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Tuesday, 3 July 1906

Mr ROBINSON (Wannon) . - I think that the objection of the honorable and learned member for West Sydney is partly met by sub-clause a of clause 4. An association with the object he mentions, namely, the raising of prices after commodities have left the hands of the producer, would be an association endeavouring to restrain trade or commerce, and, therefore, would be partly met by that clause. I should like, however, to have an exposition from the Attorney-General of the meaning of this clause. I have read it several times, and it is about as difficult to construe as any clause could be. What is the meaning of "commercial trust"? On this I should like some explanation from the Attorney-General - an explanation that would give the Committee information as to what points the AttorneyGeneral desires to meet, and why he should make such a comprehensive definition to cover cases which have arisen elsewhere. We should have some explanation in order that we may not legislate in the dark. As to the proposed definition of "industry," I think it would be unwise, because in such a proposal I can see something which might exclude certain restraints of trade and! commerce, which, in mv opinion, ought not to be excluded.

Mr Isaacs - For instance, what?

Mr ROBINSON - The AttorneyGeneral knows full well that the Sherman Act has prevented restraints of trade and commerce, not merely as between States, but by means of trades unions. The case which I mentioned in the discussion on the Union Label Bill last year, was referred to by the Attorney-General himself as one which dealt with restraint of trade and commerce by means of trades unions. Honorable members will remember the case I then cited of a batmakers' union which endeavoured to prevent trade and commerce between States by boycotting or otherwise restricting hats made in one State from passing to another State. In that instance the trades union was stopped under the Sherman Act ; and when I quoted that case the Attorney-General said, " Yes, that was a case in which the trades union was sued for triple damages," .and so forth. I am afraid that am attempt will be made to exclude from the application of the Bill all operations of that kind. If we are going to repress monopolies - to repress anything which restrains trade and commerce - it must be all-round repression. It must not be a repression which hits only at organized capital, and does not interfere with organized labour, allowing the latter to restrain trade and commerce as much as may be desired. That is the object of the proposal which I understand is about to be sprung on the House.

Mr Isaacs - By whom?

Mr ROBINSON - I cannot give the name of the honorable member who may submit the proposal.

Mr Isaacs - The honorable member does not suggest that the Government intend to do so?

Mr ROBINSON - No ; and I hope the Attorney-General does not think that that is what I intend to convey. I mean that in trying to define too much in the clause we may make a loop-hole, and permit it to be hereafter said that the Legislature did not aim at repressing restraint of trade and commerce, except by organized capital. To such a proposition I object. However, generally speaking, I hope the AttorneyGeneral will give an exposition of this very complicated clause.

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