Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Thursday, 12 July 1906

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I was alluding to the honorable member's interjections when I referred to Danish butter. I am quite willing, however, to accept his assurance as regards the figures he quoted. I have just shown that the foreign importations with which our butter is supposed to compete increased, during the years mentioned by the honorable member, from 3,070,905 cwts. in 1901, to 3,093,657 cwts. in 1905. an advance of 1,138 tons.

Mr Salmon - There was a decrease in the interim.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - There may have been a variation from year to year.

Mr Salmon - I think, that the honorable member will find that there was a decrease.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I am underthe impression that reference to the figures will show that for some of the intervening years the figures were higher still. When I was speaking about Danish butler, the honorablemember said - and I am quoting from Hansard -

The Danes do not say that the importation of Australian butter lakes the business away from the English producer, but that it takes the business away from them.

It was then that I said that I thought the returns' would show that that was not the case. I have since ascertained that my impression was correct. In 1901, the imports from Denmark amounted to 1,597,186 cwts., and in 1905 to 1,630,363 cwts., or an increase of 1,658 tons. I think that in one or two years between those mentioned there was a bigger increase of imports from Denmark, owing to the drought, during which we exported very little butter. In 1891, when we began to export our butter in considerable quantities, the imports of Danish butter into Great Britain amounted to 876,211 cwts., or about one-half the quantity imported in 1905. Therefore, during the period that our exports to Great Britain were increasing, the Danish exportations, instead of falling off, increased very considerably. If we go further back, we find that, in1881, Denmark sent to Great Britain only 279,625 cwts., or less than half the quantity exported in1891. These figures show that the statements I made in reply to the honorable member were well within the mark.It seems to me that paragraph a is entirely unnecessary. Paragraph b would fulfil the intentions of Ministers who aim at dealing with unfair competition and that alone.

Mr Isaacs - Hear, hear.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Very well. Paragraph b entirely meets that case. It is followed by a number of provisions, which set forth what shall be deemed unfair competition.

Mr Isaacs - That is prima facie.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Exactly - until the contrary is proved. Paragraph b provides that, for the purposes of the Act, competition shall be deemed to be unfair if - the means adopted by the person importing or selling the imported goods are, in the opinion of the Comptroller-General or the Board, as the case may be, unfair in the circumstances.

The Minister must see that, under paragraph a, he could declare to be unfair competition that was not unfair. That provision relates not to unfaircompetition, but to successful competition, such as we carry on in the British market. If our exports of butter to Great Britain are increased, will they not probably, or, indeed, certainly, lead to a diminution of British products to a corresponding extent?

Sir William Lyne - Does the honorable member assume that Great Britain can produce enough for her own consumption? It is well known that she cannot.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The people of Great Britain were producing enough butter before the importations increased. It is not as if our produce were displacing foreign butter. As a matter of fact, our butter is to a greater extent every day taking the place of that which was produced in Great Britain or Ireland. The English and Irish farmers are thus being compelled to either give up the production of butter to withdraw from the market - which means practically the same thing - or to sell their goods at a loss, as the result of what may be regarded as fair competition. I do not think the Minister should insist upon the adoption of paragraph a. Has the Minister decided to adhere to paragraph b of the clause?

Sir William Lyne - Yes, with a modification that I intend to submit.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Has the Minister given notice of his amendment?

Sir William Lyne - Yes.

Mr Isaacs - The modification substitutes the word " inadequate " for the word " lower." and introduces one or two verbal amendments.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - We can send butter to Great Britain, and compete with her products, as we do also with many of our other exports.

Mr Isaacs - That phase of the question is not touched by the clause, as the Minister will point out presently.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - We are parties to the reduction of the production in Great Britain when we are able to supply the mother country more cheaply than she can produce, unless she still further lowers wages. The very thing that we do - and properly do, I think - we say that Great Britain shall not do as regards ourselves.

Sir William Lyne - No.

Mr Isaacs - When the honorable member has heard what the Minister has to say he will alter his opinion.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I shall be very glad to hear what the Minister has to say, because it seems to me that such a provision will interfere with reasonable trade, and not with unfair competition. If the Minister intends to do that, he will retain the clause in 'its present form, but if he does not he will consent to its amendment.

Suggest corrections