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Tuesday, 17 July 1906

Mr CARPENTER (Fremantle) . - It is almost too much to hope, perhaps, that the long series of empty, declamatory speeches, to which we have listened during the last week or two, is about to come to an end.

Mr Conroy - Not listened to.

Mr CARPENTER - I say "listened to" advisedly, because I have on several occasions forced myself into this Chamber in order to ascertain whether the utterances of honorable members on the other side were I have worth listening to. Again and again I have had to leave with feelings of disgust, because those who were claiming to criticise the measure were simply indulging in dreary, droning speeches in which there was nothing whatever worth hearing. We have just listened to one of many of that class of speeches. From the very introduction of the Bill, I have watched with keen interest the attitude adopted by honorable members on the other side. At first it appeared that there was to be little or no opposition. It is quite true that the political wire-pullers, to whom honorable members opposite pay so much heed, had not then said anything, about the Bill, and honorable members opposite did not know exactly " where they were." Although all through the secondreading debate their speeches showed, at least, a veryestion veiled antagonism, when it came to a who had of voting, those honorable members who had been loudest in their denunciations did npt dare to raise a voice in opposition.

Mr Conroy - Was there not a majority of seventeen in favour of the second reading?

Mr CARPENTER - There was no division on the second reading; honorable members on the Opposition side had not the courage to call for a division. Since then, however, the wire-pullers outside to whom I have referred have drafted a resolution, and had it carried by obedient branches of their organization at meetings of three, four, and five men, who knew nothing at all about the provisions of the measure. This so-called resolution was reported in the Conservative press ; and since then the Opposition within this Chamber has been considerably strengthened, and speeches have become more and more antagonistic. There were many divisions in Committee, and I should not be much surprised if there were a division on the motion for the third reading.

Mr Conroy - The honorable- member forgets the many amendments which were moved by the Government, and which utterly changed the Bill.

Mr CARPENTER - I am speaking of the attitude of honorable members on the other side of the House.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The honorable member for Fremantle has not forgotten the amendments by the Government - he knows nothing about them.

Mr CARPENTER - Honorable members opposite find their courage increasing as resolutions of the kind to which I refer appear in the press. Their opposition has become a little more intense; and we have had them claiming that they have made drastic amendments in the Bill in Committee. I desire to ask the honorable member for Parramatta to what drastic amendments he refers? With the exception of a proposal which was submitted by the honorable member for North Svdney, and to which I readily agreed - to which, indeed, I believe the Government assented - there has not been a single useful amendment made at the instance of honorable members opposite. Their opposition has been simply a process of electioneering declamation from beginning to end, with the anti-climax ththat they had not the courage - to record a vote against the principle of the measure. Then we had the honorable member for Parkes breaking a silence of some two months.

Mr.hnson. - We have not yet been in session two months.

Mr CARPENTER - I do not want to do the honorable member for Parkes an injustice; but I think his average attendance is about once in two months, when he rises in his place and lectures honorable members because - so he says - they do not deliberate sufficiently on the legislation submitted.

Mr BRUCE SMITH (PARKES, NEW SOUTH WALES) - It is not deliberation at all.

Mr CARPENTER - It is a piece of impertinence for an honorable member to come here, after neglecting his own parliamentary work week after week, and lecture those who have tried to do the business for which they were sent here. Probably the honorable member finds it much easier to deliberate in the comfort of his own home, whilst other members of this House have to neglect their homes and to come here day after day and night after night to do the work which they were elected to do. The honorable member lectures us because he says we are not a deliberative Assembly.

Mr BRUCE SMITH (PARKES, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I said that the House is not deliberative at all ; that is my statement.

Mr CARPENTER - The honorable member may say just what he likes.

Mr BRUCE SMITH (PARKES, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The honorable member's caucus binds him as with handcuffs.

Mr CARPENTER - The honorable member's attendance in this House is deliberative enough. Indeed, it is a deliberate insult to the constituency which he induced to elect him, to stay away as he has done month after month. Then we have had the acting leader of the Opposition

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Before the honorable member launches his diatribes against me,I should like him to have a quorum of his own friends present. [Quorum formed.]

Mr CARPENTER - The acting leader of the Opposition has twitted other sections of the House with their absence from the Chamber, while he and his colleagues have been talking. I say, sir, that if the people outside the Houseknew what an infliction it was to sit here hour after hour and listen to the empty talk that comes from honorable members opposite, they would think that we were justified in absenting ourselves from the Chamber when such a senseless waste of time was taking place. We are told by the honorable member for Parramatta that the Labour corner in particular has sinned in this regard. He challenges us for voting for a measure to which he says we were not pledged at the last general election. The inference from his speech is that, because we did not pledge ourselves to vote tor an Anti-Trust Bill, therefore we are doing something very wrong in supporting the Government in their proposals in this measure. The honorable member has been one of the loudest of those who, at various, times, have denounced the Labour Party, because, as he says, we come here pledged to a policy, bound down to a programme, and because, as he alleges, we have sacrificed our individuality. We have been told we have no liberty either of speech or of vote. Yet when we support a measure which is not on our programme, the honorable member denounces us for voting for a Bill about which we have given no pledges. It is impossible to please the honorable member. Whip high or whip low, he is equally dissatisfied. If we vote for something to which we are pledged, he denounces us for pledging ourselves. If we vote for something to which we are not pledged, he denounces us the more. When this sort of empty talk is going on, it is no wonder that honorable members leave the Chamber. Not only the members in the Labour corner, but even the members of the Opposition - the supporters of the honorable member for Parramatta - desert him, and leave him to pour out his soft nothings to empty benches. The honorable member has also denounced and twitted members of the Labour Party who happen to hold free-trade views for running away from their principles in supporting this measure. I do not know how far the Bill may be regarded by some honorable members as being of a fiscal character, but my answer to the honorable member is that it is not connected with fiscalism at all. The Bill is going to do for Australian industries a great deal that cannot be done by means of the Tariff. I am aware that some honorable members upon the Opposition side have come to this House with their heads replete with the thoughts of other men. They have filled their minds with dry-as-dust theories from political text-books, and they find that this measure cuts right across some of the theories which they hold most dear.

Mr Johnson - The honorable member has never read them.

Mr CARPENTER - I have read and forgotten them. The honorable member has read, and cannot get away from them.

Mr Johnson - Because they are too convincing.

Mr CARPENTER - The honorable member talks like a school boy. He comes to this House and gives us a rehash of the theories of early political economists as though they were entirely applicable to our modern conditions. Honorable members opposite find that this Bill cuts right across the theories which they hold most dear, and so they pretend that the Government, in introducing the measure, is running away from some sort of pledge, given or implied, that there should be no interference with Tariff questions this session. I say that there is no necessary connexion between this Bill and the fiscal question. It is a Bill for the preservation of Australian industries, without reference to the Tariff in the least degree.

Mr Johnson - It is a Bill for establishing prohibitive protection.

Mr CARPENTER - Honorable members opposite are only too well aware that there is something like an industrial revival going on, and that it is supported by the public sentiment of Australia. The people of this country are awakening, and have come to a firm resolution that they will protect their own industries at all costs against the outside monopolists who are seeking .to capture our market. And it is because honorable members opposite know that the people of Australia have this determination that, though they may rave as they like against this Bill, they have not dared to vote against its principle, and have not had the courage to go outside this House and say, " Here is a 'Bill brought in to preserve Australian industries against monopolies, and we will vote against it."

Mr Johnson - Because it would be a lie if thev did.

Mr CARPENTER - The honorable member for Lang knows as well as any one that what I say is true. He knows that he would have his work cut out to justify himself if he went on to a platform and denounced this Bill. What honorable members opposite call the fiscal question is being put in the back-ground to-day. The people are beginning to realize that the preservation of our industries is of far greater importance than the upholding of wild political theories for which our fathers were content to fight many years ago. We have also been told' by the honorable member for Parramatta that we have no monopolies in Australia. Where has the honorable member been? Is it possible that we can have here a person claiming to be a public man in Australia who can get up in this deliberative assembly - I beg the honorable member for Parkes' pardon - and say that we have no monopolies in Australia - that we are simply frightening ourselves because of certain things which have been done in America? I had the satisfaction of making a slight addition to this Bill, to cover the case of a combination or trust, which to-day is bleeding the people of Australia by means of high shipping rates and charges, and has been doing so for some time past, a combine which, I say, speaking with full knowledge, is watching with great anxiety the passage of this Bill. It is asking very anxiously," How much are you going to put into that Bill? How far are you going with it ? To what extent are you going to put your hands upon us?" Vet we are told that we have no monopolies in Australia ! We have the tobacco combine, and surely the honorable member must have heard cf it. I am aware that those comprising that combination have been clever and cunning enough to leave out two or three s:,ia manufacturers whom they can crush at any time they like by raising their little finger Because they wish to be able to say that they are net a complete combination, because they wish to be able to throw dust in the eyes of the public by saying that there are other manufacturers in Australia besides themselves, they are graciously pleased to allow these two or three small manufacturers to continue to exist.

Mr Johnson - The honorable member must be in their confidence.

Mr CARPENTER - I know more about them than perhaps the honorable member thinks. They have sufficient control over the Australian tobacco trade to be able to fix prices, and to be able

Sir William Lyne - At Tumut.

Mr CARPENTER - Yes. at Tumut. When the Tobacco Commission went there, and threatened to make revelations as to what the combine had been doin~ to the Tumut growers, in order to save themselves, the combine sent up a round sum. of money to bs distributed -amongst the tobacco-growers. They knew the growers should receive this money, because it fairly belonged to them. Yet the honorable member for Parramatta says that there is no combine in Australia.

Sir William Lyne - It was to bring the prices up to what the combine promised, but did not pay.

Mr Johnson - Where is the proof of that statement?

Sir William Lyne - It was given in evidence.

Mr CARPENTER - Knowing what we do of trusts and combines, we may depend that unless the tobacco combine had a very good reason for doing it, they would never have sent that money to Tumut for distribution amongst the tobacco-growers there. I do not know whether this Bill will accomplish all that some of its supporters desire. It is quite possible that it will not. We have no reason to suppose that our first attempt in Australia at legislation of this kind is going to be wholly successful. We know from our experience of what has taken place in the United States that it has taken the people of that country some years to bring their anti-trust measures to such a state of perfection as to produce the desired result. The honorable member for Parramatta told us just now that with all their legislation the people of the United States had not been- able to touch the combines there. But only two or three weeks ago we saw that they have been imprisoning some, and fining others, and that certain gentlemen in one State have at least taken the precaution' to get across the borders of their State into the next, in order to escape prosecution for what they have been doing. Seeing the way in which they have been grappling with the problem we can rest assured that they will persevere until they have been successful. American literature to-day - magazines and newspapers - is full of this fight of the people against the combinations. What the people have suffered irc America we wish to prevent in Australia. Why should we wait, as the honorable member for Parramatta has suggested that we should, until the combines have acquired strength, and become dangerous, until we have felt the pinch of their evils, before- we set to work to combat them? We shall be doing our duty to our constituents if, seeing what has been done in other countries, what may be done here and what is threatening' us, we say that we will take the precaution of passing this measure. The Government are deserving of all credit for taking time by the forelock in submitting this Bill as a first attempt, which, I hope, may be successful, to prevent in Australia anything like the evils from combinations and trusts to which the people of America have been subjected for so many years. I hope that the result of this legislation will be not to prevent combinations - that I know is impossible - but to enable us to put our hands on the combines, and say - "We do not seek to prevent you from eliminating all unnecessary competition, or from doing everything you may be able to do to cheapen processes, and thus give us cheap . products, but when your action becomes inimical to the public interests, we step in on behalf of the people to put a stop to your machinations." It is because I believe that this Bill will have that effect that I have very much pleasure in supporting the third reading.

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