Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Full Day's HansardDownload Full Day's Hansard    View Or Save XMLView/Save XML

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Wednesday, 20 June 1906


Mr KENNEDY (Moira) . - I should like to remind honorable members who complain of undue haste on the part of the Government in proceeding with this measure that a similar Bill was discussed last session, and passed through the secondreading stage practically without division. After having listened attentively to the present debate, I venture to say that most of the criticisms launched against the Bill have been directed to proposals that are not embodied in it. As to the necessity for some such measure, I do not think there can be any question. Many years prior to Federation the right honorable member for Balaclava proposed to introduce a similar measure into the Victorian Legislature. The objects of the Bill now before us are clear and well defined, but, notwithstanding this fact, we have been told by the acting leader of the Opposition that the measure is a ruse on the part of the protectionists of Australia to bring about prohibition.


Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Who said that?


Mr KENNEDY - The honorable member himself.


Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - No; I did not say that.


Mr KENNEDY - The honorable member for Lang used words similar to those I have employed, and the honorable member for, Perth stated foat the proposals contained in the Bill were " protection gone stark, staring mad."


Mr Fowler - Hear, hear, and I am prepared to prove it if an opportunity is presented to me.


Mr KENNEDY - I have no quarrel with the honorable member so far as that is concerned, but the acting leader of the Opposition denies that any such statements were made.


Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I denied that I had made any such statements.


Mr KENNEDY - I do not say that the honorable member used the exact words mentioned, but they indicate the ,gist of his argument. I venture to say that the question of fiscalism does not arise in connexion with this measure. It is quite possible for industries, whether under a protectionist or free-trade Tariff, to be practically crushed out of existence by the- operations of trusts or monopolies, or by the dumping of goods, which the Bill seeks- to prevent. With all due deference to the acting leader of the Opposition, I would point out that the necessity for a lecture on Socialism did not arise under this Bill. It appears to be impossible to discuss any matter at present without honorable members opposite raising that question. Even if this Bill be a socialistic measure, I shall have no hesitation in supporting the use in the manner proposed of the powers of government and legislation in the interests of the people.


Mr McCay - There is no Socialism in the Bill.


Mr KENNEDY - The honorable and learned member's respected leader says there is.


Mr McCay - My leader?


Mr KENNEDY - The acting leader of the Opposition, under whose leadership the honorable and learned member sits-


Mr McCay - The honorable member is quite wrong.


Mr KENNEDY - I was under the impression that the honorable and learned member was sitting as a member of the Opposition. I have no quarrel with him on that account.


Mr McCay - I have stated, over and over again, who is my leader.


Mr KENNEDY - I was under the impression that the honorable and learned member was sitting under the leadership of the leader of the Opposition, but if I am wrong, I readily withdraw my observations.


Mr McCay - There are two parties sitting on this side of the House, as well as on the other side.


Mr KENNEDY - The position occupied by the honorable and learned member affords evidence, if such were necessary, that an.' honorable member's political convictions are of more importance than the position in which he sits in the House as an indication of the way in which he will vote. If the Bill, in proposing that the Government should intervene in the best interests of the public, is to be regarded as socialistic, I am afraid that I shall have to be classed as a Socialist, because, although I am not supporting every detail of the measure, I am heartily in sympathy with its broad principles. I listened with deep interest to the speech of the honorable member for North Sydney, whose utterances are always treated with respect, because it is recognised that he speaks with a wide knowledge of trade and commerce. The honorable member raised no serious objection to the portion of the Bill which deals with monopolies, which he divided into two classes - constructive and destructive. Although the honorable member devoted his attention more particularly to constructive monopolies, he did not for a moment argue that such were dealt with by the Bill. The Bill is directed against monopolies that are destructive of the best interests of the Commonwealth, and, consequently, the honorable member's objections could not be urged with any force against its provisions. The honorable member for Lang stated that if the Bill dealt with monopolies in Australia - and he went so far as to name one alleged monopoly - it would have his hearty support. As a matter of fact, the Bill deals with Australian as well as foreign monopolies. That is made perfectly clear, and therefore the measure should have the support of the honorable member. There is no doubt whatever that the community has derived considerable advantages from large industrial and trading concerns. In modern times if we wish to produce cheaply we must produce upon a large scale.


Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Is this the honorable member who was criticising me just now ?


Mr KENNEDY - I criticised a statement of the honorable member, from which I differed.


Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - And now the honorable member is approving of what I said.


Mr KENNEDY - It may happen that the acting leader of the Opposition is right at times.


Mr Skene - The Honorable member for Moira is giving an improved version of the remarks of the deputy leader of the Opposition.


Mr KENNEDY - I was attempting to give a revised version of his statement.


Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - We admit that the honorable member Has a difficult role to play just now.


Mr KENNEDY - My path is very clear whilst the honorable member continues to sit in opposition.


Mr Lonsdale - The honorable member is playing a very good game.


Mr KENNEDY - I was about to say that some of the best results that we have secured from industrial and trading operations have been obtained from the concentration of capital and economic management. Where these operations are carried on without detriment to the public, the legislation proposed in this Bill will not interfere with themin the slightest degree. I have no desire to take up the time of the House unnecessarily, but I wish to make my position perfectly clear, because some honorable members and a section of the press are only too ready to declare that whoever supports this class of legislation is a Socialist.


Mr Wilson - This sort of legislation is the very antithesis of Socialism.


Mr KENNEDY - Last night we were warned by the deputy leader of the Opposition of the dangerous results that might accrue from the present trend of legislation. I wish to say that if this Bill can be classed as socialistic legislation, I fear that I shall be found approving of it. But I rose more particularly to say a few words in regard to the latter portion of the Bill, which relates to dumping. It is to this part of the measure that the objections of the honorable member for North Sydney and of others have been chiefly directed. They have declared that in interfering in matters of this description the Bill practically usurps the powers of Parliament and overrides our Tariff legislation. But in the light of recent experiences, I ask - " Of what use is our Tariff, when we are called upon to deal with men or corporations who deliberately set themselves up to evade the law?" Some objection has been raised by various speakers to the proposal to vest certain powers in the Minister. I say at once that I agree with the view expressed by the Attorney -General last evening, that if it be possible to secure the determination of the questions that may be raised under the measure by a judicial authority it will be much preferable to their decision by a Board. But to suggest that, because we cannot secure a judicial award, we should not attempt, by means of legislation, to deal with what may become an evil in the near future, is the acme of folly. If we cannot obtain a judicial award I am quite prepared to approve of the appointment of a Board - at any rate, as an experiment. It is true that this is experimental legislation, but are we to sit idly by and incur the risks with which we are confronted at the present time? We have been told by members of the Opposition that we must not interfere with trade or commerce. But in this connexion I would ask " Do not all Acts of Parliament interfere with the rights of some individual or other?" Further, do the powers which it is now proposed to confer upon the Minister exceed those which are vested in him under our Customs Act, and which are deemed to be absolutely necessary? Are not the powers of prohibition and confiscation vested in him under that Statute? Are not similar powers conferred upon him in some instances under our Commerce Act ? I do not think it can be urged for one moment that prevention is not much preferable to cure. What is being done at the present time? Reference has already been made to the harvester business, but that business does not represent the whole of the trading operations of Australia. How is it that in Victoria the necessity for legislation of this description was discussed in the State Parliament long before the advent of Federation ?


Mr McWilliams - How is it that nothing is heard of it outside of Victoria ?


Mr KENNEDY - Except in that little speck which mariners sometimes pass unnoticed, I venture to say that it has been heard of all over the world.


Mr McWilliams - In what other part of Australia has the honorable member heard of it ?


Mr KENNEDY - In every part.


Mr McWILLIAMS (FRANKLIN, TASMANIA) - In what part?


Mr KENNEDY - I do not require to go very far from my own home to step into the sister State of New South Wales, where I find that the people are more anxious for this Bill than they are in the district in which I reside. The same remark is applicable to the farming districts of Queensland. Throughout the whole civilized world, the rulers of the people are concerning themselves with this very question. The honorable member for Lang stated that if the Bill were to be applied to Australian operations it would command his hearty support. Last night he asserted that the manufacturers of Australian harvesters were selling their machines in Argentine at a less price than that at which our own fanners could purchase them. I cannot understand how any honorable member could make a statement of that sort and allow it to stand alone. I cannot understand why he did not adduce some proof of his assertion more particularly as he must be aware thatrepresentative manufacturers of harvestersin Australia have sworn before the Tariff Commission that the wholesale invoice price of their machines on board ship here is £72 15s. That is the sworn testimony of the manufacturers whose books are available for inspection. Under such circumstances, what is the use of the honorable member declaring that they are selling abroad for £70. His statement is another evidence of how far some persons are prepared to go - irrespective of whether they are right or wrong - in order to establish their positions.


Mr McWilliams - There is no duty levied upon harvesters in the Argentine.


Mr KENNEDY - That has nothing whatever to do with the hard facts of the case.


Mr Fowler - Were the exporters to whom the honorable member refers invoicing their machines to themselves, or to people who were purchasing at that price?


Mr KENNEDY - They were not invoicing the machines to themselves.


Mr Fowler - Well, it would be advisable for the honorable member to wait till the official evidence taken by the Commission is available.


Mr KENNEDY - I have read the evidence taken by the Commission, and it is to the effect that the machines were practically sold when they were put on board ship here, and were not being shipped to an agency of the firm in another country. That is the nature of the affidavits of the exporters of these implements.


Mr McWILLIAMS (FRANKLIN, TASMANIA) - The Australian manufacturer can successfully compete with the American machines in the Argentine, where there is no duty levied, and yet he cannot compete with them here, even with the aid of a duty.


Mr KENNEDY - That is not the point at all. I am dealing now with the question of misrepresentation. I shall deal with the other matter when the necessity arises. The portion of the Bill to which I am referring has been introduced to enable the Australian manufacturer to manufacture under fair conditions of trade, whilst fully conserving the interests of the public. But, as a matter of fact, we know that the wealth and influence of some of the. institutions and corporations with which we are confronted, which desire to obtain the trade of Australia for themselves, and to control the Australian farmer, will not permitthem to deal fairly with the local manufacturer if it be possible to crush him out. I will give one illustration in proof of my statement. I venture to say that there is no Australian farmer carrying on operations upon a large scale who will not admit that, but for the inventive genius and enterprise of the local implement manufacturers, his industry would' never have assumed anything like its present proportions. Wheatrgrowing would not have been possible in the northern district of Victoria, and in the western and southern districts of New South Wales, but for the enterprise and genius of the Australian implement manufacturers. Unfortunately, few of these individuals - I venture to say none of them - have yet become millionaires. I have no specialbrief on behalf of the Australian manufacturer, but I speak of things as I find them, and I belong to a class whose well-being up to the present time has been dependent upon the Australian implement makers. What is going on to-day with regard to the disc plough? It is a recent innovation in Australian farming-


Mr Fowler - Is the disc plough an Australian invention ?


Mr KENNEDY - The modern disc plough is. We had a plough brought from America, which was known as the Spalding Robbins plough, but to-day we have a disc plough purely of Australian manufacture, and one which is as far removed from the original disc plough as is the binder from the old reaping machines.


Mr Fowler - Is the cream separator an Australian invention? I suppose that the honorable member will want a duty imposed upon that presently.


Mr KENNEDY - I am now dealing only with the position of the Australian implement manufacturers, so far as ploughs are concerned. There are many varieties and grades of disc ploughs made by Australians. There are others which are turned out by American and Canadian manufacturers. If an Australian farmer wishes to have a piece of expensive scrap-iron about his place to-day, he willbuy an American disc plough.


Mr Fowler - Does the honorable member know that parts of the disc ploughs manufactured in Australia have to be imported ?


Mr KENNEDY - I know just as much about disc ploughs as does the honorable member. I am not quite sure that he could distinguish between a disc plough and an up-to-date cow-bail.


Mr Fowler - I saw a disc plough before the honorable member did.


Mr Brown - If American disc ploughs are so bad, why should we fear their competition ?


Mr KENNEDY - The competition up to date has done no harm. Finding that their disc ploughs have not met with the approval of the Australian farmers, what have they done during the last six months ? They have gone round, and; for experimental purposes, have bought up the ploughs of all the leading makers in Victoria, and the makers of implements in the other States may be represented in their purchases also. The manufacturers of these implements have them covered by patents in Australia. I may say here that, so far as I know, the International Harvester Company have taken no active part in this business, but the Verity Plough Company of America have taken a very keen interest in it. Certain Australian implements have been subjected to tests alongside of American disc ploughs and other Australian disc ploughs. They have taken also what are known as the Australian stump-jump ploughs, and have tested them. Specialists from America, representing the Verity Plough Company, which covers the business to a great extent in the United States, have been conducting these trials, and what is the result? They are to-day shipping to America the best of our Australian ploughs, and for what purpose? Is it a question of philanthrophy with them? Honorable members are aware that it is a question of money. It is not done with a view to bettering the position of the Australian farmer, but with a view to controlling the market here in their own interests. I am not prepared1 to say that, perhaps, for a few years, when their ploughs come back here, we may not get the benefit of some concessions in rates and prices, but I have sufficient experience to know that that will be eventually at the expense of the users of the ploughs. It has been so in other instances. Is it reasonable to assume that American companies, who have harvesters on the market here to-day, and have their agents touring Australia, are doing business at a loss in the interests of the Australian farmer? We know quite well that if it were possible for them to crush the Australian manufacturer out of the market we should experience no philanthrophy at the hands of the American importer. It is to meet such conditions as I have described that Part III. of this Bill is absolutely necessary. We have seen what has been done In America, in Canada, and in New Zealand in dealing with this matter. The honorable member for Franklin stated that only the people of Victoria desired the passing of laws against dumping.


Mr McWilliams - I asked the honorable member whether be had heard these complaints in any other State than Victoria.


Mr KENNEDY - And I replied that I had. It is well known that the sister Colony of New Zealand has made an attempt to deal with this matter by legislative enactment.


Mr Kelly - Would the honorable member favour a like attempt here - referring these matters, not to a board of rivals, but to a board representing everybody in the community ?


Mr KENNEDY - That is not the point in the discussion at the present time.


Mr Kelly - It is a very important point.


Mr KENNEDY - It is but a matter of detail. It is with the necessity for legislation to prevent dumping that I am attempting to deal at the present time. If we affirm the principle of the measure, the manner in which it is to be given effect is a matter of detail. In New Zealand effect has been given to the principle, though not exactly on the lines of this Bill. The New

Zealand measure may be said to be of at tentative character, as it has been the policy of New Zealand to feel her way in all legislation. Ardent advocate as I am of this class of legislation, I do not anticipate that the first effort of this Legislature to deal with the question will be entirely effective, because I know that the skill and ingenuity of those engaged in trade will be directed to its circumvention. That has been proved in America and in Canada, and it will be proved here. It is only by making a first step that we can find out what our powers are, and how best to deal with such matters. There is a concensus of agreement as to the necessity of giving effect to the principle embodied in Part II. of this Bill. I have said that in the State Parliament of Victoria the necessity for anti-dumping legislation was seriously considered ten years ago. The honorable member for Melbourne may recollect that the right honorable member for Balaclava at one time made it a plank in his fighting platform. Though we may differ on matters of detail, I trust that the best efforts of honorable members in every part of the House will be directed towards making this measure as effective as possible.


Mr Fowler - Does not the honorable member think that dumping should be proved to Parliament, and not to a board or to the Comptroller-General of Customs ?


Mr KENNEDY - Parliament is a very cumbersome machine to deal with matters of that sort.


Mr Frazer - It is difficult to prove anything here.


Mr KENNEDY - It is. We know by experience that whenever any attempt is made to deal with a matter involving imports and exports, the question of fiscalism arises. It is like a red rag to a bull. I feel that I can deal with this measure without considering the fiscal question, because I have in mind industries being carried on here under practically free-trade conditions, which may be utterly destroyed if dumping operations are largely carried on.


Mr Fowler - It is a pity the honorable member did not send some witnesses along to the Tariff Commission to give them the information in his possession.


Mr KENNEDY - If the honorable member for Perth will allow me to express an opinion, it is that the Tariff Commission has a large order to fill, and, though it has been sitting a considerable time, its life is, so to speak, young yet. If it completes its labours during the life of this Parliament it will do very well. If this proposal of the present Government is not carried before the labours on which the Tariff Commission is now engaged are at an end, it might be possible to refer the measure to that Commission, and thus give it another lease of life.


Mr Fowler - No men in Australia have worked harder than have the members of the Tariff Commission.


Mr KENNEDY - I admit that the task set them is a very hard one.


Mr Fowler - The least that they could expect is that that should be recognised by members of this House.


Mr KENNEDY - I fully appreciate the arduous nature of the task set the members of the Commission, the difficulties under which they labour, and I realize that if they complete their labours during the life of the present Parliament, even without completing their reports, they will have done fairly well. I am aware that some delay occurred at the outset, and that the Commission was constituted for some time before it commenced to take evidence. I hope that, irrespective of where they may sit in this House, and of the fiscal views they may hold, honorable members will devote their best efforts to perfecting this legislation. I recognise that it is experimental, and that it may be dubbed socialistic, but I believe it to be a measure of that directed to the preservation of the best interests of the community, as against the financial result which may accrue to any particular corporation or individual. The interests of the whole people, the producers, workers, and consumers, as they are designated in this Bill, should be the first consideration of the people of Australia. I venture to believe that the Minister of Trade and Customs, should this Bill be passed, would not venture to do anything, for which he would have to answer eventually to this House, without being absolutely sure that it would be in the best interests of the people of Australia. I have, therefore, no hesitation in saying that I shall support the Bill, and, if it be possible, in Committee to secure a judicial tribunal, instead of the Board provided for in Part III. of the Bill, an amendment with that object in view will have my support.







Suggest corrections