2nd Parliament · 3rd Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 7.30 p.m., and read prayers.
.- I wish to make a personal explanation. When coming from Sydney, I arranged to pair with the honorable member forMac- quarie, but last night, when a division took place, forgot to leave the chamber. I think it only fair to the honorable member and to myself to make this statement.
asked the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
Before signing the contract for the carriage of mails to and from Tasmania, will he conscientiously consider the advantage of using the shortest route between Melbourne and Tasmania, and the Tasmanian point from which the mails can be distributed with the greatest facility and despatch, having regard to the fact that Launceston is 277 miles from Melbourne, whileBurnie is only 215 miles, and possesses more convenient harbor accommodation ?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows : -
Before accepting a tender for a new mail service between Victoria and Tasmania the PostmasterGeneral will give full consideration to the matters referred to.
asked the Postmaster-
General, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
In Committee (Consideration resumed from11th July, vide page 1260):
Clause 13 -
Unfair competition has in all cases reference to competition with those Australian industries, the preservation of which, in the opinion of the Comptroller-General or theBoard, as the case may be, is advantageous to the Commonwealth, having due regard to the interests of producers, workers, and consumers.
Amendment (by Sir William Lyne) proposed -
That the words “the Board,” line 4, be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “ a Justice.”
– It is with great misgiving that I agree to the proposal to substitute a Justice for the Board, and if it seemed possible to obtain competent men, whose disinterestedness and impartiality could be guaranteed, I should prefer their appointment to the setting up of a legal tribunal. The reference of questions of this kind to a Justice invariably leads to the creation of a Court, even though his inquiries may not be governed strictly by the rules of legal procedure, and it has been my experience that a Justice does not deal with business matters with the facility which characterizes a business man, nor does he, perhaps, administer the same broad-minded, rough, substantial justice. I have seen several instances in which, in the decision of matters of this nature, laymen have proved superior to men of legal training, and the honorable member for Newcastle will bear out the statement that, in the settlement of industrial troubles in his district, laymen have given more satisfaction than have lawyers. We have had similar experience in connexion with the Arbitration Court.
– Can the honorable member suggest abetter tribunal?
– The only suggestion worthy of consideration which occurs to me now is that of Mr. Irvine, published in to-day’s newspaper. He suggests the appointment of a small permanent Board of Trade to deal with these matters. A Justice is, however, preferable to Ministerial appointees,whose impartiality, disinterestedness, and freedom from political taint could not be guaranteed. From a Justice we shall always be certain of getting a disinterested and impartial decision, though the inquiry may be prolonged and costly.
– And the decision will be non-political.
– Yes. But while a judicial inquiry means cost, loss of time, a.nd legal technicality of procedure, I think that, if the advantages are weighed against the disadvantages, the appointment of a Justice is preferable to the appointment of such a Board as this. I shall, however, reserve the right to make, between now and the passing of the measure, some such suggestion as that to which I have referred, because I foresee that, if inquiries are multiplied, we shall inevitably have a kind of legal Court set up, whereas the settlement of business matters requires not only disinterestedness and impartiality, but practical knowledge and despatch, if the trading community is not to suffer great inconvenience and loss through delay
’ - I understand that the difficulty of the Government is to find business men whose integrity will be above suspicion in the minds of the people - disinterested nien of sufficient position to commend their appointment to the community. I do not know where we shall find such a man, unless we appoint a Justice, or create some new permanent office. Public confidence in the tribunal is an absolute essential. Fortunately, we are able to congratulate ourselves upon the high estimation in which the occupants of our Bench are held, and I think that for the present we may very well rely upon enlisting -the services of one of the Justices of the High Court.
– The matters which the Justice will have to inquire into under this part of the Bill” will be, not matters of law, or of fact, but largely matters of opinion and of economics. If a Justice be appointed to decide .these questions we shall be exposing a high judicial officer, who ought ito be above all party considerations, to attacks in regard to the decisions he may give.
– Under the other portion of the Bill, the Justice will be required to do precisely the same work, and. moreover, the American Judges are called upon to exercise similar functions.
– I am not certain that such is the case. The Board which was originally provided for would not command the confidence of any section of the public, and I regard the substitution of a Judge as an improvement. At the same time, I cannot approve of the growing disposition to call upon Justices to deal with questions which do not involve matters of law or of fact, but which require that they shall express an economic opinion upon subjects in regard to which men of equal ability may, in perfect good faith, hold diametrically opposite views.. I regard the practice as somewhat dangerous. In many parts of Canada and the United States, this practice has resulted in the impairment of the independence of the Bend and the exposure of the Judges to party attacks. However, I cannot suggest an improvement, and, therefore, ‘I suppose I must let the matter pass. I had intended to refer to this question when we were dealing with the Arbitration Act, but the time then at our disposal was too short to permit of my doing so. I believe that the appointment of Judges to try cases such as would arise under that Act has not increased public confidence in the Bench, but has tended to shake it and to expose the occupants of the Bench to party attacks.
Amendment agreed to.
– I desire to point out that it is proposed under this clause to give immense powers to a public servant. It is actually intended to place upon the shoulders of the Comptroller-General (he obligation to express an opinion as to whether an industry is advantageous to the Commonwealth, whether, and to what extent, it ought to be affected by competitive enterprise from other parts of the world, and as to how far it ought to be subject to that constant interplay of scientific forces which is silently and gradually revolutionizing our industrial methods. When we were discussing thi? Tariff, a long discussion took place with regard to tanners’ machines. It was proposed by the then Minister of Trade and Customs to subject them to a duty of 20 per cent., but I proposed that they should be placed on the free-list. After we had discussed the matter at some length, the Minister promised to obtain a further report on the matter. He sent out an officer - and probably the same man would be called upon to determine questions arising under this clause - to make inquiries, and received a report that whilst our manufacturers were not making the tanners’ machines specified in the Tariff, they were turning out others that would answer the same purpose. Here was an officer of high standing, who represented that because a few men were engaged in making obsolete tanners’ machines in Melbourne, the whole science of the world, as applied to their manufacture, ought to be kept out of Australia by means of a high Tariff.
– That question comes under clause 15 of the Bill.
– To what machines is the honorable member referring ?
– I am speaking 1 of tanners’ machines. It transpired that there was a man in Melbourne who employed about twenty men and boys in the manufacture of these machines, and the report was that they were not as good as those which were imported, but that they would serve the purpose for which they were made.
– Did the honorable member ever know anything to be manufactured in Australia which was as good as the imported article?
– Yes. I think that the honorable member is just about as good as they can make them, except when he goes outside disturbing the peace of the community. I entirely repudiate the suggestion which is contained in his interjection. While we may have our differences of opinion as to what is best for Australia. I claim that honorable members upon this side of the Chamber are just as loyal to the country as is the honorable member himself. They’ are equally sincere in their conviction that we ought to do everything in our power, both inside and outside cf Parliament, to make Australia forge ahead, industrially-, socially, and in every way. We mav differ as to the method which should be adopted to achieve our end, but we ought not to impugn each other’s motives on !’-<> allimportant question of our 10,71tv to Australia. I wish to point out to the honorable member that I am now citing concrete crises, and for his especial benefit I do not mind quoting another. We were told in pathetic language during the debate upon the Tariff - indeed the precincts of the House were invaded bv deputations for the purpose - that the strawboard industry would completely collapse unless the old rate of dutv upon strawboard were maintained. That duty, however, was cut down to the extent of 30 or 40 per cent. - I forget which - with the result that the industry is flourishing to-day. When the industry was brought within the reach of the competition of the world, all that happened was that those engaged in it set about re-organizing their machinery. They substituted1 a new machine for an obsolete one, with the result that to-day they are able to produce a strawboard which is equal to any produced in the world.
– Does the ‘ honorable member know that the strawboard factory at Geelong is only half employed ?
– If the honorable member would agree to an increased duty upon that article we should be able to make all the strawboard that is required in Australia.
– It occurs tome that there are many industries which are not employed full time. But is that a reason why this Parliament should step in and interfere? The honorable member for Newcastle can tell the Committee that the miners in his electorate are employed only about half time throughout the year. But they do not ask the House to take up their case, and to create more employment for them. If people will overproduce and over-develop an industry - as. is the custom in many branches of manufacture - that is no reason why, in all cases, we should step in and convert a bao* speculation into a good one by means of parliamentary action. Consequently there is nothing in the case which has been cited by mv honorable friend. But here is the fact that we may appoint an officer who will find himself confronted with a verv puzzling duty the moment that he finds our enterprises come into disastrous competition with the better methods and better skill which are employed abroad. I am not now endeavouring to impugn our Australian skill and industrial enterprise. T am simply su^resting that the world is a very wide one, and that inventions are being patented all over the world every day. These inventions necessarily mean the displacement and disorganization of our present day enterprises. I say that we shall put upon this civil servant a very puzzling and conflicting duty if we ask him to say that the importation of any goods will be disastrous to the State if continued, unless we clothe him with the requisite power to take all the steps that he deems should be taken to bring our machinery and methods up to a certain scale of efficiency. In a young country like this, we cannot always expect to attain the same efficiency which characterizes some of the older parts of the world, where it has been attained by reason of the greater demand, and greater markets, with which a particular industry has to do, and up to now, protectionists have always relied on a Tariff to regulate these matters. However, I suppose that it is no use saying any more upon this matter. In another part of the Bill, we have already decided that this officer shall undertake these supreme duties. I entertain the greatest fear that the result will prove anything but satisfactory. My only hope is that such other provisions will be inserted in the measure as will lead to the services of this officer being called into requisition as rarely as possible, in connexion with a matter of such grave importance to the country.
, - I wish to say, in answer to the remarks of the deputy leader of the Opposition, that I never intended for a moment by my interjection to impute to him disloyalty to Australia. All I intended to convey was that there area great many people who appear to think that neither Australian machinery nor Australian manufactures of any kind can be as good as are the imported articles. The statement w being continually made. I know from experience that there is just as good machinery made in Australia as is made in any other part of the world, and still better machinery would be made if the young life of the country were given anything like a fair chance. It is not given a fair chance. Our own people are continually disparaging our products and making it appear that we are fit for nothing except soldiering. The honorable member for Parramatta spoke of protecting the miners. He knows that we cannot impose a dutv upon coal, but if a lot of the articles which are now being imported were made in our factories, a much larger quantity of coal would be used, and the miners would be infinitely busier than they are at the present time.
– Let them show a little more independence of spirit instead of ‘always leaning upon the Government-
– The honorable member talks about independence of spirit.
– Yes. That is what we are sapping by means of this class of legislation.
– I venture to say that there is as much independence of spirit amongst the people of America as there is in my honorable friend, and yet they are pretty well protected.
– They have free-trade amongst a population of 80,000,000.
– And we have freetrade amongst a population of 4,000,000. I trust that the time is not far distant when we shall have ten times that number. I can assure my honorable friend that the reduction of the duty upon strawboard has proved most serious to that industry, and that, notwithstanding the introduction of improved machinery, a much larger number of hands would be employed if an increased dutv were imposed.
Mr. JOHNSON (Lang) (7.59].- Tn spite of the statement of the honorable member for Melbourne Ports-
– I did not make any statement.
– Then I wonder what the honorable member was doing whilst he was addressing the Committee? I maintain - despite his predilection for ihe State coddling of local industries - that if we had less interference with trade in every way - less interference with our imports, with commerce, and with industry, there would be more healthy and vigorous conditions existing amongst our manufacturers, their employes, and amongst the community generally, than there is any sign of to-day. This clause is much like others with which we have already dealt. No one on this side will attempt to dispute that the preservation of Australian industries which in themselves are not injurious in’ character is advantageous to the Commonwealth, provided that such preservation does not. entail injustice to the people or any section of the people, but there are some industries which might be described as injurious in character, and might not be worth preserving.
– They are excluded. This is a limiting clause. It limits the operation of the Bill.
– Quite so ; but at the same time it might be held that the preservation of the industries I have now in mind would be advantageous, at all events to one section, of the community.
– That would not comply with this provision.
– That is a matter of opinion. _ The honorable member for Melbourne Ports said the other day that provisions of this kind were necessary for the preservation of, amongst others, the bootmaking trade, which he declared was suffering from the unjust competition of imported goods. The honorable member, I believe, gave some figures as to the cost of manufacture.
– In connexion, not with dumping, but with imports.
– The point is that we have no guarantee that all importations may not be regarded as dumping. It is because of this* that we find ourselves in a dilemma in dealing with the Bill. As soon as we deal with importing as dumping we are told that it is not, and yet there has been no attempt to give a clear and understandable definition of the word.
– We are now dealing with the question of unfair competition.
– But the whole of this Part of the Bill deals with the “ prevention of dumping.” That being so, I hold that we are entitled to ask that the word “ clumping “ be clearly defined. My definition of the word is “ the importation of goods that come into competition with Australian goods.” For that is what this Bill really aims to prevent. I have heard it said over and’ over again, “ Look at these goods from! abroad being dumped on our wharfs.” I have heard that remark applied to goods which no one suggested were to be sold below the price of the locally-made article, still less below the cost of production in the country of origin. In the absence of any definition of “ dumping “ in the Bill, we are entitled to place our own construction upon the term. As to the boot trade, to which I was referring when interrupted, every one knows that a large quantity of English and American boots are imported into Australia, and that a very large section of the community prefer them to boots made of locally-produced leather. One reason among others for this preference is that poisonous materials are used in the manufacture of leather for bootmaking purposes.
– Who uses poisonous materia] ?
– It is done in Australia, principally in Victoria.
– Does the honorable member think he ought to make such a charge ?
– I make it because I can substantiate it.
– It is very wrong.
– Does the honorable member mean to assert that barium is not used in the production of sole leather?
– Under the Commerce Act we have stopped its use in that way.
– Only, I believe, so far as leather for export is concerned.
– But the question of whether or not barium is used in the production of leather has nothing to do with this clause.
– It has to do with it, as it relates to an industry the preservation of which may not be held to be in the interests of the Commonwealth. My contention is that it mav not always be to the interest of Australia to preserve an existing industry from outside competition.
– In that case the industry would not come under the ‘Bill. It would be excluded.
– I shall proceed to show that I have some grounds for my statement as to the use of barium. About the 25th March, 1905, a Sydney newspaper - I believe it was the Sydney Morning Herald - published, under the heading of “Adulteration of Leather,” a report, telegraphed from its Melbourne correspondent, in reference to the use of barium in Victorian manufactured leather. The article was as follows: -
An analysis of Victorian leather was made lately by the Government Analyst. In January last the Premier of Queensland wrote to Mr. Bent that it had been represented’ to him that some manufacturers were using deleterious substances to make hides heavier and of a better appearance. Mr. Morgan said it led to a poorer quality of leather, and further .that, according to medical testimony, boots and shoes manufactured from leather so adulterated induced pneumonia and’ other diseases.
Mr. Bent called for a report from the Board of Public Health, and has now received details of the analysis of Victorian leather. Fifty-one samples of leather were collected, and so far as the inspector was able to ascertain all were Victorian, and in the majority of cases the name of the tanner was obtained. The examination was confined to the determination of the amount of mineral matters, barium compounds, and glucose.
The report states : - It is brought out prominently that the practice of weighting leather does obtain in Victoria, and that the weighting substances used are barium, chloride, and glucose respectively. It is shown that the 51 leathers analyzed originated from 10 different Victorian tanneries. One only of these 10 tanners practises the weighting of leathers with barium, chloride, and glucose, and in two instances with both these substances. It is remarkable that no fewer than 11 of the 13 samples of leather said to have been obtained from one firm were weighted, and it is noteworthy that the weighting was confined entirely to soleing leathers made by this firm, and it is these leathers which are invariably sold by weight. The extent to which weighting is practised by this firm may be judged from one of the samples, which contained an amount of barium equal to 4.6 per cent, of barium chloride, and, at the same time, n. 5 per cent, of glucoses. Thus a total amount of extraneous weighting matter had1 been added to this sample of sole leather of 16. 1 per cent.
Another sample was also weighted with both barium and glucose, the total weighting amounting to 11 per cent. The average cost of the weighting material is id. per lb., and the average price of the leather is 10d., a clear profit of od. per lb. A ton of such weighted leather at 10d. per lb. would contain 358 lb. of weighting, the purchaser buying this faked stull in good faith as leather. Therefore he would be deceived by false weighting to the extent of £13 8s. od. on the purchase of one ton. In this instance there is no possible doubt that the weighting of the leather is a designedly fraudulent practice. The quality of the leather is diminished by weighting, and from this would arise a disinclination on the part of British and foreign buyers to deal in Australian leather.
Dr. Norris, president of the Board of Health, says such adulteration would appear to be limited entirely to soleing leather. Without doubt it was a designedly fraudulent practice, one attended by depreciation of quality of the leather subjected to it. Such depreciation may well have been a factor in the conditions which have led to the recent decline in the amount of value of leather exported from Victoria to the United Kingdom, as well as to its exclusion from the British War Office contracts, and there is little reason to doubt that one of the reasons owing to which Australian leather has become more or less discredited, is that to some extent at least it can be spoken of as poisoned leather. The question of the exact and the direct influence of such adulterated leather on health is a difficult one on which to express a definite opinion. No doubt that glucose renders the leather more pervious to water, and such a property must reduce the value of leather. From a health stand-point, barium compounds were a more important adulterant. Without hesitation he stated that in the form commonly used, viz., chloride of barium, known to the trade as normissa, they are poisonous. They may perhaps cause injury to persons wearing boots made from leather containing them, but such leather is more especially dangerous to those employed in making it up into boots. He suggested that a copy of Mr. Wilkinson’s report be furnished to the Queensland Government, and that the Federal Government be addressed on the subject, with a view to the framing of legislation, whereby the import, manufacture, sale, and export of leather containing any such weighting should be prohibited, as he was informed was the case in Germany.
– Has the honorable member noticed the answer to those statements ?
– I have not noticed that there has been any complete and convincing answer to them.
– That is just the trouble; the honorable member reads the condemnation, but does not read the answer.
– I have read statements made by responsible Government officials in Victoria at the request of the Premier of the State. In repeating those statements, I cannot be charged with having manufactured anything from my own imagination.
– The honorable member can be charged with unfairness unless he reads the answer to them.
– As I have said, I have not seen any answer to these statements; but I shall be verv glad indeed to know if an effective answer to them has been given. If this kind of thing is carried on in Victoria, and any attempt is made, in the interests of one section of the community,- to preserve an industry the products of which may !be injurious to the health of the people, serious injury may be done to an immense number of the citizens. If we are to pass legislation to prevent the competition with boots made of this adulterated leather, of sounder boots, made of better leather, and giving better results from a health point of view, we may do very serious injury to the people. I can conceive that under this clause an attempt might be made, by shutting out very muchneeded competition, to preserve an industry productive of immensely injurious results to the general public. It is because the honorable member for Melbourne Ports, the other day, made such special reference to the particular subject of boots that I have thought it wise to bring these statements under the notice of the Committee. If it can be shown that the reports of the Victorian Government Analyst and Health Officer a.”e unreliable, and that the statements they make are not in accordance with fact, I shall certainly be verv glad to hear the refutation of those statements.
– I said something yesterday about the appointment of a Justice to deal with these questions. I do not think that he is likely to be the most competent person for the purpose.
– That has been already agreed to.
– I am aware of that. Under: the Local Government Act in England they have a Local Governing Board, presided over by the Minister. This is a permanent Board, charged with the duty of considering business matters. The honorable member for Parramatta referred to certain machinery manufactured in Victoria, that was said to be good enough for the purpose. But while that machinery would do its work, it would scarcely be fair to manufacturers, workers, or consumers in Australia that it should be allowed to keep improved machinery out of the market. If, as has been pointed out by the honorable member for Lang, some manufacturers are working barium or glucose into leather, and are thus deteriorating the products of another industry in Australia, should we not have a Board of competent men who would understand the business, and would prevent the continuance of such a practice? I saw no objection to the clause which provided for a permanent Board to control those industries. No Judge of the High Court is competent to decide as to the machinery and methods to be used in manufactures - to decide as to whether an industry shall exist to the exclusion of uptodate machinery. To prohibit such machinery would be against the interest of the manufacturer, of the artisan, and of the consumer. There ought to be a competent Board, in order to secure an industry from prejudicial decisions, which may be the result of ignorance. The ComptrollerGeneral of Customs cannot be expected to know the circumstances of every manufacture, and it seems to me that the clause as drafted, or even as proposed to be amended, is not likely to give the greatest satisfaction. My reason for speaking is merely to emphasize what I have before stated. I feel pretty sure that if the Bill becomes law, this is one of the provisions which at some future time will have to be reconsidered.
– I should like a definition of “ unfair competition,” for I must confess that I am unable to understand the Bill in this connexion.
– The next clause deals with that point.
– Even so, I should like to give one or two striking illustrations from English history. If these two clauses stand, they may exclude improvements most vital to industrial progress. In 1770 there was introduced Hargraves’ spinning jenny, which enabled a workmen to attend to eight spindles in the place of one spindle as formerly. Then came a decided improvement, in the form of Arkwright’s water frame, and that was followed toy Samuel Crompton’s mule, so-called because it was a combination of the invention of Hargraves and Arkwright. At the present day one workman can, owing to the improvements made, attend to as many as 1.2,000 spindles; and I need not point out the enormous gain that has followed to every worker, not only in Australia, but throughout the civilized world. Until these inventions were applied, only the wealthiest people could afford to change their underwear as frequently as is desirable^ the expense of new clothing being almost prohibitive. Those improvements certainly displaced other forms of work, and then came the power loom for weaving, thanks to Cartwright. The clauses under consideration would deprive us of the benefits of all such inventions; and in passing legislation of such a drastic character, we ought to regard the question from all points of view, and not leave it to the Comptroller-General, at the. suggestion of the Minister, to declare what, in his own opinion, is unfair competition. The decision on this point should rest on reliable evidence,’ and not be left to any one person ; and especial care ought to be taken not to block the progress of invention. Any hindrance to production must result in the greatest injury to the workers; and for the reasons I have stated, these clauses shall not have my support. According to the Bill, if a man, in making a garden, chose to use a spade, when he might employ a plough - or who employed a one-furrow plough, when he might use one with three or four furrows - would be able to complain of unfair competition at the hands of those who used the improved machinery. If such legislation! as this had been in force when the inventions of which I have spoken were introduced, the effects would have been disastrous. Following on the improved methods of production, there was a great increase of population in England. Prior to 1751, the increase each decade was, roughly, about 3 per cent. ; but from that year to 1781 the increase was 6 per cent. I ought to mention that at that time the great Watt had invented the steam engine, which has clone so much to develop manufacture in every direction. This invention has had an enormous effect on coal mining and kindred industries, and enabled manufactures to be carried on in any part of the country, instead of, as previously, their being confined to the side of running streams. Theincrease of population in England from 1781 to 1791 was 9 per cent., or three-fold the figures for the years 1751 to 1781. From 1791 to 1801 the increase- of population was 11 per cent. ; from 1 80 1 to 181 1 the increase was 14 per cent.; and from 1811 to 182 1 the increase was 21 per cent. So far from cheapened production injuring the workers, as the honorable member for Melbourne Ports always wrongly supposes, it resulted in the enormous increase of population which these figures disclose. This is a sound reason why all men who can really see what the true interests of labour are, should take care that no hindrance is placed in the way of production. This Bill will put it in the power of a pliable Comptroller-General, under the control of a dull and stupid Minister, to prevent the use of means’ of increased production, and by sodoing, to block fresh avenues for the employment of labour. Such a danger is not only possible, but so extremely probable, that it behoves us to exercisevery great caution in passing such legislation as this. I am so satisfied that great injury will arise to the bulk of the workers of this country, that I intend in every possible way to oppose, not only this clause, butevery succeeding one.
.- The quotation which I read to the Committee a little while ago, I find on consulting the files, was a condensation of a report published in the Age - a Victorian newspaper. This article contained more comprehensive allegations than those which I read. The only attempt at refutation that I have come across is one furnished by the Victorian Tanners’ Association, and the Employers’ Federation, which subsequently held a meeting to consider the report. They generally condemned the use of the materials to which I have referred, but admitted that they were used. Particularly was that the case with glucose. But they thought that one Victorian firm was largely responsible for its use.
– Hear, hear - and the honorable member condemned the whole of the firms for one.
Mr.JOHNSON. - I condemned no one. I simply quoted from a report of the Government Analyst, and the Government Medical Officer, which was published in theAge. If there was any accusation, it was made by those officers and not by me. I am not responsible for what they said, or for what was published in theAge. The value of the disclaimer of the Employers’ Federation, even qualified as it wasby admission that the practice did exist, but notgenerally, is discounted by the publication, on the same day in the same column, on 27th March, 1905, of a letter from the secretary of the Tanners’ and Leather Dressers’ Union. I propose to quote a portion of it, as it confirms the reports of the Government Analyst and the Government Medical Officer. It says -
I have from time to time in the past made complaints to various bodies upon the subject of adulteration of leather. Some few years ago, while giving evidence before the Royal Commission, on Technical Education, I made a statement, if my memory serves aright,that one firm at that time was reputed as using two tons of glucose per week in their leather. Later on I forwarded to one of our senators, when the Fraudulent Trades Marks Bill was under consideration, a complaint as to the use of glucose, and also a child’s shoe purporting to be leather, the constituents of which were principally cardboard, rag, and bagging. There can be no question that some action is necessary in compelling dishonest manufacturers to so brand their goods that the public may know whether they are getting “ nothing like leather,” or “ something like leather,” or “ real leather.” At one time the tanning and leather-dressing trade was looked upon as a fairly healthy occupation, but of late years, owing to the increased use of chemical ingredients and of machinery, it is becoming anything but healthy and safe.
Having read this extract, I leave the Committee tojudge the matter for themselves.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 14 -
For the purposes of this Part of this Act, competition shall be deemed to be unfair if -
In the following cases the competition shall be deemed unfair until the contrary is proved -
– I move -
That the word “ under,” line 3, be left out.
I move this amendment with a view to ascertain the sense of the Committee as to whether the whole of paragraph a should not be omitted from the Bill. I also take this opportunity to reply to certain statements made by honorable members last night. I might have made my reply then, except that I wished to give the Government an opportunity to get through clause 12. It has been, stated that my amendment, upon which a division was taken yesterday, was intended to admit British goods into Australia which were competing dishonorably or unfairly with Australian goods, or which were being dumped in order to destroy Australian industry. My proposal was to exclude the possibility - I might say the likelihood - of British , goods being prevented from entering Australia, although their competition be such as inmy opinion is absolutely honest and fair. If honorable members look at the measure they will see that under clause 15 proceedings have to be initiated by the Comptroller-General, who has to believe that certain parties are importing goods with the intention that they may be sold or offered for sale, or otherwise disposed of, within the Commonwealth, in unfair competition with Australian goods. How will’ he arrive at an opinion as to the intention of an importer? He can have only one way of arriving at an opinion. He must take the fact that in his opinion unfair competition exists to prove that there is an intention to compete unfairly. Then we have to turn to clause 14 to know what is thisunfaircompetition which is to exclude imports, and upon which the Comptroller-
General has to take action. Paragraph a reads -
Competition shall be deemed to be unfair if under ordinary circumstances of trade it would probably lead to the Australian goods being no longer produced, or being withdrawn from the market, or being sold at a loss, unless produced at a lower remuneration for labour.
– I propose to substitute “inadequate” for “lower.”
– It will then read -
Unless produced at an inadquate remuneration for labour.
– That is to bring the paragraph in accord with the decision of last night.
– All that may take place without one atom of unfair competition. There may come into this market, fairly and properly, goods which may prevent a certain quantity of Australian goods of a similar sort being produced, or may cause a certain quantity to be withdrawn from the market. If the demand is only so much and it cannot be increased, the accession of the, other , goods must reduce the sale of certain Australian goods, and if an Australian manufacturer is unable to compete at the rate of wages which he is paying, he will only be able to do so if he reduces it. Honorable members on the opposite side will say that that is an undesirable thing. But let me point out that, even from their stand-point, there is power in the Tariff Act to remedy any differences of that sort - that these are the very grounds upon which they have argued that a duty should be raised to protect Australian industries. Although I do not agree with the statements of the honorable and learned member for Corinella in some other respects, still I agree with his argument that a protectionist Government should deal with the matters that come under paragraph a, not in a Bill of this description, but by means of the Tariff. But what is the plan that is now being adopted? A Tariff has been created; in full consideration of these differences, duties have been placed upon articles ; and on top of that Tariff power is being taken to exclude, by prohibition, these goods, not because of unfair competition, not because of dishonest or dishonorable competition, but simply because of ability to compete. I ask Ministerswhy is this clause necessary, when they are able to exercise, and . have exercised, the power which is granted in the Tariff Act? Surely the proper time for protectionists to give consideration to these matters is when duties are being imposed. In this Bill they seek to prohibit the importation of goods, or to impose such conditions as may make it difficult or impossible to import them, not because the competition is unfair, but because it is successful, for the things set out in paragraph a are simply the result of successful competition. I shall now allude to two matters, as they will come into the argument in connexion with the paragraph. Several honorable members, including the honorable member for Moira, have declared that I made misstatements in a previous speech on the question. In connexion with my proposed amendment to a previous clause, I said that if Great Britain were to enact a provision similar to paragraph a, the bulk of our exports would be shut out of the British market. That statement was questioned. The honorable member for Moira said that as a matter of fact there was not unfair competition by Australian products in that market. I never said that there was. I hold that the competition as here described is not unfair, but that if the provisions of this Bill were applied to our exports by Great Britain, then it would shut out a great part of the goods which we ‘send to her. I think it should be evident to any one who reads the clause carefully that when we send to Great Britain meat, fruits - the application to fruits is more limited I admit - and butter, and it leads to similar goods being no longer produced in Great Britain, or to some being withdrawn from the market, and to some not being saleable at a profit unless the wages in” Great Britain are to go lower than they are - for we find that in some cases the British farmer cannot produce in competition - then if the British Parliament were to pass a measure with a clause such as I have described, Australian goods, to a large extent, must be excluded1. The honorable member for Moira - and I am sorry he is not here - referred to the export of meat. Previously I had stated that, of course, no country exported if it could sell in its own market : that, as it must get a better price relatively in most cases in its cwn market, where it had not to incur heavy freight charges to sell, the only reason for exporting was that it had a surplus which the local market could not absorb, and which, in the interests of the producers, it was better to allow it to go to the other end of the world to realize the best price! which could be obtained therefor. The honorable member for Moira said that meat was not sold in England] at less than the price it cost in Australia.
– He said that generally it was not.
– The honorable member said that it was only in very exceptional circumstances that the meat was sold at less than the cost price here. Probably he was not aware that the Sydney Meat Preserving Works, which sends to Great Britain preserved meat, and also carcass meat to a large extent, has never made a profit, and that it is not intended to make a profit. It is an association of graziers, who are always ready to go into the local market and sustain prices by their purchases. In doing this, they do not consider whether they will get in Great Britain exactly what they pay, and usually realize only cost or something less, the evidence being that they have never shown a profit on their balance-sheets for the year. Last vear the Canterbury Meat Preserving Works lost about ,£36,000 on their London, shipments, though I agree that that was exceptional. These facts show that our exporters are guilty of what the Minister calls dumping. They send Australian meat to Great Britain, and sell it there for whatever it will fetch, and even; at a loss, and, by so doing, are injuring the graziers of that country. Then, as I have said before, the butter association here fixes the local price of butter, and, so that it may be sustained’, ships the surplus production to Great Britain? where, usually, less is obtained for it than is obtained for that sold locally.
– They have been known to bring it back.
– I believe that that has occurred ; but the occurrence is exceptional.
– It happened some two years ago.
– I have known wheat to be loaded into ships, and. after being taken abroad, brought back again.
– That has happened too. In to-day’s newspaper is a letter from a fruit-grower defending the Mildura trust. That trust, recognising that over-production must reduce the level of prices, takes care that fruit not consumable in this market shall be exported and sold, not under a protection of 3d. per lb., but in competition with the production of the world. Yet Ministers would prohibit such action, if it were taken by exporters from Great Britain. I do not object to the practices to which I have referred. Our producers are perfectly right in what they do, because, in order that they may make a profit on their productions, they must sell locally only so much as the market will consume, sending the surplus to be sold in other markets for whatever it will fetch. It was because the Bill would render perfectly legitimate trading of this kind, if indulged in by exporters from Great Britain, subject to prohibition, and, under the Customs Act, to which the measure makes special reference, forfeiture of the goods sent here, that I moved the amendment exempting British goods which, last night, was negatived on division. The illustrations which I have given show that the honorable member for Moira was wrong in saying that I had misstated the facts connected with the export of our productions. The honorable member for Laanecoorie also questioned my statements, and produced figures to show that thev were wrong. My remarks and his interjections are reported in Hansard, at page 1187, in the following words : -
I have no desire to discourage or interfere willi such exports ; but how do they affect the English producer? The importation of Australian beef, lambs, and so forth, into England has, bit by bit, taken the trade out of the hands of the English grower. The importation of Australian fruit into England operates in the same way, but not to the same degree, because it arrives there out of the English season, when there is not much English fruit to offer.
– Does the honorable member St V the same about butter?
– The Danes do not say that the importation of Australian butter takes the business away from the English producer, but that it takes the business away from them.
– The honorable member can easily satisfy himself on that point.
– I have” done so.
– Then the honorable member must have found that what he states is not altogether the case. If we have regard to the importation of Danish butter into England before Australian and New Zealand buller went there, the enormous increase from the latter places is not nearly accounted for by any drop in Danish importations.
– Is it accounted for by the drop in the English production?
– Australian butter interferes with the importation of Danish butter, but it interferes to a greater degree, probably, with the English production, because it is sold at a lower price than is the Danish.
How can the honorable member ask any Parliament to conceive that the large quantity of butter which Australia and New Zealand exports to England ‘does not, in combination with the Danish importations, interfere with production in England. Where was the butter obtained previously, if not from English and Irish producers?
– Is not the consumption of butter increasing every year?
– No doubt the consumption increases with the increase of population. The honorable member for Laanecoorie quoted certain figures from the Board of Trade returns to show that my statements were inaccurate, but I will use those figures to prove that I was well within the mark, when, speaking from memory, I said that I did not think that there was any decrease in the exportation of Danish butter to Great Britain. The figures show that there was an increase. In 1 90 1, the total quantity of butter imported into Great Britain was 3,702,890 cwts., and, in 1905, 4,147,866 cwts., an increase of 444,976 cwts., or 22,248 tons. Of the quantity imported in 1901, 631.985 cwts. came from British possessions, while, in 1905, 1,054.209 cwts. came from British possessions, an increase of 422,224 cwts., or 2i, 1:11 tons, which accounts for practically the whole increase in the period to which I am referring. The importations from Australia and New Zealand, in 1901, were 415,511 cwts., and, in 19°5’ 759,7s1 cwts., an increase of 344,240 cwts., or 17,212 tons. Therefore, while the increase in the importations of butter into Great Britain in the four years between 1901 a.r.d 1905 was 22,248 tons, 17,212 tons of that increase were accounted for by the increased importations from Australia, and New Zealand. That is a very fortunate and very happy circumstance, but it does not justify the statement that ‘there is no interference on the ‘ part of Australia and New Zealand with the British producer. It will be seen that whilst our exports to Great Britain during these years increased very considerably, there was also an increase of 1,138 tons in the importations of butter from foreign countries. Instead of there being; a decline, as was indicated bv the honorable member for Laanecoorie, in the imports into Great Britain from Denmark
– I did not mention Denmark, or Danish butter, but gave the total figures for all foreign countries.
– I was alluding to the honorable member’s interjections when I referred to Danish butter. I am quite willing, however, to accept his assurance as regards the figures he quoted. I have just shown that the foreign importations with which our butter is supposed to compete increased, during the years mentioned by the honorable member, from 3,070,905 cwts. in 1901, to 3,093,657 cwts. in 1905. an advance of 1,138 tons.
– There was a decrease in the interim.
– There may have been a variation from year to year.
– I think, that the honorable member will find that there was a decrease.
– I am underthe impression that reference to the figures will show that for some of the intervening years the figures were higher still. When I was speaking about Danish butler, the honorablemember said - and I am quoting from Hansard -
The Danes do not say that the importation of Australian butter lakes the business away from the English producer, but that it takes the business away from them.
It was then that I said that I thought the returns’ would show that that was not the case. I have since ascertained that my impression was correct. In 1901, the imports from Denmark amounted to 1,597,186 cwts., and in 1905 to 1,630,363 cwts., or an increase of 1,658 tons. I think that in one or two years between those mentioned there was a bigger increase of imports from Denmark, owing to the drought, during which we exported very little butter. In 1891, when we began to export our butter in considerable quantities, the imports of Danish butter into Great Britain amounted to 876,211 cwts., or about one-half the quantity imported in 1905. Therefore, during the period that our exports to Great Britain were increasing, the Danish exportations, instead of falling off, increased very considerably. If we go further back, we find that, in1881, Denmark sent to Great Britain only 279,625 cwts., or less than half the quantity exported in1891. These figures show that the statements I made in reply to the honorable member were well within the mark.It seems to me that paragraph a is entirely unnecessary. Paragraph b would fulfil the intentions of Ministers who aim at dealing with unfair competition and that alone.
– Hear, hear.
– Very well. Paragraph b entirely meets that case. It is followed by a number of provisions, which set forth what shall be deemed unfair competition.
– That is prima facie.
– Exactly - until the contrary is proved. Paragraph b provides that, for the purposes of the Act, competition shall be deemed to be unfair if - the means adopted by the person importing or selling the imported goods are, in the opinion of the Comptroller-General or the Board, as the case may be, unfair in the circumstances.
The Minister must see that, under paragraph a, he could declare to be unfair competition that was not unfair. That provision relates not to unfaircompetition, but to successful competition, such as we carry on in the British market. If our exports of butter to Great Britain are increased, will they not probably, or, indeed, certainly, lead to a diminution of British products to a corresponding extent?
– Does the honorable member assume that Great Britain can produce enough for her own consumption? It is well known that she cannot.
– The people of Great Britain were producing enough butter before the importations increased. It is not as if our produce were displacing foreign butter. As a matter of fact, our butter is to a greater extent every day taking the place of that which was produced in Great Britain or Ireland. The English and Irish farmers are thus being compelled to either give up the production of butter to withdraw from the market - which means practically the same thing - or to sell their goods at a loss, as the result of what may be regarded as fair competition. I do not think the Minister should insist upon the adoption of paragraph a. Has the Minister decided to adhere to paragraph b of the clause?
– Yes, with a modification that I intend to submit.
– Has the Minister given notice of his amendment?
– The modification substitutes the word “ inadequate “ for the word “ lower.” and introduces one or two verbal amendments.
– We can send butter to Great Britain, and compete with her products, as we do also with many of our other exports.
– That phase of the question is not touched by the clause, as the Minister will point out presently.
– We are parties to the reduction of the production in Great Britain when we are able to supply the mother country more cheaply than she can produce, unless she still further lowers wages. The very thing that we do - and properly do, I think - we say that Great Britain shall not do as regards ourselves.
– When the honorable member has heard what the Minister has to say he will alter his opinion.
– I shall be very glad to hear what the Minister has to say, because it seems to me that such a provision will interfere with reasonable trade, and not with unfair competition. If the Minister intends to do that, he will retain the clause in ‘its present form, but if he does not he will consent to its amendment.
– - The honorable member who has just made a very analytical speech in reference to paragraph a has assumed that by that provision, in conjunction with the clause as a whole, we shall interfere with the expansion of our export trade to Great Britain.
– Why then did the honorable member quote the quantity of butter that is being imported into Great Britain from Australia?
– He did so bv way of illustrating what would be unfair competition.
– We are doing the very thing which paragraph a prohibits, and consider that our action is legitimate and fair, and so it is.
– That is so. To my mind, however, there is this great difference: As everybody is aware, it would be quite impossible for Great Britain to produce from her soil sufficient to support her own people
– That does not. make competition unfair.
– I know that. The difference between Great Britain arid Australia is-
– Where is the proof of the Minister’s statement?
– I do not wish to enter into details, but I am sure that if Great Britain utilized every foot of land in the United Kingdom she could not produce sufficient wheat to supply 46,000,000 people with bread.
– I do not agree with that statement.
– We do not wish to be overwhelmed by importations from any part of the world which are dumped upon our market for the purpose of injuring our industries, or of lowering the wages of our people. That is the object of this legislation, but it is not the aim of British legislation. The other night the honorable member for North Sydney submitted an amendment in favour of extending a preference to the goods of the mother country. That amendment was defeated. Had it been carried, of course Great Britain would not have been included in the category of other nations which export to Australia goods of various, kinds. The honorable member must not forget that under paragraph a competition will be deemed to be unfair only when it is undertaken with intent to destroy our industries.
– Yes. The honorable member will see that under clause 15 that is so.
– The Minister is alluding to the fact that the ComptrollerGeneral must be of opinion that goods are being imported into Australia with the intention that they shall come into unfair competiton with Australian goods.
– Exactly. I would further direct the attention of the honorable member to the fact that clause 14, as I propose to amend it, will read -
. For the purposes of this part of this Act, competition shall be deemed to be unfair if -
Therefore, practically the whole of an industry must be threatened. If the importation of goods would only slightly interfere with the production or sale of Australian goods, it would not come within the meaning of this clause at all. The goods must be introduced with intent to destroy an Australian industry. 1 Mr. Lonsdale. - Only in the opinion of the Comptroller-General, who can hold any opinion that he chooses upon the matter.
– The importation of goods can be prohibited only if the Comptroller-General and a Justice of the High Court are of opinion that they would probably lead to the Australian goods being no longer produced, or being withdrawn from the market, or being sold at a loss, unless they were produced at an inadequate remuneration for’ labour. The position taken up by the honorable member for North Sydney is not a logical one. The strong’ point of the clause is that, before the importation of any goods can be prohibited, the Comptroller-General and a Justice of the High Court must be of opinion that they are being introduced with intent to wipe out practically the whole of an Australian industry.
– The clause does not say the “ whole of an industry.”
– It does not say “ a part “ of a.m industry. The words used are “ the Australian -goods,” and I take it that those words mean that a prohibition can be imposed upon the importation of goods only if it is believed that their introduction will seriously injure, if not absolutely destroy, a. particular industry. I do not think that the honorable member’s fears will be fulfilled at all.
– Paragraph c’ of sub-clause 2 provides that competition shall be deemed to be unfair if it would probably, or does in fact, result- in creating any substantial disorganization in Australian industry.
– That is contained in a different paragraph.
– The honorable member for North Sydney has said that it would be better to deal with this matter bv means of the Tariff. Under the Tariff, although we could not absolutely prohibit the importation of goods, we could do what was done in Canada, namely, impose almost a prohibitive dutv.
– I suppose that if the Minister had been free to deal with the matter by means of the Tariff, he would not have troubled to introduce this Bill.
– I do not wish to discuss that question. As honorable members are aware, I am not afraid to deal with matters of this kind by means of the Tariff. ‘ But the Tariff is still in operation, and this Parliament, if it chooses, can deal with them by increasing the duties which are at present levied, should it be deemed advisable to do so. But we shall always have to vest - either in a Board or in some individual - power to increase or reduce the duties imposed by the Tariff, according to the particular circumstances of any case.
– But the Canadian law does not deal with the intent.
– It deals with the actual facts. If certain persons take action with the intention of injuring a trade, they will come within the law. It is immaterial what machinery is brought here; if there is a deliberate attempt, either by a large combine or by financial institutions, to produce an article at- a cheap rate, either by machinery or otherwise, the effect must be the same - there must be a lowering of the wages of the wage-earning portion of the community.
– But the honorable gentleman is looking after the manufacturer, not the worker.
– I am sure that the honorable member will be fair, and admit that I have regard to all sides.
– How will the question of intent be determined ?
– The clause provides absolutely for its settlement. If the Comptroller-General believes that any person, either singly or in combination with any other person within or beyond the Commonwealth, is importing into Australia goods - with the intention that they may be sold or offered for sale or otherwise disposed of within the Commonwealth in unfair competition with any Australian goods - he may certify accordingly.
– Will the fact that thev have damaged Australian goods prove the intention ?
– That is a question to be considered first of all by the Comptroller-General, and subsequently by the justice.
– Why not trust the Justice ? *
– That is what I am quite prepared to do.
– But this is a direction to the Justice.
– The deputy leader of the Opposition a short time since urged that some other means of dealing with these cases should foe provided. It must be admitted, however, that the Government have done their best to devise a solution of the difficulty. I think the Justice will have the power to call in expert evidence in relation to any particular case; that he will foe able to secure the expert knowledge which he personally lacks, and which is necessary to enable him to equitably decide any case under his consideration. We considered the question of whether or not a permanent Board should be appointed, and we found that such a proposal would not be workable. We also considered the desirableness, of appointing a Board to deal with each specific case as it arose, but that did not appear to foe desirable. We have now decided that a Justice shall deal with these cases, and he will probably have power to invite expert evidence.
– I do not think that he will be able to deal with the intent.
– I think that he must do so. If the Comptroller-General believed that there was the intent to injure, it would still remain for the Justice to settle the point. If he thought that the Comptroller-General was in error, he would have power to make his award accordingly.
– Does this sub-clause deal with the question of intent?
– The whole of this part of the Bill deals with it
– This sub-clause has nothing to do with the question of intent.
– The AttorneyGeneral will tell the honorable member that the question of “ intent “ underlies the whole provision.
– Will the honorable gentleman insert in the Bill a provision as to the intent ?
– There is such a provision in the Bill.
– The question is not what the Justice believes, but rather the instruction to the Justice.
– I do not pretend to be able to interpret the technical language employed, but I do know that both the Attorney-General, who supervised the drafting of the Bill, and I intended that the intent to do certain things should underlie the whole provision.
– And the intent is dealt with in the Bill as distinctly as anything could be dealt with.
– That being so, there is no danger in this provision.
– The AttorneyGeneral is referring to what would be. the intent to carry on under ordinary circumstances of trade.
– It was our intention. - and I believe that the AttorneyGeneral has1 taken care to provide in the Bill - that the intent to injure or destroy should underlie the whole provision as to the importation of goods from abroad which come into unfair competition with Australian goods. The honorable member for North Sydney expressed his views1 of this provision in very temperate language, and I think that such expositions are beneficial, since they lead us into channels of thought that might otherwise escape us. I cannot see, however, that any injury will be done by the retention of this sub-clause. The ‘comparison made by the honorable member for North Sydney between the position of Great Britain and Australia has no bearing on this question. Great Britain takes our goods because she needs them to feed her own people. We desire to protect our industries from being swamped by the cheap exports of other countries.
– The Minister does not think that our exports to Great ‘Britain unfairly compete with Home-grown products.
– The honorable member must not place such words in my mouth. So far as food-stuffs are concerned, the position of Great Britain is altogether different from that of Australia. When. I remind the honorable member for Wentworth that Australia contributes only about s per cent, of the food-stuffs which Great Britain consumes, he will admit that we send her only a very small quantity.
– We send her all that we can.
– I differ from that view. Under certain conditions, I believe that we should produce twenty times as much as we are now doing, and would be able to more fully supply Great Britain’s requirements.
– When we sell goods in England cheaper than we sell them here are we guilty of unfair competition?
– I am not going to deal with hypothetical cases. I trust that honorable members opposite will agree to the passing of this provision, for, in my opinion, it is not likely to give rise to any danger.
– I should like to hear the views of the Attorney-General upon this question, which is purely of a technical character. The explanation given by the Minister of Trade and Customs does not clear up the matter. It is quite true that in clause 15 it is provided that the Minister’ may direct a Justice to make an investigation and determination of the question as to whether the goods are being imported with the intention alleged. But when the Justice proceeds to make that inquiry he will be met with an instruction which tells him that he must argue intent if he finds that, in the ordinary circumstances of trade it would probably lead to the Australian goods being no longer produced, being withdrawn from the market, or sold at a loss, unless produced at an inadequate remuneration for labour.
– No. I see the honorable member’s difficulty, and perhaps I can explain it.
– I shall be glad to hear the honorable and learned gentleman do so.
– - I fully appreciate the difficulty raised by my honorable friend. I think it is a fair one to raise, and I shall do my best to answer it. The clause with which we are now dealing might be called an interpretation. It defines what is meant by unfair competition. But, having defined it, we must see what use we intend to make of it, and for that we must turn to clause 15, because under clause 14 no powers are given. Under clause 15 we find that the Comptroller-General, in setting the Act in motion, has to come to the conclusion that the importation is with the intent to destroy or injure an Australian industry by means of unfair competition.
– He arrives at the intent by considering the circumstances set out.
– Not quite. This clause is not a definition of intent, and that is the distinction. It is a definition of unfair competition. But, although that unfair competition may exist, it does not conclude the matter by any means. There must be intent to destroy the industry, and to destroy it by that means.
– That is an alternative only in clause 15. It is not the only matter in that clause.
– It seems to me that clause 15 is governed by clause 14.
– The honorable and learned member for Angas is making a different point, which, perhaps, I might meet in this way : I have here a proposed amendment.
– If the honorable and learned gentleman must amend the clause that knocks out the contention of the Minister of Trade and Customs.
– No. The Minister’s view remains exactly as it was. I am travelling slightly off the path in order to meet the point raised by the honorable, and learned member for Angas. What he says is correct. There is an alternative, and I have here, already drafted, an amendment which will alter clause T5 so as to read - with intent to destroy or injure any Australian industry by their sale or disposal.
– That shows that the Minister of Trade and Customs was mistaken.
– That meets the difficulty and gets rid of the alternative, but it leaves the other question raised by the honorable member for Parramatta in exactly the same position. Having got the intent, which is essential in every case, it must be shown that it is an intent which is to be carried out by the sale or disposal of the imported goods.
– Those words are in the clause now.
– Not in that form, but in a form which does not get rid of the alternative.
– The alternative practically neutralizes them.
– They are in with an alternative owing to the acceptance of the suggestion made by the honorable and learned member for Northern Melbourne, to include industry. We put that in, but we did so with an alternative. Now we wish to restore the clause, so as to include the suggestion of the honorable and learned member for Northern Melbourne, and at the same time get rid of the alternative, which I acknowledge the honorable and learned member for Angas has very properly pointed out, but which we had already seen. The intent to destroy must be proved in every case, and it has to be carried out by
– If a man walks along a street with an axe and hits some one with it, is nothing to be done to him?
– If a man murders another with an axe and says that that was not his intent, is he to escape?
– If a man has an axe he may use it for a very lawful purpose, but if he comes into an assemblage of people and uses his axe there with improper intent, he should be stopped.
– Under the terms of this clause, if he were to come into the assemblage at all, the improper intent would be assumed.
– No. I think I can put it in a way which will at once strike the honorable member for Wentworth as the proper way in which to put it. Suppose , we make an algebraic substitution, and read the words into clause 15 thus - wilh the intent to destroy any Australian industry by the sale or disposal of the imported goods in competition with Australian goods in a manner which, under the ordinary circumstances of trade, would probably lead to those goods being no longer produced, or being withdrawn from the market, or being sold at a loss, unless produced at a lower remuneration for labour.
Does my honorable friend see that?
– The exporter knows that the export of our goods to Great Britain must at once disturb and disorganize, to some extent, the trade in similar products of that country.
– My honorable friend will see tint we are not dealing with that at all at the present time. That is covered by another paragraph. That is only a prima facie piece of evidence, and we are now dealing with paragraph a, which is more than prima facie.
– The exporter knows that that must be one of the effects from the export of our goods, if it is successful.
– I do not think the hon.orable member is doing justice to this particular clause. This is a definition of the words “ unfair competition.” The other paragraph to which ray honorable friend is referring is only prima facie.
– If the exporter knows that he can compete successfully,
– No. The first step I wish to take is to explain that the intent is necessary in every case. Then the intent is to do it in a particular way - this way. Now, I have to deal with what this way means. It means, in the ordinary course of trade, if, no matter what you may do in the way of improving your machinery, no matter what advanced methods you adopt, how wise your system or how up-to-date it may be, you cannot maintain the Australian industry without giving an inadequate remuneration for labour. We propose, as honorable members are aware, to substitute the word “inadequate” for the word “ lower.” I say that you have to assume these things: First of all, an Australian industry which, by the terms of the Bill must, in all cases, be one that is of general benefit to Australian producers, workers, and consumers alike. In the specific words, put in last night, which I do not think carry the effect much further, but which put the question beyond all doubt, it must be an industry in which the workers receive adequate remuneration, and are not subject to any unfair terms or conditions of employment. Having that industry, which is of general benefit, and is one in which the workers are well treated, then we say that the competition is unfair if goods are imported with the intent, the deliberate intent, to break down that industry bv methods which we say are unfair, that is to say, in this instance, methods which no new machinery, good method, or advanced system can avert, and which can only be averted bv the lowering of the remuneration of labour to an inadequate amount. That is a summation of the position.
– We are competing in the same way in other countries.
– The honorable member will forgive me for saying that that is another question altogether, or, as Kipling would say, “ That is another story.”
– It is another story which must be kept in mind.
– It may be kept in mind, but with that at present we are not concerned. What we are concerned with in this Bill is the preservation of Australian industries. If other countries bring the same law into force within their territory, I shall not complain.
– Why say that this is unfair, when we are doing it ourselves elsewhere ?
– But I do not say we are. I think that is a fair answer, though it is immaterial to the Bill what we are doing. We are not going abroad and planting our produce in the Home market with the intent to break down and destroy industries by unfair competition.
– But what if the result is the same?
– This Bill does not prevent the importation of goods which would have an injurious effect on our industries if our industries suffer that injury by fair competition - that competition we have to meet, and the Bill offers no obstacle. If foreign countries send their goods here under our protective Tariff - which is intended to meet ordinary: cases, and to provide only for fair competition - and thus lessen our production, we have to bear that, because the Tariff is framed on the basis that we employ advanced methods. I, for one, would do nothing to prevent the necessity for advanced methods, because we ought to be up-to-date; but the Bill declares - rightly or wrongly ; it is a matter of principle- that if,in spiteof our Tariff, our advanced methods, and all we cando to keep up-to-date, the only way we can maintain production is by cutting down wages or lengthening the hours of work unduly, the competition is unfair. That is the whole provision in the sub-clause ; and under the circumstances I think it is a fair provision.
– If what the Attorney-General describes is unfair competition, what is fair competition?
– Fair competition I take to be competition that does not necessitate, in spite of all else we can do, lowering the standard of the wage-earner.
– We would have no exports.
– I am not talking of exports, but of what comes into the country. We are. concerned with Australian industries.
– What about Australian producers ?
– I respectfullysay that that is outside the scope of the Bill.
Mr.JOSEPH COOK (Parramatta) [9.42]. - I do not think that the AttorneyGeneral has met the difficulty. The honorable and learned gentleman, when he argues intent, is assuming an ordinary actual case; but the Bill goes much further. We have to take into account, not merely the action when committed,, but also the probability of its effect. How are we to argue intent from the mere probabilities of the. case?
– I submit that we do not do that ; the sub-clause does not deal with intent.
– The sub-clause deals with probabilities.
– The sub-cause does not deal with intent, because intent is provided for independently.
– The honorable and learned member is now answering his own statement made a little while ago - that intent was provided for later on - but that appears not to be the case.
– It is provided for.
– According to the sub-clause the Judge has to argue as to the probabilities of the effect of the importation of goods. The Judge has not to take into account the intention in the actual importation, but he has to consider what will be the probable effect of the importation before it takes place. That is to say, the Judge has to look ahead, and consider the emergencies of the situation ; he has to say to himself that, if a certain course is pursued, it may lead to certain results. There is no question of intention ; it is simply a sizing up of the whole circumstances surrounding the importation of goods. It seems to me impossible to in that way argue any intention.
– It is impossible to assess intent by itself.
– Intent cannot be deduced from the mere probabilities of the situation. We can. only judge what a man’s intention is when that intention has expressed itself in some concrete act; and the expression of intention in this case would be the actual importation of the goods - there could be nothing else from which to argue. No proceeding can take place under the Bill unless a man complains that actual importations are damaging him, or unless he gets to know that importations are in process which will probably damage him by leading to the dislocation and disorganization of his industry. How it is possible to argue any intent from an act which is incomplete, I am. at a loss to understand. The Minister would do well to accept the amendment, which would lead to simplicity in the administration of the Bill, and would not, so far as I can see, make the measure any less substantially effective, while it would lead to the removal of possible causes of harassment to importers and traders. I take it that so long as substantial justice is done, from the Attorney-General’s point of view, there is no desire for harassing restrictions. The sub-clause would lead to almost an infinity of legal argument before a Judge. We may take it that the first . act of the parties interested would be to employ counsel ; and if we let the lawyers loose on sub-clause a, to argue the question of probabilities in connexion with contingent actions, they would, it seems to me, argue until doomsday. The parties would be in a state of financial collapse before any action could be decided under the subclause. If I could believe that there was any substantial need for the sub-clause, I should not press the matter, neither, I think, would the honorable member for North Sydney. I suggest very strongly that sub-clause a should be deleted, and theJudge, or the Comptroller-General, left to decide what, in the circumstances, is unfair competition. Surely such a proposal covers every reasonable ground? After we have set up a tribunal in the shape of a competent Judge, why should we fetter and limit his discretion? Why is there any desire to give a Judge directions? Why not trust the Judge?
– Trust the Court !
– . Trust the Court; though I fear very much that it will be a law Court, and not a Court of substantial and rough justice. Let us leave the whole discretion to the Judge, and not tie him with positive directions from those, who, after all, will be laymen, and, perhaps, less able to instruct him-than he will be able to instruct himself from the evidence. I do not see what good this clause can be for the purpose, which the Minister has in view, considering the provision later on to which he has referred. For instance, if this sub-clause be deleted, theJudge will still be left to decide what is unfair in the circumstances - competition will still be deemed to be unfair until the contrary is proved, or if it probably will, or does in fact, result in lowering the remuneration for labour, in creating substantial disorganization in Australian industries, or in throwing workers out of employment. With all these intimations to the Judge, and with the burden of proof placed on the defendant, there is no need to direct the Judge to regard as improper and unfair, the acts mentioned in sub-clause a. Before leaving this question, I should like to say that I think the Minister had better have said nothing about Great Britain. When legislative effect is given to this clause, we shall be setting up a law imposing restrictions against Great Britain which, if she reciprocated, would absolutely ruin our export trade. This clause will stand absolutely as the reversion, entire and complete, as between Great Britain and ourselves of the motto, “ Whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them.”
– It seems to me, in considering this clause, that if, taking the contention of the Opposition as correct, we assume that what is meant by “ unfair competition “ is “ successful “ competition, and then follow out the effect, we shall find that “ the in-, tent “ to which the Attorney-General has referred is no safeguard whatsoever. Any one in the mother country competing with a protected industry in Australia, and finding that his yearly sales in this country were becoming greater and greater, must, if he were a man of ordinary common sense, realize that he was detrimentally affecting the productions of the Australian protected industry with which he competed. He must realize that the goods in that industry were being no longer produced, or were being withdrawn from the market, or were being sold at a loss, or were being produced at an inadequate remuneration) for labour, whenever His sales were becoming greater, that he was injuring the industry, and, therefore, according to this Bill, was guilty of “unfair competition.” In that case, what” has the Judge to do? It is his duty to investigate and determine whether the imported goods are being imported with the “intention aforesaid.” I have just shown that if the importer is successful, he must be aware that he is guilty of what this Bill defines as “unfair competition.” Therefore I say that the word “ intent “ in the Bill, on which the Attorney-General has dwelt, is absolutely no safeguard against abuse. If we wish absolutely to prohibit importations from abroad that might compete with some protected industry, the most open and straightforward method is to pass a law absolutely prohibiting the importation of the goods in question. At present we are endeavouring to prohibit importations by a surreptitious underhand method. We are describing as “ unfair competition “ what is simply successful competition. We are preventing the home manufacturer in Great Britain, under penalties, from dealing in’ our markets. In attempting in this way_ to strike at successful competition, we are simply guilty of a mean sham. When we sell our produce cheaper in England than we sell it in this country, is not that “ un fair competition” within the meaning of this Bill ? When we grow wheat on our cheaper lands, “and under our better climatic conditions, and send that wheat under cheap freights over our local railways and over the seas, and when we know that by so competing we very detrimentally affect the home grower of wheat, are we not guilty, according to our own definition, of “ unfair competition “ ? But we claim that that is very successful and legitimate trade. I agree that it is. But if it is legitimate for us to do these things, ought we not to say that it is equally legitimate for those at the other end of- the world? If we wish to stop them from competing in our markets, why, in the name of common sense, do we not say, “ We are not going to trick with words; we are not going to employ legal quibbles; we shall absolutely prevent your’ products from reaching our shores ; we believe that your trade is successful ; we do not want it to be successful ; we are going to stop it in a straightforward, honest way.” The only antidote for this treatment which we propose to mete out to English traders is for Great Britain to do the same thing to us. Then we should crawl down, and the producers of Australia would soon be looking for the omniscient legislators who are responsible for this Bill, who would be searching for all the hollow logs thev could find. If anything ‘could be described as particularly unworthy in the speeches or thoughts of the Minister of Trade and Customs, it was the suggestion made by him that we should put aside all moral considerations because of the necessities of the dear old mother country. The Minister told us that the whole world knew that, willy-nilly, Great Britain had to take our produce, and he seemed to think that that was a sufficient answer to the arguments of the honorable member for North Sydney.
– Why has Great Britain to take it?
– Because she wants it. . We know that she wants it. But the mere fact that she has to take it,, and that it is to her interest to take it, is no reason why we should deal unfairly with English traders.
– She takes it because she can do no better, just as we should do.
– I am confessing that she has to take it. But do the national necessities of Great Britain furnish a reason why we should be unjust to her? Surely if any portion of the world is worthy of our love and our consideration it is the mother country. I do not think there is a man in this Chamber who would have the temerity to stand on any platform before his constituents and preach .a policy of meanness against the. United Kingdom. If we are afraid to preach a policy of open meanness to the mother country, honorable members ought .not to do mean things towards her in a surreptitious way. The statement to which’ I have referred was not worthy either of the Minister of Trade and Customs or of this Chamber.
– Do we differentiate against Great Britain?
– We are declaring proper and fair operations of trade to be unfair, whilst claiming that our own similar operations are perfectly proper.
– The honorable member would advance his arguments better if he left out those sentimental expressions.
– I hope that the deputy leader of the Labour Party will not refer to any one’s love of the mother country’ as a mere sentimental idea. I can assure him that so far as honorable members on this side are concerned our love for the mother country is far deeper than a mere sentiment. I do not think it will help the great party which he so ably leads if he were to make it known to the people of Australia that he regards his love of the Imperial connexion or the great people from whom we are sprung as a mere senti-‘ ment. I do not think that any one who looks at the sub-clause in this straightforward way will think that- it should be permitted to remain. If it is excised the clause will still be effective. The only difference will be that we shall be absolutely trusting the Court instead of imposing restrictions thereon. I think -it would be adequate for all its purpose if the first part of clause 14 were made to read as follows: - ‘
For the purposes of this part of the Act competition shall be deemed to be unfair if the means adopted by the person importing or selling the imported goods are, in the opinion of the Comptroller-General or the Justice, as the case may be, unfair in the circumstances.
That, I think, would meet the whole case, and, therefore, I heartily support the amendment.
– Knowing the purpose for which the Bill is introduced, we must oppose any clause of this kind. The Minister attempts to make us believe that the great object of the measure is to look after the interests of the workers - in ether words, to prevent goods from being imported with the result that the wages of the workers might be reduced. That is the idea which Ministers wish the public to have, when they know full well that the one great object is to help the manufacturers. Last night they opposed an amendment which would make it clear, that the workers were to get some advantage until the Labour Party began to talk, and then the Minister of Trade and Customs crawled into his hole and assented to the amendment. I wish the hypocrisy of these men to be known. They are describing as unfair competition that which is absolutely reasonable. The object is to prevent persons who are importing goods under fair conditions from competing with men in the States. Take the case of the gentlemen in whose interests the Bill is introduced - and it is of no use for Ministers to attempt to deny that it is introduced to benefit men who are’ making a fortune every year from the manufacture and sale of harvesters - the Government were afraid to wait until the report of the Tariff Commission was available to assist honorable members in coming rn a decision on these matters. I know that before that body the gentlemen at whom the Bil: is aimed gave evidence to the effect that in comparison with Australian manufacturers thev paid more for their material, paid higher wages, and manufactured more cheaply, because they specialized more, and used more and better machinery. Because our local manufacturers do not specialize to a greater extent and put in better machinery the great public of the Commonwealth are to be penalized by the stopping of such competition on the ground that it is unfair. The idea is an outrage upon common sense and decency. No decent men with a sense of honour would introduce a Bill of this kind for such a purpose.
– The honorable member must not make a remark of that kind. I ask him to withdraw it.
– I withdraw it; but I can think it all the same. How can we say that a man intends to do a thing which may bring about a certain effect? If we say that he intends to bring about a certain effect, that is all right. But how can we say that the intent is really there, simply because the action may bring about a certain effect? The thing is simply ridiculous. I anticipate that what will be done is to get a new kind of X-ray, so that we may be able to see what a man’s intent is. If they had only made the invention before bringing in the Bill, it might have been useful. I am against every, clause in the) Bill, especially this one which the honorable member for North Sydney seeks to omit. In every class of machinery continuous improvements are being made. Manufacturers in the older countries, with their larger production and population, are able to adopt every improvement at once. But. with our smaller production and population, it does not pay our manufacturers to adopt improvements as they come out. Ofttimes we find our manufacturers employing obsolete machinery, and simply because it would not pay them to change their machinery as often as improvements are made, the great body of the public, the millions, have to suffer for the sake of a few. Legislation is, or ought to be, intended to benefit the larger number. Certainly the greater number should be considered in framing legislation of this kind. At the end of the clause I should like to put in a proviso that the Act shall not be put in force in favour of any industries where an examination of the accounts shows that they are making a fair profit. 1 think that the Minister should not object to that. If the Justice is to be directed as to- intention, and as to what is unfair trade, he should also be directed to investigate the accounts of those who ask for the intervention of the Minister, with a view to ascertaining whether, although seeking to prevent competition, they are not really making large profits, as those in whose interests the Bill has been introduced are doing to-day.
– The Justice will have full power.
– I wish to make that clear.
– lt is clear.
– It seems to me that it is not clear, and I wish it to be made clear to everybody. We are frequently told that the provisions of the measure are clear, but the public find, when any question arises, that lawyers are always ready to give opposite opinions, and what appears to be the obvious interpretation of an enactment often lands them in trouble.
– I wish to reiterate the assertion that, in passing this clause, we are drifting into a very serious position. In previous cases in which we have left our determinations uncertain, the result has always been very different from the intention of Parliament, and I fear that, if the clause is passed, it will be used in a manner in which honorable members do not intend that it shall be used. The Committee has not been able to define the meaning of unfair competition. We do not know that the use of new labour-saving inventions for the production of goods may not be regarded, if the goods are sold in this market, as unfair competition. It seems to me that the Minister can take advantage of this provision to prohibit the importation of goods made abroad by superior machinery to that in use in Australia, on the ground that the competition is unfair because Australianmade goods could not be sold at the same price without lowering the rates of wages. We are handing over to the Minister a power which should be exercised1 by Parliament only after the fullest and freest discussion, and we cannot foresee the evil which may result from this course. We know that evil has resulted elsewhere from giving Ministers powers which should be exercised by Parliament only. We know what has happened in New South Wales through the giving of excessive powers to Ministers in connexion with the administration of lands and mining Acts. Nominally, the Comptroller-General is to set proceedings in motion, but we know that that officer must do as his Minister directs him. No doubt it would be a safeguard against improper Ministerial direction if we provided that the informant in any case should, if his appeal were not upheld, make good the loss suffered bv the person proceeded against. As the Bill stands, a statement which may be untrue may be sufficient to set proceedings, in motion which would put the person proceeded against to an expenditure of hundreds, and, perhaps, of thousands, of pounds, because evidence may have to be taken on commission in other parts of the world.
– We are not doing away with Ministerial responsibility.
– Is the Ministerial responsibility worth a rap? The Minister will always have the excuse that the ComptrollerGeneral was in the wrong.
– He would be a poor creature if he made that excuse.
– Have we not had poor, creatures in this Chamber? Are there not some in the present Parliament? The honorable member would prefer not to answer that question. He knows that there are some. We are giving to the Minister a power which should be exercised by Parliament only. If competition were unfair, it might be met by raising the rate of duty, subject to Parliamentary ratification. The importer would then have to pay the higher rate, or give security for the amount, until Parliament had dealt with his case. That arrangement would prevent local manufacturers from lightly or maliciously proceeding against competitors from abroad. I cannot impress too strongly upon the Committee the need for keening the control of these matters within the hands of Parliament. Where there are two political parties only, divided on clear lines of principle, the danger is not so great; but we know how confused political thought in Australia is just now. That can be seen by the way in which members change their positions in this Chamber, and by the way in which they contradict, by their votes, the opinions they enunciated on the public platform.
– The political situation is the same all over the world.
– Fortunately, the inherent honesty of this community has hitherto saved us from the evils which have been so conspicuous elsewhere. Our Parliament^ has not sunk to so low a depth as that which those of some other countries have reached; but no Parliament should intrust to a Minister powers such as are given by the Bill. If a Minister is given these powers, he should be permitted to exercise them only subject to the subsequent ratification of his actions bv Parliament.
– We can deal with the Minister at any time.
– Not unless a matter is specially brought before Parliament.
– That is the proper place in which to deal with him.
– How could we deal with the Minister in cases in which no evidence was taken - in which he refused to act upon evidence, and relied entirely on his own opinion? He might very well say that it was merely a matter of opinion. Let me direct the attention of honorable members to what happened in connexion with the clause in the section of the Customs Act empowering the Minister to seize an importer’s books. We must remember the unfortunate state of health into which a former Minister of Trade and ‘Customs fell. There was no doubt that, acting under an hallucination, he grievously persecuted a certain individual, who has never been able to obtain redress because of the extreme power placed in the hands of the Minister.
– I think the honorable member’s statement is most regrettable.
– It is one of the most disgraceful statements that he has made in this House.
– Surely there is nothing wrong in stating that a Minister’s unfortunate state of health precluded him from giving to a particular case the consideration that was necessary.
– The Minister was not in an unfortunate state of health at that time.
– I do not wish to dwell upon the matter.
– The honorable and learned member ought to be ashamed of himself for making the statement at all.
– Does the honorable and learned member think that facts ought not to be stated in this House ?
– If the honorable and learned member would adhere to the facts I should be glad.
– Would the honorable and learned member cease his ignorant and impertinent interjections ?
– Order !
– The Minister referred to is one of the whitest men in this House.
Mr.CONROY. - I was not discussing the character of the Minister, but was pointing out what had1 happened under a provision contained in the Customs Act. I predicted what would occur, and my forecast has proved to be a true one. At the time that the Customs Act was under discussion,, one of the present Ministers said that redress would be afforded to a person who had a grievance against the authorities, but the Law Courts have decided otherwise. Apart altogether from the question of whether any real cause of grievance exists, the person who regards himself as havingbeen injured cannot have his case tried in a. Court of Law.
– The honorable and learned member has a poor case when he attacks the Minister referred to.
– I am not attacking any one. It is most remarkable that the honorable member cannot see that I was speaking of the provision in the Customs. Act, which gives power to the Minister to seize a man’s books. I then referred, to the state of health of a previous Minister, which did not permit him to give proper, consideration-
– The honorable and learned member should not say that, it was because the Minister gave too muchpersonal consideration to the affairs of his Department that his health broke down.
– I say that the state of the Minister’s health would not permit him to give proper consideration to the case.
– That is an outrageous statement.
– Order ! The honorable and learned member will be in order in referring incidentally to any clause in the Customs Act; but he will not be justified in making personal references of a derogatory character to honorable members.
– I mentioned no name.
– The honorable and learned member slandered an absent man.
– The honorable and learned member knows that he lies when he calls my statement a slander.
– Order ! The honorableand learned member must withdraw that remark, and the honorable and learned member for Corio must also withdraw his observation.
– I withdraw my remark, but I desire to say that the honorable and learned member for Corio made a most unwarrantable statement.
– I made a statement that the honorable and learned1 member was slandering an absent man by saying that he did certain things in connexion with the administration of the Customs Department under an hallucination.
– Order. The honorable and learned’ member must withdraw his remark.
– I withdraw it, but I desire to make a personal explanation. The honorable and learned member for Werriwa said that the right honorable member for Adelaide.-
– I did not mention any names.
– But the honorable and learned member indicated very clearly the person to whom he referred. I cannot repeat what I have stated, but I think that honorable members knowexactly what the right honorable member for Adelaide was, and what he is.
– I did not think that there was a man in this Chamber who was unaware that the state of health of the Minister referred to had precluded him fromgiving proper attention-
– Order. The honorable and learned member must not pursue that line of argument.
– I do not desire to. I merely wish to show that in the Customs Act we conferred upon the Minister power to do certain things, and that, rightly or wrongly, any person who might be aggrieved had no remedy against him. Will that please honorable members?
– That is better.
– The principle remains exactly the same. I have indicated what took place under the Customs Act. I admit, for the sake of argument, that the fullest consideration was given to the case in question, but I repeat that as the section stands, an aggrieved person has no remedy. Under this clause an aggrieved person would be equally helpless. Even chough a person might be successful in proving that the provisions of the Bill ought never to have been applied to him, he would have no remedy. I do not want tosay what I think of the honorable and learned member for Corio, or his interjections.
– Perhaps I ought not to have taken them seriously - or, indeed, to have taken any notice whatever of them. The honorable and learned member enjoys the proud distinction of being the most stupid man in the House.
– Order. The honorable and learned member must withdrawthat remark.
– I withdraw the expression, and leave the honorable and learned member to the tender mercies of his constituents. At one time I lived in the district represented by him. I do not know what has come over the electors in that part of the State. Perhaps they returned the honorable and learned member in order to punish me formy sins.
– The clause will be put to uses which no honorable member can anticipate. Honorable members would not believe me when I foretold what would happen under the Customs Act. I was told that my remarks were foolish, but events have proved that what I stated was true, and that those were foolish who would not payany attention to me. I maintain that if the clause be passed in its present form we shall bring about, not only a repetition of the action to which I have referred, but the degradation of Parliament itself. A number of the clauses in the Bill vest so much power either in the Minister or in the officials who directly control him that their operation must be injurious. I am perfectly satisfied of the accuracy of my statement. 1 made a similar prediction when yet another clause in the Customs Act was under consideration.
– The honorable and learned member is a great prophet.
– Is it not unfortunate that my prophecies have been fulfilled?
– The honorable and learned member will find that they have not been realized if he consults Hansard!
– At the time the Customs Bill was under consideration, did I not predict that some future Ministerial head of the Customs Department would probably take advantage of its provisions to increase the valuation of imported goods for Customs’ purposes? Have not my prophecies been verified in that connexion? Has not the Minister increased the valuation of harvesters for Customs purposes? Has he not increased their price above that at which the local manufacturer himself swore before the Tariff Commission he could produce them in Australia?
– The price to the consumer has been reduced.
– In consequence of the duty having been increased?
– It has been reduced, nevertheless.
– Only a few weeks ago the honorable member for Melbourne Ports declared that it was necessary to impose a duty upon a certain article in order to raise its price, so that those engaged in its manufacture might receive higher wages. Consequently, it follows, from his method of reasoning, that when we reduce the price of an article we lower the wages of the men engaged in its’ production.
– The honorable and learned member does not know what he is talking about. He should knock off and let us go home.
– I should discontinue my speech, I suppose, to allow the honorable member and his little ring to have their own way. I do not blame the honorable member, because he merely acts as an agent, and therefore I have ‘never animadverted upon him.
– I would direct your attention, Mr. Chairman, to the statement of the honorable and learned member that honorable members are acting as agents. I ask that he be directed to withdraw it.
– I did not understand the honorable and learned member for Werriwa to make that statement, but if he did so I am sure that he will withdraw it.
– I did not say that honorable members acted as agents. The clause provides that competition shall be deemed to be unfair if -
Under ordinary circumstances of trade it would probably lead to the Australiangoods being no longer produced, or being withdrawn from the market, or being sold at a loss, unless produced at a lower remuneration for labour.
Is not that practically the statement which I alleged that the honorable member for Melbourne Ports! had made? There can be no escape from the position. Almost any person, except the honorable member himself, would be able to grasp it. It is monstrous that this Committee should be at the beck and call of the Minister of Trade and Customs. I am satisfied that he is the most dangerous man who has ever entered the public life of Australia.
– The honorable and learned member must withdraw that remark.
– I withdraw. I can only say that this class of legislation has always been brought forward for the purpose of giving the Minister an absolute and autocratic control. I know of nothing which is likely to prove so dangerous as is the intrusting of power toa man like him. I can only hope that at the next election his constituents will prevent him, not only from occupying Ministerial office, but from being a member of this House.
Question - That the word “under” proposed to be left out stand part of the clause - put. The Committee divided.
Majority … … 18
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Paragraph a of sub-clause 1 amended to read as follows : -
Paragraph b of sub-clause 1 consequentially amended.
Amendment (by Mr. Dugald Thomson) agreed to -
That the word “until,” line15, be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof theword “ unless.”
Mr. JOSEPH COOK (Parramatta)
That paragraph a of sub-clause 2 be left out.
This paragraph is unnecessary. Part II. of the Bill “polices” these matters quite drastically enough, without our providing for the indicting of trusts, as such, in connexion with a matter of ordinary dumping. They are covered by another part of the Bill expressly framed to deal with commercial trusts, which aim at the destruction of our trade.
– * anl advised by the Attorney-General that the omission of this paragraph will not affect the Bill, and, as I do not wish to give rise to a debate at this stage, I shall simply intimate that I am prepared to accept the amendment.
Amendment agreed to.
Amendment (by Mr. ‘Kelly) agreed to -
That after the word “ labour,” line 21, the words “ in the Australian industry,” be inserted.
Amendments (by Sir William Lyne) agreed to -
Tha* the words “ greatly disorganizing,” lines 23 and 24, be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof “creating any substantial disorganization in.”
That after the word “abroad,” line 27, the following words be inserted - “by or for the importer from the manufacturer or some person acting for or in combination with him or accounting to him.”
That after the word “are,” line 31, the following words be inserted - “ imported by or for the manufacturer or some person acting for or in combination with him, or accounting to him, and are.”
.- I suppose that the Government intend to make the first part of the Bill fit in with these alterations. We are altering the wording of these clauses, but there is similar wording used in Part II. It would not be well to have in the same enactment different terminology to govern practically the same offences.
– What does the honorable and learned member refer to?
– I do not wish to go through all the clauses, but, for instance, the words “ greatly disorganizing “ have been changed to something else, and yet those words occur in Part II. of the Bill as well as in this part. I suggest that we should make the wording of the other parts of the Bill coincide with this part. If I had had the opportunity I intended to refer to one or two matters occurring earlier in the clause. For instance, paragraph b of clause 14 reads - the means adopted by the person importing or selling the imported goods are, in the opinion of the Comptroller-General or a Justice, as the case may be, unfair in the circumstances.
That really ought to read, “ In the opinion of the Comptroller-General and on reference to a Justice.” Otherwise we allow the Comptroller-Genera] to settle the matter. That is not intended, but with the greatest submission I say that that would be the effect of the paragraph. If such an alteration as I have suggested is not made in this paragraph the Justice, after the matter of unfairness has been settled by the Comptroller-General, will be inquiring, not as an appellate tribunal, but as an original tribunal, into the existence of a fact, the existence of which has already been determined by the ComptrollerGeneral.
– I shall take a note of the honorable and learned gentleman’s objection, and, if necessary, will submit an amendment.
– I move -
That the words “ at a price which is less than gives the person importing or selling them a fair profit upon their fair foreign market value or,” lines 32 to 35, bc left out.
– How will the paragraph read then ?
– It will not read. I propose to make a blank there, because I desire to show that this is the part of the clause to which I object.
– That will be equivalent to striking the clause out altogether.
– Yes. I propose to make a blank, and the Minister may fill it in with something else if he chooses. I have not raised the question in connexion with the preceding paragraph, because I did not wish to raise it in both places, but there are in these two subclauses absolute absurdities. It is ridiculous legislation to put before any Parliament.
– That is quite a matter of opinion, surely.
– Of course, and I am expressing my opinion. Here is a nice thing for the consumers of Australia. It is provided by this clause that goods shall not be sold at less than what is a fair profit on their foreign market value or their cost of production. I ask honorable members to imagine the complication of this provision.
– The Government are proposing to put up prices by legislation.
– Goods are not to be sold at less than that price, or they will be considered dumped, and become liable to prohibition.
– No, the clause does not say that. The honorable member is forgetting all about the intent clause.
– I say that if any person sells goods at a price which he knows is below their cost, that is evidence that he is knowingly selling them below their cost price, and interfering with others who may be selling the same goods at higher prices. I wonder that Ministers do not listen to reason in this matter. I ask honorable members to consider the absurdity of this provision. Good’s are not to be sold below their cost of production, and this is to be considered unfair competition until the contrary is proved. Goods must very often be sold below the cost of production, and frequently the longer they are withheld1 ‘from sale below the cost of production the less, can be obtained for them. If people are obliged to. keep goods in hand because they will not be allowed to sell them at a price lower than the cost of production without a penalty, they may lose the goods altogether. Is this not a deliberate attempt to put up prices on the public? That portion of the Bill which deals with detrimental trusts, provides against excessive prices; and yet it is now actually proposed to keep up prices, and to insist on firms doing what is absolutely impossible.
– The honorable member will see that, with the amendment made, the clause applies only to the sale by the original manufacturer.
– The clause has been altered to that extent; but if an agent for a manufacturer offered outofseason goods, or goods that the market had gone against, how on earth could he get a fair profit on the cost of production?
– Will the honorable membe’r compromise if I omit that part of the clause?
– The market value would then depend on the season, and other circumstances.
– We have no right to interfere with the question of profit, and I cannot accept the suggestion of the Minister. To say by Act of Parliament that people must get a fair profit, is the most extraordinary proposal that has been submitted for centuries, I should say. This is a deliberate forcing up of prices to the consumers. We ought to leave business firms to look after themselves in that respect ; and to any one who is familiar with business, the provision under discussion is ridiculous.
– I should like a little enlightenment, in view of the remarks of the honorable member for North Sydney. Bearing in view the wording of the provision, I should like to know what would happen in the case of a sale of goods off a wrecked vessel like the Australia ?
– That would not come under the Bill, because there would be no intention to destroy Australian industries.
– But the clause is most explicit, and says’ nothing about intent.
– Clause 15 governs this clause, and can only operate if there is intent.
– That is the position according to the Attorney-General?
– This provision does not touch the question of intent to destroy Australian industries, which there must be in every, case.
– In the case which I have instanced, would there not be an intent to destroy Australian industries?
– In the case which the honorable member quoted, the clause would not apply.
– This clause is a definition of unfair trading.
– Of unfair competition.
– There is no mention of intent ; if there had been, there might have been some ground for the AttorneyGeneral’s contention. In my opinion, this is distinctly a definition of unfair competition ; and if a man sells his goods at less than the cost price, he is to be held as unfairly competing. We all know that merchants and others often sell their goods out of season at any price; and the effect of this clause would be to compel them to keep their stocks. The honorable member for Werriwa last night gave us examples of legislation of this kind about the time, I suppose, of Adam - in the centuries when the world was deemed to be uncivilized.
– It was civilized enough !
– Compared with the legislation of the day, I think the legislation of “times gone by was, indeed, civilized. The legislation of the 14th cen- tury was to prevent manufacturers and others imposing on the public, whereas, silly Bills of this kind would not allow people to get goods at a fair price, or at the price at which the manufacturer is prepared to sell. In Australia we have the Customs duties, and there is also the cost of transport; and this kind of legislation is utterly absurd. Although a compact has been made that this (Bill shall be passed through the Committee stage during this week, I nevertheless think it is an outrage to allow the measure to slip through. I hope the Minister of Trade and Customs will pay a little respect to what is right and proper, and omit this clause.
.- As to the word “ foreign,” I understand that the provision is drawn from the Sherman Act.
– Not this part.
– “ Foreign “ would, under the Sherman Act, mean anything outside the United States. Under this Bill, I understand, the word will not include other parts of the British Empire and the United Kingdom.
– It means anything outside Australia.
– In the Law Courts there is a “ foreign “ jurisdiction, but it is a straining of the meaning of the word; and I think the meaning ought to be confined to markets outside the Empire.
– It means outside Australia.
– There is no definition in the Bill, and I accept the explanation of the Attorney-General.
– No doubt the “fair foreign market value” ought to be the value at the place of. exportation. As the honorable member for Corio has pointed out, it might be the value at any place, and there is no provision in this part of the Bill, which is not incorporated with the Customs Act, for proving what the market value is. I do not know that this part of the clause matters very much, seeing that the onus of proof is on the prosecuting party. All the facts ‘have to be proved by the informant; and when sufficient prima facie evidence is produced, then comes in the defence to show that the competition is not unfair. I think the draftsman has forgotten to be specific as to what is “foreign,” and has also forgotten to incorporate the Customs Act of 1891, under which bills of lading or invoices may be -prima facie evidence of value. I do not think that the provision will help the Government very much, because, as the honorable member for North Sydney has pointed out, it is absurd.
.- I think that if the Minister would take out the word “.foreign” and let the clause read “ a fair profit upon their market value “ it would be improved.
– “Market value” where?
– At the port of export. If the words “fair foreign market value” are left in, the clause would mean that, although off-season good’s were depreciated in the old country, they could not be sold here at a fair profit upon their actual cost.
– I can see the greatest objection to any Government fixing the price of goods. The effect will simply be to force up prices against the public. Who can say what_ is a fair profit in any industry? One’ per cent, would be a fair profit in some ‘lines of trade, and 50 per cent, would not be too much in other businesses. Why should we insert a provision imposing upon the Comptroller-General the obligation to decide what are fair profits ?
– The Comptroller-General does not decide anything.
– In clause 15 the words “ with the intention aforesaid “ are used. What is “ the intention aforesaid?” Ira the clause under consideration “ unfair competition “ is described.
– The intention is set out in the early part of clause 15.
– If the good’s are being imported with the intention of being sold at what the Government considers is not a fair profit, an offence is committed.
– With the intention to destroy an Australian industry by unfair competition.
– The AttorneyGeneral is wrong.
– I have explained before that the Government intends to put the clause in this way : “ With intent to destroy or injure any Australian industry by their sale or disposal within the Commonwealth in unfair competition with any Aus-: tralian industry.”
– Why should we enter into that question at all? It is a mos’t complicated thing to declare what profits shall be made in a particular line of business. It is even difficult to fix profits on various lines sold by the same firm.
Question - That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the clause - put. The Committee divided.
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
– I shall ask the Attorney-General to look into the effect of the words. He may advise me that it is necessary to take them out, and if he does I shall do so on my own account. If,” however, honorable members should want to reconsider the question I shall recommit the clause for that purpose.
– I move -
That paragraph / be left ..out.
I do not know whether honorable members desire to retain this paragraph, which is a rank absurdity. It says -
If the person importing or selling the imported goods directly or indirectly gives to agents or intermediaries disproportionately large reward or remuneration for selling or recommending the goods.
In the first place, who is to say what is an undue reward? And, secondly, are we going against the principle of profitsharing, which, often enters into that method of remuneration ?
– I will accept the amendment.
– It is time that the Ministry awoke to the necessity of trying to remove provisions which are absolutely silly.
– Do not abuse me after agreeing to the amendment.
Amendment agreed to.
Amendment (by Mr. Dugald Thomson) agreed to -
That the following new sub-clause be added : - “3. In determining whether the competition is unfair, regard shall be had to the efficiency of the management, the processes, the plant, and the machinery employed or adopted in the Australian industry affected by the competition.”
.- Even with these alterations, the clause is imperfect, because we have neglected to provide that, before the competition is declared unfair, the manufacturers shall be bound to provide sufficient goods of the quality required. Suppose, for example, that this year a clause of this kind had been put into operation with regard to blankets. For one reason or other - I suppose because they desired to keep up the prices - the Australian woollen mills did not take the trouble to employ sufficient men to make all the articles required for the Australian people. If they had multiplied their staff twofold or threefod, they could only have kept pace with the demand, but not one of them took the trouble to do that,’ because there is a duty of 25 per cent, on the finished article. The condition of affairs would have been still worse if, under the operation of a clause of this kind, competing blankets had been absolutely shut out. We ought to provide that before the competition is declared unfair, manufacturers shall be bound to provide a sufficient quantity of the goods required. Therefore I move -
That the following words be added - “ Before competition is declared unfair, manufacturers of goods declared to be under the provisions of this Act shall make sufficient of such goods; and any manufacturer neglecting to employ sufficient men at reasonable rates of wages shall be liable, for every day or portion of a day, he so neglects to employ men, to a penalty of Five hundred pounds.”
– I agree with the honorable and learned member for Werriwa that, if we are going, to prohibit the importation of foreign goods in order that local manufacturers shall have less competition to meet, we should provide that they shall make and keep in stock a supply of their manufactures sufficient for the requirements of the public. I know that what he has stated in regard to the supply of Australian blankets is quite correct, and that the quantity required by those ordering them could not be obtained from the Victorian mills. The amendment is a corollary to the other provisions of the Bill. If manufacturers abroad are prevented from supplying the needs of the Australian public, the local manufacturers who will benefit by the absence of foreign competition should be required to do so. Legislation of this kind was passed in the fourteenth century, but it was wiser legislation than- the provisions of the Bill, because its object was the protection of the public, and not the benefiting of manufacturers to the injury of the public. The Bill is being passed solely in the interests of our manufacturers.
– There is no doubt something in what the honorable and learned member for Werriwa has stated. I agree with honorable members that, if we shut out foreign competition, Australian manufacturers should keep the market supplied with goods. If they do not do so, a splendid opportunity will be afforded to the Commonwealth to manufacture goods for the public, and we shall then be able to ask the honorable and learned member and others to vote for an arrangement which will insure that the public convenience shall be met.
.- I do not know whether the honorable and learned member for Werriwa was serious when he moved the amendment, but, to my -mind, it is a ridiculous one, and the fine provided for is absurd. The statement which has been, made about Australianmanufactured blankets is not quite in accordance with fact. I know that the Victorian mills have been working at full time for a long while past, because the demand this season has been exceptional, and they all contemplate putting in additional machinery to cope with the larger demand. This state of affairs is accounted for by the fact that Victorian and, to some extent, South Australian blankets are so excellent in quality that they are actually displacing foreign blankets in this market I shall vote against the amendment.
– The honorable member for Corangamite has not grasped my point. I desire to provide that, before competition shall be declared unfair, the local manufacturers shall be required to manufacture sufficient goods to supply this market without unduly raising prices. This will prevent a combination of manufacturers from working half-time, in order, by lessening production, to increase prices. Those who have the interest of the public at heart should vote for the amendment. I am glad that the manufacturers are prospering, but I object to a measure protecting them in a manner which is opposed to the public interest. A provision similar to this was enacted in England 500 years ago, and should certainly be in a Bill of this character. ‘ However, as there seems to be no hope of carrying the amendment, I shall not call for a division upon it.
Question - That the clause, as amended; stand part of the Bill - put. The Committee divided.
Majority … 13
Question so resolved in the affirmative. Clause, as amended, agreed to. Progress reported.
House adjourned at 11.48 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 12 July 1906, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1906/19060712_reps_2_31/>.