want to know what this Government has been doing during the last two and a half years that they have not investigated the operation of some of these trusts. We have passed an amended Anti-Trust Bill that has never been put into operation. It has never been tested. So far as the Government are concerned, it is a dead letter. ,The Attorney-General, when introducing it, said that he intended to put into operation the extended powers for which it provided; but as soon as the Bill was passed, he placed it on the shelf and left it there.
– He told the House last night why he had not used it.
– He has never answered the criticism that has been levelled at him. He has never replied to the statement that he could have applied that Act to the Coal Vend had he chosento do so. I do not know that the result would have been different had he done so, because the Court decided that on the facts of the case as put by the Crown, nothing was taking place but reasonable combination, which, while not detrimental to the public, was, in the interests of those engaged in the industries concerned. So far as- the Attorney-General has told us, all the facts go to show that only one case has been thoroughly and efficiently inquired into, and in that one case the High Court says that nothing harmful has taken place. On the strength of that one Australian fact, the r Attorney-General bases his appeal for the revision of our constitutional power, and the acquirement of a tremendous accretion to that power at the coming referenda.
We cannot be too keen in watching these trusts and combines.
– Why watch them if we are not going to deal with them?
– The honorable member knows exactly what I mean. The Attorney-General has a right to investigate combinations in Australia to see that they are not injuring the public. It is his duty to investigate them, and I wish to know why he has been neglecting that duty for the last two and a half years. No greater Ministerial delinquency has ever taken place in Australia than has occurred during the regime of this Government if all their statements be correct. What did the honorable gentleman do the other night?
– Order ! The honorable member must not reply to a speech made by another honorable member on a question that has been dealt with.
– I am replying to the speech made by the AttorneyGeneral in connexion with this very debate. He quoted a list of trusts which he said had been investigated by the honorable member for Angas when he held office, as Attorney-General. The further we proceed with this debate the more we find how indefatigable the ex-Attorney-General was, and how supine the present AttorneyGeneral has been.
– The honorable member is a born humourist, only he does not know it.
– The honorable member is a good judge of what a humourist is. We have seen recently specimens of his humour. A man who cuts the antics that he does, both inside and outside this House, should not talk of any one else being either a born or a trained humourist. I wish to get back to the point that the only statement we have had as to trusts consists of quotations by the AttorneyGeneral of statements made regarding them by the honorable member for Angas. The Attorney-General says “ I want this further power to nationalize trusts, and to control and deal with corporations - 1 want this all-embracing power, but I have never investigated one solitary trust on my own account.” The honorable member for Angas did investigate thirty-three, and he found that all, with the exception of four, were Intra-State. That being so, the present Attorney-Genera! is left with four trusts of an Inter-State, or Australian, character, none of which he. has investigated, although the honorable member for Angas thinks that some of them ought to be investigated.
– What would have been the result of an investigation?
– What a foolish question to put to me. Does the honorable member know what would have been the result?
– Yes. What was the result of the injunction in the case of the American Meat Trust?
– The honorable member is off once more to America. Had we not better stay at home? We are dealing with trusts and anti-trust legislation in Australia.
– Anti-trust legislation passed under a Constitution copied from “ Yankee land,”
– Why does not the honorable member quote himself completely and say, as he did on a previous occasion, “ A Constitution that ought to have been ‘ up the spout ‘ long ago?” We have not to consider on what our Constitution was patterned ; but I hope that the honorable member will admit that there are some things, even in America, that are wise and efficient. So far as my reading teaches me, they have in America a body of jurists and a set of decisions that have never been surpassed.
– And those decisions are all “ dead letters.”
– Then does the honorable member say., that there, is absolute anarchy, and no law, in America?
– So far as this matter is concerned.
– Has the honorable member read of what has taken place quite recently in the State of Wisconsin? Has he read how that State has tackled trusts and combines; cleaned out, comparatively, all the “graft”; and worked a complete revolution under its own law ? I have read that in other States, also, the authorities have grappled with all those malign workings, and have swept them practically out of existence.
– Are not the Meat Trust cars running in that State? Of course they are. What is the use of deceiving the House?
– What has the Attorney-General to do with the Meat Trust cars in America? We are asked to undo our Constitution - to re-shape and to amend it drastically and extensively, all because something like that which has occurred in America may occur here. Not one single Authenticated case has been put before the House.
– Will the honorable member mention the names of the four trusts with which he said the Attorney-General could deal ?
– They are given in the records, so that there is no need for me to dilate in detail upon them.
As to these thirty-three trusts, no details have been presented to the House as a justification for the drastic proposals made by the Government. If the Attorney-General desires to obtain further power of inquiry, let him show, first of all, that he has exercised to the full the power of inquiry that he already possesses. If he desires to compel the people believed to be taking part in combinations to answer questions, he can do so under the anti-trust law, which provides for severe penalties in the event of failure to reply to questions put by the Department. The complaint is that the honorable gentleman will not exercise or test this power. Is he afraid that it might prove to be effective ? Is he afraid that, on investigation, these trusts might turn out to be something different from those existing in America? In connexion with the Royal Commission the sugar industry the present Government undoubtedly set out with the idea in their minds that a case was going to be made out for the nationalization of that industry. The majority of the Commission consisted of men favouring their own political propaganda. Their inclinations leaned to the sideof my honorable friends, and they were in sympathy with their platform; but even an investigation conducted by such gentlemen has proved to be dead against the nationalization of the sugar industry here.
– The report of the Commission must be a bit of a knock-out to the Government.
– I should think so. The Government should tell us what they are going to do now with the plank in their platform which directs them to go on with the nationalization of the sugarrefining industry. Are they going to fly in the face of the findings of that expert Commission of investigation, with their nationalization proposals? Are they going to incur the practical bankruptcy of the industry - for that is what it would amount to, in view of the declaration of the Commission that it could not be made to pay on the basis of a nationalized industry. They will find that they are in the same trouble with that matter as ‘they are to-day in connexion with nearly everything the Government have undertaken. The Commission confirms what has gone on always where nationalization is attempted. For instance, the Postal Department, which represents a nationalized industry, according to the Estimates, is going to be in debit at the end of this year to the tune of£1,592, 000. In other words, 37½ per cent. of its total transactions will represent debits on the year.
– Would the honorable member do away with post-offices?
– Certainly not; but the fact that the Government controls these undertakings does not argue that the control is perfect.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 8 p.m.
– Compared with the huge trusts of America, the trusts in Australia are babies.
– They will grow into giants if we let them.
– I was about to point that out, but at present they are not giants in the sense that they are in America. Moreover, it is not clear that in America the trusts cannot be dealt with by legislative action. Some time ago the PresidentElect,Dr. Woodrow Wilson, made a statement to the effect that as yet there had never been any adequate effort made to control the trusts in America; and, so far as I recollect, his reasoning was that hitherto the law had been directed to the corporate entities, if I may so put it, of the various trusts. What he meant was that the combination or trust itself had been attacked, and he suggested that the proper method was to attack the individuals who compose the trust - to personify the trust, for the purpose of regulation and control - and make the management and the individuals responsible for the actions and depredations of the organization.
– They would change the manager every month.
– That is one of those rash and silly statements which the honorable member is constantly making, and which do not do him credit. As a matter of fact, a trust manager keeps his position until he becomes a millionaire, and is often there for a lifetime. The management is not changed oftener than can be helped, and it would be impossible to keep changing it, for the success of a trust depends on obtaining the best organizing ability and enabling all the threads to be gathered up and manipulated on a wellconcerted plan, extending, it may be, over years. In any case, it is Dr. Woodrow Wilson’s argument, and not mine, at which the honorable member is gibing. So far as I understand, no attempt of the kind suggested has yet been made in America.
– The honorable member says, then, that there are no trust depredations ?
– That is another of those incorrect and silly statements the honorable member is always making, and I suppose he thinks they do him credit. I am as anxious as the honorable member is to deal with trusts, but, to that end, I am not prepared to fundamentally change the character of our Constitution.
Two years ago we agreed to a proposal of the Government and their supporters, in order to get more power to deal with trusts ; but the Act we then passed has been left religiously alone. The Government cannot know whether the present law is sufficient until it has been tried, and the non-success of the first and only attempt made is not due to any defect in the law, or the absence of the necessary power. Yet we are now asked to confer on this Parliament power to control the whole business operations of Australia. In fact, all these proposals rest on an absurd assumption. The present Act gives us large powers of investigation and interrogation, and penalties up to £500 a day may be imposed for refusal to answer questions; the proposal before us reminds us of Charles Lamb’s Chinaman, who burnt down a house in order to roast his pork. We are told that there are trusts and combines that are doing damage in Australia, and we have the special instances of shipping and coal. Three Judges, one of whom knows all the circumstances intimately, have held that these combines are not doing damage to the public; that, on the facts, they are forming; only reasonable combinations with a view to protecting the masters and the men engaged in the industries. The AttorneyGeneral contends, however, that these combines are prejudicial to the public, and! produces figures in proof ; but, on the same figures, three Judges have held otherwise, and it is for the public to decide.
– Not three Judges.
– That is so; I should have said the decison of the Court. The public have now to judge between the Attorney-General, an interested individual, who is using this legislation for political’ purposes and propaganda in the interests; of his party, and three Judges detached from all political controversy and prejudice, who consider all such matters purely in the public interest.
I am not in favour of trusts and com bines, and would take any reasonable step* suggested to curb and control them.
– This is new !
– No, it is very old ; but the interjection is a new one, and silly, as usual.
– The fact is that the honorable member for Parramatta would never find any “reasonable steps.”
– The Act that was passed in 1910 is, as I have said, a dead letter. Would it not be better, instead of frightening ourselves with the goblins of America, to try to deal with our own combinations in an effective way, under such laws and powers as have never yet been assailed or questioned ? The man who passed the first Industries Preservation. Bill through the House tried the Vend case under the present law, and neither he nor any of the other Judges question the adequacy of our power. Indeed, the unanimous opinion of the Bench is that there is power under the Act to deal with combinations of the kind; and the only reason that it has not succeeded is that the Court could not agree that the facts indicated injury to the public.
Try as we may, we cannot escape 4he working of the law of combination; it is the root principle of our industrial and social life. All the currents of the tune run to concentration, and all our business operations show their complete subserviency to this law. To depart from the principle, and to try to abrogate or destroy it, would be much the same as attempting to destroy civilization, and all that it means, in the twentieth century. The Jaw of combination is the law of industrial life to-day; without it the people are absolutely powerless, and can do nothing to keep abreast of the requirements of the times in all the ramifications of their social and domestic life. The question is how far, and to what extent, we ought to go in an effort to deal with those combinations. The Attorney-General says we require power to do what we like with any combination, no matter how simple or elementary, or how far-reaching, powerful, or dangerous; all limitations have to be swept away, and the whole industrial arena has to be traversed without let or hindrance. The only test that has been made shows that we have the power already in our law to be used, and the fact that it has not become operative, in the direction the AttorneyGeneral desires is because the clrcumstances are not as he has described them. In America this is the outstanding problem, and has been for many years. The Trusts there, due to franchises of various kinds, by means of which they are able to wipe out their competitors, get aggregations of power and wealth which sometimes threaten to destroy the Republic itself ; and this is better shown in an illustration that I remember. When the Carnegie Steel Trust was in full blast, another combination was created to fight it. The new organization had the most up-to-date plant in the world, and everything was seeming fair; only one or two things had been forgotten. The new Trust had to depend for its raw material on some mines 33 or 14 miles from the works at Chicago, and the Carnegie Steel Trust simply stepped in, bought up the mines and the communicating railway, and compelled the latest organization to merge in the general Steel Trust. That is how aggregations are piling themselves up to-day in America, and acquiring more and more power. This kind of thing, however, is impossible in Australia, because the railways are in the hands of the various Governments, and every combination and industrial enterprise is entitled to equal facilities in land transport. Year by year the effort goes on in America to deal with the trusts; and my opinion is that by-and-by a way will be found to curb them and make them serve the public while serving themselves in a reasonable way. It is found, so far as I can ascertain, in many instances that large management is much more economical than small management - that large management means operations over a wide area, and pressing into its service the best skill and ability in the world. Thus trusts are often able to produce better articles at a cheaper price than is otherwise possible; and nobody has written more eloquently on this subject than the Attorney-General’ himself. Time after time he has told us, in “ The Case for Labour,” in the Sydney Daily Telegraph, that it is idle to complain of the trustification of industries - that it is only the following of a natural law, the operation of which is for the benefit of the people alT the time. But you must watch that, while the trust is cheapening its products, is making its management efficient, and is extending its operations, it is not becoming the master, instead of the servant, of the public.
The problem is : How can these huge aggregations of capital, these huge combinations of skill and ability, be pressed into the service of the public instead of being used solely to make dividends for their shareholders while they ignore the public interest? In Australia three combinesthe Shipping Combine, the Coal Combine, and the Sugar Combine - have been recently investigated. The investigation, in the case of the first two, was conducted by legal process, with all the legal skill and ability that could be paid for by the AttorneyGeneral, and the third by a Commission composed of men for the most part favouring the Labour political view, men who are professed nationalize^ of industry, and in sympathy with the Labour programme. These men have now reported against the nationalization of the sugar industry, which, they say, is impracticable, and could not be made to pay. These experts selected by the Government - with, in my opinion, other views - say that what we have to do is to regulate and control. As to the other trusts in Australia-
– Are there any?
– I refer the honorable member to the list of the AttorneyGeneral. It is worthy of notice that during the whole of this debate, so far as I am aware, no mention has been made of the so-called great Tobacco Combine.
– The Attorney-General referred to it last night.
– There is also what has been called the Mildura or Dried Fruits Combine. A couple of years ago or less the Attorney-General investigated its methods.
– A deputation from Renmark waited on him.
– At any rate, after the Attorney-General had studied the basis of their organization, he told them that he had no fault to find with it, that their’s was a good combine. Now he is saying the opposite.
– Where did the honorable member find the statement by the AttorneyGeneral that their’s was a good combine ?
– I cannot give the exact date, but my recollection of the facts is correct enough, and they are on record.
– The honorable member ought to tell us where he got his information.
– From persons who knew the facts. I believe that the honorable member for Wimmera could substantiate what I have said, that the AttorneyGeneral declared that those fruitgrowers were engaged in a perfectly legitimate business. But the sooner we have an effective law to control those managing trusts the better it will be for all concerned. Sir Edward Coke once said, “ Corporations cannot commit treason, nor be outlawed nor be excommunciate, for they have no souls.” But, as Woodrow Wilson has suggested, we must see if we cannot give them a soul and a body in the shape of the soul and body of those who manage them, making them responsible for their actions. When, in this way, we have individualized corporations, and driven home to those who manage them charges of acting injuriously to the public, we shall get at the root of the trouble. We have not done that yet, nor has America. It may be, as alleged by my honorable friends opposite, that America has not succeeded because of the influence of the trusts, but that is not the position here. My honorable friends could bring down a Bill without being influenced by the trusts, indivi- . dualizing corporations, so that predatory actions may be sheeted home to those responsible for them. That is the course of action that we should follow. Until we have followed it, it is idle to say, as the Attorney-General did last night, that no legislation that we can pass will control them. If he thinks that, the Bill is a piece of the sheerest hypocrisy, because its aim and purpose is to control the trusts, there being another Bill to provide for nationalization. His attitude has always been the attitude of the Labour party, and was assumed by Mr. J. C. Watson years ago. He said, “ I shall try this legislation, but I have no faith in it.” Why do they try it if they have no faith in it? Are they the proper persons to try it ? Why do they not go to the country with a straight-out proposal for nationalization? In my opinion, we can control the trusts, and if our powers are proved to be insufficient, we can get any power needed to make them sufficient, ‘assistance to that end being given by every member on this side of the House.
.- It is my duty, in regard to this proposed amendment of the Constitution, as it was when the last proposal was before us, to stale the course which will be followed by the Opposition, and to place our position before the House as briefly as possible. This was done last year, when, speaking on behalf of the party, I said -
I think the Attorney-General understands that whatever power may be necessary to enable this Parliament to deal at once in the most thorough and complete manner with trusts and combines; or operations of that kind, the whole Committee is unanimously willing to concede.
The Committee included, of course, all members of the Opposition. Again, be fore the vote was taken, I said -
As to the amendment respecting trusts and combines, the Opposition has given the Government its support, though desiring that restraint of trade should be a material condition rendering them amenable to our law. We have given the Government a broad and general assurance that” any power which’ it can show to be required to enable this Parliament to cope in the most effective manner with trusts, combines, and monopolies, would be heartily supported.
The amendment moved on that occasion on our behalf by the honorable member for Angas would have extended the grant of power to this Parliament to legislate in respect of -
Combines and monopolies in restraint of trade, commerce, or manufacture in any part of a State or the Commonwealth.
The only qualifying words are “ in restraint of trade”; in every other respect our agreement is absolute, our concession unqualified. As I said, when speaking in regard to another proposed amendment this afternoon, we see no reason for changing our attitude in this regard. The amendment which we then moved, but did not carry, can be moved again, but it would only indicate that our views in regard to one of the most important of the proposals that Ministers have placed before the House have not altered.
The honorable member for Parramatta has dealt ably and sufficiently, inter aiia, with the business- aspects of corporations, their dangers, and the best methods of coping with them. To deal with them effectively, a power of investigation must be intrusted to competent officials above reproach and suspicion and without personal motives. They should make it their business, without disclosing business secrets, to ascertain the exact character and effects of corporation workings, regarding as confidential, as far as that may be possible, the special business knowledge of each, so that those who are managing these concerns honestly will have no hesitation in submitting the whole of their transactions for scrutiny.
Honorable members will recollect that one of the measures submitted by the last Government provided for the establishment of the Inter-State Commission. The intention was that this body should, in its own sphere, have the standing of the High Court, acquire a similar reputation, and be intrusted with a very wide authority. It was to be the arbiter in matters of dispute, its members being assisted by expert skill and knowledge wherever it was required. Its business, among other things, was to inquire into the conduct of organizations threatening private or public interests. Within the last few days, notice of an intention to introduce an Inter-State Commission Bill has been given by this Government. The efficiency of the body created will depend entirely on the calibre and quality of those who may constitute the Commission, and the powers with which they are endowed.
Nothing is plainer than that the so-called combinations or “monopolies,” whatever that means, differ in character and purpose as they differ in size. Some - I am afraid that they are not numerous. - are alleged to be innocent, and, indeed, beneficial, to the public. Even if they are numerous, I suspect that such combinations are not very large. There are larger combinations whose operations can befairly measured by intelligent observers,, being conducted, for the most part, in the light of day. They ought not to be difficult to cope with. Behind them, we catch glimpses of trusts of another order, whose processes are secret, merciless, and dangerous to the community.; There is but one opinion throughout Australia as to monopolies of that character,, which use power recklessly and unscrupulously for personal gain. I believe that in> nothing are our people more unanimousthan in deciding that the establishment of such trusts within the Commonwealth, should be prevented by every means in our power. The gradual growth of such organizations must be watched in order that they may never become powerful enough te* set themselves above the law, above patriotism, and above society, as they are said to have done elsewhere.. For those, I think they will find that theLegislatures of Australia, whatever their colour, will have scant consideration. They will be required to cleanse their processes, and to justify themselves, before they will’ be permitted to remain a factor in the Commonwealth.
This reference, although crude, issufficient for my purpose, if it remindshonorable members - to return once more tothe path of the argument I was pursuing - how necessary it is that there should be a> complete investigation into all the factors.and circumstances concerned before a proper- decision can be arrived at, or even expected. Some of my honorable colleagues, notably the honorable members for Angas, for Bendigo, and for Darling Downs, havequoted the researches already made, and the facts already ascertained beyond question ii the United States of America. They havesshown how absolutely essential it is that there should be a thorough and most searching investigation before any step can be taken with confidence. I do not wish, todetain the House by repeating, although1’ they deserve to be repeated, many of the official statements already placed before the House, which I trust will be carefully con.sidered by the people. They prove that, just as trusts are discovered operating malignantly in quarters where they werehardly expected, so in places where ifc seemed perfectly plain that smilar raids upon society were being planned or executed, investigation has proved that wewere on a false track, and that natural and> ordinary causes will in some cases, at alt events, account for phenomena which had caused a great deal of alarm.
The Select Committee on Wages, Prices, and Commodities appointed by the Senate of the United States of America in 1910 brought out a number of very vital facts. It has shown that wages did not advance here as rapidly as did prices. That one sentence in itself summarizes a change of conditions of enormous importance to the poorly or less well-paid class of the community. The advance in prices outstripped the advance in wages, leaving the wageearner, through no fault of his own, in a worse position than he occupied before. Naturally, the question arises how he can be protected against this impoverishment. The Committee reported that the labour difficulties, which had then been the subject of mediation in the United States of America for two or three years, had as their basis the advanced cost of living. The community was reminded of what it might otherwise have forgotten: that the class who earned their living by their daily labour were compelled to appeal for more consideration in consequence of a rise in prices, for which they were apparently in no way responsible. The hours of labour over a period, it is true, had been reduced, but while the weekly earnings in some cases advanced, these were usually exceeded by an advance in the prices of necessary commodities. Employes, therefore, found themselves, even with a certain increment to their wages, in a more serious position than before.
Oddly enough, as it may seem, this Select Committee goes on to show that prices of many of the trust-produced commodities had not advanced as rapidly as those not so derived. It shows that where in some cases trust-produced commodities had advanced greatly, short supplies were apparently responsible for the increases, and that the same prices had advanced in other countries where trusts could not have exercised the same control over production and marketing. These are the sobering reminders which we find on the official records of what, in this respect, is the most experienced country in the world. Then, again, it is surprising to many of us to learn from the same official report that the Tariff seems to have been no material factor in causing an advance in prices during the past decade. The American Tariff is regarded with the gravest apprehensions and the most complete mistrust by some citizens of that country. Yet they are officially informed that, as far as can be traced, it had been no material factor in the increase of prices. In other words, as the report states a little later on, the Tariff has had little or no effect on prices. Who amongst those anti- Protectionists would have credited that, but for this official, dispassionate, and thorough investigation ?
These facts appear to me to be absolutely pertinent to the issues before us. The advance in prices, says the report of this Committee, has been world-wide. That is another matter that will have to be taken into account. It has occurred in countries in which, so far as we know, trusts do not exist, as well as in countries where they operate. The strangest fact of all found by this Committee is that the products of the farm and foods have advanced in price more than manufactured articles. To find that true of the United States of America, with its enormous area of unoccupied and unfilled lands, and with its immense development of agriculture, witnessed to by its huge shipments oversea, is certainly unexpected.
– Those commodities are more under the domination of trusts than are any others.
– No; the explanation is given a little later on in the report. It was found, first of all, that the prices of farm products and foods were more sensitive than were those of manufactured commodities, and would, therefore, respond more quickly to causes producing higher prices. The Committee found, further, that the demand had outgrown the production of these commodities; that the withdrawal from farms of large numbers of persons who had entered industrial pursuits was another cause. Their industrial labours prevented the prices of manufactured articles rising, while the withdrawal of their labour from the farm and the growth of the demand, caused the farm products, in a perfectly natural way, to increase in price. This Select Committee discovered that what by accumulation had become the great disturbances agitating the United States of America, were sometimes due to simple natural causes. The position seems perfectly plain and open as stated by this impartial Committee of high quality, after the fullest inquiry. The withdrawal of labour from the farms, the cessation in the attraction of agricultural pursuits, the drawing of numbers of farm labourers to the cities, and the increase in consequence of industrial products, together with the increase in the price of agricultural products, perfectly explain the position.
– The honorable member will be teaching the Labour party political economy, if he is not careful.
– It is to the Select Committee of the Senate of the United States of America that we owe this light. The Committee proceeded to make one or two more statements. It reported that -
Prices appear to have advanced somewhat more rapidly in the United States than on the Continent -
That is Europe - excepting possibly Canada and Russia.
The two countries that none of us would have expected to be bracketed in such a relation are Russia, with its vast untilled extent and its unemployed possibilities, and Canada, under very different circumstances, at least in an equally hopeful position. The conjunction of these two countries is the more remarkable since, as I believe I shall be able to show from Canadian testimony, within the borders of Canada trusts and combines practically hardly exist. We find, however, Russia and Canada bracketed together as showing, probably, a more rapid increase of prices than does even the United States of America. The report includes some very interesting tables, with which I shall not attempt to deal. I shall quote only one or two.
– Does the statement as to the advance in prices include the price of meat?
– Prices, I think, are taken as a whole.
– It is said that meat sold in Canada for 6d. per lb. is fetching1s. per lb. in the United States of America.
– That can also be explained. The Committee reported that in the period mentioned the prices of farm products advanced 39.8 per cent., food, &c, 19.7 per cent., and lumber and building materials 19.6 per cent. ; while clothes and clothing - the first manufactured articles on the list - advanced only 12 per cent., and metals and implements only 3.6 per cent. In another summary it is stated that in a decade the products of forests increased by 40.3 per cent. above the prices ruling in 1900; the crude products of the farm by 36.1 per cent., and manufactured products of the farm by 24.2 per cent. ; whilst the products of mines and wells increased by 13.5 per cent., and the products of manufacture by only 5.5 per cent. This table of increases is about the last that one would have expected in respect of the United States of America. The Committee comments -
The figures seem to indicate clearly that whatever causes are operating to advance prices are much more effective in raising the prices of the products of the forest and of the farms than of manufactured products. … So far as products of the forest are concerned, the supply in. the United States is diminishing, and the cost of production and marketing have both increased.. The farm products are being produced on much, more expensive land, and farm wages have increased more rapidly than have those of any other group of workers.
We have here the explanation of what: otherwise would seem to be an extraordinary transformation.
The lesson to be derived from this report is the absolute necessity for obtaining similar reports in regard to Australia, if we are to keep our fingers on the pulse of trade and to detect and measure the operation of any big trust that may endeavour to set its foot in this country. In addition to that, we shall need to have either in association with the Interstate Commission or supplied from other sources a Government Department so equipped that officers of this Commonwealth, without disclosing business or commercial secrets, shall be enabled to investigate any challenged operations giving sufficient suggestion of the operation of unwholesome influences.. In that way we shall be able to keep our fingers, so to speak, upon the pulse of trade, commerce, and production, and to interpret the figures laid before us from year to year. In that way only shall we be able to guarantee to the people of this country, not that the idler shall do as well as the busy, not that the able and persevering merchant will be caught up and passed by the indifferent, not that those who have the means and the wit to use the most modern developments in machinery or appliances will be on the same footing as their more negligent competitors - these are matters in which individual competition must be left as before, to do its own work - but that each and all of these operations within the scope of the Commonwealth shall have a fair field and no favour. In that way only shall we be able to guarantee them against invasions or aggressions that might possibly be directed against them by a combination of the resources of a number of those engaged in particular industries which they wish to subordinate to their own purposes, instead of to the public weal.
The whole basis of the success of our inquiry into, and of our handling of, trusts, combines, and similar organizations, depends upon the thoroughness, the fairness, and reliability of the investigation into all their operations. With nothing less than that can the community be content when it finds itself suffering from what, apparently, may be due to their operations.
But the American figures teach us the lesson that we shall need tobe supplied even more fully than we have been so far, with all that mass of information which will knit us more closely to the population placed, and yet to be placed, upon the lands of Australia. We shall need more information to enable us to follow them through all their fortunes, to estimate how far their products - which go to make up the products of the whole country - have suffered, <or are suffering, from bad seasons, insect pests, or any other cause, and to test the legitimacy of the rise in prices which must necessarily follow when any of these conditions obtain. We need to direct developments into healthy channels, and to make convictions assured whenever trespasses against the Commonwealth, of the kind alleged to prey upon the United States of America, are found. These must be tracked to their dens, exposed, and -subordinated or extinguished. This, I trust, will be conducted by a body which, however competent it is in o:her directions, must be entirely unaffected and untouched by political considerations or party feelings or relations. Nothing should be done to confuse those great social issues which arise out of causes and circumstances, most of them beyond complete control. These, if they contain those mischievous characteristics to which I have alluded, can be promptly and fairly dealt with by a body which will turn the searchSlight on them in their operations and their processes, if they are suspected of injury to the public weal. But th;a should be -undertaken as a matter of science and of “business, and not as a matter of politics. There should be no political party in this country that would soil its hands by association with such trusts as are reported to exist in some countries abroad.
It would be well, too, for us if, from the first, we took care that, in the use of the necessary supervision, justice is done to the people of the country, and, at the same time, injustice is avoided to those who may be only connected with, and in no sense responsible for, unexpected rises in prices or similar occurrences. Those concerned should have the assurance that independent and impartial inquiry will be meted out to them, and that they will receive the full consideration which is the due of every citizen of the country providing his hands are clean. That appears to me to be the path which the circumstances require us to tread. I wish it had been taken earlier. I wish that, instead of dealing with the question as we do at present, still in doubt as to the extent of the operations of these alleged combinations in Australia and as to the injurious effect, if any, on the welfare of the country - still in doubt as we are, in point of fact, about the whole subject - I wish we were debating the one question as to the best means of dealing with trusts and combines. As a fact, we are scarcely on the threshold of a great subject, which will require to be investigated before we shall feel ourselves capable of dealing with an issue which assumes sufficient importance to call for national attention.
If we turn to Canada we find that the evidence to which I have already alluded is reinforced. An Act passed in May, 1910, in Canada has more than once been referred to in the debate already, and might be profitably referred to again were I desirous of unduly trespassing on the time of the House. The scope of that Act and its particularity shows that, although Canada is reported to be free from injurious trusts at the present time, a Canadian tribunal exists armed with powers most carefully and elaborately adjusted to the investigation of every suspicious development in trade or production which appears to call for examination. Its definitions are of the widest, and it seems to include everything within the scope of inquiry that could be of service. It actually goes the length of placing in the hands of any six British subjects resident in Canada, who believe a combine exists, and that prices have been enhanced or competition restricted by reason of it, to the detriment of consumers or producers, the power to apply to a Judge to order an investigation to be made. Any six persons in Canada can set the machinery in motion, and the only restriction is the very restriction which we think ought to be applied in the proposal before us. It is a comparatively small restriction in itself, but yet of great value. In Canada the proof has to be that the action of the combine results to the detriment of consumers or producers. It is amazing that there should be any hesitation in granting this very small and mild modification, since, when necessary, larger powers can be added to the immense scope already given by the provision in Canada.
– But in Canada that is provided in the Bill, and not in the Constitution.
– It is in the Bill, it is true.
– We can put it in the Bill.
– And it ought to be put in our Bill. Its absence from our Constitution is only an invitation to many inquiries which may prove barren, and also lead to a number of others in which the detriment to the public may be expressed by the smallest fraction, and investigation would not be worth while. The object of our endeavour is to impress on honorable members the wisdom of making this reasonable restriction in order to remove any idea on the part of the public of Australia that there is intended to be what might be called household espionage - any entering a man’s dwelling without warrant or authority, or other abuses of authority. I know the unqualified way in which this proposal may affect persons outside is a factor to be considered. However, we must remember that in Canada the Government have put such a wise provision in the Act, and have put it into operation. We have not. The Ministry refuse to insert it.
– Is there an Inter-State Commission in Canada?
– Not what we should call an Inter-State Commission. I was just about to show the procedure in Canada, which may be described as of a directly judicial character. There is no hesitation or half measures in Canada. The subject has there been grappled with boldly. Its Parliament has introduced not only the protecting amendment, which we have always supported, but an additional minor guarantee of the same character. The following shows the scope of the Canadian Act: -
Combines Act. - Canada.
An Act to Provide fob Investigation of
Combines, Monopolies, Trusts, and Mergers.
Assented 4th May, 1910. “ Combine “ is defined to mean any contract, agreement, arrangement, or combination which has, or is designed to have, the effect of increasing or fixing the price or rental of any article of trade or commerce or the cost of the storage or transportation thereof, or of restricting competition in or controlling the production, manufacture, transportation, storage, sale, or supply thereof, to the detriment of consumers, or producers of such article of trade or commerce, and includes the acquisition, leasing, or.’ otherwise taking over or obtaining by any person to the end aforesaid, of any control over or interest in the business, or any portion of the: business, of any other person, and also includes what is known as a trust, monopoly, or merger.
Six or more persons (British subjects residing in Canada) who think
If on hearing the Judge is satisfied there is reasonable ground for believing a combine exists which is injurious to trade or which has operated to the detriment of consumers or producers, and that it is in the public interest that an investigation should be held, an investigation may be ordered.
A Board is Appointed to Make the Investigation.
A person reported by the Board to have been guilty of -
– An Act operates in the same way in Australia.
– And yet the Labour Government have done nothing.
– As the honorable member for Darling Downs interjects, this Labour Government has done nothing under its own Act. However, we are further told by a newspaper correspondent -
The Combines Act, placed on the Dominion statutes three years ago, has had its first test. The majority of the Federal Government Commission appointed to inquire into the United Shoe Manufacturing Company have reported that the company is “a combine in restriction) -of trade,” and, as such, liable to a penalty of $ 1,000 a day. The Commissioners recommend that the company be given six months grace within which to dissolve or cease its monopolistic operations. It is a United States enterprise which furnishes Canadian boot and shoe manufacturers with machinery for their factories. It controls the patents, and forbade its customers to purchase from rival machinery men.
A large hoot manufacturer complained to the Government, and the finding outlined above is the result. It is reported that as a way out of its difficulty the company will itself go expensively into the manufacture and sale of boots and shoes in rivalry with existing enterprises.
That is to say, the Combine was obliged to cease its monopoly, and, in order to use its machinery, found it necessary to become a manufacturer of boots, which we may presume will be placed on the market to the advantage of the people of Canada.
The dual character of many of these ^business organizations has already been referred to. The procedure in the future will, no doubt, be under the last Act passed -by the present Parliament, by which those suspected will be compelled to prove their innocence. Under that Act, the Common.wealth no longer needs to prove the guilt of those accused, but is able to place the hurden of proof on the defendant. There was nothing in our Vend case, to which allusion has so often been made, to oblige the Government to cling to this earlier Act instead of the later one, under which they could have operated. What reason there was for that self-restraint I do not know. It has to be remembered, however, that in “this case against the Shipping Combine in connexion with the Coal Vend the defendants made no defence. The case made against them was, in their opinion, so insufficient that they did not put one witness In the box. The case presented by the Crown was so feeble that it was set aside “by a majority of the High Court. Of course, the procedure under the later Act might not have seemed adapted to the case, “though that, to me, seems impossible. It may have been thought that it would be harsh to have exercised the powers taken by the Government of forcing the Shipping Combine to prove its own innocence ; but of all this, and much more, I expect no explanation now. I do say, however, that when we commence to deal with the great business operations of this country, it will not do to handle defendants in that fashion. Dealing with them must not be indefinitely postponed without reason or excuse, and when inquiry is undertaken it must be after an investigation sufficient to satisfy the ^Government that they are certain of proving their case; otherwise lt would be better not to launch a case at all. The result of the last trial has been to discredit every one concerned, and to discredit, to some extent, the law. It has engendered in the minds of the public a general suspicion that a big gun was used to bring down big game, but so badly handled that’ the game escaped. This will not satisfy business people, any “more than it will satisfy the community generally. On the next occasion the public will demand a justification of the particular course followed by the Government against men, believed to be plundering the public, bringing them to the justice which they so richly deserve.
– The case is not over yet.
– Because of the appeal I make no further comment. It raises a question - that I shall not argue or further refer to - whether the speediest, the most satisfactory, or the most successful course has been followed. There, may have been honest differences of opinion among Ministers and their advisers, but our legal forces have made a most unfortunate entry into this particular field of operations.
What the people of Australia needed was a carefully prepared and well-directed charge proved, and the guilty persons adequately punished. This would have enormously strengthened the Parliament in its claim that industrial enterprises can no longer be permitted to proceed without those safeguards which Parliament alone can impose. We need these to protect us against the exercise of misused power upon the enterprises of the community, with a desire to limit or crush them, or to take unfair advantage of business or social conditions to remove rivals and crush fair competition. No civilized country in these days should tolerate the existence of such a state of affairs. To cope with it, as I have not disguised, great powers must be asked and conceded. It is because great powers have been asked, which we are willing to concede, that we the more regret to be obliged, by the wholesale and indiscriminate terms in which the proposition is now couched, to be compelled to oppose it on the ground that it does not contain that proper limitation to reasonable causes of injury, and that reasonable consideration for innocent persons affected, which would have enabled us to indorse it unanimously. The House most decidedly does indorse the principle of restraint of trusts within strict bounds, and their continued supervision by qualified and independent men acting on behalf of the Commonwealth.
– The Leader of the Opposition has very properly pointed out that the Liberal party has consistently expressed their willingness by all the legislative means in their power to deal with injurious trusts and combines, and are willing to accept an alteration of the Constitution, which will give effect to that principle. So far as combines are in restraint of trade, this party has always been willing to vote for any alteration of the Constitution necessary to enable them to be effectively dealt with. The idea of attacking trusts and combines is no new thing with the Liberal party, a Bill being introduced in the first Parliament to control them. I refer to a measure presented by the Right Hon. C. C. Kingston, and read a first time on 18th April, 1902. That was a measure covering the first Australian Tariff, and it contained the following clause -
The clause was withdrawn, because it was thought that the Bill being a taxing Bill, it might be held that the introduction into it of the provision that I have read might be considered a violation of the Constitution, which says that taxing Bills shall deal with taxation only. In withdrawing it-, Mr. Kingston said -
As a matter of policy, perhaps, the course of public business will best be facilitated if we withdraw the clause from the Bill, and deal with it subsequently. I trust that honorable members who agree with the policy contained in the clause will be equally desirous of facilitating its passage when it is introduced on a subsequent occasion.
The first Deakin Government went out of office, but when the second Deakin Government came into power, it introduced a fuller proposal. I refer to the Australian Industries Preservation Act of 1906.
– It slept on the matter for five years.
– When it passed legislation, it saw that it was administered, and, when necessary, commenced prosecutions.
– In 1909.
– The Labour party has done nothing at all in this matter.,
– It has not even authorized an inquiry.
– The Liberal Government has always been in favour of legislation to control trusts and combines, and took steps for their prosecution in 1907, as soon as the law was passed. The provision brought forward by Mr. Kingston was, as he stated, taken from the Canadian law. According to Mr.. McKenzie King, the Canadian Minister for Labour, the Canadian Act has been of some effect. This is part of a speech which he delivered in the Canadian House of Commons on 12th April, 1910 -
In 1897, just a year after the present Government came into office, new legislation was enacted in the Tariff resolutions. That legislation is to the effect that whenever the Governor in Council has reason to believe that a trust, combine, or association exists among manufacturers, which is unduly enhancing prices, he may appoint a Judge to conduct investigations into the business of the alleged combine; and if it be found that a combine does exist, and is benefiting by the existence of the Customs Tariff at the expense of the public, that the Tariff may, either in part or in whole, be modified so as to offer to the consumers that redress to which they are entitled.
He mentions a combine whose affairs they. investigated, and with which they dealt ire accordance with the law -
That complaint was brought to the attention of the Government by a resolutionfromthe Canadian Press Association of 18thMay, 1900. The complaint was considered by the Minister of Finance, and an Order in Council was passed on. 22nd April, appointing the Honorable Mr. Justice Taschereau as a Commissioner toascertain whether such a dangerous association or combine did exist. The Commissioner presented his report on 27th November, 1901, and found that a combine existed which was illegal “ both by the express enactment of the Customs Tariff, which forbids the act complained of, and authorizes direct Government action, if it is committed, and by section 220 of the Criminal Code to say nothing of common law on the matter. The report of the Commissioner having been placed before His Excellency in Council, an Order in Council was passed in February of the following year reducing the duty on news printing paper from 25 per cent, to 15 per cent., which reduction has remained up to the present time. As a. result of this investigation, rendered possible through the legislation of 1897, the consumers of Canada have profited to the extent of a 10 per cent, reduction in the duty on paper ever since, and it is difficult to say how many cases -this successful operation of the Act against such sl powerful combination as the Canada paper manufacturers may not have prevented in like combinations among other manufacturers, or attempts to reap an unfair advantage at the expense of the public in the case of those already m existence.
This Parliament has the constitutional right to pass such legislation as that. If in any State, or part of a State, a trust or combine is taking advantage of the Tariff, it is open to us, on the determination of the facts, to reduce its protection, if we think fit, and so bring it to book. That was the proposition of Mr. Kingston, whose Protectionist principles no man ever questioned. It was the suggestion of the most ardent advocate of Protection that ever stood in this House.
– Is that the way in which the honorable member would deal with trusts?
– It is a way in which they can be dealt with successfully, and in Canada has been applied to one of the largest combines in the country. As to labour conditions, the majority report of our Tariff Commission, which was signed by the honorable members for Bendigo and Capricornia, Senator McGregor, and Mr. Frank Clarke, made this recommendation -
If the majority of manufacturers of mining machinery and appliances made in Australia similar to those upon which additional duties are hereby levied do not after the expiration of one year of the passing of this Act pay their workmen engaged in making such machines and appliances a fair and reasonable rate of wages, the Governor-General may, in pursuance of a joint address by the Senate and the House of Representatives affirming that such fair and seasonable wages are not being paid, suspend the -collection of such additional duty upon any machine or appliance for such time as may be deemed advisable.
If persons are found to be taking undue advantage of the Tariff to increase prices, the position can be met by the reduction of duties. All in Australia are keenly alive to the evils of trusts, though this country appears to be relatively free from them ; at any rate, we have no evidence of the existence of many trusts or combines of an injurious nature.
– Then why denounce the Government for not prosecuting them?
– The Attorney-General says that the industrial unrest is due to the existence of trusts and combines here, and I say that if that is the view of the Government, they should prosecute those trusts and combines ; but my opinion is that those who administer public affairs,’ and who ought to be able to supply us with information on the subject, have submitted no evidence of the existence of injurious trusts and combines.
– We ought not to wait until the evil has been created. We should be prepared in advance.
– I agree with the honorable member that prevention is better than cure. That was why we introduced our anti-trust legislation. The honorable member, on one memorable occasion, pointed out that from a Labour point of view there was a great deal to be said in favour of combines, because they were organizing industry, and thus getting everything ready for its nationalization. He regarded them as a step in Socialistic evolution. Although a trust may do good in securing economy and efficiency, and facilitating supplies, it may, on the whole, be an evil, and we on this side therefore desire legislation to prevent such from doing harm. In this connexion, I cannot do better than give a summary, given by Mr. McKenzie King, taken from a work by Professor Jenks, of America, whose book is not in our Library, dealing with the evils resulting from trusts -
Enormous as these benefits to society may be from this better organization of capital under the new regime, no less pronounced arc the evils.
Investors of capital are often grievously wronged through concealment of facts and deception practised by promoters and directors at the time an industry is organized, and later through misrepresentation of the condition of business and methods in which a business is carried on.
A second class of persons injured is that of the stock-holders. Directors not infrequently manage the business in their own interests, regardless of those of the stock-holders. At times it is really made less profitable, or is so managed as apparently to be less profitable, in order to depress the stock on the market and to enable the directors through gambling speculations to reap large profits. (3) Persons, not members of a corporation, may be injured as consumers by high prices, which can be kept high, provided the combination can secure monopolistic power. The temptation to keep prices above former competitive rates is, of course, greatly increased when the corporation has issued large amounts of watered stock. (4) The producer of raw material may. be. injured by low prices, which (he combination, by virtue of its being the,, largest, if not almost the sole, buyer, can compel the producer to accept. (5) The combination may so increase its power as to injure the wageearners by compelling them to accept lower wages or to work under less favorable conditions than would be granted by competing concerns. So, too, the power exercised, apparently Arbitrarily at times, of closing part of the plants to avert a strike, or even to affect the stock market, is dangerous. (6) It may happen at times that the larger organizations will exert so powerful an influence on our political organizations that the purpose of the State will be directed away from the common weal. (7) The mental tone of the business community may lie lowered by depriving individuals of the privilege and of the power to enter independently into business as readily as could be done were capital less concentrated. (8) And, again, the moral tone of business may be lowered.
He then gives the methods for dealing with trusts in Canada. I frankly admit that some of these evils are possible in connexion with trusts, but all of them can be more or less adequately dealt with by means of legislation. Let us take the Attorney-General’s proposition that the industrial unrest of to-day is due to trusts and combines. That contention is capable of two meanings - one, that the industrial unrest of to-day is due to the fact that trusts and combines do not give fair labour conditions; the other that they interfere with prices, and so affect the wages of the workers. Will any one say that labour conditions in Australia are seriously affected by trusts and combines? If so, my answer is that in the cases where trusts and combines have been reported to exist in Australia there are Wages Boards determinations or arbitration awards relating to the industries carried on by them. So much for that aspect of the matter. I have already made reference to American and Canadian Acts, and have shown that trusts can be effectively dealt with if the Administration has the courage and strength of character to enforce the law against such organizations. Honorable members opposite have dwelt on the question of high prices, and have suggested that the high prices prevailing throughout Australia are due entirely to the operation of trusts and combines. It cannot be denied that there has been a gradual increase in prices throughout Australia. I have here a return provided by the Government Statist of Victoria, showing the purchasing power of £1 in 1911 compared with the ten preceding years. The table is as follows -
Purchasing power of £1 sterling expended on Household Commodities, Clothing and Kent, in 191 1, compared with the ten preceding years.
But the rise in prices is not peculiar to Australia. It is world-wide, and in some countries the rise has been much higher than in Australia. The causes of this rise in prices are fully set out in the report of the Massachusetts Commission, to be found at page 12 of the United States Senate Reports, vol. 46. I shall not refer at this stage to all of the causes enumerated. I desire only to mention as one of the causes which have been given for the increased cost of living in every country the fact that a higher standard of living is now demanded. A Select Committee of the United States of America reported that -
The standard of living has steadily advanced, and consumers are demanding a much higher grade of article than was the case a few years ago. This advance in standard of living has been a material factor in increasing prices.
Then, again, the United States Consul - General at Vienna writes -
The advance numerically in population and the increase in the degree of national education and material culture have been the most marked influence in raising prices. These influences have led to increased consumption of home products, to diminished exportations of foodstuffs, and to a general rise in the cost of living. These influences are constant and permanent, and go further to account for the increased cost of living than all other causes combined.
We are also informed that the United States Consul-General in Germany reported -
Rapidly-accumulated fortunes and increasing national wealth have created new standards and new requirements, shorter hours of labour, higher wages, old ‘age and accident insurance, abundant tables, better homes - these are among the contributing causes of the higher cost of living, not merely as respects commodities, but as respects total -per capita expenditures.
That is only one of the many causes given for the increase in prices. I wish now to refer honorable members to another cause mentioned in the report of the Massachusetts Commission -
The primary cause of the world-wide advance of prices since 1897 has been the increase of the- gold supply, which has reduced the purchasing power of money and brought about a corresponding increase of values measured in money in all the leading commercial States, and at least in the United States has served as the basis for a vast extension of credit.
That is only one of many causes given in the report, but since its operation is world-wide I think it desirable to specially mention it. It is plain from the enumeration of the causes of the increase in prices how delicate a problem the regulation of prices will be. I have only to say, in conclusion, that I desire to s see effectual action taken to deal with all trusts and combines, but that I cannot see my way to support a series of amendments of the Constitution, the sole object of which is not the effective control or regulation of trusts and combines, but the nationalization of the whole means of production, distribution, and exchange.
.- As we are likely to hear more of this proposed amendment of the Constitution than of any other during the forthcoming campaign, I think it desirable to emphasize one or two points in relation to it. We are entitled in the first place to have some information as to the intentions of the Government, if the powers for which they ask be granted to them. If the Government are to prescribe the remedy, surely the people are entitled to ask what it is to be, and what will be its probable effect. We have, first of all, to ask ourselves whether all the denunciation of trusts to which we have listened can be justified. It seems to me that the Government and their supporters have sought to make trusts responsible for many evils which cannot rightly be attributed to them, or for which they cam be blamed to only a slight extent. Are trusts the growth of modern times ? Have they grown up as part of the ordinary evolution that has taken place in the commercial world during the past few years? If combinations are a natural growth caused by the necessity of producing articles more cheaply - if people have combined to consolidate several small businesses so as to secure economy in production, that is not altogether something to which objection can be taken. If men have been compelled to combine because of ruinous cut-throat competition on the part of a number of small competitors, that is another reason why we should try to look the whole matter full in the face, and to make ourselves thoroughly cognisant of the facts before we take any rash action. If a combination is a bene-; ficent i institution, why should we be id. such a hurry to deal with it? The honorable member for Darling Downs has just referred to the question of high prices and their cause. To hear honorable members opposite talking of trusts, one would imagine that such organizations are solely, responsible for the rise in prices. On a previous occasion I showed that Mr. J. A. Hobson, writing in the Contemporary Review, satisfactorily disposed of that contention. He shows that trusts and similar bodies are only one of a series of causes - some much greater - for the increase in prices that has taken place of late years, and that that increase, which is world-wide, dates back to about 1895.. Mr. Hobson also indicates the conditions under which prices may be expected to return to their normal level. I admit that there are in the world to-day many injurious trusts and combinationsthat should be curbed. .
– Give us a few instances.
– Those who have read of the conditions that prevail in. America must be convinced that there aresome injurious trusts in that country - trusts with which we should like to deal if they were operating here. Oneof the matters to be desired in dealing, with trusts and combinations is publicity. If we had some means of making public the operations of trusts - if we could allow public opinion to have its due effect upon them, we’ should probably keep most of such organizations within reasonablebounds. I do not pin my faith absolutely to the efficacy of publicity alone as ». means of coping with trusts. I do not attach to it so much importance as does Mr. Andrew Carnegie; but I think that it would have a good effect since it would” allow public opinion to exercise that healthy influence which it _ can alwaysbring to bear upon any individual or body of individuals who do wrong. America is probably the home of the trusts. The ravages of trusts are more apparent there than in any other country, yet one canhardly find an American writer who advocates that which honorable members opposite say is the only remedy, namely, the nationalization of such bodies. Mr. H. E. Montgomery, in a book entitled Vital American Problems, writing, of the publicity obtained by inspection, says at page 90-
Even when such inspection is coupled with the power to raise and reduce the prices to be charged to consumers, the result as evidenced by the foregoing table is not equal to what is desired, and plainly indicates that the system of inspection and regulation fails to remedy the evils complained of.
In so far as the law goes it is entirely satisfactory, but it does not go far enough. Regulation by fixing prices will not be effectual ; proper control and regulation by inspection alone will not be ‘successful. Taxation of profits coupled with inspection is .the only way by which prices can be controlled, monopolies curbed, and the public be protected.
This writer does not seem to have as much faith in the value of publicity as I have. Notwithstanding his opinion, I think that there is much virtue in allowing the light of day to shine upon the operations of trusts. During the last two or three years the Government and their supporters have had a splendid opportunity to give publicity to the operations of the trusts which they assert prevail in Australia. Under the law as it stands the Attorney-General could have put questions to the men concerned, and have published the answers given by them. As a matter of fact, the Government have not taken advantage of one of .the powers which they at present possess. They are going to the country to howl down trusts, and to hold up all sorts of bogies in connexion with them in he hope that they will thus induce the people to give them the powers for which they ask. The public, therefore, will learn with interest that they have not attempted to use the powers they possess - (powers which have been shown to be adequate to deal with the Beef Trust, the Sugar Trust, and with others with which they say the country is afflicted. ‘ The decision given by Mr. Justice Isaacs in the Vend case was not upheld by the High Court, not because the law was not wide enough, but because the Crown had failed to prove its case. The Crown, in the opinion of the High Court, had failed to show that the Vend was acting to the detriment of the public. The result was that, in the opinion of the Court, the Crown case failed. Since this Government came into power, a fresh Australian Industries Preservation Act has been passed - that is, in 1910 - and this legislation altogether alters the position. Under the new Act the onus of proof is placed on the accused, who has to show that his actions are not unreasonable, or to the detriment of the public. Of course, this is not quite a British way of doing things, but it is a course that has been found necessary, not only in this country, but elsewhere. However that may be, the Government have never attempted to put the Act into operation. It is true that some time ago, when we first heard a Beef Trust mentioned, the Minister of Trade and Customs was credited with saying that he had “ scotched “ it, though since then we have it on the authority of the AttorneyGeneral that the Beef Trust has arrived. If this be the fact, then I think the powers we already have ought to be tried before further powers are asked for. The other day the honorable member for Bendigo drew attention to the fact that the Government had not put their own Act into operation; and in regard to this the *Age wrote the following -
Assuming that the Commonwealth Constitution should have the power to regulate trusts and monopolies, is there needed any amendment of the Constitution in order to effect what is required ? He shows that our Australian Industries Preservation Act, as amended last session, is “ one of the world’s masterpieces of anti-trust and anti-combine legislation,” far beyond the Sherman Act or any other country in the world. It will permit the existence of trusts and combines when they are not detrimental to the public ; but, according to the member for Bendigo, it is perfectly effective against any combination which can be shown to be “ detrimental to the public.” The weak part in all Ministerial speeches has been that no one of them has attempted to meet this specific legal argument from a legal expert. If it be valid, then all the florid declamation on the iniquities of trusts and the need of their suppression goes by the board. If we have ample powers already, the asking for more would be reduced to the level of a piece of party makebelieve.’
All we are told by our friends opposite is that in America, and other countries, efforts have been made to cope with trusts ; but we know that in both America and Germany the orders for dissolution have only resulted in the organizations reappearing and flourishing in some other form. I think the legislation of Australia goes further than that of any other country in this connexion; and Parliament has never refused the Government powers that were felt to be absolutely necessary. Had the Act already in existence been used as it should have been, we should not have heard so much about trusts in Australia in the course of this debate. As a matter of fact, honorable members opposite have no other remedy to propose but that of nationalization; and we can imagine what a delightful position the public would be in if the supply of beef, for instance, were nationalized. We have been told ‘ by the Government that they do not intend to put into operation the powers for which they ask, but merely to use them as a steppingstone to the object I have just indicated. In the case of beef, it would be simply handing the monopoly from private hands into Government hands; and, while we may deal with and, perhaps, stop a private monopoly, the taxpayer can only pay and look pleasant when he has to face a Government monopoly. We have heard a great deal during recent years of the great injury that is done to the country by the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, but it would appear from the report that has just been issued that the consumers are not so very badly treated after all; indeed, from Mr. Crawford’s minority report one might gather that the Colonial Sugar Refining Company is altogether a most beneficent monopoly. As a representative of Tasmania, which State has suffered more than any other from present conditions in the sugar industry, I am not likely to hold a brief for the Colonial Sugar Refining Company. The fruit producers of my own State have suffered much in this connexion, while the State revenue has, from the same causes, been largely depleted. But I desire to be fair, and I find that the Colonial Sugar Refining Company pay their employes very well indeed. If that company had not been in existence some years ago, there would not be a sugar industry in Australia to-day. I understand that in the eighties, when there was a great slump in sugar, it was practically insolvent. Since then, it has had a good time. As the result of splendid management, pluck, and perseverance, it is to-day in a strong position. I say that it well deserves success. It has installed in its various refineries the most up-to-date machinery, and it supplies a good article which is more than is usually supplied by any Government which enters the industrial field. We have only to go to France, and try the tobacco which is sold there, in order to prove that- I am glad to see that the Sugar Commission in its report has turned down the proposal to nationalize the industry. Considering the personnel of that body, I am satisfied that its report is a crushing disappointment to honorable members opposite. All that it does is to advise the adoption of a sliding scale, by which the price to be paid for raw sugar and sugar cane respectively will vary ir* fixed proportion to the selling price of refined sugar. There is nothing in that recommendation to flatter the hopes of ray honorable friends opposite. It is a very good thing that the Commission has put a spoke in the wheel of the Government, fm I am satisfied that if the latter had the manufacture of sugar in their hands the consumer would get a worse, article than he gets to-day, and would be taxed to make up the loss incurred in running the industry. Honorable members opposite do not really desire this unlimited power to deal with trusts - they really desire to nationalize industries. In such circumstances, the whole country would become a hive of civil servants, whom nothing short of ari earthquake would shift from their billets. That sort of thing was not contemplated by the people of Australia. They desire to give every individual a fair chance. If a combination is conducting its business operations properly, and making only a fair profit, they will be only too ready to say “ Good luck to it.” The difference between members of the Labour party arc! members of the Opposition is that, whereas they desire an unlimited power in respect of trusts, we wish to vest in this Parliament power to deal with trusts only if their operations are in restraint of trade, or in some way injurious to the public. I am satisfied that the electors of this country take a keen interest in this matter; and that after they have informed themselves as to what are the facts, they will cast a vote which will not please my honorable friends. I would further point out that our Constitution admits freely of amendments being made in it. It is the elastic method by which it may be amended which makes it such a great improvement upon the American Constitution upon which it is modelled.
– Order ! The honorable member is now getting away from the question before the Chair.
– We are willing to amend the Constitution, but honorable members opposite would have the public believe that we do not wish to amend it. All we ask is that any amendment of it shall follow the lines upon which our Constitution has been fashioned. When we federated, we did so with the object that this Parliament should be an additional body for the better self-government of the people of Australia - a body which could exercise certain powers vested in it better than they could be exercised by any of the sovereign States.
– Order ! Will the honorable member confine his remarks to the Bill?
– I do not wish to occupy more time. I am satisfied that I have mentioned one or two unpleasant facts, otherwise honorable members opposite would not have interrupted me so frequently. When anything displeases them they try to howl down their opponents. I hope that when their friends outside hear anything on the platform that does not please them they will not adopt the tactics favoured by their representatives in this House.
– What has this to do with trusts?
– Honorable members opposite complain that the trusts want to control everything. It seems to me that some honorable members opposite want to control the whole of our proceedings, and to suppress anything that tells against them. Fortunately, Mr. Speaker, you are here to protect us, and by your aid we are able to get in a word or two sometimes, even though it may not be altogether palatable to the Ministerial party.
.- This Bill purports to control trusts, combines, and monopolies through the instrumentality of the Federal Government. The Attorney-General gave as a reason why the Bill should be passed that there are several injurious combines operating in Australia. He mentioned amongst others the Shipping and Coal Combines, with which the law, strong as it is, could not interfere to any great extent. But the reason why they could not be interfered with was that the Crown was unable to prove that the combines were detrimental to the public. He also mentioned the Colonial Sugar Refining Company. As a matter of fact, our antitrust law is strong enough to deal with the company very rigidly if all that the AttorneyGeneral said is true. First of all, the Colonial Sugar Refining Company has refineries in three States. That makes its manufacturing operations Inter-State. Furthermore, it draws its supplies of sugar from two States and from abroad. In this respect it is not only Inter-State in its operations, but also foreign. It sells sugar in every State of the Commonwealth, and also abroad. Consequently, in respect of commerce its operations are Inter-State and foreign. It is fortunate that even at this late hour we have been supplied with the report of the Sugar Commission. I have not yet had time to read it through, but I notice that the Commission has turned down the pet scheme of the Ministerial party for the nationalization of the sugar industry.
– The Commission proposes to fix prices, though.
– They propose to fix a minimum price. I find that the following suggestion is made by the majority of the Commission at page 47 of their report -
The suggestion has been made that, since refiners are in a position to control prices in the Sugar Industry generally, the Commonwealth might enter into competition with existing concerns with a view to keeping down the price of refined sugar, while raising the price of raw sugar. We cannot recommend the adoption of this suggestion : -
It would, moreover, come into competition with a long-established business conducted with a very high degree of efficiency. We have frequently had occasion to criticise the Colonial Sugar Refining Company from various points of view, but we do not hesitate to express our admiration of the economic efficiency which characterizes every branch of its business which has come under our notice.
The Attorney-General has referred ‘.’) the enormous capital of the company. He said that its shares have been repeatedly watered, and that enormous profits have been put aside.
In the minority report I find the following words -
In 1887 the company was registered as with limited liability, and copies of the published records of the company since that date were furnished to the Commission.
These records show that the company has a paid-up capital of ^3,000,000, which, on the 29th April, 1910, was divided among 1,740 shareholders. No watering of stock has taken place. The great part of the capital has been contributed by the shareholders, and the balance transferred to capital account from reserves accumulated during the 70 years of the company’s existence.
I find that the profits on refining made by the company have not exceeded 6 per cent., and honorable members will agree that that is not a large profit from an industry in which so much capital is sunk. Referring to question 16844, statement “A,” Mr. Crawford in his report says -
After allowing for depreciation, the net profit on refining was said to be 12s. 6d. per ton.
Which would be about 6 per cent. -
The result of the Millaquin Company’s refining operations for years was explained by the secretary as follows : -
From January to June we refine raw sugar, and this is known as our refining season ; from July to December we refine raw and juice mixed, and this is called the juice season. The profit above shown, ^’18,883, was made in the refining seasons. During the refining periods, 80, 539 tons of raws were melted, so that the profit on the raw sugar refined amounts to 4s. Sci. per ton.
The Millaquin Company is a smaller company working with perhaps less up-to-date machinery and methods than those in use by the Colonial Sugar Refining Company. Then product is selling at a better price than that of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, and their profit amounts to only 4s. 8d. per ton. It is clear, therefore, that unless we are prepared to put down an enormous plant, and place it in charge of better brains than the Colonial Sugar Refining Company are able to command, it will be absolutely impossible for us to put sugar on the market at a lower rate than the Colonial’ Sugar Refining Company have been doing. It should be borne in mind that the Millaquin Company sell the whole of their sugar to general distributors, whilst the Colonial Sugar Refining Company sell only three-fourths of their output to general distributors, and the other one-fourth to the jam and other manufacturers at a reduction of £1 per ton on the price charged to general distributors.
– The reduction is sometimes more than £1 per ton.
– If that be so, it only goes to show that the Colonial Sugar Refining Company receives an average price per ton lower than the price received by the Millaquin Company, who sell in the same market, and who, according to statements made in this House, have the freedom of the Australian market, and are hot in competition with the Colonial Sugar Refining Company. The reasons for the “cut” price of sugar supplied to manufacturers were explained in the Colonial Sugar Refining Company’s general statement as follows -
The primary point we have to keep in mind is that all the raw sugar produced in Australia under a protective Tariff must, after refining, be consumed in Australia, otherwise the surplus would have to be exported at a heavy loss in competition wilh sugar produced elsewhere wilh coloured labour
From this evidence it is clear that the Colonial Sugar Refining Company have not inflicted a very serious burden upon the people of Australia. The Attorney-General instituted a comparison between the price of sugar in New Zealand and in the Commonwealth, and pointed out that there is a difference between the two prices of something like j£-j per ton. That old argument has been trotted out by Free Traders as long as I can remember, and it did not at all surprise me to hear the Attorney-General complain that we have to pay an extra price for sugar because of the protection we have afforded the manufacturers of the article by our Tariff.
– Has the honorable member recanted? How long is it since the honorable member left the Free Trade camp ?
– The honorable member should not answer’ that question. It is an awkward one.
– It is not at all an awkward question for me. My fiscal faith is fairly well known, and it is unnecessary for the honorable member for Robertson to inform the electors of Moreton as to what it is, because they know what it is.
– What is it?
– It does not matter. It has nothing to do with the question under discussion.
– Surely the honorable member is not ashamed to say what it is.
-1 am not. It is exactly the opposite of the fiscal faith of the Minister of External Affairs. I am a Protectionist. I wish to point out that New Zealand is supplied with sugar grown in
Fiji under conditions which were graphically described by the honorable member for Grey when speaking on the Addressin.Reply last year. That is one of the reasons why the people of New Zealand get cheaper sugar than we get in the Commonwealth. The principle reason, of course, is one which I hope will never be removed, and that is, we have a Protective duty of £6 per ton on outside sugar and sugar manufactured under the conditions described by the honorable member for Grey when he said last year -
The work of the missionary has been attended in those islands with better results than in many other cases, but within recent years the sugar industry has been started there, with results which I propose to describe. Although the Fijian native works for comparatively small wages, lie would not work for as small a wage as the sugar planter offers. These planters were strong enough to induce the British Government to allow them to import a certain class of people under indenture for the purpose of developing the industry in Fiji. The result has been most demoralizing to the people of the islands. There have been brought in about 40,000 Hindoos of the worst type that it would be possible to find. They are the gathering un of the scum of all parts of India. Many c them, on their own admission, were criminals before they came to Fiji. They are brought in for a term of five years bv the company, and during that period the average wage received by the mcn is 11.5/d., or just under is. per day -
Sugar manufactured under such conditions is the sort of stuff which is sent across to New Zealand - while the average wage for the women, who also work in the fields, is 5.93d., or just under 6d. per day. If they do not complete the task that is set them they are brought before n Court and heavily fined or imprisoned. In the year 1907 there were 1.460 cases of imprisonments and other penalties for noncompletion of tasks.
That is how the sugar-workers are treated in Fiji by the sugar-planters; and if the Attorney-General wishes to introduce into Australia sugar manufactured under such conditions, and then calls himself a white Australian, or even a human being, I pity him and the country that is governed by people who would do such a thing. The honorable member for Grey, in addition to his own description, quoted from a book written by ]. W. Burton, as follows: -
Hack on the plantations the coolies are herded together like so many penned cattle, amid the most insanitary conditions and indescribable and disgusting filth. A man must hold his nose with a firm grip as he pusses through some of these lines; but. to live in them- ! It is small wonder that sickness and disease hold carnival, and such places are a disgrace to civilization and a stain upon commerce. . ‘.’ .
– The New Zealanders look well on it.
– Yes, they get cheap sugar in New Zealand.
– That is what the Free Traders would do in Australia if they could.
– Exactly ; and that is what the Attorney-General wants to do.
– No, he does not.
– This is what his argument is aimed at. The quotation continues -
One of the saddest and most depressing sights a man can behold, if he have any soul at all, is a “coolie line” in Fiji. There is .a look of abjectness and misery on almost every face that haunts him. Dirt, filth, and vile stenches abound. Wickedness flaunts itself unshamedly Loose, evil-faced women throw their jibes at criminal-looking men, or else quarrel with each other in high, strident voices, made emphatic by wild, angry gestures. The beholder lim? away, striving to discover whether pity or disgust is uppermost in his mind. There is mud occasion for both. Many of the coolies are of low caste, or no caste at ali. The sweenings of the streets of Calcutta, the rifF-ra(T i’r.’.’-n tin; inland towns, the ne’er-do-wells from . the villages, and the men who have become too well known to the police - all arc to be found in Fiji. 1 might go on reading for half-an-hour in the same strain the words so aptly used by the honorable member for Grey. I regret that such a deplorable state of things does exist. I also regret that the AttorneyGeneral advocates the supply of sugar under such conditions.
– That is a distinctly inaccurate statement.
– It is a distinctly accurate statement.
– He never advocated any such thing.
– The AttorneyGeneral complained that New Zealand was getting its sugar at ^7 a ton cheaper than we were in Australia, and the New Zealand source of supply is F.iji.
– He pointed to the difference in price, but did not advocate such a thing.
– Has the Colonial Sugar Refining Company got sugar works in Fiji?
– That is the sugar which is going to New Zealand ?
– Undoubtedly it is.
– And that is the company for which the honorable member is sticking up.
– I am sticking up for an Australian industry. In Australia the Colonial Sugar Refining Company has to carry on its operations under Australian conditions, and the Australian Governments have taken care to see that those conditions are suitable to Australian people.
– Order ! The honorable member is now getting beyond the ordinary scope of the question before the Chair, but it is most difficult for me to follow him while honorable members are interjecting across the chamber. I ask them to desist.
– I admit, sir, that I , was wandering a little from Australia, but it was absolutely necessary to do so in order to reply to the remarks of the AttorneyGeneral. Let me come back to the Australian conditions which are observed by this tremendous combine, the Colonial Sugar Refining Company. An organizer of the Independent Workers’ Association has written to his union as follows : -
I may state that in the local sugar mills the lowest wage paid is 30s. per week and found. This is the minimum for eight hours per day, and the board given at the mills will compare favorably with any hotel or boardinghouse.
– Do you believe that?
– I have no reason to disbelieve it. I know that the Queensland Parliament has passed a Sugar Workers’ and Sheep Shearers’ Accommodation Act, which provides for pretty decent accommodation for sugar-workers, who see that they get pretty good rations. The letter continues -
The cane-cutters in the field mostly work by contract, and are earning from£3 to£5 per week.
Capital has also been made out of the fact that these combinations supplied money for the purpose of fighting the proposals of the Government at the last referendum. That has not been proved by those who make the allegation, but, if it were true, it would only show that these people are prepared to back their opinions with their cash, and I venture to assert that the amount contributed was small compared with that contributed to support the campaign of the Labour party. I intend to oppose the proposals of the Government with all my might, as I did on the last occasion. I did it then at my own expense, and I shall do it again at my own expense this time probably.
.- I think we might have an adjournment now.
– We have been sitting since half-past 10 this morning, so that an adjournment is reasonable. We should not be asked to rush important measures through without proper discussion. As to the proposal that this Parliament needs more power to deal with trusts and combinations, I ask : What are the trusts and combinations with which we need to deal, and why has this Labour Government not exercised the powers it possesses to deal with them if they exist ? Honorable members opposite cannot give a satisfactory answer to those questions. Ever since 1910 Ministers have had power to deal with trusts and combines, but they have not exercised it. Now they ask for power to deal, not only with trusts and monopolies detrimental to the public and in restraint of trade, but with all trusts, combinations, and monopolies as they may choose. It has been shown that it is practically impossible to define the word “ monopoly,” and the word “ combination ‘ ‘ is almost equally indefinable, because it covers such a wide range. Mention has been made of the Coal Trust or Coal Vend, or Coal Combination, bub when the Government endeavoured to prosecute it, it failed to prove that its efforts were in restraint of trade.
– We proved that they were.
– You failed to prove that they were inimical to the interests of the community, and prominent members of the Labour party, such as the New South Wales Minister for Mines, have stated that the Coal Vend was formed to benefit the workers by enabling the colliery proprietors to pay higher rates for the hewing of coal. Reference has been made, also, to the Sugar Trust and to the Beef Trust. The existence of the latter in Australia is a mere myth. Honorable members cheer ironically, but I do not like this levity when I am discussing an important constitutional proposal. They remind me of a box of galahs.
– I appeal to honorable members to cease from interjecting.
– I wish to discuss this matter seriously, without interruption from a lot of jabbering nincompoops.
– I again appeal to honorable members to discontinue their interruptions. I ask them to have more regard for the dignity of the House. The honorable member for North Sydney must withdraw the words that he has just uttered, and confine himself, to the question.
– I withdraw what I have said about honorable members opposite. As I was pointing out, the existence of the Beef Trust in Australia has been spoken of because the imagination of honorable members opposite has become inflamed. Speaking with authority, I say that there is no Beef Trust in Australia. It has been said that a branch of the American Beef Trust is commencing operations in Queensland. I certainly would object to the trust getting a footing in Australia, but, although the company which has just started in Queensland may have American interests, it has not been proved that it is in any way connected with the Beef Trust, and it seems to me that it would be impossible for any such trust to flourish here, because it could -not get the command of the railways, which would be essential to its success. It could not get control of the railways, because they are the property of the States-. I have given expression to my own views on other occasions upon the question of Stateowned railways. I think it right that the railways should belong to the States, and since they are owned by the States, it is impossible for trusts to gain here the footing they have obtained in America. It is impossible for them to prosecute their nefarious practices as they do in the United States of America. We have heard a lot about the Tobacco Trust, and I have asked for and obtained information in regard to it. I defy any one to say that it is acting in restraint of trade, or is inimical to the interests of the public. On another occasion I brought before the House information showing that the Tobacco Trust, instead of being inimical to the interests of the people, was really supplying to the people of Australia an article that was equal, if not superior, to anything of the kind produced at the same price in any other part of the world. If we need an example of what the nationalization of the tobacco industry would mean, we have only to go to France. I have not been there, but many who have been have told me that absolutely the worst tobacco in the world is supplied by the nationalized tobacco industry of that country. I come now to the question of the great Sugar Combine. . The Government appointed a
Royal Commission, to inquire .into its ramifications and operations,, but the report of that Commission shows that it. is not, as we were led to believe, one of the great commercial octopi that spread their tentacles, over the land and seek to drain the very life’s blood of the people. There is no doubt that a combine exists in connexion with the refining of sugar. The Colonial. Sugar Refining Company is undoubtedly a, combination, but unless it can be shown to be acting in restraint of trade, or to be otherwise inimical to the interests of the people, this Parliament is not entitled to ask for power to deal with it. Why’ do the: Government wish to deal with it ? They wish to take these matters into their own hands. The Attorney-General has said that they want power. “Give us power,” he says, and it is power that they want. It is not well, however, that too much power should be placed in the hands’ of any one man. If we give this Parliament power to deal with trusts, monopolies, and combines, it will mean in a great measure placing very wide powers in the hands of one man. No matter what Government is in office, no matter who the Attorney-General of the day may be, such a thing would mean opening, the door to influences to which I need not refer. The Colonial Sugar Refining Company is deserving of the very greatest credit for the part it has taken in assisting us to people tropical Australia. But for that company there would not be in that part of Queensland where its operations are carried on one-fourth of the population that exists there to-day. For the sake of our own safety we should give every encouragement to such companies - combinations and trusts, if honorable members like to call them so - as the Colonial Sugar Refining Com. pany, which is doing so much to develop tropical Australia, and to place people on the soil. We must have population if we are to have an efficient military force, and a company that is doing much to promote settlement arid to attract population to the’ tropical north, should not be stigmatized as a monster or a commercial octopus that. would crush the life’s blood out of the people. I wish; now to quote from the report of the .Royal Commission on the sugar industry. No one can suggest that the members of that Commission favour the political views of the Opposition. The majority report of the Commission, signed by W. Jethro Brown,
Albert Hinchcliffe, Robert M. McC. Anderson, and M. R. Shannon, contains the following paragraph -
While the social aspect of the sugar industry is more important than the industrial, the political aspect is perhaps more important than either. Unsettled areas in the tropical parts of Australia are not only a source of strategic weakness. They constitute a positive temptation to Asiatic invasion, and may giveto the White Australia policy a complexion which must inevitably weaken the claims of Australia to external support. As we have already remarked, the ultimate, and, in our opinion, the effective, justification of the protection of the sugar industry lies beyond questions of industry or wealth production. It must be sought in the very existence of Australia as a nation.
We must attach some weight to the report of this Commission : and although the Colonial Sugar Refining Company is not specified particularly credit is given to those who have promoted settlement in connexion with the sugar industry. As to power to deal with trusts and combines, the Royal Commission, in reference to political interference, says -
As a result of the bounty regulations, a certain amount of discretionary power is left in the hands of the Government of the day. This appears to us to be a grave objection ; it invites the intrusion of political influence, and it introduces an element of instability into the industry.
-Is the honorable member in order in dealing with the details of a report that has no bearing on this particular Bill ?
– So far as I have been able to follow the honorable member, his remarks appear to be in order.
– I desire now to read only one more quotation in connexion with nationalization.
– There is a Bill on the notice-paper dealing with nationalization of monopolies, and I ask the honorable member not to anticipate its discussion.
– I fail to see any warrant for the power to deal with all trusts, combinations and monopolies, whether in restraint of trade or otherwise, because I think that the States are the proper authorities to legislate on such matters.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Richard Foster) adjourned.
Business of the Session.
– I move -
That the House do now adjourn.
I hope honorable members will be able to arrange to conclude the debate on the Constitution Alteration Bills to-morrow, and arrange for a time for the vote to be taken.
– All these Bills are of supreme importance, and I do not think that any time has been wasted by the informative debate to-day, although it is unfortunate that the debate is all on one side, in view of what is to come We are anxious to inform the country in regard to the subjects of the referenda ; and all reasonable time shouldbe given to the discussion. We have yet to debate the Bills relating to labour and employment, nationalization and railway servants; and these involve principles of government which are entitled to every consideration.
– Before the people.
– Here is the place where they must first be debated.
– No debate here will alter the fact that the Bills are going to the people.
– Certainly not. The idea of the debate is not to stop the Bills going to the people, but to place them in possession of reasonable information which cannot be given on the public platform. I hope there will be no undue prolongation of the debate ; but the Prime Minister is refusing to do what every other Government does, namely, take the House into his confidence and tell us how many of the Ministerial proposals he intends to put through. When we see new Bills and new business introduced every day. we begin to wonder whether there is going to be any recess at all.
– It is pleasant to hear the honorable member for Parramatta in such a reasonable mood at this time of night. The suggestion he has made as to a statement about the business is a good one; but he is in error in saying that it is usual to take the House into the confidence of the Government so early. No Bills have been introduced other than those we intend to put through. However, if it will suit the convenience of the Opposition, I shall make a statement to-morrow or the next day. If the other Bills to come need so much deliberation, it may be necessary to sit a little later to enable honorable members to express their views, seeing that time is passing so rapidly.
– Is the honorable member suggesting that he will jam the Bills through by all-night sittings?
Mr.FISHER. - No; but there are only two courses open - either to sit longer or to come back after Christmas. If honorable members who, in the exercise of their undoubted right, wish to discuss these measures exhaustively are afraid to sit all night, they are very different from honorable members in other Parliaments. The honorable member tor Parramatta has said that the remaining Bills require a great deal of consideration.
– I said that they were of great importance.
– I understand, Mr. Speaker understood, and, I venture to say, the whole House understood, that on the Constitution Alteration (Trade and Commerce) Bill the principles involved in all the remaining Bills were to be discussed.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjournedat11.21 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 4 December 1912, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1912/19121204_reps_4_68/>.