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Friday, 6 July 1906

Mr HENRY WILLIS (Robertson) . - I find that the Minister is still persevering in his endeavour to pass this legislation, notwithstanding the arguments used last night against its enactment. I did hope that he would! come down to-day with amendments different from those which he has brought forward, although certainly there is an improvement in what he has proposed this morning. I have gone through the amendments very carefully, and I can see that he has yielded a little.

Mr Isaacs - I do not mind doing anything to meet the views of honorable members, so long as we keep to the essential1 principles of the Bill, and leave it effectual for what we want. I do not wish to do anything more than is necessary.

Mr HENRY WILLIS - I wish the Minister could see his way to carry out the wishes of the Opposition, who he must admit are in earnest, and make the Bill to suit them, because their object is the same as his own, I take it - that is, to stamp out destructive monopoly. He is an astute lawyer, but he cannot possibly have had the same experience as honorable members on this side, who have devoted a lifetime to commercial affairs, who know the intricacies of business, and the value of trade secrets which are used in connexion with all kinds of . manufacture, and who are well aware that if he persists in carrying the Bill as here drafted it must end in the destruction of manufactures and industries rather than the development of them. When a man starts in business, is it not his object at first to make a living? In the making of that living there is an increasing demand for his goods, until at last he can employ a great many more men than he did at first. But in the beginning the product of his labour is his wages. A man will work for what he can earn;. If by competition from outside his earnings are small, it may be said by the Minister that the man is not getting a living wage, but because he works so much longer and gets a smaller yield than formerly he was able to obtain, any competitor - for instance, a keener man of business, with wider experience-

Mr Webster - Or a meaner man of business.

Mr HENRY WILLIS - By that term I take the honorable member to mean a man who is sparing in the use of everything, so as not to give to his goods quite the quality which another man is able to give bv his more primitive process. Very often the product of a primitive process of manufacture is a superior article, but it evokes no demand, because it is so much more expensive to produce. Take the primitive process of making boots, bricks, pottery, or any other article. The products may be much superior in quality, but they could not possibly be produced in competition with the yields of up-to-date machinery. It is possible for the maker of a high- class cigar to command a trade for his brand. It is quite possible for a man in a small way of business to acquire ai monopoly in the manufacture of certain cigars. It is also possible 'for a man to have a monopoly in the curing of the leaf, which is an important element in giving flavour to the cigar. Under this Bill, the Minister would stamp out these industries, which are in fair competition, because a man has a monopoly in the curing of the leaf - the very thing which is required in the tobacco industry of Australia. I have been all through Australia where tobacco leaf is grown. An imported Chinese is able to produce the tobacco plant much more effectively and successfully than a European. But the latter can cure the leaf much more advantageously and satisfactorily than can the former. One would have a monopoly in producing the plant, and the other in curing the leaf. . Again, one man might have a monopoly in the production of cigars, and another in the production of plug tobacco. Under the provisions of this Bill, a fine of ^500 would be inflicted ' upon a man who was perfect in the manufacture of plug tobacco or superior cigars. Take a mild cigar, for which there might be a large demand. If a brand became known as the brand of a mild cigar, it would be asked for by persons who could not smoke strong tobacco. But the producers would be indictable, and under this particular provision liable to a fine of ^500. The effect might be to stamp out the small producer, because he had a monopoly on a particular part of the industry. A scientist has discovered a most interesting process by which white lead can be produced at an infinitesimal cost. By mere accident he discovered that by putting pig-lead into a vat with certain chemicals, the lead would come out, and that after a process of grinding it was fit for use as white lead. I had the opportunity of sending samples of this white lead to England, where expert chemists testified to the fact that in quality it is equal to the best Champion's white lead, which is worth from £1% to £20 a ton. But under this Bill the discovery could not possibly be put into use in Australia without laying the chemist open to a fine of £500, and if he persisted, the whole of his plant, and the output of his factory would be seized, and he would be charged as a criminal, or, as the Attorney-General put it last night, he would be classed with, the garroter. As a trader he would becalled a traitor, or, as the deputation pointed out to his colleague, he would be regarded as a rogue and vagabond.

Mr Isaacs - The honorable member ismistaken*

Mr HENRY WILLIS - Would not this Australian scientist have a monopoly of the Inter- State trade in white lead?

Mr Isaacs - He would only have a monopoly of his own invention.

Mr HENRY WILLIS - I inspected the process of extracting the lead from Broken Hill ore, and converting it, at a trifling cost, into white lead. There is nothing at present to prevent this gentleman from starting a factory and acquiring a monopoly Qf the Australian' trade in white lead.

Mr Isaacs - The honorable member can comfort 'his friend with the assurance that he will not come within this Bill at all.

Mr HENRY WILLIS - Would not this scientist kill all the old processes of producing white lead here, and perhapsthrow many men out of employment?

Mr Isaacs - He will not come within this Bill.

Mr HENRY WILLIS - In twentyfour hours this man could produce as muchwhite lead as 100 men can produce in a year. The Bill is offering a premium to ignorance; it is keeping back the process of industrial development in Australia. I can quote other instances. At one time in Victoria there wasa secret process by which white leather could be produced, and which gave a certain manufacturer a monoD01\ of the whole of the Australian trade, and threw out of work hundreds of men who had been employed at the older process. He secured a monopoly of the trade; but at length the nature of the process became known, and to-day the consumer is benefited from the fact that the monopoly has ceased to exist.

Mr Johnson - The Bill offers a premium to obsolete methods of production.

Mr HENRY WILLIS - Yes. On the last clause the Minister admitted that, because he accepted an amendment of the honorable member for North Sydney to get over a difficulty. That amendment was the best which could be introduced into a "crude measure. There is only one way in which the Bill can he properly amended, and that is by striking out this clause. There are other processes of producing leather which are trade secrets.

Mr Wilkinson - How did that one cease to be a monopoly?

Mr HENRY WILLIS - By means of prying it was discovered by some persons how the process was worked. As soon as the information leaked out, the monopoly ceased to exist, and throughout Australia to-day the production of white leather on a large scale can be carried out at infinitely less cost than it was under the old process.

Sitting suspended from i to 2 -p.m.

Mr HENRY WILLIS - This clause is directed against wilfully monopolizing, or attempting to monopolize, industries as between the States. Would it apply to the quarrying industry carried on at Pyrmont, in New South Wales? No stone like that quarried at Pyrmont is to be found in any other part of Australia, so that there is a monopoly which enables the proprietors to command their own price. This stone is exported to the other States bv financial and other institutions for the erection of important buildings in the principal cities, and, if this provision does apply, the effect cannot fail to be to throw hundreds of quarrymen, carters, and others out of employment in those States. The Pyrmont stone is of various qualities, one quality, which is obtained from a place called "Hell-hole," being known as " Hard-as-Hell " ; and, as I have said, nowhere else in any pari of the world can such stone be found. It is being used in the erection of the magnificent buildings for the Australian Mutual Provident Society, at the corner of William and Collins streets, Melbourne, and also for the beautiful banking establishment now raised at the corner o'f North-terrace and King William-street, Adelaide. It may here be said that wherever the stone is used it beautifies. In this industry we have a real monopoly, and I ask whether it will be prohibited under the Bill ?

Mr Isaacs - Certainly not; it will be as safe as the white-lead trade.

Mr HENRY WILLIS - In the whitelead trade there has been introduced a wonderful invention, for which no less a sum than £500,000 has been offered ; but, according to the Bill, this industry will not be permitted; seeing that it must constitute a monopoly, with the effect _ of stamping out' all others in the same line of busi ness. In what position will the people be placed who are interested in the application of this new invention to the whitelead industry in Australia?

Mr Harper - In gaol.

Mr HENRY WILLIS - The honorable member for Mernda knows a good deal about starch, and he is aware that the importation of rice has the effect' of supplanting the trade in various meals now produced in Australia. This rice is also used in the manufacture of starch; and in the latter commodity we have a monopoly which may be said to be detrimental to the public. The monopoly raises the price of starch, and already has' had the effect of throwing out of employment scores of women formerly occupied in laundries. Persons who at one time could afford to send their garments to a laundry, have now, owing to the excessive price charged for colonial starch by the monopoly in Sydney and Melbourne, to wear their linen roughly washed. Is the starch monopoly to be prohibited under the provisions of the Bill ? In my opinion, the starch industry will have to " go under," although it has been bolstered . up for so many years by high protective duties in Victoria. The honorable member for Northern Melbourne has told us that there is. a monopoly in the production of beer. I am aware that beer brewed at the Waverley Brewery, Sydney, and known as Resch's Lager, is taking the place, not only . of a great deal of the imported article, but also of locally-brewed beer in the various States. The effect is that men who formerly drank, in many cases, cheap, disagreeable beer, are now supplied with a better quality, but in smaller quantities. There is no doubt that the production of this lager beer will throw out of employment many men now engaged in the brewing industry throughout Australia ; and here, again, we have a clear monopoly. The beer is produced in Sydney by a firm possessed of plant that no other brewery yet commands, and experts in every branch of the business are employed. No doubt this monopoly is to the detriment of somebody, and I ask whether it will be safe under' the Bill.

Mr Isaacs - The honorable member sees what the words of the clause are. The question is whether a monopoly has been established with the intent to control an industry to the detriment of the public in

Australian Industries[6 July, 1906.] Preservation Bill. 1129 the supply or price of the commodity. If it has, then it will come under the Bill.

Mr HENRY WILLIS - There is no doubt that this monopoly is to the detriment of the men who are thrown out of employment, and also of the people who have put their money into the various Australian brewing companies.

Mr Isaacs - To come under the Bill, a monopoly must be formed with the intent to control the price of a commodity to the detriment of the public generally.

Mr HENRY WILLIS - The very introduction of this particular beer must do an injury to somebody. It is beer which formerly could be produced only in Germany, where, I may say, it could not have attained its present excellence, but for the assistance of Pasteur. At the present moment, there is a representative of Pasteur in Australia, and the promoters of the monopoly to which I refer might invoke his assistance in order to further strengthen their position. It appears to me that under the Bill this monopoly is not safe, although it is most desirable to have a beer which is not made of glucose or other disagreeable ingredients, detrimental to health. Then, again, a process has been discovered by which, with the aid of electricity, new wine can be converted into what is commonly called old wine, with all the qualities, medicinal and otherwise, of the latter. If what is practically old wine of good quality can be supplied at a lower figure than is the commodity at present produced, tens of thousands of people must be thrown out of employment, and the effects felt by tens of thousands of others who have invested their money in the wine industry, to say nothing of the results to the growers of grapes. This process is admitted by the Lancet, and other authorities, to produce an article equal to good old invalid port, and that can be done in twenty-four hours. Then Mr. Edison has recently made a discovery that, by making a holder for electricity of certain light, tough, metal, higher force can be concentrated in the chamber, and he expects by this means to revolutionize electrical processes throughout the world. By these and similar inventions and discoveries, present machinery and methods may be rendered obsolete; and it would be interesting to know how monopolies created by such means will fare under the provisions of this Bill. The Attorney-General has accepted amend ments which would not have been made except for the criticism of honorable members on this side of the chamber.

Mr Isaacs - I have always said that I am glad to receive suggestions from any quarter.

Mr HENRY WILLIS - I quite believe it. I myself have taken some pains to study this subject. What will be the position of Australia in regard to new inventions? Shall we be excluded from benefiting from them ? Inventions must be monopolies. There are monopolies in patent rights.

Mr Isaacs - In America the question whether patent rights are monopolies under a measure of this kind has been tried, and it has been decided that they are not.

Mr HENRY WILLIS - I suppose that if the inventions were not patented in Australia they would be excluded.

Mr Isaacs - They would not be monopolies within the meaning of this Bill.

Mr HENRY WILLIS - There is necessarily a monopoly in the output of an article in the manufacture of which an invention is used.

Mr Isaacs - That is the very question that has been tried and decided. The point raised was whether a monopoly arising from the use of a patent came under the operation of the trust law, and it was decided that it did not.

Mr HENRY WILLIS - Then I understand that such an invention may be used in Australia?

Mr Isaacs - Undoubtedly.

Mr HENRY WILLIS - Notwithstanding that it tends to stamp out other industries ?

Mr Isaacs - I do not think that inventions will have that effect; but in any case they would not be affected by this Bill. Would an invention be to the detriment of the Australian people?

Mr HENRY WILLIS -It might be to the detriment of a large section of the working classes. The workers are specially mentioned in this Bill though I do not see that that was necessary. How can you have a producer who is not a worker ? Is the Attorney-General always thinking of a producer as wearing a black frock-coat and a belltopper?. In drafting the Bill the honorable gentleman has gone out of his way to mention the artisan classes and I cannot see how it can be contended that a section of them would not be injured by a patented article which threw them out of employment.

Amendment agreed to.

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