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Friday, 16 July 1915

Senator O'KEEFE (TASMANIA) - Does not the trouble arise from the fact that the Imperial Government will not fall into line with the suggestions made in regard to zinc?

Senator MILLEN - Of course, there is always a possibility of products which formerly went to Germany direct' finding their way to that country through neutral countries. I was very much struck - as I am sure everybody must have been - by the message which the AttorneyGeneral recently gave to the press, in the following terms : -

The great difficulty we are hi is that agencies through which the metallic productions of Australia find their way to British and other markets of the world are still dominated mainly by German influence. I know this to be a very serious allegation to make, but it is absolutely true. Names have been changed, English names have taken the place of German names; but the German influence remains. It would be folly to assume that this influence has been exercised for the benefit of Great Britain.

Assuming that the Attorney - General spoke with consideration, and with a sense of responsibility, his statement is practically an admission that there are going from Australia to-day, for the benefit of the enemy, some of the products of this Commonwealth. When the Enemy Contracts Bill was under consideration I ventured to suggest that there was a serious defect in it, and that defect is now becoming manifest. In the statement from which I have quoted, the Attorney-General said -

That Act annuls a contract with an enemy subject, yet not one of the metal companies has -availed itself of its provisions; not one contract has been filed.

Under the Act, it is left to somebody connected with an enemy contract to file a copy of it. I suggested at the time - and I repeat the statement now - that that is not sufficient. To leave, to a person connected with an enemy contract the option of filing the contract seems like asking any other offender to come forward and lay an information against himself.

Senator Russell - We cannot trace the product of contracts all over the world.

Senator MILLEN - We need not let it get into the world. If there be any truth in the statement of the AttorneyGeneral, I would urge upon the Government the desirableness of taking the drastic step of stopping export entirely.

Senator Pearce - The export is only allowed by permission.

Senator MILLEN - If permission is given for the export, we must slightly alter what Mr. Hughes has said. What he said was -

The great difficulty we are in is that agencies through which the metallic productions of Australia find their way to British and other markets of the world are still dominated mainly by German influence.

If one of the means by which they can find their way into the markets of the world is Government sanction for their exportation, the Government must take their share of the responsibility for what follows.

Senator Pearce - The conclusion the honorable senator is drawing is most unfair to the Government. He should allow me to say that the Government have satisfied themselves, through communication with the British Government, that the persons to whom these materials are consigned are using them for the purposes of the Allies, and not of our enemies.

Senator MILLEN - If the Minister had allowed me to complete what 1 wished to say, his interjection would not have been necessary. I made the statement I did in reply to his remark that the export is allowed only by permission of the Government. I was going to say that I cannot conceive for a moment that the present or any* other Government would willingly sanction the export from Australia of products which would find their way into enemy hands. The Government have given their sanction to the export, but we still have the assertion by Mr. Hughes that some of the products are going where Ministers do not think they are going.

Senator Pearce - What is happening is that these products are going to manufacturers who are manufacturing for the Allies, but they are still bound up with contracts under German influence that existed before the war.

Senator Guthrie - How can we bind firms in Baltimore?

Senator Pearce - We cannot do so.

Senator MILLEN - The impression created in my mind by Mr. Hughes' statement is undoubtedly that some of the products of Australia are finding their way indirectly into enemy hands.

Senator Pearce - They are finding their way into the hands of firms that are still bound up with contracts with Germany, but wei have the guarantee from the Imperial authorities that our products are being used in manufactures for the Allies.

Senator MILLEN - What Mr. Hughes says is that the metallic productions of Australia find their way to British and other markets of the world through agencies that are still dominated mainly by German influence.

Senator Pearce - Dominated in the. way I have explained, through contracts with 'Germany entered into before the war, and which cannot, in neutral countries, be annulled.

Senator MILLEN - I do not care how they are dominated. If it is by German influence, and that influence is not utilized for our advantage, I take the extreme course of saying that until this matter is cleared up we should" not allow the metallic or any other products of Australia, which might be used under these conditions, to leave these shores.

Senator Pearce - Even to make munitions for Great Britain or the Allies, as we are assured is the case?

Senator MILLEN - If that is known to the Government, then Mr. Hughes' statement was not a fair one to make in the circumstances.

Senator Pearce - It is absolutely accurate in the sense that the firms to whom the products are consigned are bound under contracts in the way I have said.

Senator MILLEN - This is more than a matter of binding by contracts. Mr. Hughes refers to Germans who have changed their German names. There is the suggestion of a desire to deceive, otherwise there would be no need for a change of name.

Senator Pearce - The dominating influence of the metal trade of the world is still German. That is what Mr. Hughes was directing attention to.

Senator MILLEN - If it was merely a question of what influence dominates a factory in America, there would be no need to change the German name. The whole object and effect of the change of name is to enable those people to get something which they could not otherwise obtain. If, by changing their German names, firms are able to obtain Australian products which they could not secure but for the change of name, I say that they should not be allowed to obtain those products - change of name or no change of name.

Senator Pearce - We are assured that our products are used for manufactures for the Allies.

Senator MILLEN - I hope that is so, but without that assurance Mr. Hughes' statement that Australian products are going into outside markets through agencies dominated by German influence seemed to me to disclose a very serious position indeed.

Senator Turley - When did that statement appear ?

Senator MILLEN - It appeared in the

Sydney Morning Heraldand in the Melbourne newspapers of the 10th of this, month.

Senator O'Keefe - Perhaps it is an abbreviated report, and does not convey all that Mr. Hughes said.

Senator PEARCE - He was dealing withthe annulment of enemy contracts.

Senator MILLEN - Let me read the only lines which precede the quotation I have already made to show that I have not unfairly quoted the Attorney-General. .They are -

Melbourne, Friday. - Referring to-day to the. metal trade of the Commonwealth, the following statement was made by the Federal AttorneyGeneral, Mr. Hughes.

Then follows the statement I have already quoted -

The great difficulty we are in is that agenciesthrough which the metallic productions of Australia find their way to Britain and other markets of the world are still dominated mainly by German influence.

Senator PEARCE - The agenciesthrough which they find their way - that is quite correct.

Senator MILLEN - We are informed that the agencies through which they find their way are dominated by an influence which is not exercised in the interests 'of' Great Britain or the Allies. One of the difficulties that arises in connexion with this matter is that the Government apparently do not see their way to haveworks started here which could utilize those products. They . appear to have been unable to come to an understanding with the Imperial authorities in connexion with the matter.

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