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Wednesday, 4 July 1906

Mr KNOX (Kooyong) .- If one could read into this Bill the explanations which the Attorney-General makes from time to time, and if his explanations would satisfy those who will have to apply the law hereafter, we might very well agree to pass some of the clauses about which many honorable members are so much concerned. Personally, I claim to be as desirous as the Attorney-General, or the honorable member for Melbourne Ports who interjected, of seeing legitimate Australian industries receive all the assistance that is possible. I should like to see Australian work reserved - as far as it can be legitimately reserved - to the Australian people. But here for the first time in our consideration of this Bill the interests of the consumer are introduced. The clause recognises " producers, workers, and consumers." Surely the words "Australianindustry" in the provision under consideration - if we are to interpret it in the way that it has been explained by the Attorney-General - ought to read "Australian manufacturer." The whole of his remarksrelated to the interests of the manufacturer, and had no regard whatever to those of the consumer. I admit that we shall be doing an injustice to our Australian manufacturers if we do not insert in this Bill some provision to prevent unfair foreign competition if it can be defined.

Mr Isaacs - Ionly referred to a manufacturer, because I was dealing with a particular instance which was put to me, but I should apply the same argument just as strongly to the grower of our wheat if an attempt were made to drive him off the land by the distribution of foreign grain.

Mr KNOX - I regard this provision as a very unworkable one, and I decline to subscribe to the statement that those who vote against it will be placing themselves in opposition to a just consideration of the claims of Australian industries. I am just as desirous as is the Attorney -General of seeing legitimate assistance given to Australian manufacturers. But the honorable member for North Sydney has shown that the application of this provision will place those who have to interpret it in a difficulty from which I can see no escape. As to unfair competition, surely there ought to be a clearer definition of that term embodied in the measure. Already we find merchants asking, " Where in this Bill are we to find a clear explanation of what constitutes unfair competition, and who is to raise the question of what is unfair competition." It is true that the matter has to be submitted to a jury, which has to decide whether a particular industry is advantageous to the Commonwealth, having due regard to the interests of 'the producers, the workers, and the consumers. Surely the consumers cannot object because they are benefited by a competition which personally I may regard as unfair. How is the jury to determine whether or not such competition is disadvantageous1 to the Commonwealth? I claim that this provision should be so modified as to bring it into line with the objections raisedby the honorable member for North Sydney. It ought to be made clear and more definite. If the differentiation is made more clear I shall feel that I am not justified in opposing a provision which is distinct in declaring that anything which, by intention and purpose, is designed to injure or destroy Australian manufactures is unfair competition. I am not prepared to allow myself to be placed in a false position merely on the dictum of the AttorneyGeneral, in voting against a provision which, as it stands, I regard as unworkable. We should have a clearer understanding of what will constitute unfair competition. Mr. Isaacs. - That comes in clause 6.

Mr KNOX - If that be the case, what necessity is there to bring it in here?

Mr Isaacs - It is not defined here, but in clause 6.

Mr KNOX - What is " unfair competition " is set out in such a way that we are justified in asking the Attorney-General to reconsider the situation. I decline to accept his contention that any honorable member who may vote against this provision is presumably opposed to helping and encouraging in every possible way Australian work for Australian workmen.

Mr Isaacs - That will be the effect of the amendment, because, as the honorable member must know, it is proposed to strike out all reference to Australian industries.

Mr KNOX - I do not know anything of the kind. I decline to allow that the differentiation or line of division is justifiable. I think that the paragraph might have been made clear and emphatic, and acceptable to both sides of the Chamber.

Mr Isaacs - Let us do it, but do not strike it out entirely, as proposed.

Mr KNOX - I hope that the honorable and learned gentleman will show the same reasonableness which he displayed in connexion with paragraph a. I feel considerable difficulty in supporting the amendment, but I regard this part of the clause as bad as it stands. I decline to admit for a moment that I am not as sincere in my desire to see Australian industries prosper as is the Attorney-General.

Mr Isaacs - The honorable member appeals to me to be reasonable, but is he aware that the proposalis to strike out paragraph b entirely, and not to amend it. Is that reasonable?

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The AttorneyGeneral might have also told the honorable member that it is all provided for in another part of the Bill.

Mr Page - It strikes me that the honorable member for Kooyong does not know where he is.

Mr KNOX - I do not think that the honorable member does.

Mr Page - I amsure that the honorable member does not. He wants to preserve Australian industries, and he also wants to strike out paragraph b of -this clause in order to kill them. He is a regular Yes-No gentleman.

Mr KNOX - The honorable member interjects with that senselessness which characterizes him.

Mr Page - I do not represent the " Geebung Club."

Mr KNOX - I do not know what the honorable member represents.

Mr Page - If the honorable member will come and fight me at the elections he will see.

Mr KNOX - When I entered the chamber I was not aware that the proposal was to excise the whole of paragraph b, but the position was explained to me afterwards. Unless in another part of the Bill there is provided a means of preventing unfair competition of this character, I cannot see how I could support the excision of the paragraph; but if the AttorneyGeneral will not listen to the representations which have been made to him for its modification-

Mr Isaacs - No representations have been made yet. The only suggestion is to strike out the paragraph.

Mr Robinson - No; an honorable member made a suggestion before the dinner adjournment, and stated the words of his proposed amendment.

Mr KNOX - I understand that representations have been made to the AttorneyGeneral for certain modifications, and it is in view of that circumstance that I say he is attempting to place me in a false position. He will not accept a modification.

Mr Isaacs - What modification?

Mr KNOX - It is to give a proper definition of what constitutes " an Australian industry," and also " unfair competition."

Mr Isaacs - That is not a modification.

Mr KNOX - I ask the honorable and learned gentleman to tell me now what will constitute " unfair competition " ?

Mr Isaacs - The honorable member will find " unfair competition " defined in clause 6, so far as it can be defined.

Mr KNOX - Will the honorable and learned gentleman explain to me in a proper way, and upon the lines which I have indicated, what is regarded as " unfair competition "-

Mr Isaacs - When we reach clause 6 will be the time to deal with that point.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - This is the clause on which to deal with that matter.

Mr Isaacs - If honorable members wish to kill the Bill, of course it is.

Mr KNOX - On several occasions, I have stated deliberated that I have no such design.

Mr Isaacs - I am not saying that the honorable member wishes to do that, but certainly that would be the effect of the amendment if carried.

Mr KNOX - I ask the honorable and learned gentleman, before a vote is taken, to more definitely and clearly explain what he means by unfair competition. ?

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