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Tuesday, 19 June 1906

Mr HUME COOK (BOURKE, VICTORIA) - I did not know that I was making any remarks with regard to the conclusions of scientists. I was stating that if you altered the environment of these trusts you would not eliminate personal villanv, and I was pointing out that there was villany in governmental concerns as well as' in private concerns.

Mr Watson - We can remove the temptation to villany.

Mr HUME COOK (BOURKE, VICTORIA) - You can remove the temptation only when you remove the whole thing to which temptation attaches. So long as there is human nature, human greed, and human desire for power and possession, so long will there be temptation. That would apply to a socialistic condition of affairs as much as to any other.

Mr Wilson - We shall all be angels under Socialism.

Mr Lonsdale - We are more likely to become devils.

Mr HUME COOK (BOURKE, VICTORIA) - If we abolished trusts to-morrow, we should not necessarily abolish the evils associated with them. We should merely transfer them to some other channel. I should like to say a word, in passing, upon one of the popular misconceptions with regard to trusts. It seeme to be supposed that all these trusts are successful in their operations, but, so far as I can ascertain, very few of them are prosperous. In the Daily Express, I find this statement : -

Only twenty-three out of 143 of the large trusts of the United States are paying dividends. Many are in difficulties, and capital aggregating £340,000,000 is earning absolutely nothing at all.

Mr Higgins - It will do them good if we crush them.

Mr HUME COOK (BOURKE, VICTORIA) - I venture to express a doubt as to whether we can crush them. In the United States attempts have been made for the last dozen years to crush out the trusts, but they are carrying on in spite of everything. Instead of crushing the trusts, we should try and crush the evil out of them and guide and control them, and limit their scope of operations.

Mr Deakin - If the United States do not crush the trusts, the trusts will crush the United"" "States. They will subvert the whole Government, and themselves become the controlling power.

Mr HUME COOK (BOURKE, VICTORIA) - What does the Prime Minister mean by "crushing" the trusts ?

Mr Deakin - I mean that they must be forced to confine themselves to the limits of honest business and honest profit.

Mr HUME COOK (BOURKE, VICTORIA) - Exactly. We all wish that that could be accomplished, but the Bill aims at nothing of the kind.

Mr Deakin - Indeed it does.

Mr HUME COOK (BOURKE, VICTORIA) - The Bill, according to its title, deads with the repression of trusts, and not their regulation or control, or their restriction to justifiable operations. .

Mr Deakin - It aims at the repression of trusts if they are detrimental to the people.

Mr Isaacs - The honorable member has not got hold of the night title of the Bill.

Mr HUME COOK (BOURKE, VICTORIA) - The Bill professes to aim at the repression of destructive monopolies, but the word " destructive " is only an ugly adjective, which did not appear in the first measure that was introduced. The title has been amended, and theevil with which the measure professes to deal has been made to appear much more menacing than on the former occasion. I am reminded of an incident which occurred a short time ago, when I was taking my children to Manly. I could not get them to pass a confectioner's shop, in which there was displayed a small sugar lion, which was wagging its head in a most menacing manner. The Government have introduced into the title of the Bill a lion in the shape of destructive monopolies, in order to make the measure appear more necessarv. If there are destructive monopolies operating to the detriment of Australian trade, let us know all about them. We have asked for particulars, and cannot obtain them. All the figures that have been supplied to us show that very little is going on beyond healthy, normal competition. Last year we imported £85,000 worth of harvesters, as against £250,000 worth of similar machines that were made in Australia. That does not look as if the menacing lion of destructive monopoly was swallowing up Messrs. McKay and Co. On the other hand, it appears that, in spite of foreign competition, Messrs. McKay and Co. are driving a good profitable business.

Mr Hughes - We are following the advice of the right honorable member for East Sydney, who says, " Kill the tiger while it is young."

Mr HUME COOK (BOURKE, VICTORIA) - My trouble is that there is a conflict of opinion amongst Socialists as to what they ought to do in this case. Some of them have indicated that the supposed tiger ought to be put on the socialistic chain. Now the honorable and learned member wants to kill it.

Mr Hughes - I said that the Bill was designed to kill it.

Mr HUME COOK (BOURKE, VICTORIA) - The honorable and learned member used the personal pronoun " we."

Mr Hughes - The honorable member is not criticising me, but the Bill.

Mr HUME COOK (BOURKE, VICTORIA) - I am commenting on the honorable and learned member's interjection, and I shall be glad to hear him make some reply, if he can. So far, those honorable members who are supposed to be most deeply concerned in this proposal have been as dumb as Jeremiah.

Mr Watson - I spoke last session. Surely the honorable member does not want me to make two speeches on the same Bill?

Mr HUME COOK (BOURKE, VICTORIA) - Is this the same Bill that was introduced last session?

Mr Watson - Practically.

Mr HUME COOK (BOURKE, VICTORIA) - The Minister says that it is a more drastic measure; and the honorable member must admit that there is a verv great difference in the title of the Bill.

Mr Watson - That is nothing.

Mr HUME COOK (BOURKE, VICTORIA) - If it can be proved that a menace exists, no opposition to any attempt to combat it will be raised from this side of the House. The facts ought to be provable by statistics. That is the only test that can be applied in a matter of this kind. The figures that have been supplied by the Minister, in response to my request, so far from indicating that there is any menace, show that there is nothing more than normal competition. As I have stated, most of the trusts in the United States are failures. For every one that is a success twenty are failures, and the reason is not far to seek. No more difficult course could possiblv be conceived than that upon which a trust sets out when it proceeds in the teeth of the law of supply and demand, which regulates the whole business of the world in spite of all Tariffsi and other legislation. You cannot subvert that law. If you do. it will be so much the worse for you, and that very speedily. Therefore, it happens that these trusts, which began with watered capital and inflated prices, have failed. They have sought to raise a few miles of the ocean. As one writer has said, they have exchanged financial loss for educational experience.

All combinations that are intended to force up values to an abnormal extent are to be condemned. To fleece is to cheat, and is immoral, and any combinations setting out to inflate prices beyond their fair normal value violate not only the industrial law of fair competition, but also a higher moral law, and every effort should be made to suppress them.

Mr Hughes - Very often, by the time they assume such proportions as to enable them to do that, they are so powerful that they cannot be suppressed.

Mr HUME COOK (BOURKE, VICTORIA) - We should not be prevented from attempting to do so. Our problem is to eliminate the abuses from these large industrial combinations, and to try and make them square with some broad standard of industrial morality. That is our problem, and in the prosecution of it we ought to do our very utmost to eliminate abuses. The 'Bill, however, does not attempt to do any such thing. It, indicts combinations as combinations, and trusts as trusts, and aims at their repression rather than their regulation or control. As I have already said, I think that the regulation of these trusts is within our province, and I admit that we are confronted with great difficulty. Nothing is more difficult than to regulate huge trusts such as are developing upon the American continent, and the trouble arises from the fact that no two of them are alike as to their material and financial conditions. Every trust is on a basis peculiar to itself, and has peculiar financial and material standards. Our laws are not flexible. They operate in the same way in regard to all, and thus render it difficult to regulate huge concerns such as are indicated. Take' the Commerce Bill which was passed last session. It was framed very largely upon the lines of legislation which it was claimed had been successful in New Zealand. But will any one say that there is any parallel between New Zealand and Australia, either as to size, territory, climate. configuration, or in anyother respect? There is absolutely none, and yet we have adopted for this huge continent a law which has been regarded as suited to the circumstances of New Zealand. I am not saying that the New Zealand Act has had all the good results that are claimed. In any case, it does not follow that a law which is good for New Zealand is a proper one to bring into operation in the Commonwealth.

No two States of Australia are alike. The conditions under which produce goes to market from the States of Australia, and in the States themselves differ in every case. There are climates in some of our States which are the very antithesis of one another, and to make one plain enactment to apply to every condition of trade in Australia is almost impossible. The Minister himself is finding this out, now that he comes to frame the regulations under the Commerce Act. He cannot carry out the Act. It is another superincumbent piece of legislative machinery, of which this Government, I am sure, will make the most when their placard is put before the country. It is an excellent thing at a time when the people are being led to believe that the more we reel off legislative enactments the more good we are necessarily doing them. It will serve its purpose as a placard of that kind, but it has long since proved itself to the Minister to be impossible of realization in the way he at first intended!. He is finding the greatest difficulty in getting it into operation, for the simple reason that there are so many varying conditions to which these rigid laws have to be applied. It is impossible to do it, and it is not being .done. The Act today is being in large measure ignored. I am glad that it is. While it is a waste of time to pass measures which cannot be carried out, I would rather see those measures resting quietly upon the legislative rubbish heap than witness an, effort to enforce them to the infinite injury of our diversified industrial life. In the Bill now before us it is proposed to invest a few men with autocratic control. They are to settle questions involving millions of money on lines of mere expediency, and where there is no issue of right and wrong necessarilv involved. It may be requisite, from time to time, to call in these autocratic and personal powers of Government, where vital conditions, such as affect the life and continuity of a nation, have to be met. But here we are calling them into operation to control the industrial operations of a country where thousands, nay, millions of money - and only questions of property and finance - are involved. We ought to be very careful how we call out, shall I say, these reserve powers of the people, in order l.o meet the ordinary normal conditions of trade and business. Our problem is, as I have said, one of regulation - one of purifica- tion - so far as abuses are concerned. Our problem is to eliminate from trusts everything that would! make them operate in a direction contrary to the interests of the people as a whole. In our complex modern life this intervention of the Government is needed more than ever. People try to make it appear on the public platform that we who range ourselves upon the anti-Socialist side of the. political controversy are averse to all State action. The Attorney-General, when addressing his constituents the other day, spoke of a good Socialism and a bad Socialism. We are just as much in favour of that good Socialism as he is. The mistake he makes is in defining our position for us, in attacking his own definition and not our own.

Mr Watson - The honorable member and his party call themselves anti-Socialists.


Mr Watson - Then thev must be against all Socialism.

Mr HUME COOK (BOURKE, VICTORIA) - There is a very definite meaning attached to anti-Socialism. " Anti-Socialism " does not mean - and no one knows this better than does the honorable member - objection to the carrying out of such Government functions as will enable the people to develop their individual private concerns.

Mr Watson - That is not antiSocialism ; it is only a bogus anti-Socialism.

Mr HUME COOK (BOURKE, VICTORIA) - The Socialism to which we object is that of the honorable member, who aims at the destruction of private enterprise.

Mr Watson - The honorable member is bogus again. This is the second time.

Mr HUME COOK (BOURKE, VICTORIA) - To use the honorable member's own formula for realizing this ideal-

Mr Watson - The honorable member was once a bogus Labour member, and now he is a bogus Socialist.

Mr HUME COOK (BOURKE, VICTORIA) - Now the honorable member is becoming abusive. Anti-Socialism is against the honorable member's formula, in which he describes his objective as the condition of things in which we produce for use, and not for profit.

Mr Watson - I did not so describe my objective. The honorable member's statement, like something else he has said, is untrue.

Mr SPEAKER - I must ask the honorable member for Bland to withdraw that remark.

Mr Watson - I see no wrong in saying that; the statement is untrue. I do not suggest that the honorable member is wilfully misrepresenting me, but I do say that as a matter of fact his statement is incorrect.

Mr SPEAKER - Will the honorable member kindly withdraw the remark?

Mr Watson - I shall do so, sir, if you wish it ; but I do not see anything wrong in saving that a statement is incorrect.

Mr HUME COOK (BOURKE, VICTORIA) - I shall make no remark as to the- honorable member's contention, but shall ask leave later on to make a personal explanation, and to quote the honorable member.

Mr Watson - The statement is incorrect; the honorable member cannot quote me.

Mr HUME COOK (BOURKE, VICTORIA) - I suppose that that of which we read as having taken place in Bendigo the other night, in connexion with the Political Labour Council, is also incorrect.

Mr SPEAKER - I must ask the honorable member to discuss the Bill, and not the question of what is or is not Socialism.

Mr HUME COOK (BOURKE, VICTORIA) - I submit, Mr. Speaker, that in discussing the fundamental principles' of governmental control, regulation, and repression, I may be allowed to furnish illustrations. That is all I am doing.

Mr SPEAKER - I have already allowed the honorable member very considerable latitude. I think that for some time he has been on the border-line of irrelevancy ; but as I assumed that he was simply referring incidentally to the various points, I took no steps to stop him. As the course he is at present pursuing is producing somefeeling in the House I must ask him tO' confine his attention to the discussion of the Bill itself.

Mr HUME COOK (BOURKE, VICTORIA) - I have already said that in our modern arrangements, complex as they are, the intervention of Government becomes necessary. No one recognises that more clearly that" do those who range themselves on the an ti -Socialist side of this controversy. Private liberty - and I say it frankly - must always go down before the liberty of others the moment it infringes that liberty. That is the true position in relation to these matters.

Mr Hughes - Hear, hear ;. Socialismsays no more than that.

Mr HUME COOK (BOURKE, VICTORIA) - I wish to say, further - and this is what Socialism does not say - that that boundary-line must be fixed by a wise and prudent expediency, and must not follow any blind principle, such as is enunciated by the Socialists in this House.

Mr Watson - One would not expect the anti-Socialists to follow any principle.

Mr HUME COOK (BOURKE, VICTORIA) - Our great aim should always be to leave private enterprise as free as possible consistently with the elimination of those abuses which fasten themselves on all the enterprises in which individuals take part. This is an AntiCompetition Bill. It does not merely regulate competition; it deems all possible competition between Australia and elsewhere as being, in itself a thing to be repressed, and it proposes accordingly to repress it. As I described it last session, it is an Anti-Trade Bill, not an Anti-Trust Bill. All competition is not .bad. There is a constructive, as well as a . destructive competition, and the mistake my honorable friends opposite make, is in girding at all competition as necessarily evil, and, therefore, a matter for complete suppression. They see only one side to this competition ; they see the iron wheels going over good people, and they conclude, therefore, that all competition is evil. There is a good as well as an evil kind of competition. Constructive competition

Mr Mauger - That is emulation.

Mr HUME COOK (BOURKE, VICTORIA) - I am referring to constructive competition which is not emulation or anything like it - to competition which results in the employment of improved machinery-

Mr Mauger - That is emulation.

Mr HUME COOK (BOURKE, VICTORIA) - I was not aware that people revolutionized their industrial concerns purely for emulative purposes. I thought that they did it for private profit and advantage. I venture to say that that is what influences; the honorable member. There is a constructive competition which means better skill and better machines, and if we abolish the constructive side of these competitive enterprises, the world, it seems to me, must slip back again to semi-barbarism. It is the one thing, that keeps us from drifting back. In this Bill, successful competition is regarded as unfair, merely because it is successful. That is one of its fundamental mistakes. No distinction is made; competition has only to be successful, and then, no matter how fair it- mav be from every industrial and moral stand-point, it is deemed in this

Bill to be unfair. It is unfair because it happens to be successful. In other words, the word " unfair" as used in the Bill ;s so elastic as to include all competition, whether constructive or destructive. The title of the Bill, to begin with, indicates that it has a dual function. It aims first at the preservation of Australian industries. Here we have a new departure in connexion with our legislation. lt has always been peculiarly the function of the Tariff to arrange for the preservation of Australian industries. The sole aim of the protectionists has been to preserve Australian industries by means of Tariffs, and until now they have always proclaimed upon the hustings that Tariffs were sufficient for the purpose. It was left to the Minister in charge of this Bill the other night to say that it was designed to do what thev could not do in that direction. I believe that there is no protectionist here who will subscribe to that doctrine; nor would the Minister subscribe to it if its immediate use was not the putting through of this Anti-Trade Bill. At any other time he would be one of the most eloquent advocates of the imposition of duties for the purpose for which he has ostensibly introduced this Bil!' - the preservation of Australian industries. What is the fact ? The question of harvesters has already been before the House. It declined to- increase the duty on the article, and now the Ministry is attempting to do by a. special Bill what it deliberately declined to do when the Tariff was under consideration. Ministers are getting behind the back of Parliament, if I may so put it. in trying to get through under an entirely different title a higher duty for the benefit of the harvestermakers in Australia. They ought straightforwardly to come to the House with a higher Tariff if they want that industry to be further protected, and not to do it in a Bill of this kind. I have yet to learn that the House is going lightly to surrender its powers of taxation in this way - to hand over its control by -means of a Tariff to a board, necessarily autocratic in its composition and its personnel. For the first time an Australian Parliament - for the first time. I venture to say, the Parliament of a British community - is asked to deliberately surrender .its right of controlling the Tariff and of regulating industrial concerns. But here it is in this Bill as its first and principal function. It occurs to me that during this Parliament we are mak- ing a very great stride forward in the direction of setting up personal in place of responsible government. If we take these ordinary affairs relating to social and industrial life away from Parliament, and place them under the control of a few autocratic men, we shall have gone far towards preparing the conditions for the absolute destruction of responsible government. One of these affairs after another will be put under the control of persons outside, and if we go on as we are doing we shall soon be ripe for a dictator to come along and take charge of the whole affairs of Australia and work them from a purely personal^ stand-point and consideration. Under this Bill no competition is allowable except with countries' with equal industrial conditions. As the industrial conditions of no two countries are alike, trade between them will become impossible.

Mr Wilks - This is a short cut to prohibition.

Mr HUME COOK (BOURKE, VICTORIA) - The logic of the Bill is trade prohibition - there is no escape from that conclusion - if its provisions are carried out strictly. We are told, for instance, in the Bill that if there is any difference in the wage rate of any other country - and wage rate is to include hours of labour and general conditions surrounding the industry - that is to be regarded as unfair competition.

Mp. Isaacs. - What clause is the honorable member referring to?

Mr HUME COOK (BOURKE, VICTORIA) - I am referring to the interpretation clause, which says - " Lower remuneration for labour " includes less pay or longer hours or any terms or conditions of labour or employment more disadvantageous to workers.

Mr Isaacs - That does not bear out what the honorable member said.

Mr HUME COOK (BOURKE, VICTORIA) - It does bear out what I say. The Bill instructs the ComptrollerGeneral of Customs - an instruction which we ought not to give him, because, as head of the Customs Department, he has no right to concern himself in these things - if he suspects that imports have come here from any country where lower remuneration of labour obtains, to indict the instrumentality of their coming. Because the competition is successful it is indicted as unfair under the Bill. Is it right to set up as a legislative standard that anything which competes on conditions, however fair, honorable, and reasonable, must be regarded as unfair until a whole process of inquiry to prove the contrary is undertaken? It may mean that you are indicting a better machine and superior skill. At the same time, you are in danger of trying to bolster up an inferior machine, and to keep it in operation at the cost of the community and at the expense of people outside. Therefore the Bill is going right in the teeth of that constructive competition which has played so large a part in the upbuilding' of the industrial prosperity of the nations of the world. Then, too, there is a fallacy lurking in clause 3, I think. The assumption is that lower remuneration of labour gives better competing conditions. It is a false assumption. The best paid labour is the most successful, and produces more cheaply than any_ other kind of labour. Our trouble to-day is not with low-paid countries - and the figures show that - but with highly-paid countries. But the assumption in this Bill is that if labour is remunerated at a lower rate, therefore- that low-remunerated labour has a better competing status than if it were paid more highly. All the experience of the world proves that that assumption is fallacious. Our statistics show that we have more to fear from the competition of the highlypaid than from that of the low-paid labour of the world. Then who is to say what is the cause of our disorganization ? Is. there to be an inquiry into the calibre of our machine, into the acquired skill and experience that we possess here? The Bill does not say that these things are to be taken into consideration. It says that if our industry is likely to be disorganized, therefore that trade must be stopped. It does not mean that we must wait until the disorganization has actually taken place, but that if, in the opinion of the ComptrollerGeneral of Customs, it would probably take place, therefore this repression must go on. Disorganization always will, and must, take place where there is a clash of a good machine with a bad one, of superior skill with inferior skill. If you check the consequences arising from that inter-play of the education and skill of the world, it will drive the nation back a long stage to barbarism. I do not want to go into all the "details of the Bill, but wish to say a few words about the question of dumping. Here, again, the Bill makes no distinctions. It aims a blow at dumping, from whatever quarter it may come, under whatever conditions it may happen to come, and whether its effects may be harmful or good. There are two kinds of dumping - aggressive dumping and compulsory . dumping. Aggressive dumping may be described as that into which a rich nation enters in order to try to beat to industrial earth a poorer nation. With that kind of dumping no one has any sympathy, and there must always be power inherent in any Government to try to prevent the complete overthrow and destruction of its industrial life by that means. But you have to take care, even in connexion with this matter, that the remedy to be applied is not worse than the disease. Great caution and the utmost ability are required to apply any provisions which are aimed at the repression of even aggressive dumping from outside. Compulsory clumping may be described as the sale of bankrupt and surplus stocks in countries which have over-produced, and' which, therefore, must pay to bring the goods here and sell them at whatever prices they will fetch. This Bill is designed to stop all thai kind of thing. If it be stopped here you have to take care that you have not to meet it elsewhere, particularly in this matter of harvesters. I understand Mr. McKay to be an exporter of harvesters to-day. If the importation of harvesters be stopped, outside manufacturers must necessarily find a market elsewhere for surplus stocks, and if they do not compete with Mr. McKay here, the probability is that they will compete with him in other quarters of the world.

Mr Lonsdale - He is competing with them now.

Mr Kelly - He is beating them in open competition in South America.

Mr HUME COOK (BOURKE, VICTORIA) - They will cornpete all the more keenly if they are shut out of Australia, since they must find an outlet for their surplus products elsewhere. All these are difficulties to be faced even when dealing with apparently so simple a matter as the dumping of goods. But is it right to make the Comptroller-General of Customs a political officer and a partisan ? What right have we to put upon him the duty of saying that in his opinion an imported article will disorganize an industry here, or that an article from abroad has been produced at a lower wage-rate than that paid in the production of a similar article here? In spite of himself he must become a political partisan if he is to undertake this duty which is sought to be thrust upon him by the Government. Then, again, there are some things taboo in the Bill as to which the contrary has not to be proved. The Minister has only to hear one side of the matter. The Bill actually goes the length of laying down hard and fast lines upon which a jury shall proceed'. First of all the Bill gives the jury a definition wide enough to cover everything. It says that they must inquire into the question of what is " unfair in the circumstances." Surely the phrase " in the circumstances " includes every circumstance surrounding a trade. After telling the jury in that general direction that they must inquire into every circumstance concerning a. trade, if need be, the Bill goes on to say that such and such things shall be observed by them in conducting their inquiry. Again it says that if a man is paid a very large salary that also is a matter for investigation. Large salaries or large rewards, are indicated by the Bill. President Roosevelt says in his message that you must have large rewards to attract men of special talent and skill. This is a levelling process with a vengeance ! This cutting down of wages, if they happen to be big wages, is socialistic enough for anybody. Speaking generally, you get this position under the Bill, that a man believing that he is not breaking any law, knowing nothing of some of the intentions and purposes of this autocratic body out here, may send out his goods, and find that thev are prevented from being landed. He may have his trade strangled and destroyed, and that through no fault of his own. but simply because he is not able to gauge the whims, moods and tenses of a body which is set up here with limitless control and almost limitless scope. It will be our object in Committee to tri to tone down some of these defects of the Bill. We are going to try to eliminate some of the possible dangers of trusts in Australia, but we shall, iti doing that, take care that, in addressing ourselves primarily to an attempt to deal with the cupidity of the individual, we do not contravene these great natural laws which will crush us if we disobey them, but which, if harnessed, guided, controlled, are capable of bringing us greater prosperity and greater peace.

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