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Thursday, 5 July 1906

Mr HENRY WILLIS (Robertson) . - The Attorney-General has made very clear what we have assumed all along, that he desires to treat as criminals men who will "probably" commit offences.

Mr Webster - He wishes to warn them.

Mr HENRY WILLIS - Before a man has committed an offence he may be given twelve months' imprisonment because he would " probably " commit it.

Mr Isaacs - To come under the clause he must have entered into a combination to do certain things. The honorable member, apparently, would not punish a man for attempting to commit murder, but would wait until he had murdered some one.

Mr HENRY WILLIS - Surely the Attorney-General would not hang men because they might probably commit murder ! But by this clause he proposes that men shall be imprisoned for twelve months, and fined £1,000, because they may probably compete unfairly. This is infamous legislation. Men are to be punished because they will probably destroy industries. They are to be proceeded against before they have done anything, and to be punished because they will probably commit an offence. If he says that that is British law, I defy the Attorney-General 10 prove the statement.

Mr Watson - The honorable member should not defy him.

Mr HENRY WILLIS - The honorable member for Bland may have some small knowledge of Socialism, but he has not the faintest notion of business matters. Indeed, he appears not to have a shred of intelligence in dealing with commercial affairs.

Mr Watson - How is it possible for any one to have knowledge when the honorable member assumes it all ?

Mr HENRY WILLIS - There is room for more than myself, but. we have heard very little from the honorable member. He has taken no part in amending the Bill.

Mr Watson - " I have taken part' in several amendments.

Mr HENRY WILLIS - The honorable member is really impotent. The press puffs him up, and tells him that he has power,; and he believes the statement. In reality, he is getting his leg pulled. These statements are published to make little of the Government. Does he not know that this is an old dodge?

Mr Storrer - Is the honorable member speaking to the amendment.

The CHAIRMAN - Honorable members are themselves to blame if the honorable member for Robertson is out of order, because their continual interjections make it difficult for me to follow the speaker.

Mr.Watson. - Is it possible for you, Mr. Chairman, to follow the honorable member for Robertson, even when no one is interjecting?

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I should like to know whether the honorable member for Bland is in order in addressing, to you a question which reflects upon another honorable member?

The CHAIRMAN - I did not understand the honorable member for Bland to do that.

Mr HENRY WILLIS - I take the AttorneyGeneral's own words " would probably commit an offence."

Mr Isaacs - Those are not my words.

Mr HENRY WILLIS - Those are the words of the Bill, " would probably or does in fact result in a lower remuneration for labour." That is an offence.

Mr Isaacs - No, it is not.

Mr Crouch - That must be first proved.

Mr HENRY WILLIS - No. It is provided that until the contrary is proved, competition that would probably, or does in fact, result in a lower remuneration for labour, shall be deemed to be unfair. The Attorney-General explained that the words " would probably" should be retained, because, otherwise, an offence would be committed before action could be taken. In other words, he wishes to act before an offence is committed. He wishes to punish an innocent person by sentencing him to twelve months' imprisonment, and fining him £1,000, because he would probably commit an offence. He says, " We will not wait until the offence has been committed, or until the injury has been done to our industries, but we will nip the thing in the bud." This seems very silly. It is so ludicrous that all honorable members are laughing at it. Can it be pretended that this is in accord with British law? The AttorneyGeneral is much too clever and experienced a lawyer to willingly father such a proposal. There must be something at the back of his conduct. Is he being led bv the Minister of Trade and Customs? If so, I hope that he will break awav from the shackles of his colleague and meet the reasonable requests of honorable members.

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