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Thursday, 12 July 1906

Mr CONROY (Werriwa) . - I should like a definition of " unfair competition," for I must confess that I am unable to understand the Bill in this connexion.

Mr Isaacs - The next clause deals with that point.

Mr CONROY - Even so, I should like to give one or two striking illustrations from English history. If these two clauses stand, they may exclude improvements most vital to industrial progress. In 1770 there was introduced Hargraves' spinning jenny, which enabled a workmen to attend to eight spindles in the place of one spindle as formerly. Then came a decided improvement, in the form of Arkwright's water frame, and that was followed toy Samuel Crompton's mule, so-called because it was a combination of the invention of Hargraves and Arkwright. At the present day one workman can, owing to the improvements made, attend to as many as 1.2,000 spindles; and I need not point out the enormous gain that has followed to every worker, not only in Australia, but throughout the civilized world. Until these inventions were applied, only the wealthiest people could afford to change their underwear as frequently as is desirable^ the expense of new clothing being almost prohibitive. Those improvements certainly displaced other forms of work, and then came the power loom for weaving, thanks to Cartwright. The clauses under consideration would deprive us of the benefits of all such inventions; and in passing legislation of such a drastic character, we ought to regard the question from all points of view, and not leave it to the Comptroller-General, at the. suggestion of the Minister, to declare what, in his own opinion, is unfair competition. The decision on this point should rest on reliable evidence,' and not be left to any one person ; and especial care ought to be taken not to block the progress of invention. Any hindrance to production must result in the greatest injury to the workers; and for the reasons I have stated, these clauses shall not have my support. According to the Bill, if a man, in making a garden, chose to use a spade, when he might employ a plough - or who employed a one-furrow plough, when he might use one with three or four furrows - would be able to complain of unfair competition at the hands of those who used the improved machinery. If such legislation! as this had been in force when the inventions of which I have spoken were introduced, the effects would have been disastrous. Following on the improved methods of production, there was a great increase of population in England. Prior to 1751, the increase each decade was, roughly, about 3 per cent. ; but from that year to 1781 the increase was 6 per cent. I ought to mention that at that time the great Watt had invented the steam engine, which has clone so much to develop manufacture in every direction. This invention has had an enormous effect on coal mining and kindred industries, and enabled manufactures to be carried on in any part of the country, instead of, as previously, their being confined to the side of running streams. Theincrease of population in England from 1781 to 1791 was 9 per cent., or three-fold the figures for the years 1751 to 1781. From 1791 to 1801 the increase- of population was 11 per cent. ; from 1 80 1 to 181 1 the increase was 14 per cent.; and from 1811 to 182 1 the increase was 21 per cent. So far from cheapened production injuring the workers, as the honorable member for Melbourne Ports always wrongly supposes, it resulted in the enormous increase of population which these figures disclose. This is a sound reason why all men who can really see what the true interests of labour are, should take care that no hindrance is placed in the way of production. This Bill will put it in the power of a pliable Comptroller-General, under the control of a dull and stupid Minister, to prevent the use of means' of increased production, and by sodoing, to block fresh avenues for the employment of labour. Such a danger is not only possible, but so extremely probable, that it behoves us to exercisevery great caution in passing such legislation as this. I am so satisfied that great injury will arise to the bulk of the workers of this country, that I intend in every possible way to oppose, not only this clause, butevery succeeding one.

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