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Wednesday, 11 July 1906

Mr McCAY (Corinella) . - I must confess that I am somewhat surprised at the arguments used in favour of the amendment. It is time, I think, that we remembered what the amendment is, and what it proposes to effect. This part of the Bill aims at preventing the destruction of Australian industries by what is called unfair competition. As to the definition of ' unfair competition. " contained in the Bill, I am not prepared to give my accordance to it as it stands.

Mr Wilks - That is, as to clause 14, paragraph a.

Mr McCAY - -Clause' 14, paragraph a, for example, is, I think, quite wrong as it stands. There are proposals in the Bill which, it seems to me, cannot be justified by either protectionist dr free-trader; but the amendment before us does not deal with the point referred to in the interjection. Some honorable members may think that the proposals in the Bill are altogether wrong, while others may regard them as altogether right, or, as I myself do, as requiring modification. But if we once establish what is our standard of unfair competition, we should forbid that unfairness from whatever quarter it comes.

Mr Isaacs - And also the intention to destroy our industries.

Mr McCAY - I include that - I mean unfairness with the intention of destroying ; that is, unfairness of method and unfairness of the object aimed at. When we determine these, the provisions should be applied all round. It has been suggested that this amendment is a test of sincerity with regard to our desire to assist the Empire.

I must confess that I am unable to answer that argument, because I cannot understand its application to the question under consideration. It has been suggested that the amendment is a test of the sincerity of those who allege their belief in preferential trade, which, as has been rightly pointed out, implies reciprocity on the two sides. That suggestion also, I venture to think, is entirely inapplicable to the present circumstances. Then we have had quoted to us a precedent in the shape of the New Zealand Act. That Act, however, refers to the sale of a very limited number of agricultural implements.

Mr Kennedy - And the Act was introduced for a particular purpose.

Mr McCAY - That is so. That Act refers only to ploughs above a certain weight, tine and disc harrows, combined drills, seed drills, rollers, cultivators, grubbers over a certain weight, chaff-cutters of a certain size, self-bagging chaff-cutters, and seed cleaners. These are the only articles of commerce and industry to which the New Zealand Act relates, and I venture to say that as soon as honorable members read the list they will realize that neither New Zealand nor Australia has much to fear, or hope, from the English imports of these particular articles. It is from the United States that those implements come, and it is really a useless placard in the New Zealand Act to say that it does not applyto British manufactures, seeing that these productions are not manufactured in Great Britain for export to this side of the world. I always respect a New Zealand precedent, and would respect it in connexion with a Bill of this kind, whenthere is a proposal to make an exception in favour of articles of British manufacture ; but in this case I hold that the precedent is not in the least degree applicable - that it is no precedent. To my mind, the question narrows itself down to one single point. Assuming that it is right to pass this part of the Bill in any form - and I think it right to pass it in some form, though not exactly in its present form - whatever it is right to apply to implements or articles manufactured elsewhere, it is right to apply, so far as this Bill is concerned - and I am referring only to the Bill - to articles of British manufacture. The Bill, however ill-designed, and however much it may yet be amended in order to bring it into better shape, is intended to prevent unfairness with the intention to destroy. I am perfectly certain that our kinsmen in the United Kingdom do not desire to have any exemption made in their favour, in order that they may be able to indulge in unfairness with intention to destroy.

Mr Isaacs - This amendment would constitute such an exemption.

Mr McCAY - The amendment would constitute an exemption in their favour, and British manufacturers would be able to indulge in unfairness with intention to destroy. .

Mr Isaacs - That is the only meaning of the amendment.

Mr McCAY - That is the only meaning the amendment can have.


Mr McCAY - That is so, in my opinion; and it is irrelevant to consider how far the other clauses of the Bill require amendment. I have already said that I think there are one or two proposals in the Bill that should not apply to either British or any other goods. The circumstances aimed at by clause 14, paragraph a, which mean that honest competition is unfair because it is successful should be met by Tariff alterations. If the duty is not high enough from a protectionist point of view, it is for protectionists to make it higher, but not to put in the Bill a substitute, and an unsatisfactory substitute, for protection. I find however, that I am committing the same offence for which I have reproached others. What I say is that if we define what is unfairness with intention to destroy, the test should be applied all round. We are neither justified in offering the very dubious privilege to our kinsmen at home of permitting them to be unfair with intention to destroy, white other peoplemay not do so, nor justified in supposing that our kinsmen want such a privilege. Consequently whatever the merits or demerits of the other clauses of the Bill may be - and as to this the most violent differences of opinion may exist, and violent disputes may rage - it seems to me - and I only speak for myself - clear beyond contradiction and reasonable dispute that that which applies to prevent unfairness with an evil intention on the part of people in Canada or elsewhere should also apply to people in the United Kingdom who are guilty of unfairness with evil intention. That is one thing, while the propriety of the provisions of the Bill is another. Having settled what its provisions shall be, we should apply them all round. Instead of it being a kindness or act of good feeling, it is almost an insult to tell the manufacturers of the United Kingdom that we are so well disposed to them that we are willing to let them be unfair, or to have evil intentions.

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