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Tuesday, 3 July 1906
Page: 957

Mr HIGGINS (Northern Melbourne) . - The remarks of the honorable member for Parramatta remind ' me of a criticism which occurred to me when looking over the Bill, and that is that a commercial trust may include a combination which has nothing commercial in it. It is not provided that the combination shall be a combination for commercial purposes. Therefore, if a number of sports clubs formed an association, and adopted the rule that their delegates should vote in a certain way, I think that that association would come within the meaning of the words " commercial trust " as used in the clause.

Mr Isaacs - Even if it did, what would happen ?

Mr HIGGINS - It is not expedient to make the definition so wide that it may include an association of football clubs. I know is very, difficult to define a commercial trust, and Ministers are probably more conscious of the difficulty than we are; but I desire, if possible, "to include in this term only combinations such as are aimed at in the Bill. That is especially necessary, inasmuch as the punishment of imprisonment is provided for the commission of certain illegal acts by trusts. The delegates of a number of clubs to an association might be under an agreement to vote as instructed by their clubs.

Mr Isaacs - I think that the case which the honorable and learned member wishes to put is that of a number of clubs voting as instructed by their delegates.

Mr HIGGINS - In my opinion, the honorable member for Parramatta, in moving the omission of paragraph b, has shown that the provision is open to the objection which he has taken.

Mr Watson - How could a football club act to the detriment of an Australian industry ?

Sir William Lyne - It could not do so.

Mr HIGGINS - I think that it might ; but I am not now dealing with that aspect of the question.

Mr Watson - The definition is meaningless except as it affects subsequent clauses.

Mr HIGGINS - We must take one step at a time. Clause 6 provides that unfair competition is to mean "competition which is in the opinion of the jury unfair in the circumstances," and " shall be deemed to be unfair until the contrary is proved, if the defendant is a commercial trust." When it is seen how the definition of a commercial trust applies also to the anti-dumping provisions, and that it is made easier to prove a criminal offence against a commercial trust than against any other body, it must be apparent that we should not make the definition so wide as to include combinations in regard to which there is nothing commercial. It is quite true that if you go further and endeavour to prove that the members of a commercial trust are criminal,you will experience some difficulty, but the difficulty will vanish if you can once prove that a combination is a commercial trust. It may be said that a football club is not a commercial trust, and that no one would attack it on that ground ; but I am not at all sure that there is not some flavour of commercialism about even football clubs. I wish, however, to go as far as I can to protect football clubs from the menace of the Bill, because I think that the Minister of Trade and Customs ought to hold his hand where such institutions are concerned. There is very little doubt - as the Minister would, I am sure, proclaim from the platform - that football clubs confer very great benefits on the community, and I am satisfied that the Minister has no sinister designs upon that branch of sport. Speaking seriously, I would appeal to the Minister, who has great sympathies with sport, to so frame the definition that it will not embrace within its octopus-like tentacles innocent football clubs. I do not think that he has the least design upon such institutions. I submit that the definition should be altered, but I would ask the honorable member for Parramatta not to persist in endeavouring to strike out the words " an agreement." I think that that would be going too far. I suggest that we should leave it to the AttornevGeneral to carefully look into the matter, and to limit the definition, which at present is altogether too wide.

Mr Watson - Does the honorable and learned member think that the class of agreement spoken of by the honorable member for Parramatta should be exempted from the operation of the Bill ?

Mr HIGGINS - No, I do not. I have not addressed my remarks to that class of agreement, but- the honorable member's observations reminded me that the definition was too wide.

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