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Wednesday, 20 June 1906


Mr SPEAKER - Personally I can see nothing objectionable in the remark, but if it is offensive to the honorable member I will ask the Minister to withdraw it.


Sir William Lyne - I withdraw.


Mr KNOX - The Minister has no right to make an ungenerous statement such as has fallen from him. I am sure that every honorable member holds the opinion that the Chicago meat scandals should be sifted to the bottom, and that every one associated with them should 'be adequately punished. I am in receipt of telegrams from the Sydney, Brisbane, and Adelaide Chambers of Commerce. The Sydney Chamber of Commerce regards the Bill as having been very hastily framed, and expresses the opinion that it will hamper business in directions not contemplated by the Minister. The Brisbane Chamber, whilst being in favour of the suppression of harmful trusts, is strongly opposed to some of the provisions of the Bill, which are supposed to be designed to preserve Australian industries, and emphatically protests against the measure coming into law. It considers that the Bill would give rise to internal monopolies, which would be against the public interests, and that its administration would cause endless trouble and disastrous litigation. These opinions are expressed, not by inexperienced persons, but by business men of wide knowledge, who have been deliberating upon the Bill ever since it has been in their hands. I do not say that they have taken an altogether unselfish view. They have their own. interests to consider. I claim, however, that they possess the knowledge necessary to enable them to intelligently discuss the whole question.


Mr Poynton - Does the honorable member intend to vote for the Bill in the face of that statement?


Mr KNOX - I stand here as the representative of my constituents, and I am here to do my duty, irrespective of any representations that may be made by persons outside of the House. I have received from Adelaide the following statement -

In the opinion of this Chamber the Bill is calculated to place serious difficulties and dangers in the way rf import trade for the protection - apart from the effect of the Customs Tariff - of particular Colonial industries.

It was further resolved to point out that the Bill makes Australian traders the scapegoat of the world's present and future trusts, and that while legislation cannot destroy such trusts, Australian traders are charged with all risks of doing business with them.

Further, I am instructed to inform you that, in the opinion of this Chamber, the matter of trusts and legislation for their suppression should be thoroughly investigated and reported on by a committee of commercial experts before such provisions as are contained in the Anti-Trust Bill are passed.

Strangely enough, I received to-da,y a letter from the Chamber of Commerce of the State of New York. I hope that no members of the New York Chamber were associated with the scandalous work that was going on in Chicago. I notice that the vice-presidents of the chamber include Mr. Whitelaw Reid, Mr. Chauncey M. Depew, and many others whom I do not know. These are men of high moral standing in the United States. of America. They say -

In reply to your favour of. 15th December, asking information concerning the laws of the United States for the repression of commercial trusts, I would state that this subject has received a large amount of attention during the last fifteen or twenty years, and that in 1S90, the Congress of the United States enacted what is known as the Sherman Anti-Trust Act, of which I enclose a copy.

This law, as you will see, is extremely drastic and sweeping in character, and if it had been enforced literal h'. would have seriously embarrassed the development of industry in the United States.

It is certain that the Sherman Act has not been effective in coping with the existing condition of affairs. I have been asked by some honorable members to state my objections to the Bill. Under it, if two persons agree not to sell their goods at less than a certain price their action constitutes a restraint of trade. That being so, the Bill should also apply to individuals who agree not to sell their com.modity - that is, 'their labour - below a cer- tain price. If they agree to accept less wages under any circumstances or conditions, surely the provisions relating to restraint of trade should apply to them?


Mr Webster - Get on to the " poor labourer."


Mr KNOX - I am just as anxious as is the honorable member to see fair conditions apply to the labourer.


Mr Page - The honorable member paid good wages upon some of his claims.


Mr KNOX - I am glad that the honorable member for Maranoa agrees with me. I am sincerely desirous that the worker shall obtain the full reward for his labour, but I do not wish to see legislation introduced which will eventually inflict injury upon him. Human nature will remain the same until the end of the chapter, and legislation will not alter it.


Mr Page - If legislation has- no effect, why put the burglar in gaol ?


Mr KNOX - Under clause 6 the determination of what constitutes unfair competition is left to a jury. What can .an ordinary jury know of such an intricate subject, and one familiarity with which would demand a lifetime of study? Although I am interested in quite a number of industries, I would not for a moment regard myself as qualified to express an opinion upon such a matter. Again, competition is to be considered unfair as a matter of law if it would " probably result " in the lowering of wages. Consequently, a manufacturer has only to say that he must reduce the wages of his employes, and the competition of the foreigner will at once be deemed unfair, and the importer of his goods will be rendered liable to a penalty. We have- already declared in our Immigration Restriction Act that we are not going to allow outside labour to come into competition) with Australian labour. We have laid down that principle. I quite admit that it is just as desirable that that principle should be applied to the results of labour as to the labourer himself. I would further point out that -

If any article is produced by a: new or improved method, necessitating' the alteration or abandonment of the existing system of. production in Australia, that competition thereby becomes unfair.

Take the case of bootmaking machinery as an example. The magnificent appliances which enable the worker to obtain boots and shoes for himself and his family at low prices is at the present time in the

Viands of a trust. If improved machinery were to be imported, which would affect the position of the labourer in Australia, cannot the honorable member for Moira see that its introduction would be opposed to the spirit of this measure?


Mr Kennedy - This Bill will not prevent the introduction of a single piece of machinery.


Mr KNOX - I hope that it will not. In its present form, however, it undoubtedly will.


Sir William Lyne - No.


Mr KNOX - Before it passes this House I trust that honorable members will see that it will do nothing of the kind. My complaint is that the Bill has been put upon the table in an incomplete form, and that we are asked to agree to its crude provisions.


Mr Kennedy - That statement might pass unchallenged down the street, but it will not do here.


Mr KNOX - I am stating sound, solid facts. In regard to monopolies, I would point out that any man who patents an article creates a monopoly, so far as its supply and price are concerned.


Mr Maloney - The capitalist wipes out the inventor.


Mr KNOX -No, there are many in- ventors who would have been in a Setter position to-day if they had had the assistance of capitalists.


Mr Page - Will the honorable member point out the crude clauses in the Bill?


Mr KNOX -I am dealing with some of them. The honorable member's capacity for following is often rather obtuse, but I know that he has not been listening to the debate.


Mr Kennedy - The honorable member is dealing with something which is not in the Bill.


Mr KNOX - Under clause 9-

Any lawyer or financial agent who drew up an agreement, or financed an arrangement between the parties which a jurymight hold to be arestraint of trade, or to introduce unfair competition, or to secure a monopoly, would be guilty of an indictable offence. Even active coooeration is not necessary.


Mr Page - That is not in the Bill.


Mr KNOX - I am merely explaining my objections to the measure -

Paragraph b carries this still further, and under it -


Mr Page - I rise to a point of order. I desire to know if the honorable member isin order in reading his speech ?


Mr SPEAKER - If the honorable member for Kooyong were reading his speech, he would not be in order, but he is merely reading a certain statement which he has prepared, and which he is quite as much at liberty to read as any honorable member is to read any quotation that he may make.


Mr Page - On a point of order, sir, do you rule that any honorable member can prepare a statement and read it as portion of a speech?


Mr SPEAKER - It depends altogether upon the proportion which the statement bears to the whole speech. If the honorable member for Kooyong proposed to read a statement which constituted his speech, he would not be in order, but if he carefully prepares a statement summarizing certain objections in order that he may present them very clearly to the House, and thus occupy less time than he otherwise would do, that statement being but a very small proportion of the whole speech, he will be in order.


Mr Page - That is news to me.


Mr SPEAKER - I should like to say that this liberty has been constantly allowed to Ministers and to honorable members, but out of it has sprung a practice which is entirely out of order - I refer to the partial reading of a statement by an honorable member, who then hands it to Hansard, the result being that the whole of if, including the portion which he has not read, appears as part of his speech. That practice is out of order, but the reading of a short statement, such as the honorable member for Kooyong has prepared, is perfectly in order.


Mr Page - This information is entirely new to me. I had no idea that we were at liberty to do anything more than prepare notes. If an honorable member may read a statement, it will make all the difference in the world. I shall take notice of your ruling, sir, in future.


Mr KNOX - The honorable member for Maranoa is not correct when he implies that I have read my speech. The fact is that, after consultation with certain business men, I have tabulated some objections to this Bill which I desire to read. I have not read them literally, because with some of the conclusions arrived at by the gentlemen in question I do not agree. The interjection of the honorable member was unworthy of him, because I have only read certain clauses. I shall continue reading now, and I shall tell the House when I am reading and when I am not.


Mr Kennedy - That is the only opportunity we have of knowing.


Mr KNOX - Continuing my reading, I hold the opinion^ -

That no new or imported article could be imported if it would supersede any .articles produced in Australia, or even their sale, with the consequent result of less employment at lower rates in this particular trade.

I have dealt with a number of matters with a view to supplementing the observations of the honorable member for North Sydney. He analyzed the Bill in such a way that, to my mind, it is quite unnecessary for any honorable member to debate it exhaustively. But the Labour Party, in whose interests the measure has been introduced, are content to sit silently by, and thus we have no opportunity of getting a proper and open discussion of its merits. I have framed a number of suggestions, and I have circulated an amendment which I shall ask the House to consider at a later stage. The Attorney-General has admitted that the Tariff was intended to meet ordinary conditions, and that this Bill was designed to meet extraordinary conditions. I quite recognise that the honorable and learned gentleman, in saying that, was defining the exact position, but if it is intended to deal with extraordinary conditions, and if any attempt to alter the Tariff must receive the approval of this House surely, after the admission of the Ministry through the Attorney-General, we have a right to ask that before the good's of any alleged monopoly corporation are prevented from coming into this country the matter shall be dealt with by resolution of this House?


Mr Webster - Is the honorable member serious in making that suggestion ?


Mr KNOX - I am serious, and later on I shall give more fully the reasons why I think it is desirable that that should be done.


Mr Webster - We should have to sit all the year round.


Mr KNOX - I repeat in conclusion what I started with, and that is an earnest protest against the manner in which these great commercial measures are thrown upon the table to be fought out, and against imposing upon honorable members the obligation to make them workable, and bring them into line with the conditions known to exist, so that they may not dislocate the whole of the. trade of the community. I am sorry that the honorable member for Maranoa and I should have come into conflict, but the honorable member is aware that there is no personal animus between us. I am not prepared to vote against the second reading of this Bill, believing, as I do, in the principle^ which underlie it ; but I have given some reasons, and I shall give more in Committee, why many alterations require to be made in it. I again deplore the fact that, instead of securing the advice and assistance of competent persons before introducing such a Bill the Minister has thrown it upon the table, andi left us to wrangle about it and put it into shape. Much irritation and confusion might be averted if, before submitting such measures the Government secured competent advice upon them, and were not so much disposed to submit them, as I venture to believe this Bill has been submitted, in order that it may be held up as a placard for the two purposes I have indicated.







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