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Wednesday, 4 July 1906

Mr ROBINSON (Wannon) .- My doubts as to the meaning of the clause have not been removed by the explanation of the Attorney-General. It seems to me that he was not quite sure as to what was meant by paragraph b. He said that one object was to prevent an Australian industry from receiving, unfair competition at the hands of a foreign industry. But he must have been well aware that -that subject is dealt with in Part III. of the Bill, particularly in clauses 13, 14. and 15, which show that foreign goods can be prevented from coming here to compete with local goods. If the honorable and learned gentleman's object is to prevent the dumping of foreign goods, either the provision in paragraph b is redundant, or else it must have some other end in view. And that, so far as I can perceive, is to prevent the free distribution of imported or Australian goods between the States. If it is aimed at Inter-State free-trade, of course it is unconstitutional. The more the AttorneyGeneral explained the clause, the worse it seemed to me. He dealt with the case of Japanese coal being brought here to destroy the local coal industry, when Part III. of the Bill is framed for the express purpose of preventing such competition. Although no one knows that fact better than does the honorable and learned gentleman, yet we have this bogy of Japanese coal trotted out for the purpose of covering his retreat when pushed into a corner. Similarly, by interjection during the last speech, he endeavoured to raise the fiscal question on this particular clause, knowing full well that Part ITI. of the Bill deals with the whole fiscal question. Itis idle for the honorable and learned member to shake his head, because he knows that my statement is correct. He is misleading the Committee by suggesting that he is endeavouring to protect Australian industry from unfair competition. If the paragraph is to be given any meaning bv a Court, it must be held to mean that one part of an Australian industry can compete unfairly with another part of that industry, and if that interpretation is not going to be attached to the provision, we can only assume that it is intended to interfere with Inter-State free-trade. But of course no Commonwealth Court would hold that that was constitutional. Either it has the meaning which I mention, or it has no meaning, and, therefore, should not be retained in this clause. We asked the Attorney-General for an explanation of the paragraph, but his speech, extending oyer twenty minutes, related to matters which are dealt with in another portion of the Bill. Will he look at clauses 13 and 14 of Part III., and say that Japanese coal, if imported to unfairly compete with Australian coal, could not be dealt with? Not even" a gentleman with the AttorneyGeneral's skill in dialectics could say that such a case is not met, or intended to be met, by those clauses. What is the meaning of the provision we are discussing? The meaning must be that it is proposed to discriminate between branches of an industry - between the same industry carried on in different portions of Australia - cr else to interfere with Inter-State free-trade. If the wish be to interfere with the importation of foreign goods, that can be done under Part III., but if the intention is to interfere with Inter-State free-trade, as guaranteed by the Constitution, this Legislature is placed in a ridiculous position. There may be some means of amending the clause, so as to put some sense into it. The honorable member for Lang has a proposal to make, but I am not prepared to commit myself to it without consideration. The clause, as it stands, is absolutely meaningless, unless the object of it be that one portion of an Australian industry shall be protected' against another portion ; that is to say, that a portion of the coal industry, for instance, will have the right to be protected from another portion of the coal industry. Such legislation, I say, is forbidden by the Constitution.

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