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Tuesday, 19 June 1906

Mr JOHNSON (Lang) .- I am in thorough accord with the views which have just been expressed by the honorabe member for Perth. I believe that it would have been far better for the Government to wait until the reports of the Tariff Commission had been distributed to honorable members to find out first, whether there is any necessity for legislation of this kind, and next, what is the best way to deal with any matters which need to be dealt with as the result of any disclosures in those reports. But so far there has been nothing shown by the Minister of Trade and Customs to justify the introduction of a Bill of this kind. It has been brought in to deal with matters which so far as we know Have only an imaginary existence. There is one thing to which I wish specially to refer, and that is the absence of the Minister of Trade and Customs, who should be here in his place to listen to the criticism passed upon his Bill. It is a piece of gross discourtesy to the House that after he has moved the second reading of a Bill of this kind, and in a long and laboured speech pointed out the meaning of its provisions, he should riot remain to hear the criticisms of other honorable members. This afternoon we have listened to a close scrutiny and analysis of the measure from two speakers, and the Minister should have been here to listen to and reply to them. It is a. singular thing that no Minister has risen to deal with the objections which have been urged against the Bill. The honorable member for North Sydney made a careful and able criticism of its provisions - it was exhaustive, thoroughly fair, and absolutely temperate in tone - and was of such a character as to demand an answer either from the Minister responsible for the introduction of the Bill or from the Minister temporarily in charge of it during his absence. Yet we have heard not one word in reply to that criticism, or to that of the honorable member for Perth. This is entitled a Bill for the preservation of Australian Industries. It might more properly be described as a Bill to strangle trade in Australia and to raise the prices of agricultural implements to the farmers. That is not the only- purpose of the Bill. We know perfectly well that this measure was brought forward, not because Australian trade is suffering to any appreciable extent from the operations of trusts, either or local, but because it is desired to unfairly bolster up manufacturing industries in Victoria, principally in Melbourne, at the expense of the Commonwealth. The Bill had its origin in the demand of a firm of harvester makers in Victoria that a heavy additional duty should be levied upon imported harvesters and parts of harvesters for the purpose of keeping up the price of goods which this firm made. That demand was made in November last, and was followed up by meetings engineered by the same firm calling upon the Government to introduce legislation for the purpose of keeping out imported harvesters. Why ? Not for the purpose of preserving Australian industries ; not for the purpose ot promoting the interests of the public of Australia ; not for any good', laudable, Or worthy purpose whatever; but simply to create a monopoly in the hands of one firm bv shutting out competition from abroad. The movement was initiated in the interests of the Sunshine Harvester Company, and was engineered principally by Mr. McKay, who is the proprietor pf those works. In the speech of the Minister of Trade and Customs in introducing this Bill, the intention which I have indicated is made absolutely clear. We are told about the strangling of Australian industries under the Tariff, how they are declining, and how necessary it is to preserve them. Yet there is not a tittle of evidence to show that any Australian industry has yet suffered from competition from abroad. On the contrary, those who take the trouble to inquire will find that there is abundant evidence to show that no Australian industries require any legislation for their preservation, or are in the slightest danger. The harvester industry in particular is in a most flourishing condition. I propose to give a few figures bearing upon these points. Special provision has been made in this Bill to guard against dumping; the ostensible reason being that, through the alleged dumping process, articles are sold in Australian markets at a lower rate than that for which similar articles of Australian manufacture can be sold. Even assuming that that is true, who gets the benefit of that underselling? Does not the purchaser of the articles benefit? If harvesters are being dumped and sold in Australia for lower prices than the Australian harvesters, who benefits? Does not the Australian farmer? If this legislation is for the purpose of preventing the Australian farmer from getting his agricultural implements at the cheapest rate, for keeping up prices, and for making the farmer pay prices over and above those for which Australian-made harvesters are sold out of Australia, a great wrong is' done to him. For it is a wellknown fact that the locally-made harvesters are sold at a certain price in Victoria whilst outside this State, and outside the Commonwealth, they are sold at a lower price. If these manufacturing firms can afford to sell these machines at a lower price after paying freight to other countries, they have a right to allow the Australian farmer to get the benefit of that lower price, so that he may be upon the same footing as are farmers in the Argentine and other foreign countries. The farming industry is already too heavily handicapped by legislative truckling to Melbourne manufacturers. In regard to the alleged dumping of harvesters by the International Harvester Trust, I find, upon examination, that before1904 only a few samples of harvesters were imported by this firm. During 1904 and 1905 the importations of the firm did not exceed 8 per cent, of the total annual sales in the Commonwealth. That being so, the company whose operations been referred to bythe Minister of Customs as furnishing reasons for the introduction of legislation of this character, reallv affords no justification for the Bill. As to the Victorian iron-workers generally, whose industry it has been alleged in on the down grade, and requires special nursing by the Commonwealth Parliament, I find upon investigation that up till last year more establishments had been created, more hands employed, more capital invested in plantand machinery and buildings, and that there had been a larger output since the Federal Commonwealth Tariff came into existence than under the old Victorian Tariff before Federation. I propose to furnish comparative figures for the nine years dating from 1896 to 1904. I have not the figures for last year, but I believe they would show an even more favorable comparison. The number of establishments increased from 326 in 1896 to 436 in 1904 - an increase of 110, equal to 30 per cent. The number of hands employed increased in the same period from 6,151 to 8.378 - an increase of 2,227, equal to 30 per cent. The value of machinery, which is another great test, as well as of plant and buildings, in the same period, increased from £1 , 099,400 to £1, 247, 641 ; or an increase of £148,241. Comparing the value of the output, in 1900, the year before Federation, I find that the result is £1,879,825. In 1904 the value was £2,030,329, or an increase of £150,504. Those are the figures as regards the iron-working industry, which is supposed to have suffered with exceptional severity, and in the interests of which this proposed legislation is alleged So be necessary. Coming to the engineering trades, I find that they show an equally satisfactory condition. In 1896 the number of hands employed in the engineering trades in Victoria was 4,112; in 1904 the number was 4,676 - an increase of 564 in the period named. In the year 1896 the number of separate establishments was 159 ; in 1904, 233 - an increase of 74. That is the way in which these industries of Victoria are being "strangled" under the present Tariff ! They have been " strangled " to such an extent that there have been increase in many cases ranging from 30 to 50 per cent. !

Mr Page - Why is more protection wanted, then?

Mr JOHNSON - The honorable member should ask the Minister of Trade and Customs. I also should like an answer to the question. The only reason that I can see is to still further bleed the farmer and wage-earners of the Commonwealth. In the year beforethe Federal Tariff, 1900, the value of the agricultural implements made in Victoria was £244,544. In 1904 the value of the implements manufactured arose to £431,476 - an increase of £186,932.

Mr Page - That does not look very much like declining industry.

Mr JOHNSON - It does not. The figures show an increase of upwards of 40 per cent. An industry of that character does not seem to me to call for any special legislation to preserve it from damage from competition. In 1896 the number of hands employed in the agricultural implement trades was 852. In 1904 the number rose to 1,496, showing an increase of 644, or over 43 per cent. That does not look very much like a languishing industry. Of course, the Federal Tariff is being blamed for closing down a number of engineering establishments which rose and had their being at about the boom period. But it is very evident, from an examination of the causes of failure in those cases, that they were due partly to the financial crash of 1893, and also to extravagance and overcapitalization. I may mention, in passing, that a large proportion of the imports under the heading of agricultural implements consist of implements and machinery which are not, and cannot be, manufactured in this country, and should not be taken into account if we are going to be absolutely fair. But those imports are all dumped in by our opponents when they want to make out a case in favour of special legislation for the purpose of bolstering up existing monopolies in Victoria. In 1903 the total value of imports of agricultural implements amounted to £240,710, and of this sum £91,537 covered the value of reapers and binders which are not made in Australia. Another large proportion of the value of these imports includes grain mills, which are not made to any extent here, but which are extensivelv used, and for which there is an increasing demand. As they are not classified separately in the returns, it is impossible to estimate the actual value of imports under this head. Traction engines and other machinery also are included for which Ensrlish makers have established a world-wide reputation for special excellence and economv of cost. In the same period, so far from imports increasing to such an alarming extent as to seriouslv interfere with home production, as a matter of fact there has been a great decrease. The figures are as follow: - For theperiod of ten months ending 31st October the value of the imports from other States in 1904 totalled £11,740, and in 1905 £17,000. These figures show an increase of imports from the other States, but a decrease is shown in the value of oversea imports. The figures for 1904 are £216,261, and for 1905 only £110,000. The total value of imports under this head for 1904 was , £228,000, and for 1905, £127,000, or a decrease for the period of £101,000, equal to 50 per cent. With respect to the actual industrial conditions in connexion with these trades, the evidence, so far from being discouraging, is altogether of a highly satisfactory nature. Of course we know perfectly well that there was a period of depression due to drought and other causes having no connexion whatever with the Tariff. These conditions existed before Federation was brought about, but thousands of men lost their employment under the old Victorian Tariff. In 1890 the number of hands employed in the iron works trade in Victoria was 7,593. In 1892 the number had fallen off to 5,423; in 1893 to 4,419, and in 1894 to 3,536 - a total falling off for the' period named of 4,057, or upwardis of 50 per cent. These figures are supplied bv the Inspector of Factories - Mr. Harrison Ord. Since Federation there has been a steadv improvement in employment in all the trades to which I have referred. I propose now to deal with Australian harvesters, because that industry has been specially singled out to reap immense pecuniary advantage from legislation of this kind by this benevolent Government which hasalways displayed the utmost interest for the advancement of the monopolistic manufacturing industries established in and around Melbourne. . It is a significant fact to which I wish to draw attention that the present Minister of Trade and Customs has alwavs had a most tender regard for the interests of Victoria as against the interests of his own State. If the electors of that State could only make a present of him holus bolus to Victoria it would be one of the best things that could happen to New South Wales. One of the honorable gentleman's especial pets is the Sunshine Harvester Company of Victoria. This is one of the industries which is said to be suffering most seriously from the effects of the Tariff, and from foreign clumping and to assist which we are asked to pass the Bill now before us. What are the facts in connexion with this industry? Tt is well known that Mr. McKay sells the Sunshine Harvester abroad to the foreign farmer at a price considerably below that for which he sells it to the Australian farmer. The cost of the Sunshine Harvester to the foreign farmer is only £72, whilst the Australian farmer has to pay £8r for it, a difference of £9, when he pays cash. The difference is much more if he wants credit. I take it that the Sunshine Harvester firm, who have to oay freight, insurance, and other charges on machines exported, do not sell them abroad at a loss. If they can make a profit by selling to the foreigner at . £72, it is clear that they charge the Australian farmer at least £9 more than he is entitled to pay for every harvester they sell him. £81 is the price that the Australian farmer has to pay when he pays cash. When he pays on a system of extended payments, the price of the harvester is raised to from£85 to £99, according to the length of the period for which he wants credit. When we consider the cost of manufacture of these harvesters, we can form some approximate idea of the enormous sums annually netted by the Sunshine Harvester people from their industry, under the operation of the existing Tariff. According to an estimate published. I think in the Argus, some time during last year, and made upon a statement which Mr. McKay gave to the Tariff Commission in sworn evidence, the manufactured cost of a Sunshine harvester works out in this way : The cost in wages, at the rate of from 8s. to11s. per day to the operatives employed, was estimated at £11 2s.10d. The cost of distribution, &c, was estimated at £21 17s. 4d. ; cost of material at something lake £26; and charges coming under the heading of factory burdens were estimated to amount to £3 14s. 3d. This brings the total manufactured cost of a Sunshine harvester up to , £62 14s. 5d. I forget the exact circumstances, but if my memory serves me some exception waa taken to the accuracy of these figures at the time thev were published. Against that I must point out that it was subsequently explained that the figures and percentages supplied by Mr. McKav himself were taken as the basis of the calculation. I believe that Mr. McKay worked them out to a somewhat higher total, and estimated the cost in wages to amount to £14 3s. 8d., instead of £11 2s10d. The other figures were not disputed, and all the figures were subsequently. I believe, found do be substantially accurate. Taking Mr. McKay's estimate of the cost of wages, however, viz., £14 3s. 8d., and adding the cost of material, £26, which I believe he does not dispute, and the cost of distribution, £21 17s 4d., we get a total of £62 is. as the manufactured cost of a Sunshine harvester. The price of the machine to the Australian farmer is £8r cash, whilst the cost of production upon the latter basis is £621s., leaving a clear profit of £19 on every harvester manufactured and sold. Calculated on the percentages given in Mr. McKay's evidence, the average wages work out at about 37 s. per week to those employed in the industry, although Mr. McKay claims that the average wages paid amount to . £2 per week. The figures which he supplied to the Tariff Commission do not bear out his contention in this respect. What Mr. McKay makes annually out of his profits is not definitely known, because, although he is always whining, he will not allow his books to be inspected, but it is known that the output of harvesters by the firm is about 2,000 a year, and if we estimate the profit on each harvester at £18 instead of £19, it is clear that the profits which Mr. McKay makes from the manufacture of Sunshine harvesters alone amount to something like £36,000 a year. I contend that a man who can show a profit of £36,000 a year from the operation of an industrv of this character has no reason to complain, and has no right to come to this House to ask that he should be protected from the competition of others for the purpose of still further entrenching himself in a monopoly which he has enjoyed for so long with so much advantage to himself, and at such a heavv cost to the producers of this country. Referring to the conditions of trade here, I may perhaps be permitted to quota a statement which appeared in the Argus of the 8th November last, in the report of an interview with representatives of Messrs. Thompson and Company, an engineering firm, whose works are situated at Castlemaine. I propose to quote, also, from the representatives of another firm, Messrs. Roberts and Sons, of Bendigo. This is the statement which appeared in thu Argus at the latter end of last year -

One of the maTked features of the trade since the financial crisis of 1893, which sealed the doom of big over-capitalized and badlymanaged concerns, has been the increase in number, both in Melbourne and the country centres, of small well-managed undertakings, and the remarkable rise of two or three of the larger enterprises in the provinces, notably Messrs. Thompson and Co.'s engineering works at Castlemaine, and Messrs. A. Roberts and Sons' at Bendigo. It is like a whiff of wholesome country air to learn at first hand what these firms are doing.

Messrs. Thompson and Co. have 300 hands engaged ; they are working night and day, and orders are coming in just as fast as they can be profitably dealt with. " We specialize on mining machinery and pumps; but do other work as well," sai'd Mr. J. S. Thompson. "For many years we have secured the tenders for the railway points and plates used throughout the State. At present nothing is being done in this line, but it will come again. In the meantime, we have plenty of other work to engage our attention. We receive orders from all the other States of the Commonwealth. Even Borneo and other Eastern countries send us orders. The Federal Tariff has not injured us. On the contrary, the freeing of Inter-State trade from restrictions has been a gain. We put little faith in Tariff assistance. The point of view we lake is that if we cannot compete against all-comers there will be no strength or stability in our trade. Our enterprise began 2S years ago with eight men, in a little shanty. The works now cover five acres, and we still want room. We employ 300 persons, and we are kept fully employed year after year. Our trade is growing all the time. We have kept up to date in methods, tools, and appliances. The railway track runs into the works. We generate the electricity for lighting, compressed air is used in working cranes, tools, and appliances all over the place. No detail which will cheapen production is overlooked. Our men, too, grow up wilh the business, and give us no trouble. There is not the unrest and agitation which appear to exist in large centres, and this is a great gain, both to employers and employes in important enterprises."

In the face of a statement of that kind, by a Victorian firm of undoubted repute, it is monstrous for the Government to propose a Bill of this character to deal especially with trades of the description to which I have just referred. The firm has shown that it has done excellent business, that its trade has given good results, and has been in every way satisfactory, and that it has been able to pay good wages. Then Messrs. Roberts and Son, of Bendigo, have a similar story to tell. In 1895 they had sixtymen employed. Last vear they had 190, and it was the best fo'r business 'they have ever known, though their work is almost exclusively confined to Victoria. They specialize in mining machinery and steam boilers of all patterns and sizes, and draw orders from all parts of the' State, all. the orders in hand but one at the time the report was made being from places outside Bendigo. The secret of this firm's success is that all the members of it are practical workers. Forty years ago the late Mr. Abraham Roberts began with a small blacksmith's business; then he put up a moulding shop, and by slow degrees added to the tools and appliances as the business grew. Pluck, enterprise, and self-reliance have enabled the firm to hold their own against all competition. They have an up-to-date boilermaking plant, and claim that they cao turn out boilers as cheaply and as durable as in the heart of the Black country, the home of boiler-making in England. There is no complaint from Messrs. Roberts of injury to their business from low duties. They direct attention, however, to what looks like excessive shipping freights on boilers to Iner-State ports. They state that a recent quotation for carrying a 15-ton boiler to Port Adelaide was ^87 5s., and that the rates from Melbourne to Perth are twothirds greater than from London to the same port, and are thus a handicap on Interstate business. This firm also states that it has had no trouble with its employés who are perfectly satisfied with their rates of wages, and the conditions under which they work, so that there has been no friction of any kind. Here is another industry which, instead of affording evidence of the need for State coddling or interference, shows that it is in a thoroughly robust condition, being increasingly successful year after year, so that it only desires to be let alone to continue to flourish. I wish now to refer to another aspect of the question, and that is the cost to which the country is put by legislation of this character. A 'Bill of this kind is intended to keep up the price of articles to purchasers at abnormal rates. The public are not to be considered in the slightest degree, but are to be called upon to pay the highest prices for the various goods which they have to buy, whether these have been imported or have been manufactured locally. I maintain, however, that it is no part of the business of a Government or of a Parliament to interfere in matters of trade or commerce, except to prevent unfair practices, such as the adulteration of food or the importation and sale of goods under fraudulent conditions, such as misdescriptions leading purchasers to think that they are buying something which they are not. Attempts to regulate prices and fo prevent competition are not within the province of Government interference, and 'the only result of such attempts must be that the public must suffer. The public suffer in two ways - first, by having to pay very high prices ; and, secondly, by getting only inferior articles. To show She extent to which the public have had sometimes to pay for preferential treatment of local manufacturers, I shall make a comparison in connexion with the prices paid for iron pipes in New South Wales during a period when the present protectionist Minister of Trade and Customs was Secretary for Public Works in that State. Tenders were submitted by Messrs. Burns, Philp, and Co. for the supply of English-made pipes, while other tenders were submitted by local manufacturers. The cost at which Messrs. Burns, Philp, and Co. were ready to supply 4-in., 6-in., 10-in., 12-in., and 15-in. pipes was j£6 is. 9d. a ton ; whereas the colonial price for 4-in., S-in., and 8-in. pipes was, for a first period of five years, .£7 2s. 6d., for a second period of five years £fi 9s., and for a third period £8 12s. ; while, in the case of 10-in., 12-in., and 15-in. pipes, the price charged was £7 12s. fon the first five years, £6 14s. 6d. for the second five years, and £8 15s. for the third five years. It must be remembered, too, that Messrs. Burns, Philp, and Co. received an order for only 6,843 tons °f iron pipes, which was a smaller order than any. given to the local firms. Tenders were also called for special castings, and £9 9s. od. per ton was the price asked for imported castings, while the price asked for locally-made castings was £9 17s. 6d. a ton for the first period of five years, £9 9s. a ton for the second period of five years, and £.14 12s. 6d. a ton for the third period of five years. Moreover, while the English pipes were found to be quite sound after forty years use, and had required no repairs during that period, the locallymade pipes had fractured sixty or seventy times, each break costing from £50 to £100 to repair, while hundreds of pounds had also to be expended in strengthening them with iron bands. I have no objection to preference being given to local tenderers over outside tenderers if they can give as good a service, or as good an article, for the price asked by the outside tenderer who is quite sufficiently handicapped with the cost of freight, customs, and insurance, but it is little . short of a criminal action for the custodians of the public purse to give a preference which means unnecessary loss and expense to the taxpayers of the country. I could quote many more figures, but I think

I have sufficiently. shown that no advantage would be conferred upon the people of the Commonwealth by legislation of this kind. The only persons who would! benefit would be such local firms as already enjoy a monopoly. They would be enriched at the expense of the general community. I decidedly object to anything of that kind. It was pointed out by the honorable member for Perth that it would be necessary to examine the books of importing firms in order to ascertain, the commercial value of imported articles. As I take it that the complaints against the competition of importers will probably invariably come from local manufacturers, I hold that if the books of importers are to be examined those of the local manufacturers should also be open to inspection. This cannot be too strongly insisted upon. Some time ago an effort was made to induce certain local manufacturers to throw open their books for inspection, with a view of verifying certain statements given in sworn evidence before the Tariff Commission. Some of the firms were ready to comply with this request provided that the Sunshine Harvester Company, which was making the loudest outcry, would agree to follow that course. That company, however, absolutely refused to entertain the idea. Any firm that has a grievance arising out of foreign competition, and applies to Parliament for assistance, should be prepared to submit its books to a searching examination.

Mr Isaacs - The Bill gives the fullest power to the Board to do anything of that kind with regard to either importing; firms or local manufacturers. If the honorable member will look at clause 17 he will find that the Board is empowered to inquire into any matters whatever that they consider pertinent or material.

Mr JOHNSON - If the clause is adopted in its present form, I trust that that power will be brought into operation, and that we shall have ample means of ascertaining the truth or otherwise of the statements made by persons who say that their industries are languishing, and that legislation of this kind is necessary. Figures have been produced which tend to show that the Sunshine Harvester Company, so far from suffering severely from foreign competition, is making enormous profits - upwards of ^£30,000 per annum - under the operation of the Tariff. If this be true, the company should not come crying to this

Parliament for assistance. When the last Bill of a similar character was before the House, the honorable member for Melbourne Ports said that the object was to destrov foreign trade. I do not know if that is the intention of the Government, but the measure, if passed in its present form, must, to a very large extent, destroy all trade with parts beyond the Commonwealth, including Great Britain. I would point out that if this result were brought about it would involve the displacement of a large number of wharf labourers, coal miners, sailors, carters, warehousemen, shipping clerks, Customs officers, and many others who are engaged in occupations more or less dependent upon our shipping and commerce. I would ask honorable members to consider this aspect of the Question, when they contemplate the strangulation of foreign trade. Whilst the Minister of Trade and Customs was speaking in support of the motion for the second reading of the Bill, it was asserted bv the honorable and learned member for Werriwa that the shares in a locallv formed steel trust had jumped up to a high value, owing to some promise made by the Minister. The Minister stated that he knew nothing about any promise, and the honorable and learned member for Werriwa retorted that the Minister must have made a promise, or, otherwise, the shares in the trust would not have increased in value from . £250,000 to nearly £2,000,000. I do not know whether the facts are as stated by the honorable and learned member, but, as he is not in the habit of making rash and unfounded statements, I think that some explanation is due to the House. I do not imply that anything improper has been done, but I think that we are entitled to know in what way the Minister's action has operated to produce the result indicated. If any reliance is to be attached to the statement of the honorable and learned member for Werriwa, some members of the community must be making huge sums of money at the expense of the general taxpayer. All this goes to show how dangerous it is to interfere with trade in such a way as to cause fluctuations in the market. It always tends to engender suspicion in the public mind that there is a pecuniary advantage for people in high places in such legislation. The Prime Minister stated that the intention of the Bill was to protect the manufacturer, the employe, and the public. I should like to know in what way it can protect the public . If the object is to prevent goods from being sold at low prices, I cannot understand how the general public are to be benefited. The only persons who will derive any advantage will be those engaged in local manufactures. We cannot benefit the consumer, by legislating in the direction of making him pay more than, in the ordinary course of competition, he would be required to give for his goods. If goods were dumped into this country and sold at below cost, the general public would not suffer. Those who sent the goods here to be sacrificed at less than the cost of production would be the losers. The ladies who throng round the bargain counters at sale time do so because they believe that they will receive some benefit. They think that the purchasing power of their money will be increased to an extent corresponding with the reduction in the prices at which the goods are offered, and they are right If goods were dumped here and given away the general public would not be injured. This would apply to agricultural implements, pianos, sewing machines, or any other class of goods. The lower the prices at which goods are placed on the market the better for the consumer. If it became the practice of importers to give away goods they would open up a royal road to wealth which would not be available under any other conceivable circumstances, to every one of their customers whatever might happen to themselves. The Bill contains a number of clauses which will require very drastic treatment in Committee. Clause 4, which deals with the repression of monopolies, readis as follows : -

1.   Any person who wilfully, either as principal or as agent, makes or enters into any contract, or is a member of or engages in any combination to do any act or thing, in relation to trade or commerce with other countries or among the States -

(a)   in restraint of trade or commerce to the detriment of the public; or

(b)   with the design of destroying or injuring by means of unfair competition any Australian industry the preservation of which in the opinion of the jury is advantageous to the Commonwealth, having due regard to the interests of producers, workers, and consumers, is guilty of an indictable offence.

This sub-clause is extremely wide in its application, and covers an area which I think its framers never contemplated. It refers, not to corporations or trusts or combines, but to individuals. " Any person " who wifully commits any of the acts named will be guilty of an offence. As the honorable member for Perth has pointed out, these words may apply to a member of a trade union or of a protectionist or any other political organization. Let us take, for instance, the case of a person engaged in the hat-making industry, and desiring to prevent the importation from abroad of hats that will come into competition with his own production. With that object in view, we will assume, he takes steps, either directly or through an agent, to restrain trade by means of a proposal that the Tariff shall be raised to curtail these importations. I take it that under this clause he would be guilty of an offence.

Mr Isaacs - Would a proposal to alter the Tariff be a contract?

Mr JOHNSON - The sub-clause provides that anv person who " enters into any contract " to do these things shall be guilty of an offence. It may not necessarily mean entering into a written contract. It may mean a mutual arrangement or understanding.

Mr Isaacs - The person concerned must have entered into a contract or have become a member of a combination.

Mr JOHNSON - A man might enter into a contract with a member of the Legislature to bring forward a measure to amend the Tariff.

Mr Isaacs - Is not that rather thin ?

Mr JOHNSON - Not at all; such a thing might be done; such things are being done continually. A defect or a grievance is brought under a member's notice, and he agrees to endeavour to remedy it by Tariff or other legislation. Is that not in essence a contract to do a certain thing? We shall have to define the word " contract," because a contract might mean an agreement or arrangement made by an individual to secure the imposition of a duty to restrict the importation of goods coming into competition with those of his production. I can conceive it possible that under this clause such an agreement would be an indictable offence, just as would a combination among trade unionists to keep up the rates of wages or to secure special privileges in any industry in which they are engaged. I do not know whether it is intended that the clause shall have such an application, but the Attorney-General might well consider whether it is not capable of that interpretation. Clause 7 provides that -

Any person who wilfully monopolizes or attempts to monopolize, or combines or conspires with any other person to monopolize, any part of the trade or commerce with other countries or among the States, with the design of controlling, to the detriment of the public, the supply or price of any merchandise or commodity, is guilty of an indictable offence.

I do not know whether this provision will apply to Mr. McKay's monopoly, but I sincerely hope that it will.

Mr Mcwilliams - The honorable member need not worry about that.

Mr JOHNSON - If I thought the clause would apply to it I should be inclined to support it. Clause 13, which deals with dumping, sets forth that; -

Unfair competition has in all cases reference to competition with those Australian industries, the preservation of which, in the opinion of the Comptroller-General or the Board, as the case may be, is advantageous to the Commonwealth, having due regard to the interests of producers, workers, and consumers.

Then, in clause 14, we have the provision -

For the purposes of this Tart of this Act, competition shall be deemed to be unfair if -

(a)   under ordinary circumstances of trade it would probably lead to the Australian goods beingeither withdrawn fTom the market or sold at a loss unless produced at a lower remuneration for labour ; or

(b)   the means adopted by the person importing or selling the imported goods are, in the opinion of the ComptrollerGeneral or the Board as the case may be, unfair in the circumstances.

The honorable member for North Sydney dealt fully with these clauses, and, while I do not intend to repeat his criticisms, I may say at once that I am thoroughly in agreement with them. I recognise the very serious danger we should run in allowing such powers to be exercised by the ComptrollerGeneral or a Board of his creation, or that of the Minister of Trade and Customs. I should like now to draw attention to sub-clause 2 of clause 15, which provides that -

The certificate of the Comptroller-General shall specify the imported goods and the Australian goods referred to, and the person whom he believes to be importing goods with the intention aforesaid.

3.   Thereupon the Minister may -

(a)   appoint a Board of three persons to investigate and report upon all matters of fact material to the question whether the goods are being imported with the intention aforesaid ; and

(4)   notify in the Gazette that a Board has been so appointed for the purpose of the said investigation and report.

Clause 15 practically makes the selling of imported goods at a price below their market value a crime. It is thus proposed to manufacture a new crime to be added to a number of acts which are not, properly speaking, criminal, but have been made such by legislation - acts which in essence are perfectly innocent and fair, and should not be dealt with in this way. The provision in sub-section (a) of this clause is one to" which I most strongly object. It relates to the appointment of a Board of experts, who might be peculiarly susceptible to the influences of bribery and corruption. I can conceive the possibility of our obtaining men of high character who would not be open to such influences; but, taking human nature om the average, there is a very strong probability that a Board of this character would be susceptible to such considerations. This is certainly offering every incentive to those who wish to bring such a Board into operation to make it worth the while of that Board to give a decision that will be to their pecuniary advantage. We should not place such a power for bribery and corruption in the hands of either a Minister or a ComptrollerGeneral. The power should rest with the Parliament alone; but if the Legislature deems it wise to relegate its powers in this connexion to some person outside, a Judge of a Supreme Court should be selected to deal with these matters. We certainly ought not to have such a Board as is contemplated. At the best, its members would be only the creatures of the Minister appointing it. Taking human nature again as the stand-point of our criticism, it is reasonable to believe that a Minister might designedly select as members of the. Board men who were biased, and could be relied upon to give a decision in a certain way. The power thus proposed to be placed in the hands of a Minister is a tremendous one, which might or might not be used corruptly ; but, having regard to all the circumstances, it would be likely to be used corruptly than otherwise. For these reasons, I have a very strong objection! to this clause, and trust that it will be radically amended in Committee. Speaking generally, I think the Government have made a mistake in introducing the Bill at all, but especially at the present juncture. They have shown no reason for doing so, and

I strongly urge them to postpone its further consideration until we. have had an opportunity to read and digest the reports of the Tariff Commission, andi so to learn what justification, if any, there is for its introduction. I intend to vote against the second reading of the Bill.

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