3rd Parliament · 4th Session
The President took the chair at 10.30 a. in., and read prayers.
– I have, with very deep regret, to announce to honorable senators that at an early hour this morning the Speaker -of the House of Representatives was seized with a sudden attack ‘ of illness in the chamber. His state of health is such that the doctors in attendance have enjoined absolute quietness being kept for the present, and in consequence of that advice I directed that the bells should not be rung for the assembling of the Senate, and with the concurrence of honorable senators should a division be called for here to-day I do not propose to have, the bells rung.
– Why should we not adjourn ?
– I was going to add that should such an event as a division take place, messengers will be sent round the rooms to acquaint honorable senators who may not be in the chamber at the time.
– I think that we ought to adjourn.
– Our time is not so precious that we cannot afford to adjourn.
– I beg to again ask the Minister representing the Post- ‘ master-General, without notice, whether the following statement made by’ Senator de Largie on the 2nd July, in discussing the Supply Bill, is correct or not -
I .hold in my hand a telegram from Senator Lynch, in Western Australia, announcing that twenty temporary employes of the Post and Telegraph Department’ have been knocked off because there is no money to pay them.
– The information * which has been obtained since yesterday enables me to state that the men were not dismissed for the cause set out in the telegram read here. I will read the full report obtained from Perth. Perhaps I had better read the telegram which was sent to Perth, and the reply to it, as I have them.
– I wonder who put up Senator Pulsford to ask the question?
– A thought-reader.
– I find that V have not the telegram asking for an explanation.
– I rise to order. Is the Minister in-order in prefacing his reply with so many qualifications and explanations?
– That does not involve a question or order. The Minister, 1 understand, is replying to a question asked by Senator Pulsford, without notice, and he is quite in order in doing that.
– Not asked without notice ?
– The honorable senator must be aware that questions are constantly asked here without notice. Yesterday I heard Senator Pulsford ask this question without notice, and the Minister promise to get the desired information, and I presume that it is now being furnished.
– The telegram received from Perth reads as follows -
Your wire of yesterday re discharge of tem- porary labourers on undergrounding works, there as been no suspension of work ; in April 25 men employed, in May 35, during June 55 ; and from1st instant 29. The fifty-five in June were employed on the section, General Post Office to Lord-streetalong St. George’s-terrace, which being residential quarter permitted of longer trenches being opened up without unduly interfering with traffic. In the business centres this was not practicable. Incidentally, the section referred to gave the opportunity toemploy larger gangs and utilize as far as possible money granted to 30th June. The section at present in hand from. General Post Office westward along the principal business portion of. the terrace, where it would be impracticable to open long lengths of trench without seriously interfering with traffic, and number men employed (29) ample to econocally perform the work. As you are aware, no further sections can beundertaken under plans originally approved. I may state that Town Clerk only yesterday complained that operations in terrace were interfering with traffic, although every care being taken by Department.
– Arising out of the reply, I desire to ask the Minister if he will ascertain whether the men were not told, perhaps for party purposes, that they were being knocked off because money was nut available?
– I desire to ask another question arising out of the reply. The Minister has informed the Senate that no suspension of work has taken place. I do not know that a charge of the kind was ever made here.
– Is the honorable senator in order, sir, in making a speech ?
– The honorable senator is in order in explaining his reason for asking the question, but he would not be in order in making a speech. I did not understand him to be -attempting to make a speech.
– In answering the question, the Minister said, among other things, that there had been no suspension of work.
– That was not the answer.
– If there has been no suspension of work will the Minister explain how it is that there are so many men, who have been dismissed, clamouring to get back to the work?
– I am somewhat at a loss as to what I can do to satisfy Senator de Largie. Just now when I attempted to answer a question he objected.
– That is a matter of comment.
– I do not know whether I am at liberty to reply to the honorable senator without objection from him to the information I have to give.
– The better plan will be for’ the Minister to give the information.
– My answer is that the honorable senator has not correctly quoted the statement I made. What I said was that there have been no dismissals for the reason set out in the telegram read here by him.
– The honorable senator said that there has been no suspension of work.
– Will the Minister ask the Treasurer on what authority he made the statement in another place that these men were suspended owing to the Supply Bill not having been put through?
– I am not aware that that statement was made.
– Will the Honorable senator make inquiries about it?
– I will.
– I desire to ask the Vice-President of the Executive Council, without notice, if he will obtain from the Government of South Australia a copy of the Government Resident’s report on the Northern Territory, and have it printed and circulated amongst honorable senators?
– I will ascertain how far that can be carried but.
asked the VicePresident of the Executive Council, upon notice -
-Inquiries will be made and answers furnished in due course.
Senator MILLEN laid upon the table the following papers : -
Defence Acts 1903-1904 -
Naval Forces of the Commonwealth. - Financial and Allowance Regulations (Provisional). - Amendment of Regulation 48, and new Regulation 50A. - Statutory Rules 1909, No. 79.
Military Forces of the Commonwealth - Financial and Allowance Regulation? (Provisional) -
Amendment of Regulation 65. - Statutory Rules 1909, No. 80.
Cancellation of Section V. of Part II., and substitution of new Section in lieu thereof. - Statutory Rules 1909, No.81.
Cancellation of Regulation 78 (Statutory Rules 1909, No. 52), and substitution of new Regulation in lieu thereof. - Statutory Rules 1909, No.
Amendment of Regulation 148. - Statutory Rules 1909, No. 83.
Cancellation of Regulation 204, and substitution of new Regulation in lieu thereof. - Statutory Rules 1909, No. 84.
Amendment of Regulation 233A. - Statutory Rules 1909, No. 85.
Commonwealth Military Cadet Corps. - Regulations (Provisional). - Amendment of Regulations 3 and 8. - Statutory Rules 1909, No. 86.
Debate resumed from21st July (vide page 1405), on motion by Senator Sir Robert Best -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
– To my mind this is another attempt by the Government to perform what has proved so far to be “the impossible in almost every part of the world in which any legislation of the kind has been tried. We know that in America trusts and combines have been and are responsible for a great deal of hardship and inconvenience to producers, workers, and consumers, and that to a considerable extent it has been owing to their influence that a similar condition of things has arisen in Great Britain and Euro-* pean countries, and even extended to Australia. That is the inevitable outcome of excessive competition. We know, or ought to know, that industries in other countries, as well as in Australia, cannot possibly compete with the American combines unless they to some extent combine also for their own protection. It has been admitted, even by members of the Labour party, that in certain conditions and circumstances trusts and combines may have no present injurious effect. We also recognise that for a considerable time their existence may be in the interests of both producer and consumer. Whether it be a social or a religious or an economical movement, unprincipled individuals are always prepared to take advantage of their position to enrich themselves at the expense of everybody else. Consequently evils have arisen out of these combinations in other parts of the world. In the United States the authorities have been attempting for years, if not to stamp out, at least to so control trusts and combines, that they may not have that injurious effect upon the general public which they have had so far. I ask the Vice-President of the Executive Council and the Minister of Trade and Customs whether the attempts have been effectual in the United States?
– They have to some extent.
– But to what extent? I shall endeavour to tell the Senate what, in Australia at all events, has had some influence upon the control of trusts and combines. It certainly has not been legislation, and the same may be said of the position in the Un’ted States of America. I challenge Senator Fraser, when he has an opportunity, to tell the Senate in what direction and to what extent legislation has controlled trusts or combines in America. In 1906, when what was commonly known as the Anti-Trust Bill was introduced in this Parliament, honorable members of the Labour party freely told the Government of the clay that they had no faith in such legislation ; they declared that there was only one effective means of suppressing injurious trusts and combines, and that was to provide for the nationalization of the industries to which they related. Whilst we had no faith in the remedy proposed, we said, however, thatwe would assist the Government of the dav to give such a measure a fair trial, and I am sure that the Minister of Trade and Customs, who was a member of that Government, has no reason to complain of the support which has been given by the Labour party to the Australian Industries Preservation Act of 1906 and the amending Act of 1907. But have honorable senators opposite extended the same support to that legislation? I invite them to refresh their memories by referring to Hansard, and to ascertain in that way whether the support they propose to give this Bill will not be a flat contradiction of their attitude in regard to the prin- cipal Acts.
– Less than three years ago.
– Yes, in the course of two or three years there is a great change in the opinions of some people. That is another reason why Senator Turley and I are proud to belong to a party which has a progressive policy, and to find almost every one gradually coming round to our way of thinking. We may reasonably expect that in the course of a few years honorable senators who have urgedthat the nationalization of injurious monopolies would be practically confiscation will be the strongest supporters of such a policy in Australia.
– I have never heard any honorable senator protest against action being taken against injurious monopolies.
– The honorable senator is distinctly out of order. The question we are dealing with is so important that those who address themselves to it ought not to be interrupted. I promised Senator Fraser that I would point out what, in Australia at all events, has had some effect in deterring abuses arising from local monopolies. Some honorable senators will probably deny that there are monopolies in the Commonwealth. The Labour party, however, have repeatedly called the attention of the Parliament and the people to the existence of dangerous monopolies here, and have pointed out their injurious effect. I shall mention some of them and give honorable senators an opportunity to deny any of the statements that 1 make. Does any one deny that there exists in Australia to-day a monopoly in the sugar industry ? I am sure no one does. The existence of such a monopoly is evident, not only to the intelligent members of the Australian Parliament, but to the people themselves. The people, and even the sugar-growers in Queensland, realize its existence.
– They have only lately found it out, and thev are now protesting.
– Then, again, will any honorable senator with the exception perhaps, of Senator Macfarlane, deny that there is to some extent a shipping combine in Australia ? I do not think so. Abundant evidence of the existence of something of the kind was put before both the Navigation Commission and the Tariff Commission, and there are in the Commonwealth people who have suffered from it. Honorable senators opposite will not deny anything now in this regard, because they are on the other side of the fence, and are proposing to apply a remedy. Will any one deny the existence of a tobacco monopoly in Australia ? From time to time we have had abundant evidence to convince almost the most bigoted that such a monopoly prevails. There are also trusts and combines of less magnitude all over Australia.
– There was a coal vend not long ago.
– Yes, and in South Australia and some of the other States there have been “ honorable understandings “ in connexion with the grain trade, which has been to the serious detriment of consumers, and more particularly of producers.
– There is also the Confectionery Gombine.
– I intended to mention that. Like the honorable senator, I prefer to keep till the last the sweetest and most toothsome morsels. In some of the States there are also combines and understandings in connexion with the timber trade. One may go from one timber yard to another and find no difference in prices. The “honorable understanding” seems to be adhered to to the very word - I was going to say “ letter,” but that would be a mistake- -that has been passed round. As Senator Clemons has said, there is also a monopoly or understanding in connexion with the confectionery trade. Economic conditions have made these combines or understandings absolutely necessary ; they are the inevitable result of the excessive competition that has prevailed. Honorable senators opposite are far-seeing enough, I am sure, to recognise that we do not deny that they are necessarily the result of existing economic conditions, and that to some extent they may be beneficial, But at the same time we affirm that they will ultimately be detrimental to the best interests of the community. In the circumstances, therefore, it is our duty to do all that we can to abolish those economic conditions which make such . combinations necessary. Why is this class of combination essential ? Honorable senators must have recognised long ago that when competition in any industry becomes very severe, two or three of the persons engaged in it will act in concert to put an end to it; they come to an understanding to charge uniform prices, without any intention of unfairly treating their customers, and they honestly adhere to it. But gradually the number of these understandings or arrangements increases, and these little rings begin to compete with each other. As they are stronger than individuals, the competition that so arises must either destroy them, or compel them to form greater combinations. The latter course is adopted, but the competition ultimately becomes so fierce that all these small combines are merged into one huge trust, which often controls the whole trade of a country, and in some cases tends in the direction of controlling the trade of the world. It must be acknowledged that trusts in America are advancing very rapidly, and that the time must come when, unless something of a national character is done to control such organizations, the people of the whole world must suffer from their operations. That is being exemplified in connexion with the oil trade. Every effort that has been made to control these trusts bv way of legislation in the Commonwealth has been a failure, and I am satisfied that the attempt now being made to strengthen such legislation will also prove futile. I may be asked why I make so reckless a statement.
– The Minister of Trade and Customs practically made that admission.
– He had to, and must admit that my contention is correct. I feel confident that legislation of this kind cannot succeed. Has such legislation succeeded where it has been tried? Has it succeeded in America, either under the Sherman Act or the Act which the Minister of Trade and Customs quoted so glibly? These trusts and combinations are flourishing to-day to a greater extent in America than they ever did ; and they certainly will increase their influence in Australia. I ask honorable members to note the only definite principle contained in the Bill. When the original measure was before us, senators now on this side of the House supported it, knowing that it would not have the effect intended ; and there were other senators, including Senator Symon, who also knew that the Bill would not have that effect, and did not desire that it should. Any attempt to legislate for a trust within the confines of one State has, when submitted to a legal test, been found abortive. By sections 5 and 8 of the original Act we sought to deal with foreign corporations, and not individuals ; and those sections having been found valueless, the Bill before us makes a stupendous effort to repeat them. We may either repeal them or leave them where they are - the effect will be exactly the same. The new feature in the Bill is an attempt to penalise companies, firms, combinations and so forth which make rebates in favour of customers who deal exclusively with them. If the Minister of Trade and Customs were manager of a great combination, whether in the shipping, timber, sugar, tobacco, or even the confectionery trade, would he, as an intelligent man, act so as to infringe the law? No; he would do what he desired to do in some other way ; he would have no written agreement or understanding, but would simply refuse to buy or sell. The two amending provisions, 7a and 7b, deal with buying and selling respectively; and the honorable gentleman, as a manager, would say to a person who desired to sell to him, “ I have nothing to do with you, and I do not desire to do business ; I shall not buy your goods, or carry them, or deal with you at all ; our capital is not sufficient, and we have such an amount of business at the present time, that you will have to go elsewhere.” As there would be no one else to whom he could sell, the producer, or whoever he happened to be, would have to go down on his knees and say, “ For God’s sake do something for me.” A similar reply would be given if a person desired to buy in order to carry on his business ; he would be told that the company or combine had nothing to sell ; that it was under agreement with other people for the sale of every ounce, pound, yard, or gallon, as the case might be, of its commodity. Again, the would-be customer would have to go down on his knees, and pray for forbearance and leniency. What is the use of introducing legislation that will do nothing for consumer, producer, or worker? The Minister, I am afraid, must have his tongue in his cheek when he asks us to pass such legislation, which can only tend to deceive thepublic. The real remedy is that which has always been advocated by the Opposition. When any business becomes a monopoly to the detriment of the public - the producer, the consumer, or the worker - it is the duty of the community to take over that business and conduct it in the interests of the community. South Australia is the only State which up to the present time has done anything effective in this direction. Attempts have been made in that State to squeeze producers, and the Government have repeatedly come to their assistance through the State Export Department. Honorable understandings or combines, so far as the State Export Department has operated, have not been able to injure the people to the same extent as would otherwise be possible. It is not legislation such as we are discussing today, nor any legislation that has been passed in any other country, that has influenced the members of combines and trusts up to the present ; it is the fear that their action, will so arouse the public mind that all will come round to the same way of thinking as the Labour party and adopt nationalization. When the Commonwealth first came into existence the tobacco operatives in New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia, and even in Western Australia were in a deplorable condition ; every one who knows anything about the industries within the Commonwealth will admit that to be a fact. These people were working for such a small portion of the time that they ought to have been occupied, and at such low wages, that they were earning a bare existence. . The growers of the tobacco leaf were also at the mercy of the same combination. A cry was raised by the tobacco workers, who laid their case before their parliamentary representatives, not only in the State Parliaments, but in the Commonwealth Parliaments ; and resolutions were submitted in different Legislatures, including the Commonwealth Parliament, dealing with the nationalization of the tobacco monopoly. This so alarmed the members of the combination that they at once set about improving the conditions of the workers. In a very few months, or at least in a. year or so, the conditions had so improved that the operatives ceased to complain. As I said before, it is not the legislation that we have passed, but the fear of nationalization, that has brought those people to their senses. So long as combines act fairly, in the first place, to the workers, in the second place, to the producers of the raw material, and, in the third place, to the consumers, there will be no complaint - no cry of nationalization, however right nationalization may be - because nobody is being injured. Combinations first begin to squeeze the workers, but as they only are concerned, sympathy with them is confined to their parliamentary representatives. Butthe next to be squeezed are the producers of the raw material, as the producers of beef and mutton in the United States have beensqueezed by the Beef trust; and the twosections combine, and the area of influence is extended. The complaints, however, are not strong enough to have any result, until the combine begins to squeeze the consumers, or the general public, when the cry becomesa general wail or storm, and nationalization is inevitable. We may pass a. measure and an amending measure every session, but it will have no influence over combinations and trusts. I do not suppose any honorable members on this side of the Chamber would attempt to resist any beneficial proposals in connexion with trusts and combines, yet I hope they will never cease fighting arrangements of the kind, until nationalization results, and the producer, consumer, and worker are made safe. I have no desire to labour a question of this kind. When we have the supporters of the Government in a frame of mind to do anything that will be beneficial to the public, we should1 give them every encouragement j only when their measures are of a character that will be detrimental to the public ought we to strenuously oppose them. I hope this discussion will bring out clearly the difference between the present policy of the Government and the policy of the Opposition in regard to trusts, combines, and understandings generally.
– I wish to suggest to the Minister in charge of the Bill that when we get into Committee progress should be reported, and the further consideration of the measure adjourned until next week. The Bill is of undoubted importance to many industries. I will mention one - the shipping industry. There are under this Bill possibilities of reducing the earning power of the industry ; and at the same time we have before us other measures, one relating to compensation to seamen, and another to lighthouses, and so forth, both of which may increase the expenditure of the shipping companies, and so render it less possible for them to earn a good income and pay substantial wages. For these reasons, I think it desirable that we should not proceed with the Bill in Committee before the various associations - labour and commercial - have had an opportunity to consider the Bill, and to send in any suggestions they may have to make as to the probable effect of it upon their industries.
Senator PEARCE (Western Australia) fu. 16]. - I had hoped that Senator Pulsford would have given us some reasons why the Bill should not be passed, in view of his attitude in regard to similar measures in the past. But apparently he has come under the influence of the fusion, and is now willing to swallow legislation of this character. Like my colleague, the Leader of the Opposition, I do not feel very enthusiastic about the Bill. The first measure of the kind was passed in 1906. This is the third. I am not sanguine that it will be more successful than its predecessors. It is, I believe, a fact that we have not yet had a single successful prosecution vnder our anti-trust legislation. That means one of two things. Either we have no trusts committing breaches of the law in Australia - and even Senator Walker laughs at the possibility of that supposition - or various Governments in the Commonwealth have not seen fit to take earnest steps to put the law into operation. There is a third possibility, namely, that the law we have passed does not meet the case.
– The honorable senator was a member of a Ministry that ap’parently did not take any action.
– With regard to the first supposition, any one who suggested that we have no trusts in Australia, or that they are not taking action which is to the detriment of the people of this country, would either be blind or stupid. We know of many instances where these trusts are in operation, and where their operation has been’ inimical to the interests of the people. The difficulty which every Government feels in administering this legislation is to sheet home a prosecution, no matter how perfect the law may be. Take, for instance, the question of rebates. How are you going to sheet home against a trust evidence as to rebates? A rebate may be given in various ways. An agreement to pay a rebate may be a condition of a bargain made, or there may be an understanding between the seller and the buyer. Under such an agreement an advantage is derived by both sides. The seller derives an advantage, because the system gives him his monopoly power. The buyer derives an advantage in that he reaps a reward from purchasing from the seller. There is a mutual benefit; and although it may be to. the detriment of trade, .and may eliminate competition, or make competition impossible, still the only parties who could give evidence upon which a conviction could be founded are financially interested in suppressing the evidence. Why should either go into Court to convict the other? They are both getting a benefit from the carrying out of the bargain. Each of them is bound to the other by the strongest of ties - that of self-interest. That is the secret of the failure of this class of legislation. While the Leader of the Opposition was speaking, an interjection was made about “an honorable understanding.” “We all know that the underlying principle of action in the case of trusts is not a written agreement, but an honorable understanding. Very often an arrangement may be made over the telephone, and there may not be a written word to give effect to it. There is no need for any written agreement. The arrangement has the strongest impelling force behind it, that of self-interest. My reading informs me that, so far as is known, there is not a single written document in connexion with the rebate transactions of the Steel Trust in America. The parties who arrive at the understanding are both interested in keeping it. The only way in which the matter could be brought to light would be bv getting one of the two parties into the witness-box, and compelling him to convict himself. Is it likely, however, that any one would take action which would have the effect of ruining himself? Therefore it seems to me to be hopeless to’ pass legislation of this kind in the expectation of grappling with the trusts in the matter of rebates.
– I suppose the honorable senator believes that nationalization is the only means of overcoming the dimculty?
– I believe thatnationalization is the best means. Under nationalization the seller is the State, which is the people, and the buyer is also theState or people.
– And there cannot be any’ corruption, I suppose?
– There will be corruption so long as humanity exists, I imagine. But there will not be exploitation of the people by ‘the people. You cannot imagine the people setting out to exploit themselves. If they did, they would simply be taking money out of one pocket and putting it in the other.
– There seems to have been some exploitation of the people in France in reference to the Navy, and the result has been to bring down a Ministry.
– That is not a matter of exploitation, but of Ministerial incapacity. The ‘ honorable senator will not allege that the French Minister of Marine, who is responsible for the incapacity in the navy, made any money out of the state of things revealed. But in the case of the trusts, the exploitation is carried on deliberately for the purpose of enriching a few to the injury of the many.
– Would honorable senators opposite allege that there is corruption in connexion with the administration of our railways?
– While our railways are run mainly on commercial principles, they are nevertheless run in the interests of the people to a far greater extent than are privately-owned railways. In Prussia the railways were taken out of the hands of private owners, not because of any theoretical belief in Socialism, but because the Prussian Government realized that if they were to develop the industries of the country, the arteries of commerce could not be left in private hands. And, as a matter of fact, the railways have been a most effective instrument in the development of Prussia. One of the greatest impediments to British industry to-day is the private ownership of railways.
– Can the honorable senator mention any corruption in connexion with the private ownership of railways?
– I have not alleged any corruption ; but a company that owns a railway has a right to charge any rates it likes.
– No, there is a Government commission that regulates freights.
– And there is in the United States a trust that defeats the Government regulations.
– That has not been proved.
– Yes; in the United States there is a regulation of rates by the Federal Government, but it is daily defeated by secret agreements and by the rebate system. I give great credit to the honorable senator who introduced this measure. He has made an extensive study of the subject. He gave to us a series of extracts from the report of the British Commission that investigated this question. But, as the honorable senator claims to be a good Protectionist, I am surprised that he overlooked the local article.
– I felt in. honour bound to place the information in> regard to the British Commission before theSenate, as we had promised to give every, consideration to the report. That, was onereason why I made such extensive “references to it.
– We are under debt of obligation to the honorable senator for giving us the information that he did.. But I may remind the Senate that a Commission in Western Australia has reported! extensively on this very question. They indicate that in their opinion much the same sort of thing occurs on th:s side of the globe regarding shipping fares and freights as occurs in England. The report is to be found in the bound Votes and Proceeding? of the Western Australian Parliament for j 905. I invite those who have time to« look at the document.
– Is there not a more recent report? There was one published? in 1908, I think?
– I am not sure. IS will read the summary of the Committee’s: conclusions : -
That, in view of the disabilities under whichthe people and the Government are suffering,, action should be initiated through the AgentGeneral with a view to securing a substantial reduction of the present excessive rates of freight, and that, if possible, a united front be presented to the common enemy, viz., the shipping ring. Officials of the Western Australian Shipping Association having given evidence that the policy of the directors is strongly in favour of a reduction of rates, it should not be difficult to induce that body to sever its connexion with the London organization, and join with the Government and the large number of shippers who are not shareholders in> the association, to attain the above object.
They say also, on page 15, that the shipping ring. has been to the detriment of British trade -
Your Commissioners find that British tradeis being handicapped by the lower freights ruling from German ports, and greatly so by_ theextremely low rates from American ports. Steamer freights from German ports are shown, to have diverted trade from the Mother Country, and the American rates ruling during thepast three years, being from one-third to onehalf of the London rates, enable Americanshippers to secure higher prices for their goods which are landed here through the saving in freights at less than British prices. It appears that the American freights were at one time governed by a similar (or the same) organization to that which governs the West” Australian, trade, but the Americans broke away, and dur- ing the past three years have been running an opposition line of steamers, resulting in the (present low rates. An attempt was made by the London people to form a fresh combination, but this ultimately failed, as trie result of an action in the Supreme Court of Judicature, Court of Appeal, England. Had this action been successful, the present low rates of freight from New York to Fremantle would no doubt have been increased. It has been “brought under the notice of your Commissioners that the Liverpool White Star Line, now running to Australia, is carrying American cargo from United States ports vid Liverpool to Australia, at half the rates at which they carry English cargo from Liverpool to Australia direct. It is needless to add that this company -.is working with the London shipping ring, as far as the English-Australian trade is concerned. “To those who believe in preferential trade that is an extremely important statement. The report continues: -
It appears that the American freights were -at one time governed by a similar (or the same) organization to that which governs the Western Australian trade, but the Americans broke away, and during the past three years have been running an opposition line of steamers, resulting in the present low rates. An attempt was made by the London people to form a fresh combination, but this ultimately failed, as the result of an ^action in the Supreme Court of Judicature, Court of Appeal, England. Had this action been successful, the present low rates of freight from New York to Fremantle would no doubt -have been increased. It has been brought under the notice of your Commissioners that the Liverpool White Star Line, now running to Australia, is carrying American cargo from United States’ ports, vid Liverpool, to Australia at half the rates at which they carry English cargo from “Liverpool to Australia direct. It is needless to add that this company is working with the Condon Shipping Ring, as far as the English- _ -Australian trade is concerned.
– They started independently, but were forced into the trust.
– One of the difficulties is that many men have been forced “into the trust against their will and cannot get out of it. Amongst other recommendations, the Commission made one which :shows that it recognised that it was beyond their power to effectively deal with the question. It is to be found on page 16 in these words -
Your Commissioners recommend that a copy of this report and evidence be despatched to the Commonwealth Government, with a request that -the attention of the Imperial authorities be drawn to the necessity for legislation in the direction -nf the Harter and Elkin Acts of the United States Legislature, and also pointing out the pressing need of similar legislation in the Commonwealth Parliament. “The Commission also made this recommendation - . Your Commissioners also recommend that representations be made to the Imperial and Com~mon wealth Governments urging the necessity of enacting and enforcing a law compelling the inclusion of the rates of freight on ships’ manifests and on bills of lading.
The report confirms the one which was quoted the other day by Senator Best, and shows that the trust he cited is not only operating in regard to the South African trade, but is also operating in a detrimental manner to British trade with Australia. This Bill purports to deal more particularly with rebates and trade with other countries. If it can deal with those questions effectively it will confer a benefit not only upon Australia, but upon the Empire at large, because it will lead to an increase of British trade. It will put the British competitor on an equal footing with the foreign competitor, so far as Australian trade is concerned. I desire to refer to another trust which is of local origin, and which yet- has to do with international exchange, and that is the Press cable trust. The metropolitan newspapers of Australia have formed an association for the purpose of bringing out cable news from Great Britain. It has in England officers whose duty is to extract from the English press such matters as they think will be suitable for retailing in Australia. Those items of news are transmitted from London as one message, distributed amongst . the daily newspapers and published for the information of the people. The association includes the daily newspapers of Australia.
– No; only the metropolitan daily newspapers.
– The news thus cabled is sold to the country press and the evening newspapers. I am informed by the proprietors of country newspapers that they are not afforded an opportunity to buy what they would like to get. In other words, the association reserves to itself the right to say that the country newspaper shall take whatever it pleases to supply. One can easily understand that a country newspaper might not wish to take the cables concerning 1 lie prices of Australian stocks and shares, or the prices of metals. It might only want to buy the cables regarding the prices of foodstuffs, and perhaps general political information. A newspaper is not allowed to choose the cablegrams which it wishes to buy. It has to take whatever messages are supplied, at so much a word- The editor of a journal assures me that at the rates which are charged to country journals and evening newspapers, the morning newspapers get their cable service for nothing, as the expense is practically paid by the country press. 1 am not quarrelling with that.
– Can the honorable senator give any facts to substantiate that statement ?
– I could only repeat the facts I have given.
– I have good reason for believing that that statement is incorrect.
– My experience as a country pressman is that through the Press Association a country newspaper gets a good service at a very cheap rate.
– So far I have only outlined the practice. I have not condemned it.
– Surely country pressmen can order the class of cablegrams which they desire to publish ?
– No, they have to take whatever cablegrams the Press Association sends to them. They have to pay for Hie lot whether they want them or not. My authority for making that statement is M”. Hugh Mahon, a member of the other House, who at one time was part proprietor and editor of a country newspaper in Western Australia. He has in his possession correspondence in which he asked that he should be permitted to take only certain messages, and was informed that he must take the lot or none at all. That statement I have made here before, and it can be seen in Hansard. I have also produced the correspondence which took place.
– I fancy that the rule is that newspaper agencies take cable messages from the morning newspapers, and telegraph them to the country press.
– In a large number of cases the morning newspapers are the agencies.
-The method by which the messages are sent to the country press does not affect the question. The point is that it is the Cable Association, consisting of morning newspapers, which is the seller, and. the country press which, either directly or ‘ indirectly, is the. buyer. I. do not condemn that system except so far as it excludes men from choosing the messages which they wish to buy. This power in the hands of the press is due to the fact that they have a monopoly, and no newspaper can hope to get the cablegrams at the same rate as it can obtain them from that source. I now come to a most objectionable feature, and one which I regard asdetrimental to the public interest. Some honorable senators on the other side believe, or say that they believe, that competition should be free and unfettered. The occupation of newspaper proprietor should, I contend, be open on even terms to all men. If I am a capitalist, I should be free to enter into competition with the daily newspapers on fair and equal terms. But if I desire to start a daily newspaper in Melbourne I cannot become a member of the Press Association. I cannot obtain a supply of the cablegrams unless I secure the consent of every newspaper which is in the association. If a single newspaper raises an objection I am barred, and then honorable senators can imagine what my position is.
– Has the honorable senator any idea of the newspapers which are at the head of this business?
– The morning newspapers in the metropolitan districts.
– And some of the evening newspapers.
– I do not know about the latter. Suppose that a capitalist wants to start a daily morning newspaper in the capital of any State. Unless he can obtain the unanimous consent of the members of the Press Association, he will have, to purchase his cablegrams at the rate of is. per word. He could, it is true, sell them’ if he could find any buyer, but seeing that the market is held by the Press Association, it is manifest that no man would have an opportunity of finding a buyer. The consequence is that a competing newspaper which might be established, would have to pay gd. a word for every cablegram received, whilst the members of the Press Association would pay nothing, because the cost of their messages would be borne by the country press.
– Will not this Bill touch that question?
– That is what I want to know. I am rather inclined to think’ that one provision might be held to apply. In the United States it has been held that a telegram is a service. A telegraph line has been dealt with exactly as a railway line, and the carrying of a telegram or a letter has been held to be commerce just as the carrying of goods or passengers over a railway line is commerce.
Seeing that our law is modelled on the lines of the United States legislation, probably the High Court might take a similar view.
– We might insert a word to make it clear that it would cover that case.
– I think that the proposed new section 7b would deal with the matter. It reads as follows: -
Any person who, in relation to trade and commerce with other countries or among the States, either as principal or agent, refuses or fails to sell or supply to any other person, at the ordinary ruling prices, any goods or services which are the subject of competition, for the reason that the latter person -
Penalty : Five hundred pounds.
If that provision were put into operation, this association would be compelled to supply its present cables to competitors in the capital.
– Does the honorable senator think there is any chance of the present Government putting this Bill into operation against the association?
– I have my doubts. The present Government have just given a most valuable concession to this commercial trust by reducing the land charges on press cable messages from 2d. to1d. per word. What that reduction will mean may be gathered by glancing at the many cable messages in this morning’s newspapers. I asked the Vice-President of the Executive Council whether the Government had obtained any guarantee from the Daily Press Cable Syndicate that it would pass on to the country press a share of this concession, and the answer I received was that the Ministry could not interfere in private agreements between an association and its customers. Since they have failed to obtain such a guarantee, is it likely that they will endeavour to take action against the Daily Press Cable Syndicate in the direction I have indicated ? In addition to the reduction of1d. per word in the land charges on press cable messages, a further reduction of 2½d. per .,word on press messages sent over the Pacific Cable has been agreed to, and one-third of that reduction will have to be borne by the Commonwealth. In other words, the Commonwealth Government are practically going to be responsible for 1¾d. of the total reduction that has been made with the object of cheapening . the cable service to the daily press.
– Will the Government have to bear any loss if the reduction leads to increased revenue?
– We have no guarantee that the Press Syndicate will use the Pacific Cable.
– Did the Labour Government do anything against this combine or association ?
– The only hope we have that the taxpayers of the Commonwealth will not be called upon to make good the loss that will result from this generous reduction is that the daily press syndicate will cause their messages to be transmitted over the Pacific Cable. But for the laying of the Pacific Cable, the members of the newspaper syndicate would still have been paying 3s. instead of1s. per word for their messages. Those who have reaped the benefit of that reduction have shown their gratitude by refraining from sending a solitary message over the Pacific Cable, save when the Eastern Extension Company’s service has been interrupted. The proprietors of the big newspapers, in which we see bold headlines about the “allred route,” and the necessity of linking up Australia with the rest of the Empire, are so patriotic that they do not send one message over the Pacific Cable.
– We cannot force them to do that which does not pay them.
– It would cost them no more to send a message over the Pacific Cable than it does to utilize the Eastern Extension Company’s Cable, unless the Eastern Extension Company is granting them a secret rebate. Does the honorable senator say that they are doing so?
– I cannot say that they are.
– Either secret rebates are being granted by the Eastern Extension Company, or members of the newspaper cable syndicate are subsidizing the competitor of a State-owned line which led to the cheapening of their services. In reply to the interjection made a few moments ago by Senator Gray, I may say that the late Government intended to propose to the Pacific Cable Board that there should be an all round reduction on cablegrams, and that that reduction should not relate merely to press messages. We also intended to propose that that reduction should be made only to those upon whom the Board should impose the condition that they transmitted a certain proportion of their messages over the Pacific Cable.
– Is there not a proposal to send Commonwealth messages as news items to England?
– I have not heard of it. I asked the Vice-President of the Executive Council whether it is not a fact that the daily press of Australia by a combination hold a monopoly of the oversea press cable service. To that question I received the reply that the Government were not aware of the conditions relating to the oversea press cable service. I ask now why the Government do not make the proposed reduction, subject to the condition I have mentioned, in view of the fact that all the available evidence suggests that the Eastern Extension Cable Company is granting a secret rebate in order to secure a monopoly of press messages. How are we to put this law into operation against the Eastern Extension Cable ‘Company if it is granting a secret rebate? ls it going to say to the Government, “ We are granting the Press Association a secret rebate, and we wish you to prosecute. We are prepared to allow our secretary to go into the witness box, and to supply you with the necessary evidence?” Or is it reasonable to assume that members of the Press Association are likely to come forward with a similar offer ? As long as the two parties to the agreement, if it exists, keep it to themselves there is no possibility of this Bill being other than a dead letter, so far as that trust is concerned.
– We have heard of certain people falling out at times.
– I suppose that the answer to that is that these trust magnates are all honest men and never fall out. We have in the instance I have cited another illustration of the futility of this class of legislation.
– Hear, hear.
– The honorable senator is coming along well. He has recently visited the Old Country, where the question of what action should be taken to deal effectively with, trusts is greatly agitating the public mind. It is quite possible that the honorable senator has benefited bv living for a time in a Socialistic atmosphere. and that he bps returned to Australia holding quite a different view from that which he used to entertain as to the nationalization of injurious monopolies. I repeat that I have little hope of this; legislation being effective. In South Australia there was a combine of wheat buyers, the members of which were able to rob thefarmers of the price that they ought legitimately to have obtained for their wheat on the world’s market. Yet, as showing: the futility of such legislation as this, there was no written agreement amongst the members of that* combine j there wasnothing more than “ an honorable understanding “ ; but it was clearly proved before a Royal Commission that by meansof that secret understanding the farmers of South Australia had been robbed of thousands of pounds. It is said that sometimes trusts do good in that they cheapen production. That may be so; but in this connexion I cannot help recalling a conversation that I had some time ago with a gentleman who is interested in a certain trust, and who in a pleasant way was discussing the attitude I had taken up in regard to it. “ You have been trying very hard,” he said, “ to show that since we have combined we have made additional profits, because we have increased the prices of our commodity.. As a matter of fact, you are on the wrong track. We do not need to increase our prices by one farthing. We have made a gigantic profit simply because of the decreased cost of production brought about by our co-operation. We can make five times the profit that we could secure when we were competing with each other.” The fact that the prices of a commodity have not been increased, as the result of the operation of a trust is no indication that it has not inflicted an injustice upon the public. If that” trust has led to the cheapening of production, the public ought to reap some part of the benefit.
– Would it not be possible to get at some port’on of that profit by a tax on profits?
– One of the favourite arguments used against the Labour party is that they propose to confiscate property. If a man makes a profit in a legitimate business, that profit is his property, and if Ave are to tax it, then, using the term employed by our opponents, we are going to “ confiscate “ it. If ray profits were taxed to the extent of 4d. in the /~.r, that would be just as much a confiscation’ - aga;n using the term of our opponents - as it would be 3 confiscation of my land to tax its unimproved value to the extent of 4d. in the £1.
If the word “confiscation’’ applies in the one case it must apply in the other. The passing of this Bill will still leave unfilled the gap created by the High Court’s decision in regard to the principal Act. I recognise that no Bill, save one providing for an amendment of the Constitution, will5 enable us to overcome that difficulty. The decision of the High Court, that our power in this regard relates only to trusts whose operations extend beyond the limits of a State, leaves the biggest part of the field still open to the manipulation of combines. I despair of ever seeing trusts controlled effectively, so far as legislation of this kind can control them, until we have power to deal, not only with Inter-State trade, but intra-State trade. I do not know whether the Government propose to amend the Constitution, but it is only logical that, if we deal with trusts in trade amongst the States and with the outside world, we should have the same power to deal with trusts in a State.
– I am not altogether surprised at the despairing attitude of Senator Pearce in regard to the possibility of doing good under this Bill. According to the discussion that took place on a similar occasion, there was a considerable difference of opinion in the Labour party as to whether it was not more desirable than otherwise that there should be trusts and combines. When we were discussing the coal vend - which subject, by the way, was brought up by the present Leader of the House - Senator Henderson, as reported on page 3695 of Hansard of September, 1907, said -
The Coal Combine of New South Wales has done, up to the present moment, a laudable work. It has already very materially increased the output of New South Wales’ It has materially increased, not only its selling price, which I candidly believe it was entitled to do, but also the wages paid to the men who are producing the coal.
– And the number of men employed.
– It has also materially increased the number of men employed.
SenatorFindley. - That is possible under any circumstances when they exploit the public.
– For the last twentytwo years the public have been exploiting the coal trade.
– I suppose that is how some of the mining magnates are able to live in luxury abroad.
– I am not talking about the miners. The Coal Combine has done very great service up to the present moment.
Here we have, at any rate, a coal combine, and it is defended by one member of the Labour party, while it is regarded from a very different aspect by another member of that party. Senator Lynch, in speaking on the same subject, gave an instance in defence of the Shipping Combine -
I can remember the competition which prevailed in the maritime carrying trade fifteen years ago. The shipping companies were running against each other in every direction, contending in an unfair and unwarrantable way for a small trade. Ultimately they were forced to reduce wages. Our standing counsel to them was to wipe out the suicidal competition. They could not do that unless they combined.
Then the present Leader of the Opposition, in speaking of the Tobacco Trust, said -
When, however, a combine becomes a monopoly, then is the time for the honorable senator to act, and I am sure he will always find me ready to co-operate with him.
– What is the object of a combine if it is not for the purpose of getting a monopoly ?
– I ask the honorable senator whether there would be any chance of nationalizing the coal industry if it were in the hands of small coal miners or master miners? He knows well that there would be no chance.
These extracts indicate that, up to a certain point at any rate, honorable senators opposite are perfectly willing to have trusts and combines; but, as soon as a measure is introduced which is not aimed at the nationalization of trusts and combines, but at preventing the creatures, whom honorable senators opposite wish to see created, from injuring and hurting the public, they say, “It is no good trying to do anything of the sort,” and we are told dreadful stones about the doings of trusts and combines. A similar position arose when the present Prime Minister introduced legislation of the kind previously.
– How did the honorable member’s colleague vote on the original Bill?
– There was no division on the second reading of the Bill, and only on one clause did I vote, and then with Senator Stewart. For the information of honorable senators, rather than asa matter of argument, I should like to say a word or two on the remarks of Senator Pearce in regard to the Press Association. Of course, it is quite possible that the statements of the honorable senator are perfectly correct, as applied to some parts of Australia ; but my own experience in North Queensland is somewhat different. There is one agency, known as the Press Agency, in Brisbane, which gets its services mainly through the Reuter’s Telegram Company. When conducting a newspaper, I paid so much a month to this agency, and was supplied with messages. Later on, not being satisfied with the service, I went to the Courier Proprietary and asked them to supply me; but they declined to do so, saying that they would not compete, or take customers away from the agency. I pressed the matter, however, and finally ceased to take the service of the agency ; whereupon the Courier Proprietary were prepared to give me a service. I was not compelled to take any messages they might choose to send, and the service was an excellent one. From time to time, when there were events of considerable interest abroad, the proprietary would, on my instructions, drop out certain messages ani send on those that seemed to be ©f the more important nature. As I said by interjection, this service was punctual, accurate, and, I consider, cheap. I have been in conversation with a large number of proprietors and managers of the country press in Queensland, and the more important of them have generally expressed the opinion that the service of the Newspaper Association had been greatly improved.
– At the Press Conference in Sydney, the present system was absolutely condemned.
– The conditions are not the same all over Australia.
– But the system was condemned by Queensland managers.
– I am quoting the Queensland experience of a large number of men I have met. I do not say that this combination of big newspapers may not be unfair in cases where people desire to start new daily newspapers in the capitals. I understand there has been considerable difficulty in this connexion ; and if it is possible in any way to legislate, so as to provide against unfair competition, I shall be perfectly willing to give my support 10 such legislation. I now wish to refer to a condition of affairs which I think should be dealt with in the Bill, and in regard to which I certainly intend to submit an amendment. 0,n 4th February, 1908, which, ns honorable senators will recognise, was before the present fusion Government, and before, at an rate, I was supposed to have been converted, I wrote the following letter to the Comptroller-General of Customs, Melbourne : -
I beg to enclose herewith extract from an agreement which the Vacuum Oil Company of Sydney compels its employes to sign. The fact that it provides against ex-employes selling “similar” goods, or goods “of a like nature “ appears to involve an attempt to monopolize, with intent to control the supply of certain goods to the public.
I should be glad to learn if in your opinion the contract mentioned is a contravention of the provisions of the Australian Industries Preservation Act ?
In reply I was told that the matter had been referred to the Attorney-General, who held the opinion that under the Act it could not be dealt with. I spoke to a representative of the Standard Oil Company on the subject, but he pooh-poohed the idea, and said he did not believe the statement to be correct.
– But are not the Vacuum Oil Company and the Standard Oil Company one?
– I have every reason to believe so. It is not my business to defend either company. We know perfectly well that in order to comply with some law in the United States, the Standard Oil Company is registered in different countries under different names ; but, in any case, that is beside the question. The clause in the agreement is as follows : -
Clause 10. - For the consideration aforesaid the said employ^ further agrees that he will not for the space of twelve calendar months from the determination of this agreement directly or indirectly solicit orders from any person or company (who is a customer to the said company) at the date of determination of this agreement, or be in any way instrumental in obtaining orders during the said period from any such customer for or in any respect of goods of a similar or like nature to the goods which he has been in the habit of selling for the said company, or which the said company deals in, manufactures, or sells.
– That is precisely similar to an agreement which bakers’ carters- are being compelled to sign to-day in Melbourne.
– I know nothing about bakers’ carters, but I do happen to know something about the Vacuum Oil Company. This clause means that any person who goes into the employment of the company, must sign an agreement, which I do not believe would hold good in a court of law, though, of course, the signature is binding to an honorable man. The effect of it is that if an employe leaves, 01 is discharged, he is compelled for twelve months to remain idle, so far as concerns the only business he understands.
– That is antiSocialism ; surely the honorable senator does not object?
– If we try to do the least bit of good for the benefit of the workers, we are howled down by honorable senators opposite. The amending Bill deals with the question of goods and services; and no doubt “services” is largely meant to cover transport. I cannot see why, however, the same principle should not apply to services in the broader sense - the services of employes. It might be said that it would be impossible to apply such a provision in this particular instance, because it is an agreement between a company and an employ^ within a single State. But I have reason to believe that the travellers for the Vacuum Oil Company, who go throughout Australia, have to sign a similar agreement, and, if so, it must surely be regarded as operating beyond the boundaries of one State. I hope that before we go into Committee the Government will consider the point, and see whether it is not possible to enlarge the scope of the Bill, so as to cover such unfair and unjust agreements.
– One strange feature of this debate is that two members of the late Government father this Bill, ‘although they say that, in their opinion, it will be detrimental, or of no advantage, to the workers and producers. Senator Chataway has given some explanation of that attitude. I do not know that it is quite a fair one, but I do see that an opportunity is being opened up for honorable senators opposite to press their own view as to the nationalization of monopolies. That is the point of cleavage between myself and the members of the Opposition. I believe in individual enterprise. They believe in the nationalization of industries. I may appropriately quote a few words which I read the other day from a deliverance -by a famous statesman - -
The genius of the human race in its last analysis, will find that the evolution will be not towards more and more State interference, but towards less and less. I can imagine a time of elevation and expansion in human destiny in which of all artificial contrivances that of the State will least promote the genuine happiness and welfare of mankind.
Senator Best laid great stress upon the Conference held in London with regard to shipping combines. But, unfortunately, he rather depreciated the value of the’ evidence given. The conclusion to which the Conference came, with great reserve, shows that nothing that they could suggest at present would in their opinion be advisable in the matter of interfering with the payment of rebates.
– I said so.
-Therefore, we are now engaged upon a measure about the effects of which we cannot feel certain. I shall vote against the second reading. I see in this Bill evidences of the handiwork of the Prime Minister and the Minister of Trade and Customs. I am sorry that they have so much influence in the present Government. When we get into Committee, however, some amendments may be made which will improve the Bill.
– Does the honorable senator, intend to call for a division?
– That depends upon the amount of support that I get.
– I congratulate Senator Pearce on having drawn the attention of the Senate to matters in connexion with the Press Association and its arrangements with the country press. The subject is so important that the only consideration which weighs with me is. whether we should consider it in connexion with the Bill now before the Senate, or whether it would not be better to investigate the whole question bv means of a committee of inquiry.
– The information we should obtain would be truly wonderful.
– I am not sure that a committee of inquiry would not provide the best method of approaching the subject. However, I agree with Senator Pearce, that if this Bill can be so shaped as to remedy some grievances which are alleged to exist, an effort should be made in that direction. Of course, I do not know that everything that is said against the Press Association is true. But I do know that complaints are made by those responsible for the country press with regard to the alleged monopoly of cable news which is in the hands of certain metropolitan newspapers.
– Why do not the country newspapers form a combination of their own ?
– The country newspapers are principally run bv small men, and everybody knows that there are difficulties in the way of such men forming a combination to fight a strong and rich organization. But it strikes me as being strange that the taxpayers of this country should be subsidizing a cable service from which they derive no advantage in the matter of the news published in the press.
– The honorable senator must not be too hard on the Age and the Argus.
– I should consider myself unworthy of my position if, when I thought there was a grievance from which the country was suffering,I did not give expression to my sentiments concerning it for fear of any newspaper criticism. Whatever may be the consequences, I say that it is as well that this subject has been brought before us, and I will certainly assist in Committee any effort todeal with the evil. I say that on the assumption that the cable service can be dealt with by means of this Bill. I have heard from the promoters of new newspapers in large towns that they have actually been prevented from commencing enterprises which they considered to be needed on account of unfair pressure brought to bear by the Press Association. I say, in the interests of the public, that that state of things is not justifiable.
– The Government could have dealt effectively with the Press cable ring recentlv if they liked.
– I shall do all I can to support the Government in any effort that is made to investigate thoroughly a monopoly which, if it exists, is certainly injurious to the people. I can imagine nothing more dangerous than the suppression and control of that news which everv citizen is entitled to have supplied to him in a true and reliable form.
– The sole point is whether the combination is detrimental to the public. If it is detrimental an offence is committed.
– In answer to the very proper reminder given by the Minister, I reply that I have over and over again heard it alleged that a monopolv in news exists to the detriment of the interests of some portion of the press, and. inferentially, to the detriment of the public. Ido not indorse those statements. I simply say that thev are frequently made. If it be true that there is a monopolv on the part of the Press Association, which prevents the development of the city and country press, I think that evidence to that effect would be sufficient to convince a Court that the monopoly was detrimental to the public.
– Why not move an amendment to the motion for the second reading of the Bill ?
– Very little encouragement wouid be needed to induce me to submit a proposition to that effect.
– I will give the honorable senator an opportunity.
– Very well then; we will put our heads together and see whether we cannot devise a method of procedure. The subject certainly ought to be investigated. With regard to the agreement of the Vacuum Oil Company, I venture to make the suggestion in all humility, that if there be any such agreement in existence it is not, from a legal point of view, worth the paper it is written on. If it does exist, it is more or less of a snare and a delusion converted into a species of threat. But the mere production of such a document, signed on behalf of the company by any employe, wouldbe prima facie evidence of an offence under this legislation ; and I think that the effect of this measure will be that if such a scandalous agreement does exist, it . will probably be denounced in the Law Courts. If so, good will be done.
– What is the honorable senator’s opinion of the rebates paid by the Colonial Sugar Refining Company?
– There are rebates and rebates.
– The rebates which the honorable senator does not like are all wrong, and those that he does like are all right.
– That is a wrong inference. There are rebates which are perfectly legal.
– Those paid by the Colonial Sugar Refining Company are in restraint of trade.
– There are rebates which may be perfectly justifiable. Genuine arrangements between buver and sellerare bona fide,andnotinjuriors.
– The Colonial Sugar Refining Company pays a rebate of ros., provided its customers do not buv a single ounce of sugar from any other seller.
– This Bill is aimed against that kind of practice.
– When an attempt is being made to put an end to improper rebates, I object to the tone adopted by honorable senators opposite. They assume, apparently, that the Government are not in earnest in trying to bring this practice to an end, but that they are acting simply from political motives, and with a determination to allow certain corporations to escape.
– Hear, hear.
– I refuse to entertain such a suspicion. I take it’ that the Government “are thoroughly sincere in this matter, and that as far as they can they will resist these improper rebates, b’or that reason I trust that the Bill will be read a second time by an overwhelming majority. I quite believe that, short of nationalization, there is no other way of dealing with these efforts to restrain trade than that proposed. I do not think that there 5s a single member of this Senate who is not prepared to give a loyal support to a genuine attempt to prevent combines and trusts from reaching anything likethe position to which they have attained in America. We all admit the possible evils of these combinations, but what is the remedy suggested by . honorable senators opposite? Their proposal is to counteract the effect of a monopoly by setting up a huge State monopoly. In my opinion, the bst state would be worse than the first. We ought to exhaust all powers of legislation and all political expedients which can be employed before we resort to that extreme remedy. Something has been said about the nationalization of railways. Senator Pearce has said that great benefit has resulted in Prussia from the recent taking over by the State of privately-owned railways. In my opinion, it is a debatable question whether, after all, any great advantage has accrued from that policy. If 1 know anything about the recent history of economic operations in Germany, there are still the same complaints about the railways as are heard in America and Australia. I would remind Senator Pearce that the nationalization of the railways in Prussia was a large feature of the military policy of Bismarck, who wanted to have control over the lines to increase their efficiency, not for economic ‘or social reasons, but to enable him to strike one or two blows in certain directions. Although lt may He admitted that: the operation of railways under private ownership in America has to some extent inflicted evils upon the community, vet. on the whole, I doubt if in the world to-day goods or passengers are carried more cheaply and more rapidly than they are’ in that country. I am taking this matter as a whole. I know that individual instances could be cited where private corporations have inflicted grievous injury to private enterprise, but if Ave summarize the whole of the operations of the private railway systems of America, I dare say that statistical records will furnish proof that the transportation of goods and materials is as cheap, or cheaper, under private ownership as under State ownership, and that after all is what is sought to be obtained for the benefit of the producers. In America they are receiving, I believe, on the whOle, advantages equal to those enjoyed by any people in the world. Since this argument about State railways has been introduced, I beg to remind the Senate that if the ultimate test of the value of railway building is the opening up of the country and the- settlement of people on the land, then the privately-owned Canadian-Pacific railway puts to shame all the State-owned railways of Australia, and every other country.
– That is merely an assertion; give us’ some proof.
– When the time comes, I shall be able to cite statistics in proof of the assertion.
– Give us some proof now.
– Order ! I think that the honorable senator is now getting away from the consideration of the Bill.
– I think so too, sir. I have given Senator Pearce something to consider, and in new of the pressure of time, and the very desirable nature of the next Bill to be considered, I conclude my remarks. ‘
– One WOuld imagine from the speeches of honorable senators opposite that the Labour party were opposing this legislalation
– They are giving it faint praise.
– We are acting exactly as we did when we supported a Government. but honorable senators on the other side are acting diametrically opposite to the manner in which they acted when they sat on this side of the chamber. No matter on what side we may sit Ave hold the same principles, and are not prepared to sink them for the ‘ purpose of keeping our party in power. I was glad to hear Senator Chataway quote Senators Henderson and Findley on the attitude they took up in connexion with trusts. What is the aim of the Labour movement? The object is to form organizations, or, if you like, trusts, with the purpose of doing away with the competition which places men at the disposal of those who require their labour and compels them to accept the lowest possible wage on which they can exist. The object of the Labour movement is to form workers into an organization which shall say that for a certain class of work they shall demand a certain wage, and that they shall not work for less than that wage. I do not care whether the Labour party is termed a Labour trust or not.For many years I have been a member of a Labour organization. I sincerely trust that if I am engaged in any industry I shall always be a member of an organization which will enable me to obtain a fair rate of remuneration. We on this side were chided by Senator Chataway because we dare to laugh when honorable senators on the other side try to do something in the interests of the worker. No wonder is it that we laugh ; we cannot do anything else. It is so opposed to their actions for years and years that we cannot help realizing the change which has come over things when they are doing something to which previously they were opposed.
– Order ! I point out to the honorable senator that he is now getting away from the consideration of the Bill. When interjections are made it is only fair that some reply should be given, but I ask him to turn his attention to the Bill, and honorable senators on the other side not to interrupt his remarks.
– I have been devoting my attention to the Bill. Senator Chataway read an agreement which he alleged is entered into by the employes of what he termed a trust, and which he claimed could be dealt with under this Bill. I was only remarking, sir, that some honorable senators laughed when he made that statement. It is not a novel thing to find in connexion with an organization. It is not only in connexion with the Standard Oil Company that it is found. For many years such agreements have existed as regards employes. That was why I said I was surprised at the change which’ was taking place amongst the anti-Socialists. I said that anti-Socialism was responsible for that sort of thing. Hitherto, everything which was opposed to the well-being and the benefit of men employed by large firms, and, in many cases, by small firms, has met with the approval of honorable senators opposite. I am not blaming them for a moment. I am not saying that they are wrong, or that they do not believe that it may be necessary, in the public interests, to have such agreements. I remind them that it is not merely the Vacuum Oil Company which acts in that way. We have cases which are not comparable for a moment with that case. The Trades Hall Council of Melbourne is now inquiring into the conditions of work of men who undertake to deliver thedaily bread here. A bread-carter is compelled to sign an agreement exactly the same as the one cited by Senator Chataway.
– We have no power to deal with such cases.
– We haveno power to deal with the internal trade of a State. Bread-carters have to stand idle if their boss chooses to sack them at any time, or set to work and establish a business. We all know the causes that lead to the establishment of new firms and new corporations. Certain employes of a firm come more in contact with the buyers or traders than do their principals, and presently they drop out to establish a firm, and engage in the same line of business. In every business one will hear complaints of such things having been done. That is why men, before they are engaged, are compelled to sign an agreement, that for twelve months after leaving the employment they shall not interfere with the customers or the trade, or use any information which they may acquire in that employment, to the detriment of the employer.
– Has not the legality of that agreement ever been tested ?
- Senator St. Ledger, said that in a Court of law it is not worth the paper it is written on ; but surely honorable senators on the other side recognise something outside a Court of law. Anyway, the worker considers that the moral law should prevail over the statute law. He realizes that his moral duty is to adhere to the terms of the agreement, even though it may be against his own interests to do so. Surely it should not be ignored by a worker simply because it is worthless in a Court of law. Senator Chataway’s objection was that men, before they get employment, are compelled to sign an agree- ment which is subversive of their independence and manhood, and that was why I interjected that it is one of the results of anti-Socialism.
– What about the Labour pledge?
– It does not say that when a man leaves the Labour party he is not at liberty to nominate himself next day, if there is a nomination to be made. A man is not required to say “ for twelve or eighteen months I will do so and so,” but he simply says, “ So long as I am in agreement with you I am prepared to abide by the arrangement.”
– My honorable friend is quite right.
– Has not a bread-carter the same privilege?
– No. He has to sign an agreement that for twelve months after his employment with a master baker ceases he will not do anything to interfere with his trade.
– He .must not interfere with the good-will.
– He has to sign an agreement that he will not attempt in his new employment to interfere with the trade of the employer who has discharged him by seeking to do business with the latter’s customers. Is that fair? Does it not mean a loss of independence? Many a man signs such an agreement, not because he believes it is right, but because he has probably a wife and children dependent upon him, and “knows that he must sign it if he is to obtain employment, and so secure food and housing for them.
– He cannot get a job if he does not sign.
– That is so. Probably the man who delivers the honorable senator’s loaf every morning has signed one of those agreements. The Trades Hall Council have been trying for years to alter that state of affairs in Victoria; but the fact remains that under this Bill we have no power to deal with trade agreements which do not extend beyond a State. We cannot take action in regard to a combine whose operations do not extend beyond the limits of any one State. We have in Australia trusts that are doing .as much good for themselves as they possibly can. It is not to be assumed that people combine merely with the object of conferring a benefit on the rest of the community. If, incidentally, the public derive any benefit from the operation of a trust, well and good; but trusts are not formed to benefit the people. I do not believe, for example, that the “ honorable understanding “ made amongst wheat buyers in South Australia was arrived at in the interests of the farmers. It was made in the interests of the wheat buyers themselves, who desired to make large profits by handling the produce of the farmers, and sending it to the other side of the globe. We do not know how far to believe what appears in the press, but I have read recently in a newspaper a statement to the effect that a man in Chicago operated on the wheat supplies to such an extent that the price of bread in London was increased by one penny per loaf.
– Was it not £d. ?
– My recollection of the paragraph in question was that it showed that the price of bread, in London was in this way increased from 5½d. to 6£d. per loaf, but that, later on, a fall took place. I should not be surprised if that statement were correct. I referred to it in support of my contention that trusts are not formed solely in the interests of outside persons. I join a labour union, not because I think that by doing so I shall obtain something for my employer, but because I believe that by combining in that way with my mates I shall be able to secure better wages and more reasonable conditions from my employer than I should otherwise secure. By combining we are able to control the labour our employers require.
– A perfectly, justifiable combination.
– Certainly. The man who is doing the world’s work todayis the man who is organizing trusts and bringing the production and distribution of goods and commodities to such a pass that it will eventually be found necessary, in the interests of the people, for the State to step in. The Labour party have never opposed legislation of this kind. When the last amending Bill was before us, I think that many honorable senators now sitting behind the Government talked for five days in opposition to it on the motion for the second reading. Those who were supporting the Government of the day had not much to say. We simply declared that we were prepared to support such legislation, no matter how drastic it might be, although we believed, judging by the experience of countries where such’ attempts had been made to control trusts and combines, that it would be a failure. As a matter of fact, all our legislation in this direction has been a failure. It may have slightly inconvenienced the members of trusts and combines in the Commonwealth, but it has done nothing more. I wish now to refer to the position of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, a trust or organization of which many of its employes speak in the highest terms. They declare that under it they are able to obtain better conditions of labour than they could secure when the several branches of the industry were entirelv distinct and in the hands of different persons.
– Is the honorable senator referring to the Asiatic’s employed by the company?
– I know that the company employ Asiatics wherever the opportunity offers. It has them working in the mills and on some of its tramway lines, but I do not know what it pays them. When the honorable senator interjected J was speaking pf the white men employed in the refineries, who, according to their own statements, are receiving better treatment than was extended to them before the company was established.
– Under the State legislation, the company is compelled to employ only whites in its mills.
– That is a mistake.
SenatorDe Largie. - I have seen Asiatics working in the mills.
– They are required to employ only white labour in the central mills, the money for the establishment of which was granted by the State to the sugarcane growers. The provision that only white labour should be employed in those mills was inserted in the enabling Bill only after we had kept the Government up tor about 72 hours. But for that long sitting our efforts would probably have been unsuccessful. In addition to the men in the mills, we have also to consider the man who is tilling the soil and producing the sugarcane which is sent to the mills. And what is the opinion of the sugar-cane growers in regard to this monopoly? They consider that, as part of the general public, they are not getting what they term, “ a fair deal.” In support of that statement, I propose to read a paragraph from the official organ of the Sugar-cane Growers’ Union of Australia. That organization is quite apart from the Sugar Producers’ Association, which consisted only of the old plantation men who had very large interests in the industry. The Sugar Cane Growers’ Union comprises the smaller men, who are the backbone of the industry, and who have strongly supported the white labour policy. They were assisted by the Queensland Government to the extent of something like £500,000, and are now paying back the money so advanced to them. It may be said that Socialism came to their aid. They would have found it impossible to have obtained that money from private money lenders on such reasonable terms as were given by the Government, and private money lenders certainly would not have given them the consideration which was extended to them by the State when they found themselves in a hole, so to speak, and had to appeal for. leniency. The paragraph is as follows: -
That the Commonwealth authorities be asked to communicate with the Colonial Sugar Re finery Company Limited with a view to purchasing their refineries and mills as a going concern, failing which that the Commonwealth be requested to erect a refinery of its own.
There is a good deal of Socialism in connexion with that proposal, and I suppose that will not meet with the approval of honorable senators opposite. Why was that proposition made? Because the persons concerned are under the heel of a monopoly, and find that they can do nothing unless with its permission.
– The Colonial Sugar Refining Company is not a monopoly.
– It is a monopoly in Australia. About fifteen months ago a sugar-grower, who possessed works of his own, informed me that he sent hundreds of tons of sugar to Sydney, and that his agents found it impossible to sell it even at 10s. per ton less than the Colonial Sugar Company was charging for its product. It was a good article, but could not be sold, for the reason that the present monopoly has control of nearly the whole of the retail business in Australia.
Silting suspended from1 to 2.15 p.m.
– I have been informed that Mr. Speaker is in a very critical condition, and I ask the Government, before I proceed with my remarks, if they have any intention to adjourn ?
Honorable Senators. - Hear, hear !
– I am sorry the honorable senator has mentioned this matter. I think it would be wiser, under all the circumstances, not to attempt to anticipate such a dire calamity as the honorable senator suggests.
– I had no intention to suggest anything of the sort
– I suggest that we proceed, and formally go into Committee. Of course, honorable senators realize that Ministers have no desire but to meet the general wishes of the Senate.
Honorable Senators. - Adjourn.
– I hope that the Minister in charge will agree to an adjournment. Under the circumstances, the minds of honorable senators are distracted from the business in hand, and, without anticipating any such serious result as that suggested by the Minister of Trade and Customs, I think it would be only fitting to adjourn.
– In view of what I think is the general and sympathetic expression of opinion, in which the members of the Ministry certainly join, I think I shall be meeting the wishes of the Senate if I move that we adjourn. I may point out, as a further reason for adjourning, that Mr. Speaker is still within the building.
– In the circumstances, I ask leave to continue my speech on a future occasion.
Leave granted; debate adjourned
Senate adjourned at2. 19 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 23 July 1909, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1909/19090723_senate_3_50/>.