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Friday, 13 July 1906

Mr LONSDALE (New England) . - I trust that the honorable and learned member for Angas will press his amendment. If a number of workmen were put forward by their employer to say that the importation and sale of certain goods in Australia, would have a tendency to reduce their remuneration, how would it be possible to recover costs from them? I suppose that the Minister would act on information supplied by workmen who believed that their interests were suffering.

Mr McWilliams - The Bill is intended for the benefit of the manufacturer, and not for that of the workers.

Sir William Lyne - The amendment would not help the working man.

Mr LONSDALE - Thequestion is would there be anything unfair in the amendment? Is it not fair that an importer, who may be involved in heavy loss, owing to false information being given to the Customs authorities, should have some redress? The Minister has asked "Wouldany Minister act upon the information of a man of straw?" We know that the Minister himself has acted upon the testimony of local manufacturers without even taking the preliminary precaution of examining their books. He has acted upon their mere ipse dixit, to do things which were absolutely wrong.

Mr Webster - What things?

Mr LONSDALE - The Minister raised the valuation upon imported harvesters for Customs purposes upon the unsupported statements of local manufacturers.

The CHAIRMAN - Order !

Mr LONSDALE - I am not here to conceal facts, but to make my position absolutely clear. Personally, I decline to trust a Minister who has got the ear of the manufacturers. We should safeguard the interests of the men at whom this Bill is aimed. If the honorable and learned member for Angas presses his amendment to a division, I shall be found supporting him. It is only just that persons who lay an information should back up their statements with a bond as an evidence of their bona fides.

Mr.KELLY (Wentworth) [12.13].- The Minister declares that his aversion to the amendment is due to the fact that it would prevent any person in the position of a workman from initiating proceedings.

Sir William Lyne - No, I said that it might have that effect.

Mr KELLY - We all recognise that it would be extremely difficult for a workman to bring the Act into operation. But if the Minister will scrutinize its provisions carefully he will find that the Bill itself affords a sufficient answer to his fears. Clause 14 defines " unfair competition " - which is the essential element underlying the commencement of any action - as something which, under ordinary circumstances of trade, "would probably lead to the Australian goods being no longer produced, or being withdrawn from the market, or being sold at a loss, unless produced at an inadequate remuneration 'for labour." How can anybody, except the manufacturer, know that competition is going to affect his industry in the way suggested? A workmanmay fear that his own employment will be prejudiced, but I take it that the Government will not act upon mere assumption. They will act only upon some bona fide assurance, and that assurance can only properly emanate from the manufacturer. Consequently I cannot see how the Government can refuse to accept the amendment.

Mr McWilliams - If they do not consent to it we shall never have a responsible person making a charge.

Mr KELLY - Exactly. The object of this part of the Bill is to prevent dumping, but the clause in its present form is an absolute inducement to " dummying.". I can understand the Minister's original reluctance to accept the amendment, but now that he recognises that under the Bill the only persons who can approach him are the local manufacturers, I think that he should insist upon them backing their statements with a substantial bond. I hope that the amendment will be pressed to a division.

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