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Wednesday, 4 July 1906


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) . - I think that the enlightenment which honorable members might receive from the evidence taken by the Tariff Commission would prove very beneficial in the consideration of this Bill.


Mr Mauger - Have we not already had placed before us the evidence relating to the manufacture of harvesters?


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Not all of it. It is very difficult to arrive at any reasonable conclusion with regard to the provisions of this measure, when we have two separate readings by Ministers of the paragraph immediately under consideration. The Minister of Trade and Customs distinctly stated that unfair competition between one section of Australian industry and another section - that is to say, competition which might arise between the harvester manufacturers in one State and those engaged in the same industry in another State - would come within the scope of this paragraph, and would be dealt with. The Attorney-General has just told us that such a case could not be dealt with - that the Bill would have no effect in regard to a sectional portion of an industry in a particular State, but would deal only with the industry of the whole of the Commonwealth.


Mr Isaacs - We could not actually deal with an industry in any particular State.


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The Minister of Trade and Customs gave us an illustration, which showed that, according to his reading of the measure of which he is in charge, if one section of manufacturers of harvesters in Australia combined to injure or destroy by unfair means another section, the clause would operate to restrain them.


Mr Isaacs - Only if their action constituted a first step in the direction of injuring or destroying the whole of the industry.


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - There might be competition between two groups of manufacturers in different States. But the Attorney-General now tells us that the clause applies only to combinations which seek, by unfair means, to destroy or injure, not a particular section of an industry, but the whole of the industry throughout the Commonwealth.


Mr Robinson - That is, if those entering into the combination seek to destroy themselves.


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - That is what it amounts to. The readings given by the two Ministers are very contradictory. The Attorney-General was. rather confusing in his explanation. He said, for example, that the distribution of British or other imported goods in Australia would constitute an Australian industry, and as such would be protected from unfair competition under the clause. In that case, there would be no discrimination between those engaged in the distribution of the product of our own fellow citizens in England and those interested in articles produced by citizens of the Empire within Australia. It could not then be objected that, those engaged in Australian industries would be allowed to combine and unfairly destroy an industry which took the shape of distributing British goods, whilst the distributors of such goods would not be permitted to combine to unfairly compete against Australian producers.


Mr Isaacs - The honorable member will see that no penalty is imposed upon one industry for attacking another, but that it is proposed to prevent any person from unfairly attacking an Australian industry.


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Then the question arises : " What is an Australian industry " ? The Attorney-General then proceeded to argue that we must defend Australian industries from attacks from persons outside, even if they came within our territory and tried- to compete unfairly. What follows from these two statements? According to the Attorney-General, the distribution -of British woollens in Australia would be an Australian industry, and under the clause competition, even unfair competition, which would affect only a portion of Australian industry, could not be interfered with. The distribution of British tweeds would form only a portion of the industry connected with the -distribution of woollen goods amongst us, and, according to the Attorney-General's reading of the clause, no measures could be taken to protect the distributors of British tweed against the distributors of Australian tweed, or vice versa.


Mr Isaacs - I guarded- myself by saying that a person who came here to destroy or injure Australian industry as a whole could not do it under cover of the mere distribution of British goods.


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - But the Attorney-General has told us that the distribution of British goods here would become an Australian industry, and he has stated, further, that the clause does not deal with unfair competition which results in injury to one particular section of an Australian industry. The distribution of Australian tweeds would constitute only a section of that Australian industry, because the distribution of British tweeds - according to the AttorneyGeneral - would also form a portion of that industry.


Mr Isaacs - By the unfair competition of the distributors of British tweeds, could not an attack be made upon Australianmanufactured tweeds?


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The AttorneyGeneral has already said that we must deal with the industry in globo.


Mr Isaacs - The distribution of Australian tweeds, and the distribuTion of British tweeds, would not comprise the same industry.


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - They would. The work is often carried on by the same people.


Mr Isaacs - I do not think that thev belong to the same industry. The mere sale of imported goods is not the same as the manufacture of tweeds here.


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - It is not the manufacture, but the distribution, of tweeds with which I am dealing, and that is a separate matter. The distribution of tweeds, as the Attorney-General admitted, would be an Australian industry, irrespective of whether the goods distributed were of Australian or British origin. That being so, and the Attorney-General having stated that the provision would not apply when one section of an industry was operating against another section, it is clear that it would not be applicable to the case I have put.


Mr Isaacs - Except the distribution of British tweeds were undertaken for the underhand purpose of destroying Australian industry.


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The AttorneyGeneral, it seems to me, is upon the horns of a dilemma in either case. Let us look at the position from the other standpoint, namely, that under this provision we can penalize the distributor df British tweeds if he engages in unfair competition against his fellow distributor of Australian tweeds.


Mr Isaacs - Against the manufacturer of Australian tweeds.


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I am talking of the distributor.


Mr Isaacs - If the distributor of British tweeds comes here for the purpose of crushing the manufacturer of Australian tweeds, he can be prevented from doing so.


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I am speaking of the distribution - not of the manufacture - of tweeds.


Mr Isaacs - That is just the mistake which the honorable member is making.


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The AttorneyGeneral is upon the horns of a dilemma.


Mr Isaacs - I am verv comfortable.


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I am sure that the Attorney-General is so accustomed to being impaled upon the horns of a dilemma that he has become case-hardened.


Mr Isaacs - The honorable member's horns are very harmless.


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I am speaking of horns upon which the AttorneyGeneral impales himself by reason of his own speeches. If the honorable and learned gentleman takes up the other attitude, and 'if he states that the distributor of British tweeds can be penalized for unfair competition, then it is grossly unjust that the distributor of Australian tweeds engaged in similar competition with the object of injuring or destroying the other branch of the industry - the distribution of British tweeds - should go scot free. That is the position. When

I put that. position previously, the AttorneyGeneral in reply said, in effect, " Oh, no, that would be an Australian industry, and as a person conducting an Australian industry he would be protected under this provision." Now when I push home the argument, he reverts to the position which I maintained at first that the British distributor would be liable to unfair competition on the part of those distributing the Australian article, and that under this provision he would have no redress, although if he himself indulged in what a jury deemed to be unfair competition he would be liable not merely to heavy fines, but to twelve months' imprisonment. I say that one or two things is the case. Either the clause is absolutely useless for the purpose for which the Attorney-General said it was devised, or if it is to operate in the way that he has stated, it must be grossly unfair to one of two sections of traders, each of which theAttorney-General affirms would be conducting an Australian industry. His remarks have onlyconvinced me of the necessity of excising paragraph b.







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